Briefly, On Charles Kinsey Having Been Shot

Sam Wilkinson

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

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166 Responses

  1. Richard Hershberger says:

    Good piece generally, but for this:

    If there is a truth about these killings, then it exists somewhere within that divide: there are killings that are unjustifiable and there are killings that are justifiable.

    Who is claiming that police killings are never justified? There might be some extreme pacifists denouncing any killing anywhere for any reason, but this position is far far beyond anything like the discussion actually going on. And of course there is always the caveat that no position is so stupid that someone somewhere isn’t espousing it. But again, this has little to do with the discussion at hand.

    Framing the discussion this way presents the two sides in the discussion as both misguided, and about equally so, with the person framing the discussion offering his argument as the sensible center. This is all quite lovely, but it implicitly says that those people over there are not being sensible. feh.Report

    • @richard-hershberger

      Who is claiming that police killings are never justified?

      Both no one, and many.

      On talk radio, one thing that is always said upfront when these stores break is that, of course, sometimes a police shootings unjustified. And then that is repeated throughout the show.

      But after that, they always go on to explain why this particular example — given for any and all of these stories in the news — is not one of those times, and how in this instance, because resisting arrest/back-talking to an officer of the law/priors/pics from the deceased Facebook page of looking fierce/something else, it’s certainly not the case here.

      In this particular case, the emerging line I’m hearing on talk radio is that the person shot is a grifter looking for the national spotlight so he can sue the city/county/state and become rich without having to do any really work.Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Since people looking for a quick buck usually become behavioral therapists and work with autistic folks.Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to Don Zeko says:

          A thing I actually heard from a caller on a local show yesterday:

          “You know, most of these people who looked after retardeds — and yes, that’s what they are, retardeds, so don’t call the PC police on me — their whole job is to sit around in the house and watch television all day. It’s not really work.”Report

          • greginak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            Well yeah “PC” is just a shallow cover for being a massive jerk.Report

          • Don Zeko in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            I mean, I just…sigh. Like, I get it. partisanship and ideology does stuff to your brain, effects how you process information. I’m sure that I think about stuff in dumb ways that I don’t even see for the same reasons. But all that said, come the fuck on. These people aren’t even trying to fight back against those tendencies.Report

            • greginak in reply to Don Zeko says:

              FWIW, i doubt this is partisanship. It’s how lots of people think about people with mental illness or developmental disabilities and the services that help them.Report

          • Will H. in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            It is largely because of statements such as this (i.e., the caller referred to) that I have come to the conclusion that low voter turnout is a huge benefit to the system as a whole.

            I believe Will T. linked to a study a few weeks back where researchers concluded that humans were just too stupid for democracy to function optimally.
            It rings true.

            Granted, the false equivalence asserted in the OP doesn’t help matters much.

            When I first started coming to this site, it was well over five months before I could pin down any given person’s positions as “liberal” or “conservative.” Things simply did not operate in those terms.
            The run-up to the 2012 election seems to have changed that, and for the worse.
            And at this point, I’m not sure where a change of heart begins.Report

      • nevermoor in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        The opposite analogy doesn’t exist. Hell, even BLM doesn’t make a stink about all police violence. No one was upset that the Dallas sniper was killed, for example (though the anti-drone folks didn’t like the particular method used).Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to nevermoor says:

          @nevermoor Fun Fact: The guy who hosts the local call-in show I referenced above often talks about BLM — pretty much every day, in fact. Whenever he does, he always throws in the same phrase when he mentions them:

          the people who organize rallies around the country just so they chant, “Kill All The Pigs, Fry Them Up Like Bacon!”

          Sometimes, on admittedly rare occasions, he’ll say that what they chant is “Kill All The Whites!”

          It’s unconscionable, of course, but every time I hear him say this, I really so get why so many people who get their news through similar outlets are so upset about BLM.Report

          • Tod, I’m not following your or Richard’s argument here. Richard asked “Who is claiming that police killings are never justified?” and Nevermoor says, essentially, nobody says police killings are never justified. And your response seems to be 1) that some people for all practical purposes believe the shootings are always justified and 2) that those same people believe that other people believe their never justified.

            I don’t see how that’s really a response to Richard’s point. And I’m confused about how Richard came to the conclusion that Sam is framing things the way he seems to think Sam is.

            Or am I really misunderstanding something? Both you and Richard are thoughtful commenters/authors and I respect both your opinions on a lot of matters, but I’m just not following.Report

            • nevermoor in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

              My reaction too. It isn’t a BSDI situation, which is all @richard-hershberger seems to be saying.

              I’m seeing a lot of responses about how crazy the conservative side is (and why that might be so), but nothing to suggest that anyone is as extreme on the other, yet those responses seem framed as rebuttals.Report

            • @gabriel-conroy Then let me try again from a different angle, one with less emotional baggage attached.

              Back in my 20s I had this friend named Jeff. He was one of those friends that was part of a big group that hangs out a lot.

              Whenever we would go to bar, pub, or restaurant — which was damn frequent, back in the day — Jeff always refused to kick in any money for tip in group bills. He also refused to tip when he had his own check.

              Every time he announced he wasn’t going to tip, we’d tell him it was pretty fishing rude, remind him that tipping was customary and he knew that when he came out, point out that under Oregon law the waitress was going to get taxed on the tip he didn’t leave, ect. Every single time these things are pointed out, Jeff would concede that we were right, that tipping was a thing one should do when it was deserved. It was just that in this one case, with this one particular waitress, the tip just wasn’t deserved. It was his duty, really, not to tip, so as to help her become a better waitress.

              His given reasons for why the waitress had lost her tip varied night to night. One night, the waitress might have transgressed because she’d only checked every 15 minutes or so if he wanted another round, which was too infrequent for his tastes. The next night it might be that the waitress was checking with him too often, and that was just rude. Maybe the waitress had brought out the fries and then said, “I’ll be right back with the ketchup,” which was unforgivable because making him wait another minute for it was the sign of a terrible waitress. Or maybe she brought the ketchup with the fries, which really, increased the odds of her spilling everything on the way and making him what even longer for a new order. Or maybe she brought out the ketchup in advance, and how rude was that to assume he wanted condiments without asking? Or maybe she did ask, but he was sure he’d been there before, and why should he tip someone who hadn’t taken the time to remember his condiment preference?

              Basically, over the 7 years of so this group hung out together, Jeff always agreed that wait staff who performed competently deserved to be tipped by him — and yet he never once tipped.

              To me, the shooting of unarmed citizens of a certain race is similar.

              If you tell me every time that it happens that, of course, not all police shootings of unarmed citizens of a certain race are justified, I will happily take you at your word. However, if you find a reason to justify every single case of police shootings of unarmed citizens of a certain race, regardless of circumstances, than I begin to wonder how much your saying each time “of course not all shootings are justified” actually means.

              In the world of talk radio, for example, discussions about these shootings/killings are always prefaced with the phrase, “of course, sometimes it’s not justified.” But the conversation there is never really about unjustified shootings or killings. It’s always about why in this particular instance — kid with a toy, man selling illegal cigarettes, caretaker lying down with hands up, husband and having anus/vagina inspected for a broken taillight, guy sitting in his car, guy pulling out registration like the police requested — it is justified, because of [insert reason here].

