Alleged Cop-Killer Captured Alive

Scott Michael Greene has been arrested. He has been accused of killing two police officers in Des Moines, Iowa. In both killings, he allegedly approached officers and shot them, seemingly without interaction or warning. His motive remains unclear.

Until his arrest, Greene had been considered armed and dangerous, and, if the accusations are to be believed, had just killed two police officers. When approached by officers, he surrendered. No gunfire was exchanged. After being arrested, he was taken to the hospital for medical treatment, owing to seizures he was apparently having.

Greene should consider himself lucky. Police could have dealt with Greene in a lot of different ways. For example, they could have:

Weirdly, the police didn’t do any of these things, despite him having allegedly killed two of their own.

It is tempting to try to figure out why exactly this is. All of those men died, but Greene lived. Unfortunately, there just are not enough differences between them to explain why Greene was arrested and then provided with substantive medical treatment, and those other six men were killed within minutes of interacting with the police.

Please keep checking back in. If any unbelievably obvious difference comes to light, this site will be the very first to report on it.

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125 thoughts on “Alleged Cop-Killer Captured Alive

  1. I think the OP ought to do a little more research into police militarization and how use of force incidents often unfold before writing these posts. Start with Rise of the Warrior Cop by Radley Balko.

    A common thread is that once someone is known to have committed a major public act of violence for which they’re sure to be caught and/or clearly have a death wish the police are at their most careful. The notorious example is Columbine where SWAT teams waited outside for hours because A. it was considered too dangerous to enter and B. the police knew they were being watched in what would be a highly publicized event where everything would be subject to intense scrutiny. A week later the same officers might crash through a door at 4 AM to serve a warrant for a non violent misdemeanor or immediately resort to deadly force in a confrontation needlessly created and escalated by the police.

    The reason is in the latter scenarios the courts are least likely to second guess the police and 99% of the time the incident will barely register in the media (though that seems to finally be changing).

    The above does not mean we don’t have a problem with police use of force nor does it mean that the problem does not disproportionately harm minorities and poor people. It does mean this post is just as lacking in insight as the last time the same type of comparisons were made.

    If you’re passionate about this subject I think that’s great. More people need to be. But this ‘well how come this random white suspect survived arrest when this random black suspect didn’t’ is such a gross oversimplification of the issue as to completely miss the point.


    • We can disagree about this, and obviously do, but how many armed and dangerous white guys need to be taken into custody while not armed and not dangerous black guys are killed practically instantaneously? What is the precise percentage at which we start to wonder if maybe police aren’t dealing with white suspects (even ones who are known to be threats) very differently than they’re dealing with black “suspects” (although I’m really not at all certain that “suspect” is the appropriate word here)?

      The first reply I got here implied that what I wanted was for police to have killed Greene. I think what I might prefer is if police treated black Americans with as much caution and tenderness as they afforded to a man who had allegedly just executed two of their own.


      • I think what I might prefer is if police treated black Americans with as much caution and tenderness as they afforded to a man who had allegedly just executed two of their own.

        Any proof of this tenderness or just liberal assumption?


      • Non violent white suspects are killed by the police too. Ask Daniel Shaver or Cheryl Lynn Noel or Sal Culosi. Some extremely violent black suspects are taken in alive as well. Ask John Allen Muhammad (well rhetorically I guess).

        The point isn’t that I think you’re wrong that there’s a problem or even that race plays a role in it. I think this is a huge problem that overlaps considerably with our society’s racial inequities. I’m not kidding when I say I think you should research the issue more. It’d enrage you but also lead to better arguments.

        My issue is that I think this line of argument where we compare one cherry picked event to another cherry picked event is at best a red herring that gets us nowhere.


        • And I disagree. I think that this sort of thing does a very good job of illustrating the the great big disparity that exists in how particular Americans are policed. In fact, I’d argue that it does a better of job of showing this disparity than the stats themselves do, even if the stats themselves are terrible.

          But again, I think it unlikely that you and I are likely to see eye-to-eye on approaches. I’m not sure what we can really do about that.


          • Why would you assume that we couldn’t find any approaches we agreed on? I’m open to all kinds, including of the socioeconomic variety that would hopefully make the case for accepting a militaristic approach to law enforcement less convincing to voters and decision makers in all branches and levels of government.

