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Michael Bennett’s Treatment Was (Un)Justified

Yesterday, Michael Bennett (of the two football-playing Bennett brothers) came forward with a story of being pulled out of a crowd in Las Vegas after somebody had allegedly fired a gun. Bennett says he was thrown to the ground, his life explicitly threatened, and only eventually let go after officers figured out that he was a celebrity of sorts. He claims that one of the officers pointed a gun at his head. Because he is who he has always been, he minces no words about what happened.

“A police officer ordered me to get on the ground. As I laid on the ground, complying with his commands not to move, he placed his gun near my head and warned me that if I moved he would “blow my fucking head off.” Terrified and confused by what was taking place, a second Officer came over and forcefully jammed his knee into my back making it difficult for me to breathe. They then cinched the handcuffs on my wrists so tight that my fingers went numb.”

Bennett is one of many NFL players who has protested during pre-game national anthem ceremonies. Bennett’s protest – sitting during the anthem – began during a preseason game in August and he has explained that he will continue to do so all season. Presumably, his experience in Las Vegas will only serve to further harden his already steely will on the matter.

“But surely it wasn’t that bad,” will go the usual internet commentators who are always and immediately willing to dismiss police brutality visited against people that those commentators never cared about in the first place. They will watch the same video available to everybody else but will conclude that yes, of course, Bennett deserved to get picked out of a crowd fleeing gun shots, and that yes, of course, Bennett deserved to have officers mount his back, and that yes, of course, Bennett deserved to have his life threatened, and that yes, of course, Bennett deserved to be cuffed, and that yes, of course, Bennett deserved to have a gun pointed at his head. This blithely assumes, though, that Bennett will be believed in the first place.

ESPN’s Dan LeBatard ran into this sort of disbelief yesterday and was absolutely aghast, excoriating his own show’s fans for the responses he received in the immediate aftermath of retelling Bennett’s story.

LeBatard’s reaction is the same as so many other people, all wondering what exactly it would actually take to make the other side flinch, to make the other side say, “That was too much.”

America’s debate on policing is literally one side either pleading reasonably to be treated the same as everybody else or pleading for minorities to be treated the same as everybody else, and the other side insisting that nothing is out of bounds. It appears that quite literally no story is too much to move the needle. It didn’t move when police opened fire after talking with an unarmed man laying on the ground, mercifully and miraculously not killing Charles Kinsey. It didn’t move when police opened fire after talking with a concealed carrier, killing Philando Castile. It didn’t move when police opened fire seconds after arriving on the scene, killing Tamir Rice and John Crawford. The needle stays stuck, unflinching, unmoving, unwavering.

To give some idea of just how profoundly bad this situation is, Bennett is frankly lucky, despite having been tackled, threatened, and handcuffed, to have emerged able to righteously and angrily respond to it. Plenty of other people – including all of the ones mentioned above but so many more too – are not nearly so able after their own interactions with American police. The statistics that occasionally surface to underpin this belief are themselves staggering. There are websites full of them, all of them and always pointing to the same conclusion: minority populations, and particularly African-American populations, are being treated differently than white populations are.

To that end, we have the Las Vegas Police Protective Association Metro, Inc.’s response, as written by Detective Steve Grammas, the organization’s president. It is not an apology for tackling, threatening, and cuffing an unarmed man. It is, instead, an explicit demand that the NFL investigate Bennett for responding to having been tackled, threatened, and cuffed. Vanessa Murphy has the response, which focuses upon Bennett’s response to his treatment:

“On behalf of the rank and file members of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, I request that you conduct an investgation, and take appropriate action, into Michael Bennett’s obvious false allegations against our officers. While the NFL may condone Bennett’s disrespect for our American Flag, and everything it symbolizes, we hope the League will not ignore Bennett’s false accusations against our officers.”

“Michael Bennett’s claim that our officers are racists is false and offensive to the men and women of law enforcement. We hope that you will take appropriate action against Michael Bennett. I am available to meet with you and will provide any other information you deem necessary.”

Grammas’s request is the same sort of the response that we always see in this cases, in which thin-skinned police organizations insist that whatever they have done was unquestionably the correct thing to have done and that anybody who concludes otherwise is outrageously disrespectful. But Grammas’s letter has one more tidbit worth exploring and better understand, something that gets to the heart of the problem:

“We believe that a fair investigation will establish that our officers responded to one of the most dangerous calls a law enforcement officer can be assigned- an active shooter firing rounds in a crowded casino. As our uniformed officers entered the casino, they observed Bennett hiding behind a slot machine. When officers turned towards Bennett, he bolted out of the casino, leaped over four (4) foot barrier wall, and hid from officers as he crouched close to the wall on the sidewalk.

I am sure that your attorney will tell you, our officers had reasonable suspicion, which is the constitutional standard, to detain Bennett until the could determine where he was involved in the shooting. Our officers, who are both minorities, had the legal right, and obligation, to detain Bennett based upon the nature of the call and Bennett’s unusual and suspicious actions.”