              So in a way, what I am describing absolutely is someone agreeing that not all police shootings of an unarmed person of a certain race are justified.

              And in a different and equally important way, it’s also not.Report

              • So in a way, what I am describing absolutely is someone agreeing that not all police shootings of an unarmed person of a certain race are justified.

                And in a different and equally important way, it’s also not.

                I agree that’s what you’re arguing. I agree with the argument. But I disagree it’s actually a response to Nevermoor’s comment or to Richard’s question, “Who is claiming that police killings are never justified?” To my argument, they’re both saying, “nobody really ever says killings are never justified.” Or to take away the double negatives, they seem to be saying “pretty much everyone admits that some police killings are justified.”

                I think I’m just getting too nitpicky, because overall, I agree with what you’re saying, just not that it’s actually retort against the particular comments you’re responding to.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

                I think you go to the marginal cases, Gabriel: Jeff eats an (admittedly) excellent meal and receives (disputedly) perfect service, yet fails to tip the waitress. The corollary is when an (admittedly) unarmed person is killed by cops when they (disputedly) haven’t done anything deserving of a lethal response yet end up dead. IOW, I think you’re taking too wide a scope here, at least wrt understanding Tod’s argument.

                Eg, saying that no one is saying that all deaths at the hands of cops are justified doesn’t apply to the marginal subset of deaths under discussion.

                Ie., Jeff never tips, but in some cases his dinner-mates agree with him!Report

              • This discussion is getting very strange and I’m obviously not getting my point across. Or perhaps I’m misunderstanding what others (except Nevermoor) are saying.

                I think I’ll just agree to agree with the overall argument that almost much everyone here is making and go off and do other things for a while.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:


                I hear ya and will let Tod speak for himself. But to my point, here’s a quote from Tod above:

                If you tell me every time that it happens that, of course, not all police shootings of unarmed citizens of a certain race are justified, I will happily take you at your word. However, if you find a reason to justify every single case of police shootings of unarmed citizens of a certain race, regardless of circumstances, than I begin to wonder how much your saying each time “of course not all shootings are justified” actually means.Report

              • Ah. Think the penny just dropped. It appears that I misread Richard’s comment to be saying the mirror image of what it is saying. Apologies all around.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Thanks for clearing it up. ((I noticed that too but didn’t feel like it was my place to say anything…}}

                The ensuing discussion didn’t surprise me at all. Something about white people, maybe…Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                And BTW, Tod, that wasn’t meant as a judgment of you. You’ve done yeoman’s work clarifying the murkiness here. I meant it more as a comment about a certain type of intellectually-pedantic first, context be damned, way of thinking typified by us US Upper Middle Class College Educated White folk.Report

              • Thanks, but I was probably being too nitpicky.Report

              • nevermoor in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                That makes much more sense.

                I certainly do understand your point from that direction, but the even easier point seems to be PD unions who, for a variety of reasons, seem unable to admit that any killing was ever wrong.Report

    • That’s not how I interpret Sam’s framing. He seems to be saying some police shootings are justified, some aren’t, and some fall in between. And while I think he’d be on board with what Tod’s saying–that some people in practice seem to believe all police shootings are justified–he doesn’t seem to be saying that much of anyone believes they’re never justified, unless I’m misunderstanding him.

      Even the part you quoted isn’t saying some people believe police shootings are never justified.Report

    • The police, when describing the response that they are on the receiving end of, imply that their critics are taking this position, as if to say that to oppose a single police-involved killing is oppose them all, thus endangering police. Save for the extremist pacificists you mentioned, I think it fair to say that the debate isn’t playing out in this way. I apologize for the lack of clarity there.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    The official explanation is that the police officer was trying to shoot Kinsey’s charge and not Kinsey himself.

    This makes everything okay.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

      I can’t believe that the police thought that an explanation that depicts them as rash people who act without listening or thinking is a good one.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Two options. I don’t know which is more plausible.

        1. It’s more or less the truth
        2. They gamed out all of the possible explanations for doing what they did, saying what they said, and shooting who they shot and came to the conclusion that this explanation was the least damningReport

        • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

          New information!

          A North Miami police commander has been suspended for allegedly fabricating information about the shooting of an unarmed black therapist.

          City Manager Larry Spring Jr. said Friday that commander Emile Hollant is suspended without pay. Spring declined to give specifics about how Hollant allegedly fabricated information about Monday’s shooting of Charles Kinsey by Officer Jonathan Aledda.

          The main thing I’m seeing in there is “suspended *WITHOUT* pay”.

          I think they finally realized that “suspended with pay” is one of those things that really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really looks bad.

          Here’s a juicy paragraph:

          “He totally violated his trust from the public to protect and serve by giving misinformation to this department,” North Miami Councilman Scott Galvin said at Friday’s news conference. “He not only jeopardized Mr. Kinsey’s life and the life of his client but he jeopardized the life of every police officer who serves this city.”

          What makes this such an interesting paragraph is that it’s accurate.

          Because, seriously, the cop in question not only jeopardized Mr. Kinsey’s life and the life of his client, but he jeopardized the life of every police officer who serves this city.

          Of course, the story takes a dark turn:

          Aledda has been placed on paid administrative leave while the shooting is investigated. He is a four-year veteran and a member of the city’s SWAT team.


          • Damon in reply to Jaybird says:

            Christ, if a SWAT member can’t hit the guy they are shooting at, who’s stationary, someone doesn’t deserve to be on the SWAT team or on the police force. Jebus.Report

            • pillsy in reply to Damon says:

              Makes you wonder how SWAT team members were being chosen. It’s obviously a position that comes with prestige; do SWAT team members also get additional pay, benefits or promotion chances?Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Damon says:

              Wanna talk about Trust and Collaboration?


              • Damon in reply to Jaybird says:

                Preach it brother. My trust of cops is rather low. It’s low enough that I don’t do anything hasty when being pulled over, etc. I avoid cops where possible and try to keep a low profile. And I’m a old white guy.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Jaybird says:

                Trust and collaboration was integral to the community policing model, which is generally given as the predominant policing model 1970 through 2000.
                These are the days of the intelligence-led policing model (though you might never guess that from reading that article).Report

          • dragonfrog in reply to Jaybird says:

            Makes sense, in a way.

            He wasn’t suspended for shooting an unarmed and obviously totally peaceful civilian.

            He was suspended for lying to the police department.