            Check out Governing Through Crime by Jonathan Simon if a less libertarian more Berkley guy is your style.


          • I think that this sort of thing does a very good job of illustrating the the great big disparity that exists in how particular Americans are policed.

            If that’s the correct analysis – that there’s a racial disparity between how people are policed – then resolving that particular problem can be accomodated merely be making the disparity go away. For example, by cops killing more unarmed white men (and Latino and Asian men, etc).

            On the other hand, if the analysis is that cops are too prone to use lethal force in general, and that the (unendingly) visible outliers of that predisposition are unarmed black males (cuz racism) then perhaps we should think about reining in cops reflexive tendency to use lethal force as a general procedural disposition. Like, by prosecuting the shit outa those m*****f*****s.


            • Prosecution or any kind of reliable inposition of consequences would be a start. Another would be re-evaluating various other policies (war on drugs/over criminalization generally, arming police like soldiers and telling them they’re at war). The result is that we tell these officers they’re in constant danger, heavily arm them, then send them out into poor communities to police quality of life crimes, low level vice, and similar nuisances. We then wonder why people in those communities are periodically killed for no good reason, even if most of the time it’s technically lawful.

              There’s a big failure of public policy going on here beyond just racism/disproportionate impact.


  2. The whole “bad thing that sometimes happens to black people did not happen to a white person” hot take has to be the cheapest possible way to get woke points.


        • My acceptance into a good college (lo those many years ago) disproves the existence of affirmative action. It’s just a myth, apparently. I don’t know why people on either side get so worked up over nothing.


            • Sam,

              I think the points made above by and are pretty valid here. Because you have made this your pet issue on the site, and posted on the topic A LOT, it seems like at some point it would make sense to merge all of these singular events into some kind of fact-driven, position piece. As it is now, when you keep taking single data points and making gross generalizations, tinged with sarcasm and outrage, then it just looks like this is your Twitter feed with a slightly larger character limit.


              • We both know that we disagree very much about this topic. And while you’re correct that I do take single data points (a white cop killer getting the kids’ glove treatment while an UNARMED 12-YEAR-OLD is given less than two seconds to prove his innocence), I only do so because I find these obvious differences particularly persuasive.

                As we have spent the last few months arguing about this – me taking the position that police should stop killing unarmed African-Americans, you taking a position that the police are owed the benefit of the doubt in almost every imaginable circumstance – it has become quite clear that you don’t like how I write about these things, nor how I think about them.

                That’s all well and good, but we aren’t going to find a middle ground, and me writing something academic on the topic isn’t going to do anything to persuade you if the gross injustice of police departments routinely killing unarmed black citizens hasn’t.


                • That’s not what the critique is about, not at all.

                  It’s stating that your snarky regular summaries of this-or-that daily outrage add up to little more than performative outrage and contribute little to the understanding of the problem writ large.

                  After all, if cops were as uniformly trigger-happy as your repetitive missives insinuate, how do we have an overincarceration problem?


                  • With all due respect, it doesn’t seem as though you think there is any problem at all, particularly if you’re asking me to choose between “overincarceration” and police killing unarmed people, as if both couldn’t be a problem simultaneously.


                • “That’s all well and good, but we aren’t going to find a middle ground, and me writing something academic on the topic isn’t going to do anything to persuade you if the gross injustice of police departments routinely killing unarmed black citizens hasn’t.”

                  Here’s the deal: I went to college. I’m capable of grasping facts and I’ve been persuaded to change my mind on lots of issues over the years, many times by people on this site. But every time they removed the snark and emotion and made their case with reason. You writing knee-jerk flame bait after every shooting, without tying it into a meaningful narrative backed up by facts, doesn’t ‘move the needle’ for me. And you acting like it’s not worth your time sounds more like laziness and less like principle.


                  • You excused a police shooting in which an officer shot at a man who was unarmed and laying on the ground and clearly explaining to officers what exactly was going and when he asked why he was shot was only told, “I don’t know.” You INSISTED that we do not rush to judgment on even that.

                    If the plain facts of the matter don’t move the needle for you, I am very dubious that anything ever will.