For the sake of this, let’s take everything that Grammas wrote at face value, even though we very obviously should not do that given Grammas’s previous, and entirely unrelated, mention of the flag. Let’s also ignore Grammas having mentioned the officers’ race, although, good grief. Rather, let’s focus on the insistence that Bennett’s behavior in responding to those officers was both “unusual and suspicious.” What Grammas is doing here is denying Bennett’s humanity, the same thing that those responding to LeBatard above were doing, and the same thing that everybody who ends up siding with Grammas is going to be doing.

Grammas apparently believes, wholly and without reservation, that Bennett should have done something else in that moment, that his instinct to flee and to hide (assuming, again, that either claim is actually true) were simply wrong. But look at that first sentence and note that Grammas is explaining the understood danger of the situation – “our officers responded to one of the most dangerous calls a law enforcement officer can be assigned” – while simultaneously denying Bennett his right to flee and hide from that situation. But Grammas goes further, insisting that Bennett’s response to the situation was not only unreasonable but so “unusual and suspicious” that it justified his abuse at the hands of the police. And then, as his coup de grace, Grammas simply ignores why it is exactly Bennett might not have seen those approaching police officers as his saviors.

This all assumes that Grammas’s telling of the story is entirely accurate. As previously stated, that is an awfully big assumption. And, as evidence of its potentially dubious nature, a very curious thing happened when the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) went to looking for additional footage to contextualize the incident: it wasn’t available. The police officer who allegedly threatened Bennett kept his body camera off. And as if it double down on that camera being kept off, the LVMPD could not justify its own behavior. At a press conference designed to defuse the situation, the LVMPD’s Undersheriff Kevin McMahill could not explain why Bennett was detained, but did confirm that officers drew guns on him anyway. “I really can’t answer that as of yet,” was McMahill’s official comment, when asked to offer any explanation for Bennett’s treatment.

It must be a hell of a thing to not know what is so plainly clear to so many others.



*Unstated, although plainly implied, is that there is no distance too far for police to go when dealing with people that those debaters do not like. If it was their own family, the response would almost certainly change.

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91 thoughts on “Michael Bennett’s Treatment Was (Un)Justified

  1. If you see police as a gang that operates with the sanction of The Powers That Be, it clarifies things.

    If you look like someone who pays protection, you get treated like someone who is paid up.

    If you look like someone who does not pay protection, well, you get treated like… like that.

    Look for people explaining that the cops have to do this sort of thing and the injustice in this case is that the cops used their SOP against someone who didn’t deserve it rather than that this is their SOP in the first place.


        • Yes, I saw. But you can’t analogize this to a protection racket without pointing out that the main difference is, in a protection racket, there’s always the option of paying.

          Here there isn’t. There’s only the beatdown.


          • “… in a protection racket, there’s always the option of paying.” You have… an optimistic idea of protection rackets. They work less reliably than that [ie paying is not always an option] and they don’t usually worry about being reliable, only seeming so to most people. As long as they work reliably *enough* that more people than not are making a calculated gamble that paying will work, they don’t actually have to be reliable. Only to sway enough people to pay them that they won’t lose power. Which I reckon was where was taking his analogy, wild-eyed almost-still-a-libertarian that he is.

            That said, I see your point.


  2. One other observation on the statement. “Detain” is not equal to “point loaded gun in face of and threaten to kill.” The story is one thing if its “I was singled out of a crowd because I’m a large athletic black man.” It’s quite another given what we are told happened next.

    I’m no solider, but one of my best friends did tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He has told me repeatedly that no one in the military would ever point a loaded weapon at a civilian in those circumstances (though we haven’t discussed this one). Hell, when they did checkpoint security, guns didn’t come up in far tenser situations. Because that is not an ok thing to do.

    That said, I’m quite confident you’re right that all the same people will tell us this is (1) totally reasonable; (2) if not totally reasonable, not a big deal; (3) if a big deal, not the most important thing to be focused on right now; (4) the reason everyone hates democrats/the PC police; and/or (5) further proof that blue lives matter.


    • I have to agree with on all accounts here. ROI is vastly different for the military (never served, but many friends who have in the same environment as Nevermoor mentions) and this is quite sad. And in that sadness, very fucked up.


          • Of course there hasn’t. There almost never is. That’s the whole point of the statistics noted in the OP – an overwhelming pattern of racially disparate police violence, but since each individual cop in each individual instance is not wearing white hoods or openly declaring that they hate black people, there’s never evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that this instance of violence wouldn’t have gone down just the same regardless of race.

            Besides, it only just happened, the police union is still demanding the victim be investigated by his employer for extrajudicial career punishment for daring to complain. Which of course also they would have done regardless of his race and previous publicly uppity protests against systemic racism. Can’t prove they wouldn’t have, because this exact set of circumstances but with a white dude hasn’t happened before – in any example you find, something else was also slightly different.