            Because while the former is attempted murder, the victims of the latter are cops, so it’s a worse offence.Report

        • Mo in reply to Jaybird says:

          If it’s true then why didn’t he take a second shot after he missed?Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to Mo says:

            Because he realized that it wasn’t a situation that was going to be improved by using lethal force. (Said in the same tone of voice ordinarily used for “And monkeys might fly out of my butt!”)Report

          • Michael Cain in reply to Mo says:

            According to some of the reports, he fired three shots. If true, he missed the person he claims he was shooting at three times, and hit a bystander once. With a rifle at the kind of range we’re talking about, this would be almost inconceivably bad aim.Report

            • InMD in reply to Michael Cain says:

              This is anecdotal and I’d imagine certification varies agency to agency and location to location. That said I had a room mate who was in law enforcement and I was surprised how rarely he trained with his service weapon. I’m a casual shooter (I make it to the range on average every month to month and a half) and I found that I shoot much more frequently than he did. Just because police carry weapons doesn’t mean they’re particularly adept at using them. It takes practice and it’s a skill you need to maintain if you want to be a consistently good shot.Report

              • Gabriel Conroy in reply to InMD says:

                Not that this really addresses your point, but I’ve heard my brother, who is a retired sheriff’s deputy, say that when he first started, he would have been really prone to using his gun but that over the years he grew much more conscious. Fortunately, he never had to fire it. (However, a sheriff deputy might have less occasion than a regular officer.)

                I have no idea how often he actually trained with it.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to InMD says:

                That’s a valid point, particularly for handguns.

                At some point we’ll know… how many rounds, what kind of weapon, position of the participants, etc. Was it a miss by inches, or by feet? Terrible aim, or bad situational awareness of who else was in the line of fire? Given the images and the description of the wound — entered at the knee, exited upper thigh — some combination seems possible.

                North Miami, at something under 70K population, seems rather small to have it’s own “SWAT” unit. My suburb’s SWAT unit is done in conjunction with two neighboring cities and the sheriff’s office (more than 250K people all together). The agencies involved make a point of requiring that, because the SWAT unit handles difficult situations, they train twice per month, including firearm practice, negotiation, and conflict resolution. North Miami’s web site has about two sentences that add up to, at least IMO, “we give some officers heavier gear.”Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:


      My jaw dropped when they were able to say that with a straight face.Report

  3. Mike Dwyer says:

    “The officer was placed on leave because at the time of his attempt to end Kinsey’s life…”

    You make the definitive statement above, and then give us several alternatives:

    “The officer believed this client to be a threat to Kinsey – despite Kinsey clearly explaining that the man was a client of his – and so he shot at the man, missing and hitting Kinsey instead. This version of the story hinges on us believing that this shooting was a terrible, stupid accident, but nothing more than that. Not that it was racist in nature. Not that it was evidence of an untrained officer whose inability to respond to a situation was matched only by his inability to accurately discharge his weapon. Not that a culture of police immunity to sanction makes it easier to go straight to gunfire. Only that an officer perceived a threat and responded accordingly.”

    Un-suprisingly, that is hard to reconcile. If you are going to pass judgement in your opening paragraphs, it would seem more logical to dismiss all alternatives more clearly below.Report

    • Sam in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      @mike-dwyer What are you quibbling with here? Are you denying that shooting at someone is attempting to take their life?Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Sam says:

        You said he attempted to end Kinsey’s life. Then you talk about how the details of exactly who was being shot at are murky. So if I try to shoot Person A and hit Person B, that doesn’t mean I was trying to kill Person B. I’m saying this because you are already playing fast and loose with ‘attempted murder’ elsewhere…so I think your exact choice of words is worth the scrutiny.Report

        • Sam in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          @mike-dwyer My apologies on having not been clearer that the “official” explanation on offer here is total horseshit. Nobody but the police themselves are playing “fast and loose” with anything.

          But, this is worth asking – what do you think happened here?Report

          • Mike Dwyer in reply to Sam says:

            I honestly don’t know. It might have been a complete accident. A safety not on. A gloved finger on the trigger. It might have been intent to kill the autistic man, which represents terrible judgement. It might have been intent to kill Kinsey, which would I suppose confirm all of those terrible things you believe about the police.

            Regardless, I don’t feel comfortable passing judgement, using words like murder or intent until I know more. If the assumption is that police forces will always lie and skew the facts to protect themselves, maybe someone should be agitating for an FBI presence everytime the police shoot someone?Report

            • Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              I want the FBI to step in when there are systemic issues. Here we have someone put on leave without pay for fabricating evidence and lying to the rest of the department.

              I’m not saying you should have seen that from the OP, but… I read this as “could have been true, but is ABSOLUTELY what someone would say to cover their ass” and give it the skepticism it deserves.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              If we find ourselves in a place where the best-case-scenario is horrible judgment and horrible training collide to create a horrible situation, aren’t we still in a situation that indicates that we need to make some serious changes that don’t give every benefit of the doubt to the cops?Report

              • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jaybird says:

                One would think and yet, here we are.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Jaybird says:

                There are a lot more tools that could be used to increase accountability, and they aren’t…so how do we get those implemented?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                First and foremost, a willingness to see failure to use those tools as something that should be criticized (if not sanctioned) in and of itself.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Jaybird says:

                So other than costs and, as Oscar points out, retention of the film footage…what are the other arguments against? And to play devil’s advocate, I’m wondering if there are other jobs where we should be doing something similar?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                What are the other arguments against?

                Mostly that the police don’t like that much transparency to the point where they’re willing to argue against it.

                Which means that if you’re arguing for it, you’re arguing against the position that the police are taking.

                Why would you argue against the police?Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                FOIA with minors and possibly other people we don’t generally give people public access to without their specific permission.
                (could put States witnesses at risk)Report

              • InMD in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                @mike-dwyer I think it’s completely fair to ask if there aren’t other professions where we should be asking these questions. That said I can’t think of any other profession out there that are as protected from accountability as the police. Graham v. Connor, while sounding reasonable enough in print, has resulted in extreme deference to the decision of officers on the scene. Combine that with qualified immunity, powerful unions, toothless civilian oversight boards, LEO bill of rights, and a siege mentality that keeps the police from telling on each other and citizens revering the thin blue line and we get to a place where it’s hard to hold the police accountable for even the most outrageous conduct.

                I mean, the only place I can think of where it might be more difficult to discipline someone for on the job activity is a sitting chief executive (president, governor, mayor etc.) and at least they have to face the voters periodically.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to InMD says:


                I don’t disagree with any of what you said. Here’s my question though: Does the average officer go out there knowing all of that and thinking they can behave in any way they want…or do they try their best to do their job, regardless of those protections?Report

              • Chris in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                The everyday attitude of “the average officer” is irrelevant when there are plenty of officers, average or otherwise, who end up getting away with things that should be punished because of it.

                Put differently: if the “average officer” participates in and supports the system, and the system makes these things possible, then the “average officer” is the problem as much as the “bad apples,” and will benefit from it if the “average officer” does something he or she shouldn’t do at some point just as much as the “bad apples” will.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Chris says:

                “…if the “average officer” participates in and supports the system, and the system makes these things possible, then the “average officer” is the problem as much as the “bad apples,”

                So we’re going with guilt by association here? Should the good officers leave the force? Become whistle blowers? Go on strike? What should they be doing to express that they don’t like the system? And given how often police officers are accused of misconduct and exonerated legitimately…what makes those good officers think they don’t need that same system to watch their backs?Report

              • @mike-dwyer Yes, we’re going with guilt by association – if police are tasked with preventing the law from being broken, or for enforcing the law when it is, and they don’t when another cop is involved, they are inherently negligible in properly doing their jobs.Report

              • So we can assume that every officer on the average police force has either done something bad or ignored something bad? If that is truly the case, I would propose an executive order eliminating police departments and starting over…because that is a system that can’t be fixed any other way.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                So we can assume that every officer on the average police force has either done something bad or ignored something bad?