                    • Let’s be honest here. What you are calling ‘excusing a police shooting’ was actually me just suggesting we wait more than 24 hours before passing judgement. What seems to bother you is that not everyone is willing to engage in the same rush to verdicts that nearly all of these posts represent. As I have mentioned before, I really think this kind of writing is better suited to Twitter. It seems like your entire thought process here is, “I figured it all out in 5 minutes and shame on the rest of you for not doing the same.”


                        • Sure. No new facts have come out so it appears that either A) The cop was trying to shoot the patient, who was not armed or B) The cop was trying to shoot Kinsey, who was not armed. Both show poor judgement and he should probably be removed from the force. Also, the officer that covered for him should either be removed or severely disciplined.

                          The question for you is, what is problematic about me passing judgement months later verses you passing judgement within hours of the shooting? Even if we both arrived at the same conclusion, which one of us would have been more likely to make a bad call the day after the shooting?

                          I think what has been demonstrated by all the comments here is that in general, your language choices are the problem more than anything else. It’s the snark, deliberately using inflammatory words like ‘execution’ and ‘murder’ in other posts and generally appearing as though you can’t approach this issue without, as Jaybird puts it, ‘putting your thumb on the scale’.

                          I don’t know if you are motivated by comment counts or simply your outrage at perceived racism, but I really wish you would reconsider your approach. It’s definitely not your best work by a long shot.


                          • A couple of things:

                            1. I appreciate you acknowledging that my read of the situation in the heat of the moment was, in fact, entirely accurate.

                            2. It is necessary to pass judgement in the heat of the moment when the facts that are that overwhelming clear because time will pass, something else will grab our attention, and the case will be forgotten.

                            3. As evidence, what has happened to Charles Kinsey’s shooter? Or has the North Miami PD simply waited it out?

                            4. Two guys drive into a park, get out, shoot a unarmed teenager dead. Is that a murder? An execution? And does it change because they’re police? To me, it doesn’t. Tamir Rice wasn’t armed, wasn’t a threat, wasn’t a problem. He was a kid in a park. Those who defend the police – people like – want us to believe that because the cops thought that somebody did have a gun, they simply couldn’t be expected to do anything but arriving on the scene and shooting an unarmed 12-year-old dead. I think the police should be held to a higher standard, and part of that is using accurate language to describe their behavior, not putting on kids gloves because the police have some preferential spot in our society.


                  • That’s his shtick — I don’t understand why people spend so much time trying to have a fair-minded discussion with someone who’s demonstrated many times before that he’s not interested in one.


        • Terrific analogy because it proves the original post.

          A *given* hurricane or murder proves nothing about anything.

          A *pattern* of dozens or hundreds can prove quite a bit.

          But you knew that already.


  3. I don’t know, the first explanation that occurred to me was, “Not all police departments handle things the same way.” That doesn’t mean race isn’t a factor, it means that training, attitude and leadership are different from one to another, and also matter, probably more.

    We could be looking at departments that get this right, and asking, “Why can’t we have more police like this?” I’m betting there are departments that do this well, if not perfect. I think this would be a beneficial approach. This isn’t an either/or, it’s an “and”.


    • This is a good point. I agree with Sam’s larger criticism, that it is possible for police to bring dangerous people in alive, especially (to echo InMD’s point) when they know such an arrest will bring the spotlight. But, some departments are doing it right. Perhaps they have a culture of restraint, so absent evidence that the Des Moines or Urbandale have a penchant for killing unarmed suspects, I’d avoid being critical of those departments for bringing the man into custody instead of killing him, and instead hold them up as examples of doing it right.


        • Should people who aren’t guilty of or aware they are a suspect for a crime (they didn’t commit) be flagging down police, handing over ID, and turning themselves in?

          For this logic to apply, every black person would have to voluntarily turn him/herself in every day… just to be safe.


            • That’s fair, .

              But I think that is part of Sam’s point.

              We have apples (people who kill cops and others).

              And we have burritos (people who do not kill cops or anyone else or pose any real threat to anyone).

              We have many examples of Black burritos being shot. We have an example of a Black apple being shot. We have two examples of white apples (this guy and Dylan Roof) being taken in calmly… with the latter person not doing what the guy here did.