            • (Edited for what I perceive as willfully misreading dragonfrog’s comment and then trolling him. notme, it’s possible this one time you were being sincere but you’ve run out of credit in the sincere bank. you’re suspended for a week. try to be kinder when you come back. – Maribou)


          • If they want to produce body cam video of Bennett being armed or combative, then they might have a justification for pulling any weapon (TASER or sidearm). Except they don’t, because lo & behold, all the body cams were off.

            Police need to stop pulling out a weapon at the first imagining of things going sideways.

            And unions need to get called out on their BS.


              • Sadly, it is a significant contributor to the bad behavior because the unions defend the actions, no matter how shocking to the conscious. If you know that a powerful organization will come to your defense regardless of how badly you acted, your risk analysis is seriously altered.

                Of course, this problem has nothing to do with collective bargaining, and everything to do with an org that will not limit itself to employee/management relations.


                • Of course, this problem has nothing to do with collective bargaining, and everything to do with an org that will not limit itself to employee/management relations.

                  I’d say “can not limit itself”. Unions, like other organizations, need to be able to justify their existence. Every generation of leadership needs to be able to point to something and say they did it, or point to an enemy and claim we’re threatened.


                    • It isn’t the fact that they are unionized that is the problem, it’s that the union injects itself into situations that have nothing to do with collective bargaining or employee relations, and the department hierarchy and the prosecutors often use the unions interference as cover for not doing anything.


                      • I doubt the prosecutors who are lax on cops wouldn’t find another excuse if unions didn’t exist. Unions seem like a second order problem. It’s the fanatical support cops have among a set of the populace that leads to all the other issues.


                        • Police unions — and firefighters somewhat behind — are about the only two unions that aren’t looked down on by the public at large.

                          Most other unions are pretty toothless, in decline, and not exactly popular.

                          But police unions? They literally defend murder and the public applauds them.

                          The problem isn’t the union. The problem is what makes this particular union so popular. Because it’s the latter that’s ultimately the power preventing cops from being held accountable.


                          • Agreed. Cop unions only have the power they do because lots of people want them to have it. Getting rid of cop unions won’t happen unless every other union also destroyed which plenty of people would be completely happy with. And then those people would still fanatically support cops and want them to have all the same leeway they have now.


                          • Yes, agreed, there are other forces which also shield bad cops.

                            However it is fair to ask if the police union makes the situation worse, i.e. whether they advocate against reforms, for laws which are problematic, shield bad cops, elect politicians on the basis of furthering their interests, etc.

                            As a consumer of the public good they’re making, I don’t see how any of my interests are in any way aligned with the union’s. The purpose of the government should be to serve me-the-consumer, public unions refocus the government elsewhere.


                            • Sure they make it worse, but it’s basically a collective action problem.

                              Each union is local, defending local cops against national attention. (That’s for the cases we hear about).

                              It’s not like failing to defend a guy will somehow make the other unions stop defending bad shoots, or change anything at all.

                              There’s no real mega-union that can clamp down on them all and say “You’re doing more harm than good, long-term here”.

                              It’s local PDs and county PDs and city PDs and state troopers…..

                              And of course, they’re an arm of government where the citizenry seems to cheer on their lack of oversight and abusive ways. As long as it’s aimed at the “right sort”. (And nobody said cops were stupid. The ones that can’t figure out the “right sort” are the ones that get fired…)


                              • That’s a very Interesting observation.

                                If police having civilian feedback is enabled or disabled locally, then we should see places with no feedback (Ferguson, maybe Chicago), and also places where there is NO problem (people who think their police don’t need reform may be correct… although if I remember the Harvard study suggested things were pretty uniform… although I think he only did big cities with lots of data, some of which might be because they’ve had problems).

                                So… people from different worlds, talking past each other.

                                I think I still trust the “death” stats, counting corpses is easy and they draw a lot of attention so we probably have reasonably good data there.


                        • Except I never said the union shouldn’t exist, only that it’s ability to interfere in matters beyond it’s scope is part of the problem (lets not be putting words in my mouth here).

                          I don’t think a union could be legally restrained from interfering, 1st amendment and all. I think people just need to call unions out on doing so, which is EXACTLY what you and Morat are saying (that the public has to stop giving the unions free reign). Let’s look at what I said:

                          And unions need to get called out on their BS.

                          and here.

                          So I am not sure where any of you are getting the idea that the police union should not exist.


                          • I don’t think either of us is. I think we’re saying the police union is symptomatic of the problem.

                            No other union would be able to so freely defend the indefensible.

                            The police union can protect bad cops so thoroughly because the public protects bad cops so thoroughly.

                            The way unions work, the police union should defend cops against such accusations, at least until the process is finished. But the way the public works, the process never actually results in fired cops, because the public very rarely thinks a bad cop is bad, no matter how clearly bad they are at their job.

                            I guess the best analogy: The police union is like a defense attorney. Defending the accused is his job. The problem is, the prosecutor also seems to think defending the accused is his job! So nobody ever gets convicted, no matter how guilty.