                Not *EVERY* officer. Some of them have only been there for a month or so.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                My numbers for what goes on in Sam’s town are a lot more certain than what goes on in yours.
                If we count every time someone breaks the law and the cops do nothing about it, yeah, I think we’re talking somewhere in the vein of 99% of cops.
                There are drug dealers in my neighborhood. The cops do nothing. I don’t know who deals drugs, because they do so at parties, etc, — quietly and without fuss. They walk people’s dogs (well, if you do drugs they’ll walk your dog).Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                what makes those good officers think they don’t need that same system to watch their backs?

                “Someday I may be accused of guilt by association! I’d better get extra solid with all of my co-workers, even the ones who exceed their authority.”Report

              • Chris in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                It is not guilt by association if you are the association! That is, the guilt is the system, which protects all cops, “average” or “bad,” when they do bad things, and which is supported, tacitly and/or explicitly, by “average” and “bad” (and “good”) cops alike! That’s not what “guilt by association” means.

                To say it even more clearly: the problem is the system that the “average cops” support by participating in it, by benefiting from it when they need to, and by not criticizing it. That’s not guilt by association, that’s being the problem.

                The only reason bad cops can get away with anything is because all the other cops let them.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Chris says:

                So no one is complaining about this at morning roll calls? At union meetings? Behind closed doors at headquarters? There is no disciplinary process for cops? No write-ups, time off with and without pay, suspensions, etc?Report

              • Chris in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Report bad behavior when you see it. Work with union. Work to change the culture. Openly support politicians and activists who seek to reform the system that allows bad apples (and “average cops”) to get away with shit everyday. Refuse to work within a corrupt, broken, discriminatory, and deadly system: resign.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Chris says:

                The FBI takes anonymous tips, I might add.
                Be a detective, tie it up in a bow.
                Take it to the media if that fails. (Ain’t nothing the media won’t run if someone else writes it for ’em. Citations provided upon request).Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Chris says:


                So, this may be a first, but I agree with you 100% on all those options. Where I assume we will disagree is on our assessment of how many police officers are doing those things.Report

              • Chris in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                The answer is, effectively, 0.Report

              • @mike-dwyer They very clearly go out knowing that they can behave in any way they want. There are too many stories out there indicating as much.Report

              • @sam-wilkinson

                What % of police officers do you suspect engage in bad behavior? 90%? 50%? All of them?Report

              • @mike-dwyer Depends how we’re defining bad behavior I suppose, but my best guess would be that upwards of half have either engaged in bad behavior or have done nothing when having heard of and/or seen bad behavior. The numbers might be higher than that.

                Again, look at the response of police in North Miami after an unarmed man laying on the ground with his hands in the air was shot. Not only did police rush in to defend their coworker, but seemed to imply that the shooter was doing the right thing in shooting at the autistic man (even though we have EXPLICIT video of Kinsey interacting with the police ahead of time, which would seem to indicate that we were not seeing a sudden decision to shoot).Report

              • @sam-wilkinson

                If you’re basing your whole perception on very public shootings, your missing the point. I’m talking about every day stuff that never gets in the media. Still over 50%? If so, again I lean towards disbanding the departments and starting over… or maybe just disbanding them permanently.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Cool then. We’re in agreement.Report

              • @mike-dwyer I’ll politely agree about “missing the point” but I’ll raise the stakes with thinking that you’re doing your math wrong. Look at what it takes for something to rise to the national consciousness: an unarmed man and his unarmed client being shot at while posing literally no threat, and it has to happen on video. (Ignore, for a moment, what this story plays out without that video.)

                My working assumption is that because it takes so much to get media attention, and because local media is a largely abysmal cesspool of favor-trading among elite institutions, very little in the way of abuse gets attention. In other words, what we are seeing is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, NOT the other way around. And what we do know about even these extreme incidents? That police will defend their own behavior ruthlessly, including punishing those who publicize bad behavior. (Start with Ramsey Orta and Chris LeDay if you need a jumping off point.)Report

              • @sam-wilkinson

                I tend to believe, based on knowing a bunch of cops, that a lot of the small things DO result in disciplinary action. It’s the big things that tend to get over-zealously defended because of the implications both for that officer and longterm. To make a poor analogy, in my company, we have a very structured disciplinary process that our HR department rarely pushes back against UNTIL we are threatening to fire someone. Then HR steps in and buries us in red tape to make sure we really, really want to fire the person.

                It sounds like you are assuming the union, fellow cops, etc protect each other for everything. I’m saying maybe they only circle the wagons when it’s the most serious of situations.Report

              • @mike-dwyer How many of your friends have indicated that shooting Charles Kinsey was wrong, that the officer involved should be fully prosecuted, and that he should spend time in prison (while also paying Kinsey a significant amount of money)?Report

              • I haven’t spoken to any of them about the case, however with past shootings they always say the same thing: “Wait until the facts are all out, then decide.” And several of them have stated officers should go to jail based on what they saw. I actually had a classmate from high school recently get cleared on a shooting from a year ago. The whole process took that long, even with very clear video footage from surveillance cameras. So yeah, I like to wait more than three days to make up my mind on these things.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Are the litttle things happening often?Report

              • InMD in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                I think the intent probably depends on the officer but I’m not sure it matters. The system is so full of bad incentives that I think it can cause even well-meaning, regular people to use excessive force. The protection from consequences is itself only part of a bigger web of bad policy (quota based policing, over-criminalization) and cultural problems (thin blue line).Report

            • Stillwater in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              Mike D,

              Regardless, I don’t feel comfortable passing judgement, using words like murder or intent until I know more.

              I understand that. I think I sit in a different place, however, in that what I AM comfortable doing is running thru the possible accounts of how this shooting took place and coming up with judgments regarding each. Account 1: the cop aimed at the unarmed black man. Account 2: the cop aimed at the unarmed white kid and hit the unarmed black man by accident. Account 3: the gun was aimed in the general direction of both individuals and went off by accident. Etc, etc. (There are more, of course, which include tampering with evidence and so on.)

              That is, each plausible account entails (in my view) that cops are subject to a pretty severe judgment even tho I’ll refrain from committing to one specifically until more evidence comes in. IOW, I don’t see an account of this incident which doesn’t lead to a judgment that cops – as individuals or as an institution – are too quick to use lethal force against unarmed citizens. And that strikes me as the least bad of all the possible judgments.Report

            • One of the things that jumped out at me in the pictures from the Munich shooting is that every single officer holding an assault rifle, in some cases aimed and in some not, has their index finger fully extended (exaggeratedly so) along the receiver outside the trigger guard. It’s so consistent that it has to be something drilled in by training, with the obvious intent of making accidental discharge very, very difficult.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

                It’s called indexing, it should be drilled until it’s second nature, and if it isn’t being drilled to that the degree, that is a serious training issue.Report

              • Or put a few thousand volts through the trigger if it’s touched for more than 10 seconds.Report

              • @michael-cain

                I agree that fingers should never be on triggers but…we all know people do dumb things in the heat of the moment. We had a family friend kill someone while deer hunting about 20 years ago because he was looking through his scope with gloves on, safety off and his finger on the trigger. Stupid, careless, mistake.