              So this doesn’t seem to simply be a matter of, “Here is how you act after you kill people if you don’t want to get shot by the cops yourselves.” One white guy did this and survived. One black guy did not and got killed. One white guy did not and got killed.

              Plus all those Black guys who didn’t shoot or kill or threaten to shoot or kill anyone.

              I agree that the issue isn’t as simplistic as Sam makes it out to be. But surely the answer to, “How do we help everyone get treated as this guy was?” isn’t, “Just have people turn themselves in voluntarily.”


              • If I wanted to prove a point I don’t believe, I could find enough dead white burritos to wave the bloody flag.

                The disproportionate use of police violence is a matter of disparate impacts, not Opposite Day systems and standards. That’s why one white guy taken into custody without incident proves just about as much as one black guy taken into custody without incident. Which is to say, nothing.


                  • Any percentage at all would be a good start – just not a drip-drip-drip of manipulative misery p*rn.

                    If you’re using a deeply unrepresentative scenario (guy turns himself in for killing a cop), and then immediately drag out Tamir Rice’s bloody corpse as soon as you’re challenged on its relevance, you’re probably doing something wrong.


                    • 1. He killed two officers.

                      2. I cited Tamir Rice’s killing in the original post.

                      3. Pointing out one of the grossest police killings in recent memory – one that was excused by the legal establishment – is evidence that I’m doing something wrong?

                      4. Linking to hard data gets dismissed by some commenters. Do you need the same links?


                • I’m responding, specifically, to the assertion that the difference here was that the suspect turned himself in.

                  ETA: And I am *certainly* not arguing that the police should shoot people who are attempting to peaceably turn themselves in. Heavens no!

                  But if the question on the table is, “Why did these guys get shot and that guy didn’t?” then saying, “Well, that guy turned himself in and those guys didn’t,” is a pretty useless answer because, as you say, these are not apples-to-apples comparisons.


          • Every person arrested regardless of color should peacefully surrender just to be safe. If Eric Garner had not resisted arrest, I’m sure he would be alive today. Sam argues that Greene was taken alive b/c he was white though he offers no evidence to back that opinion up.


              • If you want to argue that those folks weren’t given enough time to surrender that is one thing. If you want to argue that they weren’t given enough time to surrender because they are black that is totally different. What are you arguing now? Also I still don’t hear any evidence that Greene was taken in alive b/c he was white. This really is more of a Twitter rant than a coherent argument.


          • I am suggesting that as soon as cops realized that they could use asset forfeiture laws against people more likely to have a lawyer in the family or a brother-in-law who works in the mayor’s office, that new and improved laws started popping up all over.

            Remember this story?

            How long was it between this story and Maryland starting to pass decrim laws?

            I can come up with other examples, if you’d like.

            But, you’re right, they make the point that once the laws start even meandering in the vague direction of equality, the legislatures start moving to carve out exceptions.

            You don’t need to come close to reaching equality. Just start looking like you’re going to start wandering it its direction.


    • Technically, one of the solutions to cancer deaths is to shoot anyone who got cancer in the head. Bingo, drastic drop in people dying of cancer.

      However, I don’t think people talking about “More research into preventing cancer deaths” need to caveat that with “I specifically don’t mean we kill them by other means first”.

      “Your problem with these posts” disappears if you extend Sam the slightest iota of good faith — that is, if you assume Sam isn’t agitating for police to kill more people. (Heck, that’s not even “good faith” that’s just “reading what he wrote”).

      I’m not sure how that’s a problem with Sam’s posts, rather than a problem with you’re reading of them. I mean let’s be honest — you know darn well that he doesn’t mean that, hasn’t implied that, and roundly rejects that, and would in fact consider that idea horrifying.

      I mean hands up here, who thinks Sam is a monster who wants police to shoot more people? No one? Not even Jaybird? Fantastic.

      Okay then, imaginary problem you made up based on the exact opposite of Sam’s points solved.

      Now that we’re done with “Maybe we should should white people more” , we can maybe move onto “I dunno, it seems like minorities don’t get the same benefit of the doubt from cops white people do. That’s not really unexpected, given the clear research on bias — conscious or otherwise — what should we do about it?”

      I mean, besides deflect and try to change the subject.