                            The problem isn’t the defense attorney — he’s not only doing what he’s supposed to, he’s kind of important. The problem is the prosecutor. (Who is, you know, the public in general in this analogy).


                            • You are right that the public is the problem, in that they don’t call out the the unions on this behavior (which is exactly what I said).

                              I mean, would the public be supportive of the idea of the UAW expending resources to defend a line worker whose job performance resulted in unsafe cars killing people? Or a postal worker who was just throwing out the mail and hitting the bars (instead of delivering it)?

                              They might recognize that the union has a legal, contractual obligation to do so, but they wouldn’t be cheering it on. And I doubt those unions would be heavily involved in coordinating with management to protect the worker.

                              We are all in agreement on this, so I’m not sure why my comment was something to hammer on? Feels like there was a healthy assumption regarding my motive in saying it.


                              • Instead of complaining about things X and Y in that order, you’re complaining about Y without complaining about X first! Even if you also complain about X, you should complain about X first, because X is the real problem and Y is a distraction unless you complain about X first.

                                You really have to question the motives of people who complain about Y and X. Their priorities are all out of whack.


                                • I could understand the implied assumption if I had gone off on a rant about unions, etc, but it was a single line tossed in at the end, largely because the union quoted in the op was, IMHO, out of line, especially with regard to demanding that the NFL launch an investigation.

                                  I mean, that kind of BS needs to be called out, and harshly.


                              • We are all in agreement on this, so I’m not sure why my comment was something to hammer on? Feels like there was a healthy assumption regarding my motive in saying it.

                                Speaking for myself, I thought you were making a symptom/cause error or hadn’t fully understood my point.

                                I was attempting to clarify, because mistaking symptoms for causes is kind of a big deal when trying to treat a problem.


                          • Putting words in your mouth???? I’m just trying to keep your marriage strong!!!! You’re welcome.

                            No you haven’t said unions shouldn’t exist however every attempt to scale back unions in general has spared cops and firemen. There won’t be any limiting what cop unions do unless every union is destroyed which some people ( not you) would like. Cops unions won’t be limited because of the support cops have among very very strong on crime people. The public support for cops is the key. That and the courts/prosecutors as Morat said.

                            I’m fine with calling out the unions but they are the symptom more than the heart of the problem.


        • I’d argue “more relaxed” vastly undersells it. I’m not aware of any ROE other than “must be able to say afterwards you were scared, and that statement will ideally not be flatly contradicted by video”


        • I’d like to point out that many soldiers are, in fact, 18 or 19 year old kids with little experience — and still hold to these ROE’s. Despite being in an active warzone.

          And the difference is their superiors will jump their sh*t if they break them, and that’s if they’re lucky — military courts don’t bend over backwards for soldiers like regular courts do for police.


  3. that we always see in this cases, in which thin-skinned police organizations insist that whatever they have done was unquestionably the correct thing to have done and that anybody who concludes otherwise is outrageously disrespectful

    And this will continue to be the case until the courts stop treating every word of an officer as unvarnished truth.

    ETA: Courts = Judges and Juries


      • On a related note, the Cleveland PD have chosen the following actions in response to members of the Browns’ protest that involves not participating in standing during the National Anthem:

        – Not participating in standing during the National Anthem
        – … In protest

        Yes. You read that right.


          • Not sure how much your comment is a joke or not, but Inception is probably the most accurate depiction of how these things work.

            It’s almost impossible to get large numbers of people to consistently adopt a certain position through crude propaganda. The human mind tends to reject such things. But, if you can create a credible threat, it’s relatively easy to get people reacting in fairly predictable and manipulable ways.


  4. I had to restrain the urge to permanently ruin my relationship with a relative when she pulled the “All Lives Matter” thing out of her hat.

    To say “All Lives Matter” basically means you are so freaking dense — willfully so! — that you cannot grasp that the whole point of BLM is a lengthy, desperate plea to be treated like everyone else. To, in short, be treated the same way as white people when it comes to interacting with the police.

    She…cannot seem to grasp that this isn’t the case. She refuses to believe it. Refuses. It cannot be, in her mind. Police can’t do that, so they don’t, so BLM is just some thugs playing the race card against our valiant boys in blue.

    There’s no shifting that needle.


    • I personally struggle with whether it’s worth permanently ruining certain relationships by being extremely blunt (read, to the point of profanity and driving them away) with people when they’re like that.

      So far I’ve come down on the side of not, and trying to find a different way to approach, say, someone’s embrace of Birtherism (an example I mention because I eventually managed it and shifted the needle), but the urge to either give up on them literally or give up on them emotionally is damn strong.


      • I tend to fall back to Peel’s Principles of Policing. You don’t need a new-fangled social justice theory to explain the problem here, and some people are more likely to accept the critiques of a Victorian-era conservative over modern activists.


        • Over policing African-Americans has long been a part of Peel’s Principles of Policing as applied in the United States because of how many White Americans perceived African-Americans.


        • Ooh, thank you, that looks helpful.