                I wonder if a body cam would catch this if that is what happened? Additionally, because SWAT guys are nearly always dealing with tense situations, and they usually wear helmets, there should definitely be a GoPro or something similar on every one of them.

                As I mentioned in a comment on another post, i don’t really understand why we aren’t using a lot more technology to help mitigate these things in whatever way we can. If film footage will hold cops more accountable, help with training, protect cops from false charges, etc…I’m all for it.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Maybe it has something to do with the following dynamic:

                “I’m thinking that we can improve policing by applying some sigma six methods to the police department.”


              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Jaybird says:

                I always wonder what the military does about these situations, which certainly happen a lot more frequently (although the recent totals barely got a yawn from the Left). Surely they could assist police departments in making sure this happens less often?

                And it’s all about language. When all those good cops who have never shot anyone feel attacked, they tend to get sensitive about it.Report

              • One wonders how good those cops can possibly be if they never, ever come forward to decry a police-involved shooting/killing.Report

              • Yeah, me too. I know how much my employer encourages us to talk to the media every time one of our coworkers does something awful… It’s weird that the police don’t feel comfortable doing the same thing.Report

              • Slade the Leveller in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                In the now infamous Laquan McDonald case here in Chicago, 6 officers stood by as one of their own shot him 16 times as he walked away. Not one of them came forward after the fact to report, either internally or publicly, their colleague’s misbehavior. In fact, it’s likely they participated in the cover up. This is not an aberration, but, rather, the norm.Report

              • Can we clarify how many times your coworkers have shot unarmed, innocent people who posed no threat?Report

              • So cops have an obligation to go in front of the media when they disagree with a shooting? Is that the standard?Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Cops ought to talk about the shootings, yes. If only so we can understand when things are clear cut, and when they aren’t. When it is a “lack of training” and when it is “clear malice”. Someone exists who is competent to evaluate these videos.

                Naturally, these people have been asked to evaluate them, and it showed up in WAPO if I remember the paper right.

                And when I say cops, I don’t mean “the thin blue line”. I mean trainers, sergeants, folks with enough experience to evaluate what’s going on.Report

              • @mike-dwyer One would think that if all of these police were so heroic, so noble, so fundamentally decent, that they would approach the media in cases of egregious misbehavior covered up institutionally. And yet it so rarely happens. That is either because these heroic, noble, and fundamentally police are scared to do so (because of systemic rot [see Adrian Schoolcraft’s case]) or because they are supportive of that system.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                Give it a break. You’re a rookie, you’re even a 10 year guy on the force. You don’t have cred on this.

                You need someone with enough forensic skill to be able to see what’s going on (color in what’s not on film — “hey, that’s a taser”), and be able to tell how much the lighting’s imparing vision etc etc etc.

                Depends on the situation, obviously.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Have you ever seen a police department come up and say “yeah, that looked like a righteous shoot from here”?

                If so, can you see why we might think that it might be appropriate for some police department (ANY POLICE DEPARTMENT) to say something to the effect of “how in the hell does a swat guy miss three times in a row? My mother could have made that shot! If this guy was born in 1820 and expected to eat, he’d have to be a friggin’ vegetarian!”?Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Jaybird says:

                So there’s no public video of the actual shooting. What exactly are they commenting on? Maybe your job is different, but generally in my profession we don’t comment on other people’s work without having actually seen it.

                I guess what I am wondering here is why so many commenters have a boner for public statements from police officers about this?Report

              • @mike-dwyer This is exciting. Perhaps you can tell us what happened after the video stopped that justified the officer shooting at the autistic man and hitting Kinsey instead. Because it sure wasn’t mentioned in the defense of the shooter. It was simply that a threat was perceived. What was the threat?

                As for wanting public comment, maybe because those shy, retiring police officers are full-throated whenever the evidence shows that a shooting actually WAS justified.Report

              • @sam-wilkinson

                You keep wanting me to make a bunch of assumptions and I keep telling you I am not going to do it. Again, you have no video of the shooting, you have conflicting reports about what happened, etc. Let me ask you this: We convene a jury right now and ask you to determine the charges and also guilt or innocence based on what you know right now… are you comfortable passing judgement?Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Civilly? sure. (well, after I actually watch the video, which I haven’t).Report

              • So, without video of the shooting itself – and even though we have police admitting that the shooter was trying to the kill the autistic man but accidentally came closer to killing the Charles Kinsey, and even though Kinsey was then handcuffed after having been shot allegedly in error, and even though we have video of Kinsey explaining the situation to police on the scene before having been shot – you don’t have enough evidence to at least pass SOME judgement? Not all of the judgement, mind you, but enough to say at least, “This looks really, REALLY bad.”

                Also, yes, I am comfortable passing judgement right now. A police officer shot an unarmed, innocent social worker and then handcuffed him. I’m trying to imagine what more -I- would need exactly.Report

              • Sam,

                Go right ahead and say this looks bad. Go ahead and say that the police shot an unarmed member of your profession. Those are accurate statements. Are you ready to pass judgement on intent? Because that is where actual criminal charges start.Report

              • “I shot at him because I was trying to help him, and I handcuffed him so he wouldn’t touch his wound…” is not the benefit of the doubt that I am willing to give.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Wait… Criminal chargws require intent? That’s news to me.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

                This is provable as false. Pretty sure negligence that results in grevious bodily harm would be charged as assault, intent be damned.

                Or are you telling me that if you met another hunter in the woods, and one of you fumble fingered the trigger and shot the other, the police would write it off as an unfortunate accident?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


                That seems to be @mike-dwyer ‘s claim in the comment I replied to: “Go right ahead and say this looks bad. Go ahead and say that the police shot an unarmed member of your profession. Those are accurate statements. Are you ready to pass judgement on intent? Because that is where actual criminal charges start.”Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Intent to cause injury via allowing someone to bleed in the dirt while getting handcuffed?
                I think we got that one.
                Harmless civilian, remember? That’s on the cop’s own word, not mine.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:


                “…you have conflicting reports about what happened…”

                What conflicting reports?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                There’s no video of the shooting, true.

                There is video, however, of the targets.

                Imagine, if you will, a picture of a deer on a hill at the same distance as these gentlemen were from swat. You know that there was a hunter who had a bead on the deer and all of the stories you’ve heard involved the deer being up there eating dandelions or whatever the hell they eat for a good five minutes.

                If, instead, you hear that the hunter missed the deer but, instead, shot the black guy who was the deer’s caretaker, would you be willing to venture an opinion on the quality of the hunter?

                How about if the hunter was a trained swat guy?Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Jaybird says:

                No, I wouldn’t. I’ve missed deer at 100 feet and killed deer at 200 yards. Also, look up the accuracy statistics from WWII.