      • What should we do about it?

        I’d probably suggest ending police unions, forcing policemen to wear cameras, and forcing accurate statistics to be collected on more or less every time a bullet leaves a gun under color of law.

        Oh, and end the war on drugs.

        You know, like the last 23 times we argued this.

        But framing it with a post about how the cops didn’t shoot a white guy who was surrendering to them is a great way to inspire an argument about the framing rather than with about the substance.


        • All good ideas, none in the OP. I’d also add: severing the link between seizing goods and getting revenue for the department/jurisdiction.

          But why talk about ideas when you can reduce the whole thing to a sarcastic, irritable mental gesture suited only for preening in front of people who already agree with you?


        • The police having a union doesn’t matter if the public largely supports them. All that will happen will that good police employees will lose their pensions and have a crappier health care plan.

          After all, teacher unions are supposedly oh so powerful and they can’t be defeated, but Scott Walker had no problem passing his bills because people, rightly or wrongly, supported him.


        • Yes, that’s dodging your own point there. You stated your “problem with these kinds of posts” was the totally imaginary, 100% opposite of the entire point of these posts.

          Seriously, the logic of “I’m against posts about driving down cancer deaths, because one of the solutions to too many cancer deaths is to kill cancer patients in other ways first” logic is insane.

          You’re not insane. So you and I both know that “The problem with this is we could just kill white suspects more often” is not actually a problem you, or anyone, has with this posts. You don’t think anyone, much less the OP, would actually consider that as a solution — anymore than someone fighting for cancer awareness would consider walking through an oncology ward and putting bullets into patient’s heads.

          So why did you say it?

          Why did you literally invent a fake issue, one that could only be seen as a problem by someone insane, and pretend it was your problem with the post?

          Were you just bored? Did you say “Hey, self. Let’s pretend we’re so stupid that we could read it this way, and pretend that’s our problem with the post! That seems like a constructive use of our time!”

          Did you just not expect anyone to read that and say “No, you don’t actually find that a problem with this post. Why would you say something so phenomenally stupid that you clearly, in no way, believe?”

          I’m glad you want to talk ideas now that you’ve been called on it, but why the theatrics first? Can we just skip that part? It seems pretty pointless.


          • I’m not complaining about the painting. I’m complaining about the frame.

            The frame is what inspires the reaction.
            Not the underlying argument that requires reading with full charity.

            I’m pretty sure that all of us agree with the reading that full charity provides.

            But if one reads with the same amount of charity that is containing in the frame?

            We seem to find ourselves here.
            Blaming people who respond petulantly for not being more charitable than the original post.


            • Suppose my ask is that police everywhere be as reasonable with unarmed 12-year-old black kids as they are with armed white cop killers. Is that a fair ask? Or is there something outrageous about that?

              To me – and I’m being honest here – it doesn’t seem like a crazy dream, but the blowback is always the same and always seems to imply that I’m the one being unfair, as if expecting police to deal as respectfully with black citizens as they do with white citizens – even dangerous ones who are KNOWN threats – is truly offensive.


              • Sam, please understand me when I say this:

                I think that there is a deep rot within the police departments of the country and the only solutions that have a chance at fixing this deep rot involve stuff like “starting over”.

                That said:
                Suppose my ask is that police everywhere be as reasonable with unarmed 12-year-old black kids as they are with armed white cop killers. Is that a fair ask?

                The unarmed “black kid” was waving around something that very much mimicked a weapon to the point where a 911 call was made.

                While holding a piece of soap carved and stained to look like a gun is identical to being unarmed in the Kantian sense of “armed”, in the Humean sense, it’s reasonable to see why others might think that the kid was armed.

                Should the cops have handled the altercation differently? Oh, yes. Yes indeed. I can think of a dozen ways that the situation could have been handled differently including ways that resulted in a stern chewing out, confiscation of the toy, and telling the kid to get along.

                But you have your thumb on the scale and it’s obvious that you have your thumb on the scale.

                As for the armed white cop killer, he was surrendering voluntarily. In, may I point out, a different jurisdiction entirely.

                On top of that, I think that we all agree that the cops who did the Iowa arrest did things the right way and not the wrong way.