          FWIW, my bafflement on this particular issue stems from being the daughter of a hippie and a criminal hippie, as much as anything else – certainly more than my belief in social justice theory and my awareness of systematic racism, which are relatively latecomers.

          Like, only in the last less-than-20-years has it occurred to me to see *any* police officers as anything other than a threat.


        • Nah, you just need Jim Crow and a long history of using the police to stamp out undesirables.

          That’s always been an unspoken part of American policing. Part of the job is making sure the “wrong sort” know their place.

          Who the wrong sort is has varied (Irish at times, Chinese, etc) but blacks have always been the wrong sort.

          It’s bred into the bone and blood of policing.

          It’s not “newfangled social justice theory” — it’s just an old, ugly reality we don’t want to admit.


          • It’s an old ugly reality that Peel was trying to combat (albeit not for the reasons I might have wanted him to). was talking about ways to move people’s needles when they seem unshiftable, not dismissing my perspective on the matter.


            • Accountability. Lacking that, nothing will happen.

              We do the opposite, these days. They’re not held accountable (or are held accountable almost randomly, so there’s no actual lesson being learned), we arm them with military grade weapons and armor, and tell them they’re basically occupying the war-zone called “America”.

              And unless they shoot a pretty white girl, a good chunk of America loudly applauds them when they use their guns.

              It is a pity America rebelled before Peel, instead of after.


              • we arm them with military grade weapons and armor, and tell them they’re basically occupying the war-zone called “America”.

                Obviously, the solution is to just declare all police officers who carry lethal weaponry to be subject to the UCMJ and military courts.

                Bet you see, within 30-days of that happening, at least 25% of the police in this country turning in their resignations.


    • People tend to fall into one of three broad categories when it comes to discussing political issues:

      1. People who have neither the inclination nor the ability to engage in meaningful political discourse and who come to their conclusions by some combination of moral intuition and mood affiliation.

      2. People who do engage in political discussions, but mostly just to find justifications and rationalizations to positions that they arrived at by some combination of moral intuition and mood affiliation.

      3. People who are open to changing their mind through engagement and discourse.

      The people on the first category can change their minds, sometimes more easily than the people in the second, but it tends not to happen through arguments. Usually something has to happen to them on a more personal level that gets them questioning their existing beliefs.

      The problem with our current reality is that the internet, particularly social media, has given the people in the first category an easily deployable vocabulary of canned arguments and catch phrases. When someone says “All Lives Matter,” that’s a good sign that I’m talking to someone in category 1, possibly 2. In either case, further conversation is probably not going to get us anywhere.


      • I think for the specific topic of disparate interactions with police, the issue for white people is whether or not they have any genuine friends of color. There needs to be a level of trust such that the person of color will speak honestly with them, and they will believe what they are told. This is much less common that many white people like to pretend, even to themselves, hence the Stephen Colbert shtick about his black friend.


    • Yeah, but you see, she’s actually ahead of her time. Here’s why. Recall the nurse arrested for not drawing blood the cops wanted…against the law and hospital policy? The one that got roughed up and was white?

      That’s the point. It’s one argument when shitty cop treatment of minorities is ignored by the white population, but that white population is increasingly subject to the same behavior. Once that hits a critical mass, THEN you’ll see a change (hopefully). Until white folk starting seeing themselves face down in the street with a knee in their back and gun at the their head, it will be just a bunch of “minorities who probably deserved it for this or something else”.


      • Once that hits a critical mass, THEN you’ll see a change (hopefully).

        That maybe a little too hopeful. Some people are just bootlickers and always will be.

        Just the other day I saw a piece in the Daily Caller saying the nurse got what she deserved for interfering with a police investigation. Probably a minority opinion, but there are always going to be a significant number of people ready to defend the police in almost all situations.


  5. For the sake of this, let’s take everything that Grammas wrote at face value, even though we very obviously should not do that given Grammas’s previous, and entirely unrelated, mention of the flag

    It’s clearly not unrelated. Establishes uppityness.


  6. Let me see if I can more succinctly rephrase the police account of the event.
    Bennett was under cover from the shooter. Upon seeing that LEOs were on site and turning to engage someone in his vicinity or in the direction thereof, he vacated the immediate area and took cover behind a nearby barrier out of the direct line of fire so as not to interfere with their engagement of the shooter.
    Do I have that right?


  7. I don’t know, I took the police at their word as their account stated.

    “[…] an active shooter firing rounds in a crowded casino.”

    I wasn’t there.


  8. I always have reservations when a SJW claims to have been subject to repression. I also wait at least a week so the media has time to do more than just repeat what they’ve been told.

    If the police cams were turned off, it will be a good lesson to them and/or the public on why they’re supposed to be on.


      • Sure. The police can be dicks, with guns, and screwing up can mean they kill someone. Worse, our standards aren’t the greatest for hiring and the bulk of society doesn’t care a whole lot.