                And it’s not just about good shooting. It’s about what the hell actually happened, which no one here can say with 100% certainty.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Well, what do we know? Many officers were on scene. The last images we have prior to the shooting so Kinsey on the ground and the patient sitting calmly next to him. We know for a fact that shots were fired and one hit Kinsey. The shots came from one officer and one gun; no other cops fired. That officer claims he felt the shooting was justified because he feared for Kinsey’s safety. No other officer has really affirmed that. Kinsey — on video and afterwards — has made clear he felt no danger.

                What is actually being disputed? The officer who fired isn’t claiming that the patient jumped up and charged or made a move towards Kinsey. No one else is saying that.

                It doesn’t seem so much that anything is in dispute beyond how we ought to respond.

                I’ll ask again, @mike-dwyer , what facts are under dispute? What alternate scenarios have been presented?Report

              • If one of your coworkers was, say, embezzling, are you encouraged to report it? Would you suffer any consequences from helping to cover it up? If you reported him, would you be distrusted or shunned by your other co-workers?

                Is shooting innocent people more or less serious than stealing?Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Rather randomly, my company makes it pretty darn clear that we if become aware of something hinky (like embezzlement) and don’t report it, we can get punished — up to and including firing — for not reporting it. Even if we aren’t in any way legally liable.

                It’s the whole “culture of ethics” thing they foster. Every company I’ve worked for has, in the yearly ethics training, spoken at length about a duty to report problems (and given procedures for how to do so, including how to jump the chain if management is a problem AND even how to report anonymously).

                But we just make things, we’re not a police force. I mean clearly ethics are a luxury the police can ill-afford.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Surely [the military] could assist police departments in making sure this happens less often?

                I think that would be a mistake, myself. In my view one of the central problems in contemporary police practices is that cops are already overly influenced by military thinking, training and decision-making.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                It depends, because usually the civilian death is the result of an ordered strike on a legitimate target and they are collateral damage, or they are dead from bad intelligence.

                When a soldier kills a non-combatant and it’s not in the heat of combat, there is an investigation, an article 32 hearing, and possibly a court martial. In short, the soldier will have to explain their actions to brass that is not sympathetic, thanks to the PR mess they’ve been handed.

                There is no union, no employment contract, at best they have a good JAG lawyer who can dream up grounds for an appeal. And soldiers know this and accept it, and somehow do the job without killing everyone who might be a threat.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Jaybird says:

                “Did you hear Police Station #6 went bankrupt? Yeah man, no one was calling for service there, ’cause you know how they are.”

                “Those guys from #7 are a hell of a lot better. Anyone who’s got there head screwed on straight knows to call station #7. They handled that thing back in February like pros.”Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Aside from plain pigheadedness, the only sound reason to be wary of cameras has more to do with data archiving and the public availability of those records than anything. Police will want total control over the videos, in opposition to the access the public will desire. Striking that balance will be necessary.Report

              • Technology that observes officer behavior might help, but only if there are guarantees that it’s always watching. I’ve said before that if we go with body cams, the officers shouldn’t be able to turn them off (also that recordings should be encrypted on the fly, the contents stored in a secure site when an officer goes off duty, the recordings dumped after a specified time if there are no legal suits or investigations, and the decryption keys held by the DA in the event that there are).

                As a side note, the county where I live makes a point of publicizing that SWAT members (drawn from participating agencies) train twice per month as a unit, not just firearms, but crisis negotiation and conflict resolution. Since a 1999 incident, if there’s a SWAT call, EMTs are dispatched at the same time. My impression from North Miami’s web site is that SWAT is more a label than anything else there (possibly wrong, but extra training is something that law enforcement loves to brag about).Report

              • InMD in reply to Michael Cain says:

                I think you’re alluding to this but the cameras themselves, while helpful in some situations I don’t think are necessarily the panacea people think they are. In addition to making sure they’re used appropriately, cameras can allow the officer to become the director of how things appear on screen. It’s quite possible to record incidents in a manner that presents a misleading picture of the encounter. Absent additional reform I see no reason to think that law enforcement wouldn’t get pretty good at choreographing scenes in ways that are favorable to their perspective.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    More seriously, it strikes me as evidence of exactly how awful we have allowed our Police forces to regress.

    When you have decades of police essentially being allowed to get away with murder for any but the most egregious examples of malice/negligence, you shouldn’t be surprised that your police departments regress and regress and regress some more.

    Suddenly, you’re in a place where your police can’t shoot straight, don’t have trigger discipline, and are unable to give explanations for why they’ve done a thing even immediately after they have done it.

    We need something like Giuliani’s “Broken Windows” theories for police officers. You get into the departments and engage in some seriously heavy norm-setting on these guys and let them know that little infractions are seen to be as indicators for big infractions under the surface and WE HAVE OUR EYES ON YOU.

    And if they feel like they can’t perform under that level of scrutiny, the door is over there.

    The point of the police department should not be to provide middle class jobs to people.Report

    • InMD in reply to Jaybird says:

      It’s all about the new professionalism.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

      The point of the police department should not be to provide middle class jobs to people.

      But even if it were, your above critique/solutions would still be valid, yes? Which indicates to me that the problem doesn’t derive from a “make work” policy but rather cop culture itself.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

        It’s more that we should be a *LOT* more willing to fire police officers (as well as tell them “if you don’t freaking like it, find a job in the private sector”).

        This would probably involve crunching numbers but how many people get fired in any given industry? As a percentage? Of those, how many of them get fired for cause?

        Maybe we could check out the “in the first month”, “in the first six months” and “in the first two years” numbers as well.

        And then hold the police up against those numbers.

        But I have *NO* idea how to investigate that sort of thing.

        Here’s the hypothesis I’d have going in before testing it, though:
        Cops fire people less than in most industries and the vast majority of those are in the first six months.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

          I certainly agree. But with s*** like this – Court OKs Barring High IQs for Cops – we seem to have a hiring problem as well.Report

        • InMD in reply to Jaybird says:

          No one likes to say it because conservatives are generally extremely deferential to law enforcement and progressives are generally pro union but it illustrates the worst aspects of collective bargaining in the public sector. The interests of the union members can end up winning out over the interests of the public at large and result in terrible policy outcomes.Report

          • greginak in reply to InMD says:

            Indeed as a generally pro-union liberal type you nailed the problem. The needs of the people take a back seat to the needs of the union. Cops unions are definitely part of the problem. However the anti-union types have a quite a bit of myopia about how much getting rid of unions would do. Do other public unions, for janitors or admin assistants or teachers, get the same level of sweet deals or being above discipline. In general, no way. Cops get special treatment, fought for by their union, because many people want cops to get a good deal, they don’t want to seem anti-law, they don’t want real oversight or prosecutions of cops. Getting rid of cop unions would be only step and doubt even the first one. It will take changing how the elected officials deal with cops and peoples expectations. Get rid of unions would help on the margins but doesn’t get to the heart.