                So, so far, we’ve got a guy surrendering, in a different jurisdiction, and I wonder if we can come up with a dozen other differences.

                Is Greene’s congressional representative a Republican or a Democrat? Was Tamir Rice’s representative from a different party?

                Is there a correlation between who gets shot by police more in Republican or Democratic congressional districts?

                If the next time an African-American gets shot by a cop in a Democratic congressional district within a few days of a Caucasian-American criminal getting arrested in a Republican District inspires a post about someone wondering why Democratic congressional districts inspire so many police-involved gunfire incidents, would you think that the author had zher thumb on the scale?

                Golly, I sure would.

                My complaint isn’t with your proposed solution.

                It’s with your framing of the problem.

                And, again, I say that as someone who thinks that there is a deep rot within the police departments of the country and the only solutions that have a chance at fixing this deep rot involve stuff like “starting over”.


                • Tamir Rice (and John Crawford) never had the chance to surrender. That wasn’t given to either of them. That’s the issue. And if they had surrendered? And put their hands up? Would THAT have mattered? It didn’t for Terence Crutcher. It didn’t for Charles Kinsey.

                  I’m fine with what the officers in Iowa did. I just think it works be nice if they could treat less violent people at least it’s well, even if they aren’t white. And I don’t think that’s putting my thumb on the scale.


                  • The way you framed things just now was not putting your thumb on the scale.

                    Do you see the difference between the way you framed things just now and the way you framed them when I was complaining about your framing?

                    Nobody disagrees with your point that the Tamir Rice killing ought to have been handled differently.

                    They disagree with your framing of an unarmed child being shot in Ohio when cop-killers get arrested without being shot in Iowa.

                    When you take your thumb off the scale, suddenly you find that you have more people agreeing with you.

                    Though if you did things that way, you’d probably get fewer comments. So I suppose you’ve got that going for you.


                      • That explains a bit. I’ll put them side by side and see if you still say that.

                        Here’s the one that I agree with 100%:

                        Tamir Rice (and John Crawford) never had the chance to surrender. That wasn’t given to either of them. That’s the issue.

                        And here’s the one I had a problem with:

                        Suppose my ask is that police everywhere be as reasonable with unarmed 12-year-old black kids as they are with armed white cop killers.

                        Still identical as far as you can tell?

                        I’m looking at adjectives, for the record.


                        • I have absolutely no idea why you have a problem with the second one. I don’t see anything objectionable in what I wrote, and frankly, I think it is a fairly reasonable request (various commenters in this thread notwithstanding).


                          • I appreciate that you don’t.

                            That’s why I was trying to explain why others were saying your thumb was on the scale.

                            Which is so weird because when your thumb is not visible on the scale NOBODY DISAGREES WITH YOU.

                            Well, maybe notme but the jury is still out as to whether he’s a Nietzschean Troll.


                              • Sure.

                                Suppose my ask is that police everywhere be as reasonable with 12-year-old black kids as they are with white cop killers.

                                Compare to:

                                Tamir Rice (and John Crawford) never had the chance to surrender. That wasn’t given to either of them. That’s the issue.

                                I daresay that nobody (well, except maybe notme) would disagree with either of these.


                                  • Both show your thumb on the scale.

                                    Here, let me demonstrate:

                                    Suppose my ask is that police who work in Democratic congressional districts be as reasonable with 12-year-old black kids as police in Republican congressional districts are with white cop killers.

                                    It’s accurate, for the record.

                                    Do you see my thumb on the scale, though?


                                    • I would object to it being written that way – due to what is being implied – but I cannot imagine objecting to the claim itself, as the point remains that police appear to often be more delicate with armed and dangerous white citizens than they are with unarmed and un-dangerous black citizens. (And as for putting a thumb on the scale, we would need evidence that the claim being made is actually true. My example compares two situations based upon the larger trend of the police being more violent with African-Americans than they are with anybody else.)


                                            • Just out of curiosity, the evidence you would require are these officers, on tape, saying, “We arrested him rather than shooting him dead because he is white. We would have shot at him had he been black.” Right?


                                              • You are the one that is claiming that Greene was taken alive b/c he is white so you get to present any evidence that you think is most helpful to your argument. I can’t give you my opinion on the quality of the evidence until you present something for me to consider.