        At the same time, we’ve got that Black, Harvard, Econ professor who did his study to support BLM and decided the cops view killing someone as a life changing event, and adjusted for situation, Blacks aren’t killed at higher numbers.

        Police-as-a-problem is a tiny subset of society’s problems as a whole. Fixing a tiny subset of something doesn’t move the needle for the whole.

        Which would be worse for my kids, being arrested unjustly and spending the night in jail; Or me going back in time and never getting married to their mother & never emotionally/financially supporting them?


        • It’s a tiny problem for you but a big problem for most people of color. Because something is a problem for you therefore it’s insignificant is not an impressive argument nor does it get that whole rule of law and equality thing. You are writing out other Americans suffering and mistreatment by the cops. POC are part of “the whole.” If they are being screwed over then the whole is being harmed.


          • It’s a tiny problem for you…

            True, but is that because of the color of my skin, or is it because of my lifestyle? I have relatives who have repeatedly had nasty encounters with the police, their skin color is the same as mine but they have the drug culture’s lifestyle.

            If it’s a skin color thing, then that Harvard Prof’s math is wrong, and we have a problem with racism. If it’s not a skin color thing, then eliminating racism from the police will do nothing. It’d be like firing the weather man for the weather.

            …but a big problem for most people of color.

            And the big question is, “how big”? There are real imbalance issues in this country, is this a cause, effect, or does it not matter much and it’s a distraction to avoid painful discussions?

            I wave a magic wand and eliminate myself, retroactively, from my kids’ lives. Their lives change dramatically for the worse, opportunities go away, etc, etc. There’s a lot of people who actually do that to their kids, and many of them are POC.

            Or if we want to focus on gov policy, is bad policing really a bigger effect than the war on drugs?

            When I start counting corpses and apply my back of the napkin, I get numbers which suggest “bad cop” deaths are roughly equal to that of “death by bee” or “death by furniture”. In terms of preventing deaths from bee attacks, epi pens are a good thing for society. Similarly lighter TVs are also a good thing for society (albeit less than epi pens).

            But if we’re trying to fix vast levels of inequality in society, we probably want to focus on larger effects than those.

            I’m not opposed to reforming the police, it’s a good thing, but I don’t expect much to come from it.


            • Color. It’s about color of skin. Does that mean white people are never arrested or get F’d with: No. That is a strawman. POC’s get drastically different treatment by the cops. Hell plenty of cops even admit that. They get arrested more for petty crimes which leads to an avalanche of problems. It’s not like POC haven’t been saying this for decades. There have been dozens of PD’s found to have planted evidence, coerced confessions, beaten suspects.

              Here, dig what some POC NYPD officers say about other cops.


              I was actually looking for video from a former baltimore cop talking about how he was taught to arrest blacks for everything including jay walking. He was taught to single out POC citizens and be as harsh as possible on them.

              And as a certified white guy i’ve seen racism from cops. My hockey coaches in college were all NYPD cops. They didn’t see POC the same way they saw white people.


            • So if you’re going to keep relying on “that Harvard prof”‘s paper as a source of evidence for your arguments, I think it useful to
              1) Have a link to the paper [pdf link, or go to: http://www.nber.org/papers/w22399 first if you don’t like pdf’s], given that it is publicly available. (TY harvard open access mandate.
              2) Note that the *very same paper* found that both black people and Hispanic people (black people moreso) were significantly more likely to experience police force from all non-lethal uses of force, *even after accounting for contextual variables*.

              So if you want to argue that reforming racism in the police won’t make much difference in the lives of POC, purely b/c police shootings are rare, you maybe need to read / process / consider all the angles on that paper you keep referring to. Especially since the post above deals with excessive use of force, not with a shooting.


              • I’ll just echo how baffling it is for to read a post about police drawing a gun on black man and then cite as exculpatory evidence a paper showing that police are … more likely to draw weapons on black people. It’s another indicator for me that this issue is not going to be resolved by just educating people about disparities.


                • The conservative media solely focused on the no differences in police killings aspect of that study. They consistently avoided the other nasty parts. But yeah just showing people who don’t want to believe evidence is usually a slow at best road to changing minds.


                • Hey, give him a minute (ie a couple days) to read the paper before you pile on, guys. I have certainly done the same thing in different contexts on many occasions. It’s one of those human nature things, to remember / drill down on what confirms your priors and/or is surprising, and forget the rest.

                  I saw this study reported as only the part about killings Soooooooo many times at the time, in liberal media as well as conservative (the subsequent arguments were different), that I’m pretty sure Dark Matter isn’t the only one on this site who misremembered its contents.


              • I think we’re staring at the same facts and coming to different conclusions, so let’s just review those facts.

                (From the Harvard link; And thank you, Yes, I should have posted it)

                H1) On a police stop, POC are subjected to police non-lethal violence at a rate roughly 3x that of non-POC. For perspective, the non-POC rate of police violence is roughly 1%.

                H2) For lethal violence, after we adjust for situation, POC are subjected to deadly violence at a rate 25% less than non-POC.