            And of course when it comes down to it the people who hate unions seem to avoid going after cop and fire fighter unions, they go after the teachers and janitors.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to greginak says:

              LGM’s posters run circles around this problem.Report

            • InMD in reply to greginak says:

              I probably fall in a weird place on the scale. I support ending all public sector unions because I think they inherently create a new constituency for the government to serve when by its nature the government should serve everyone equally. Improvements in public policy shouldn’t be frustrated because it isnt in the interest of some some group of government employees. The public good should always win out.

              I’m much more sympathetic to unions in the private sector. The union members have an interest in the plant staying open and should he able to use their numbers as leverage for a decent share of the profits. The government on the other hand never goes out of business.

              None of this should be interpreted as me disagreeing with your remarks on how public perception of the police also play a role in enabling the situation we have with law enforcement. The unions are a part, deferential courts and legal precedents are a part, politicians are a part, our culture is a part….Report

              • Kazzy in reply to InMD says:

                Balko has made strong arguments about how public sector unions are unique for this very reason and therefore should be opposed without impacting private sector. It convinced me*. It may be possible to thread the needle wherein you have a public sector union that avoids all that but damned if I know how to get there.

                * Maybe relevant disclaimer: I am a private school teacher who has never been union nor had the chance to be** who is deeply troubled by teachers unions. On the one hand, saying that teachers unions should put students first ahead of their jobs — while never criticizing an auto union worker for putting his own interests above those of cars or their buyers — feels unfair. On the other hand… We have these really perverse incentives. But the idea that teachers (and others) should work selflessly can be used against them. It is somewhat looked down upon to bargain too hard for a raise in private schools, with admin often taking the position of, “And I thought you were passionate and cared about your kids.” Which I am! But passion don’t put food on the table. It is complicated but I think the current situation is tipped to far in favor of teachers.
                ** I know of one private school where teachers (and maybe other employees?) unionized in house. There may be others. But its rare. I’ve never had union protections. But I’ve also negotiated raises, benefits, and other perks partially on the strength of strong performance.Report

              • InMD in reply to Kazzy says:

                @kazzy the public school teacher union issue I think is extremely difficult. My opinion is that the problems we have with education in this country don’t really stem from incompetent teachers (not that they don’t exist). They stem from the fact that we expect the public education system to solve all kinds of profound socioeconomic problems that we’re unwilling to address comprehensively. I think it might be easier to dissolve teachers unions if we didn’t expect teachers in poor jurisdictions to be miracle workers or hold them responsible for the failure of students arising from issues teachers can’t control. Unfortunately we’ve spent so much time convincing ourselves that education alone is enough.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to InMD says:

                Excellent point, @inmd .Report

            • Mo in reply to greginak says:

              Teachers have something similar. Rather than being put on paid leave, they’re put in reassignment centers.Report

              • greginak in reply to Mo says:

                I’ve heard of that in the LA district but i have no idea how wide spread that is. The reality is states with union teachers do just as well if not a little bit better that states without teachers unions from the research i’ve read. I’ve seen teachers get fired in districts with unions for being arrested. Not convicted mind you, just arrested. What happened later, were they guilty, well they were already fired.Report

              • notme in reply to Mo says:

                It’s been a long time problem in NYC. It was $22 million well spent back in 2012.


              • Alan Scott in reply to Mo says:

                Those “rubber rooms” are pretty much the opposite of paid leave. They’re a degrading environment designed to encourage teachers under investigation to resign rather than exercise their contractual rights to due process.

                Teachers unions are blamed for the situation, when it’s a result of administrative mismanagement. Teachers who are being forced to work in what is essentially workplace jail if they want a chance at keeping their jobs are being treated in the media like they’re getting a reward.

                I’m sure many of those folks in the rubber rooms deserve to lose their jobs–but I’ve heard plenty of stories about people who don’t. NPR did an interview a few years back with an ESL teacher who was removed from his classroom after a co-worker suggested his Tourette’s Syndrome made him potentially violent. The proper thing to do is just process these cases in a timely fashion and either get the teachers back to work or fire them, as appropriate.Report

    • Will H. in reply to Jaybird says:

      Part of the problem is in the current method of the cure: That officer discipline is typically meted out in one of two ways, the slap on the wrist or the career-ender.
      Ending that would go a long way toward enabling other officers to report problem officers. And really, that is the single best defense we have.

      But then, there are a lot of issues with police unions, and loving that slap on the wrist as the most common form of officer discipline is one of them.Report

      • Joe Sal in reply to Will H. says:

        If these were regular service agents in a service industry, I’m sure we would be seeing more agents fired. The current service is a government monopoly. The agents are mostly of a guild.

        “Ending that would go a long way toward enabling other officers to report problem officers. And really, that is the single best defense we have.”

        The consumers of the service should be able to signal the quality of service they prefer, and that tangibly be the best defense. Depending on service agents to ‘report’ the bad agents is probably a lesser means to an end.Report

  5. dexter says:

    A while back somebody around here, apologies for not remembering who, said their town instituted psych tests for applicants and that complaints had dropped because of it. Maybe the towns could do a simple test to find out if the potential cop is a racist, or just somebody that is a scaredy cat. Recently I saw a clip where the cop shouted “you’re scaring me” , “you’re making me nervous” before firing several shots into a car. I wondered why he didn’t just back up and radio for help. The tests might weed out people who are just jerks.
    Another thing that might be instituted is, instead of using tax payer money to pay for law suits, they were paid by the police retirement funds. Money is a great motivator.Report

    • El Muneco in reply to dexter says:

      ‘Recently I saw a clip where the cop shouted “you’re scaring me” , “you’re making me nervous” before firing several shots into a car. I wondered why he didn’t just back up and radio for help’.

      If one were uncharitable, one might think that those shouts were playing to the cameras, to be used as post-facto justification. Similar to the amazing coincidence where, at about the same point in time, videos from all over the country of unarmed arrestees being beaten all began to feature the officers shouting “stop resisting” – thus documenting that the force was justified since the officer obviously felt in danger due to the subject’s resistance.Report

  6. It does not matter that subsequent facts showed that lethal force was unnecessary. It only matters that the police perceived a danger.

    I was going to make a sarcastic comment about policemen standing their ground, but, you know, there’s no need for sarcasm here. The principle behind stand your ground laws is exactly that it’s OK to kill someone because you’re scared.Report

  7. The second is that the officer – who was only trying to save Kinsey, we are assured, and who only had a split-second to make a decision, and who then accidentally shot Kinsey instead of his alleged target – subsequently placed a bleeding Charles Kinsey in handcuffs.

    Which leaves only two alternatives:

    1. The North Miami police are the stupidest people in the history of the world.
    2. They think all of us are.Report

  8. Before I get into it in the comments (which I haven’t read yet), I’ll just say that sadly, I’m not very optimistic about this:

    Kinsey will presumably be available to testify in a trial, should one occur, which means that the police narrative will not be the only one available for consideration. His version will at least have the opportunity to compete in a way that others did not,

    I’d like to see it happen. But I’m just not going to hold my breath.Report

  9. Tod Kelly says:

    The second is that the officer – who was only trying to save Kinsey, we are assured, and who only had a split-second to make a decision, and who then accidentally shot Kinsey instead of his alleged target – subsequently placed a bleeding Charles Kinsey in handcuffs.