                                                • That is not what I am claiming. I am claiming that it is striking that a white man, armed and accused of cop killing, was taken alive, while we have numerous examples of black men, unarmed and accused of nothing, being shot dead.


                                                  • It’s also striking that we have numerous examples of black men not killed in transactions with the police, but you don’t talk about those. The irony of this is that you know you are taking a micro slice of the data and making tons of inferences. All anyone seems to be doing here is asking you to extend your analysis beyond anecdotal examples and all you refuse to do so. So what do we need to do to get you to do that?


                                                    • Just want to clarify – you want me to credit police when they do not shoot and kill unarmed civilians? So literally everytime a police officer has any interaction with an African-American, and doesn’t kill them, they get a cookie?


                                                        • Okay, I’m going to ask this again: how many innocent black people have to be killed by police before you would be bothered by it? What is the exact percentage? Because if anecdotes don’t trouble you – “Yeah, sure, a kid got killed, and a guy in Walmart, and a guy with his hands up, and another guy with his hands up, and a guy who was vaping, and a guy grabbing for his wallet after being told to, and a guy selling CDs, but those are just ANECDOTES!” – then let me know what the hard numbers are.


                                                          • You don’t get to be the only one asking questions. I’ve asked you (and others have asked similar questions) why we can’t get you to look past anecdotal data and actually crunch some numbers? What’s your aversion to removing all of your emotion and examining the facts?


                                                              • You literally have multiple people telling you they would like to see a more thoughtful analysis than what you have provided as of late (including crunched numbers) and you’re telling us you won’t provide because we have pre-dismissed the very data we are asking for?

                                                                So…maybe the better question to ask is what you hope to accomplish with these posts? It’s starting to feel like a one-man circle jerk.


                                                                  • Could you also add the circumstances of whether the shot people live in a Congressional district represented by a Republican or if they live in one represented by a Democrat?

                                                                    Same for the ones who weren’t shot?

                                                                    Think we’ll see a pattern if we watch long enough?


                                                                  • I would assume you would also consider the specifics of each situation. Some ideas:

                                                                    – is it racism or just bad policing?
                                                                    – have there been any racism claims against that department
                                                                    – does the cop belong to any known hate groups?

                                                                    Y’know, thorough research… Or you could just keep posting anecdotal stuff and making broad generalizations. Lord knows that bumps up the comment count.


                                                                    • So that Snopes article links to a database of as close to all reported police killings as anywhere I know of. Each entry in the database has a link to a news article. The aggregate is that black people are a LOT more likely to be killed than white people.

                                                                      I’m not sure why Sam has to spend the next X years of his life researching every one of the stories to observe that the trend is damaging, especially when I’m sure you (or, at least, many others) would dispute individual answers to your questions (except the unanswerable ones) on essentially every case.

                                                                      You do a good job of presenting yourself as someone who just has a lack-of-evidence objection, and I’ll admit I was buying it. But your reaction to overwhelming and uncontradicted evidence makes pretty clear you’re hiding a different objection. What is it? It can’t possibly be that racism only happens when “the cop belong[s] to any known hate groups.” Can it?


                                                                      • My objection is really just that posts used simply to express outrage and snark, over and over, are tiresome. I understand the occasional post on the topic, but this has become Sam’s cause de jour. If he expects us to examine the facts for him so he can keep posting Twitter-fodder so be it. I’m just struggling to see the value to a site that prides itself on thoughtful analysis.


                                                                        • Does it take a ton of thought to knee-jerkingly conclude that not only are the police always right, but that if any criticism of them is to be made, even if it is plainly correct, it must wait for weeks, months, years after the fact?


                  • I just think it works be nice if they could treat less violent people at least it’s well, even if they aren’t white.

                    They do. Based on your rhetoric, it seems like you believe that no black person ever survives an encounter with the police, and white people always do. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of police encounters with civilians of all races end with nobody getting killed, even when those civilians are violent criminals. Granted, that’s a low bar, but my point is that your cherry-picking of examples that bolster your preferred narrative isn’t informative.

                    In 2015, 40 unarmed black people and 47 unarmed white people were shot to death by police. Even focusing on those who were unarmed, very few fit the narrative you’re trying to build here, in that most involved suspects struggling with the police. And of course there are numerous examples of black suspects in killings of police officers being safely apprehended.