                Point H2 is a different issue than the police being trigger happy, or from needing better training, procedures, and/or recruits. What point H2 does mean is police reform would increase the inequality of the system. There’d be fewer dead bodies in total, but as a percentage more of them would be POC.

                To figure out how big a deal this is as far as inequality, the next questions are,
                Q1) How often we deal with the police?
                Q2) What’s the economic impact?
                Q3) How big a slice of the inequality pie does this represent?

                For Q2, if the situation rises to murder that’s captured by “lethal violence” in H2 above, and H2 isn’t adding to inequality. This implies the really expensive events are mostly excluded.

                If the answer for Q1 is “rare”, as in a handful of times a decade, then it’s hard to see how an extra 2% translates into a “a lot” for both Q2 and Q3.

                To put it differently, “Blacks are shot and killed by police at 2.5 times the rate of whites.” (link below). This is the result of society’s inequality. After we reform the police, we should see POC shot and killed at a rate something like 3.3x that of whites.

                I have a hard time believing that’s what success should look like.

                I especially have a hard time believing the bulk of society’s inequality is rooted in police misconduct when I think about the war on drugs, educational outcomes at schools, single parenthood, and various other factors.

                Assume the treatment of Michael Bennett was 100% unjustified police misconduct. What is the long term economic effect on him and his family?

                If all of the following statements are correct: “this was bad as these things go”, “there’s no long term economic effect”, and “there’s serious inequality in society”; then it’s implied that no matter how much this needs fixing, fixing it won’t mean much in terms of inequality as measured in dollars.

                Median White Household income is $63k, Median Black Household income is $37k (link 2 below, page 13). That’s roughly $23k of inequality (or call it economic damage). Ferguson, with it’s vile police practices, was using the police as tax agents or fee predators to the tune of $125 per person per year (21,000 people with $2,635,400 in “fines”) (link 3 below). If we round that up to a thousand dollars of damage per year per household, that’s about 4% of $23k, in Ferguson, where police encounters are extremely common.

                My back of the envelope suggests police misconduct is less than 1% of the whole inequality pie. When trying to improve system performance, you need to focus on the big items. A 10% improvement on 80% of the system is much better than totally eliminating 1% of the system. Getting bogged down on fixing 1% of the system, no matter how ugly, is a mistake.





                • So you disagree with Dr. Fryer’s statement that “. On the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account. “? Is there some middle amount of adjustment that leads to a different conclusion, that I”m missing in the paper? Where are you getting the math to get to ” After we reform the police, we should see POC shot and killed at a rate something like 3.3x that of whites.” (instead of 2.5)?

                  Because otherwise I’m having trouble understanding where your math and my math are going so far awry….

                  As for the economic impact on Bennett, he’s in an unusually safe position so I would guess it’s minimal – though I would not count it unreasonable for him to sue the cop in question for therapy costs, though I doubt he will b/c stigma and etc. That’s literally the kind of experience that gives someone PTSD.

                  But when it comes to the impact, general, leaving economics out of it, of having someone scream death threats while holding you in a position where they literally could kill you? I had that happen to me a couple times and the impact is freaking huge. Even though it all happened before I turned 20 and I’m nearly 40 now. I still have nightmares and I’ve been in therapy for five years.

                  So I take that kind of stuff pretty darn seriously. The cops rate of failure on that shouldn’t be 1 percent or 3 percent, it should be zero percent.


                  And I don’t think you can neatly say “this effort we spend on reforming the police won’t otherwise affect society but efforts we spend on reforming society will affect the police.”

                  In my (very local, 15 years ago) experience, reforming the police does a lot to reform society. People feel safer, they’re kinder to each other, they think more before they act, etc.


                  • So you disagree with Dr. Fryer’s statement that “. On the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account. “?

                    Whoops. I was on page 5, “…blacks are 23.8 percent less likely to be shot at by police relative to whites…” however that’s raw data. We can change my “2.5 changes to 3.3” to “2.5 doesn’t change” and I’m still happy asking if that’s really what victory looks like.

                    …As for the economic impact on Bennett, he’s in an unusually safe position so I would guess it’s minimal…

                    How many people lose their jobs because of an encounter with the police where they’re not charged? Things need to escalate even beyond what happened to Bennett for that.

                    But when it comes to the impact, general, leaving economics out of it, of having someone scream death threats while holding you in a position where they literally could kill you? The cops rate of failure on that shouldn’t be 1 percent or 3 percent, it should be zero percent.

                    That’s not a 1 percent failure rate, nor is it “death threats” one percent of the time, it’s a one percent use of force rate. Force includes just touching someone. For an idea of how common each level of force is, look on page 58 of the Harvard report. You have over a million uses of hands vs 20k for pointing a weapon.

                    I dislike leaving economics out of it because I don’t trust intuition for issues of scale. We’re looking at rare events (encounters with police) times rare events (those encounters are violent) times rare events (that violence involves pointing a weapon or more). I think it’s fair to ask if this really can explain large common effects (general inequality).