    Actually, to me that part makes perfect sense — assuming you don’t believe in the Just World Hypothesis.

    Consider: You’re a police officer (or the partner of one) who just momentary panicked and shot an unarmed civilian doing nothing illegal/questionable/wrong. You don’t know that someone in the distance has been filming the incident. In the traditional of all fraternal orders, the immediate hasty decision is made to circle the wagons and protect yourself/your brother in arms.

    Who do you set up to be the person who was behaving in a manner to pose a credible threat to the shooting officer? The developmentally disables person with a choo-choo, or the incredibly large, tough looking African American man?

    I’m not saying that this is what happened. I’m just saying that if the reason given for why a shot was fired in the first place is correct, then I don’t see the cuffing of this guy as being terribly surprising.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Actually, to me that part makes perfect sense

      From the perspective of institutional analysis, sure. But institutional behavior is what the post is negatively critiquing. Saying it makes perfect sense in this case amounts to agreeing this particular SNAFU is evidence institution is FUBAR.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

        I’m merely responding the question indirectly being posed here and far more directly elsewhere: “If they were aiming for the autistic man, what conceivable reason would they have to handcuff the other guy afterwards?”

        It’s being posted, even here in Sam’s OP, in a way that suggests that an explanation of A negates B being possible. I’m simply pointing out that it really doesn’t.Report

  10. This wasn’t a mistake in the sense that the officer shot the wrong guy or he thought that Kinsey was the bad guy,” he said in a press conference Thursday.
    “The movement of the white individual made it look like he was going to discharge a fire arm into Mr. Kinsey and the officer discharged trying to strike and stop the white man and unfortunately, he missed the white male and shot Mr. Kinsey by accident.”

    (Emphasis mine)Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      They’ve emphasized the patient’s race in several statements. “Hey! We tried to kill whitey, too!” They’re so unsubtley playing the narrative game.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

        How are they supposed to respond to the racist accusation without mentioning race in this situation. I mean, it’s sorta shocking to hear cops voluntarily choose to defend themselves from racism by admitting to a fully general institutional incompetence: “we were trying to shoot the unarmed white autistic kid and missed!”Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

          But they aren’t saying, “We aren’t racist and here’s why.” They’re simply mentioning white male white male white male…Report

          • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

            But they aren’t saying, “We aren’t racist and here’s why.”

            Yes they are. They’re saying “no, we’re not racists, we were trying to shoot the unarmed WHITE guy.”Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

              They’re not actually saying the first part. They’re implying it. That’s a difference. They’re pretending race/racism isn’t an issue while totally acknowledging it is.

              “Are you racist?”
              “I shot a white guy.”Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

                They’re not actually saying the first part. They’re implying it. That’s a difference.

                I’m not sure what you want here but I suggest gettin those folks on trial and making em say it. “You’re goddam right I did!”Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:


                I’m making my point poorly.

                Imagine you suspect I ate your cookie. You never directly accuse me but you sort of insinuate it and, more importantly, I know you think I ate it.

                Imagine if the next time you saw me, I opened the conversation discussing my baking prowess and all the cookies I’ve made lately and how I love eating my homemade cookies. And this is not a normal topic flor us. You never speak your suspicions and I never address them. But I’m clearly trying to communicate to you (and possibly others) I didn’t eat your cookie. I’m not actually addressing any specific argument. I’m simply building my own narrative.

                Is that clearer?

                The cops were never actually directly accused of racism (to their face). No one said at the pressser, “Is the cop who fired or the department at large racist?” But the question is in the air. The cops know this. So they are getting out in front of it with a counternarrative. But saying, “We’re not racist!” would be both ineffective and would acknowledge the elephant in the room… Which they can’t do. So it’s just constant references to white male white male white male.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

                Hmmm, I actually largely agree with the last paragraph – in fact, that’s exactly what I’ve been arguing myself. The only thing I dispute is your suggestion that they’re “constructing” a counter-narrative. I don’t see it that way, actually, since what you call a narrative strikes me as even more damaging to the department than merely identifying “one bad apple” as well as being (so far as we know) the truth: the cop intended to shoot the unarmed white kid (strike one) but missed (strike two) and shot the unarmed black man by accident (strike three).

                I mean, if I’m understanding you correctly, your complaint is that they shouldn’t have mentioned anyone’s race when providing the account of the shooting. That saying “we shot the wrong guy” should suffice. Of course, had the autistic man been black then attributing Kinsley’s having-been-shot as resulting from poor aim on the part of the trigger puller wouldn’t absolve the cops of having acted under anti-black racist motivations. The only way to deflect that accusation, seems to me, is to mention the race of the intended target.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

                Maybe it isn’t a counter narrative. But it’s something.

                If the patient was Black, do you think they’d have mentioned and emphasized his race?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

                If the patient was Black, do you think they’d have mentioned and emphasized his race?

                No, of course not. The reason the race of the intended target was emphasized was because the target was white.

                If the intended target was black, they’d be emphasizing something else. Probably that the shooting was entirely justified given the presence of a toy that mightacould looked like a gun in the right light.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

                And I guess that’s my point: they aren’t saying it because of what it offers explicitly, but what it implies.Report

    • El Muneco in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      “Unfortunately, he missed the white male, but fortunately there was a black male nearby, positioned to prevent any risk to innocent white bystanders.”Report

  11. trizzlor says:

    After the Dallas shootings, many Black Lives Matter leaders rushed to condemn the killer and state explicitly that the movement is for non-violent protest to police brutality and that anyone tacitly supporting the killings will be rooted out. Has any leader of a national or local police organization made a similar condemnation of this incident? If not, why not, and what does it tell us about national police culture?Report

  12. Jaybird says:


    The guy who was being aimed at but was not shot by SWAT has been kept in the psychiatric wing of Aventura Hospital since the police-involved gunfire incident.Report

    • trizzlor in reply to Jaybird says:

      After Kinsey was shot, the caregiver was rolled onto his belly and handcuffed — an image that badly exacerbated the public relations nightmare North Miami police faced. But Rios, too, was treated like a criminal, said both his mother and Bower.

      For at least three hours, the young man remained handcuffed in the back of a police squad car. Soto’s church friend begged officers to see Rios, as did Bower. But officers kept Rios under wraps until about 9 p.m., Bower said.

      Police told Bower that Rios “was acting loopy,” Bower said, adding Rios kept talking about Disney characters. “They clearly couldn’t see he was a person with autism, or another disability.”

      This is a fucking problem, and the fact that there is complete silence from PDs across the country makes them complicit, full-stop. A mentally ill man is shot at, his caretaker is hit, both are aggressively detained and the mentally illy man is effectively tortured in the back of a squad car, the second police officer then lies in his report. Anything short of condemnation is just opportunistic ass-covering. Cops can be mighty vocal when they want to be: I’ve read plenty of stories about for-hire police walking out of security gigs because of pro-BLM sentiment; turning their backs on elected officials because of criticism; leaking information on victims; etc. If cops were upset about this they would find a way to be heard.Report