                    It’s worth noting that Hispanics are killed by the police at a rate only about 10-20% higher than non-Hispanic whites, and Asians are killed at less than half the rates non-Hispanic whites are. It’s only blacks and Native Americans that are killed at much higher rates per capita, so if you want to blame racism, it’s an oddly specific kind of racism. It seems to me that the “shot more because of more encounters with the police” model fits the data better. Probably because black people tend to live in black neighborhoods, which tend to have higher crime rates. Of course, those high crime rates are due to white people sneaking in to black neighborhoods and committing crimes, because any other explanation would be racist.

                    On the margin, I wouldn’t be surprised if race was a factor. But this narrative about how it’s the only factor, or obviously the dominant factor, and anyone who questions it is just an apologist for racism, is a load of crap.

                    And as I’ve pointed out before, with men 20 times as likely as women to be shot to death by the police, whether armed or unarmed, the sex-based skew is much more extreme than the race-based skew, but that’s not a narrative anyone is interested in pushing.


  4. I go back and forth on this issue. And here is where I keep ending up: yes, this absolutely involves race. When a police officer in a helicopter looks down at an unarmed black man holding his hands up and says that he looks like “a bad dude,” what the hell else is it. All that said, I’m not sure how we get to a solution by focusing solely on race. There is no solution to white supremacy. It’s not that kind of problem.

    Suppose my ask is that police everywhere be as reasonable with unarmed 12-year-old black kids as they are with armed white cop killers. Is that a fair ask?

    Yes, this is fair, but so what? It’s November, so fair and four bucks will get you pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks. You don’t get better policy outcomes by asking, or by pleading fairness, or be feeling that you’re morally and ethically superior in recognizing racism. It just doesn’t work that way.

    The real question that we ought to be asking is, “what next?”


      • Demography plus time didn’t help things in either South Africa or the Confederate States of America – the threat of demography plus time is exactly what caused the racism to entrench itself in the legal systems.


    • What’s next is building public support for the idea that the killing of a suspect by the police is always a failure of the police. Sometimes it’s an unavoidable failure. There will always be situations where everything is done right and the event still ends with a person dead. This basically means getting rid of the idea that there is such a thing as a “good shoot”. Every shooting is a bad shooting, because it represents a case where the police either lost control, or failed to gain control, and hence they failed at their job.

      Again, there will always be cases where gaining or maintaining control will be practically impossible, because you can’t have an infinite number of invulnerable officers on hand at any time, and people the police interact with may be highly motivated to prevent the police from gaining control. Just like sometimes, despite the best efforts of doctors, people still die.

      The thing is, doctors see such deaths as a failure. Sometimes it’s an unavoidable failure (person was too old, or frail, or the trauma too great, or illness too advanced, etc.), but it’s still worth it to look at each case and ask, “What could we have done differently?”.

      I know some police departments do this. The goal of the post shooting investigation is not to exonerate the officer, but to identify how & why the situation got out of control to the point that deadly force was seen as necessary. If the officer was the cause of the situation getting out of control, then the officer could get better training, or disciplined, or fired, or indicted. The added benefit of this approach is that such cases become case studies for future training efforts on de-escalation and situation control. Especially with body cameras added to help fill in details an officer missed,or remembered wrong, etc.

      (For example – Tamir Rice is a case of the police NEVER even attempting to gain control of the situation, which is exactly why it is such a failure of the police. It isn’t because Rice had a toy gun, or was giving other people cause for concern)


    • Racism is a reflection of some very deeply embedded human natures, but so is altruism and camaraderie
      The social norms of how we behave are flexible and subject to exhortation and social cues.

      The word “ni**er” didn’t just become taboo by itself. There were decades of hard work and powerful efforts that made it so.


  5. I suspect that you might actually find a correlation between police violence in Democratic strongholds vs Republican ones, and that you would further find that as police are, by and large, self-identified as Republican supporters this correlation is another source of the tensions involved, not merely a novel framing. Police unions tend to resist requirements that officers must live in the areas they police. I think this also adds to the tensions. I’d be happy to start trying to capture that data, actually.


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