                    20k out of 1 million is one out of 50, or 2%. So that’s X encounters times 3% (POC violent encounter) times 2% (weapon)… so Bennett’s encounter was one out of 1,700 (ish).

                    And I don’t think you can neatly say “this effort we spend on reforming the police won’t otherwise affect society but efforts we spend on reforming society will affect the police.”

                    I’m not. I’m saying that reforming the police, while a good thing, shouldn’t be the top priority of POC and I don’t expect it to do much in terms of inequality.

                    Over the course of the typical lifetime, what has the most influence over you? The five times in your life you’ll encounter the police, or your education? Or if you live in the wrong neighborhood, the 5 times an hour drug deals happen outside your building and the drive by shootings to determine who owns that corner?

                    BLM was the voice of the POC community, they were able to hold hostage the political campaign of HRC. If Clinton had won the election she’d be indebted to them… and their top priority is police reform.

                    So we have the police wear bodycams, we hire a lot more POC as cops, and in 20 years we’re going to be shocked that changing Bennett’s encounter from one-in-1700 to one-in-5000 didn’t solve any larger problems, and certainly didn’t give large numbers of people good educations and good jobs.


                    • That’s a fair and reasonable argument. I think you’re still underestimating some things and overestimating others, and treating black lives matter as though it equates to one group within the movement’s particular set of demands (to be fair that group was doing the same thing last I checked), but I appreciate you returning to the source and strengthening your argument accordingly. Like, seriously I appreciate it a lot. Thank you.

                      FWIW, though, I don’t think Bennett or Kaepernick or any of those guys has said “I’m sitting/kneeling during the anthem until we get police reform.” I got the impression (could be mistaken, please correct me if so) that they were sitting during the anthem until they felt like things sucked less for people of colour. Were I Bennett, and experienced what he claims to have experienced, I would be writing a hot missive about this is what I’m talking about and don’t you people get it yet and asdfjkl;23849023843q0-5utjerjiogrgjsieou;e (etc) as well.

                      Because holy crap.

                      One time of that kind of treatment is, in fact, too many times.

                      Also I don’t want to bicker too much because I am in agreement with you that kids growing up with drug deals is worse than rare cop encounters…. but as a very young adult I actually *lived* in an apartment building with many-times-an-hour drug deals and 3 drive-bys in the year or so we lived there…. and it was actually less terrifying and *affected me less* than those traumatic experiences of being under immediate threat of death from another individual did. It still sucked. But I think most people who haven’t experienced a real threat of someone killing you – not just a death threat but someone actually being inches away from killing you as you perceive it – can’t really imagine how scary that is and how much it fucks with your head.. Perhaps I am wrong, perhaps more people can imagine it than I think, or have experienced it than I think. And obviously a drive by where people actually *get* killed very much is that same experience. But we did have fresh bullet holes in our apartment that got there while I was home, so it’s not like I just heard there was a drive-by or something. And it was way less scary than angry fingers at my throat.

                      I mean, it doesn’t change your larger point. Those same places that are at war with themselves are also full of situations where kids are put at risk of their lives and they know it. But I am pretty zero tolerance for that, at anyone’s hands, and I think it sends a really bad message *any* time a cop gets away with it.

                      And I think we can afford to both end the drug war and support folks building stronger communities in places where gangs have been at war with each other AND fight for cop reform. And I see a lot of people waving BLM signs that I know feel the same way, because I know them and I know what they are working for.

                      Anyway, sorry to rant on at you when we have so many points of agreement – I was just pleased and engaged by your more in-depth argument, sorry to get soapboxy.


                      • I appreciate you returning to the source and strengthening your argument accordingly.

                        You’re welcome, and it’s good to be challenged. It results in my thinking getting clearer or in my arguments falling apart.

                        I think we can afford to both end the drug war and support folks building stronger communities in places where gangs have been at war with each other AND fight for cop reform.

                        I’d like to think so, but imho we have limited oxygen for reform and people expect far too much from police reform.

                        More importantly, I think ending the war on drugs solves most of these other issues as well. The police would be less exposed to violence and expect less of it. Barney Fife is a fine cop for Mayberry; make the streets a place “where the weak are killed and eaten” and the police need to rise to the occasion.

                        West Side Story would have looked very different if the street the gangs were fighting over meant money and jobs. The economics would drive them to guns. They wouldn’t need to leave the gang to get real jobs, etc.

                        Good talking with you.


                    • All due respect, I don’t particularly find it all that convincing that POC need to choose other battles to fight, mostly because I feel safe in assuming that they know best where the pressure in their lives is coming from. Get back to the original example: why is tolerable that Bennett was pulled out of a crowd with guns drawn on him and his life threatened? Are you seriously asking him to simply accept this treatment? And are you seriously asking anybody else who has endured similar treatment to accept it just as willingly?


                      • Better point – this may be the battle to fight because it’s the battle that is in front of us. It’s nice when a side can choose the time and place for a confrontation, but sometimes, the confrontation happens regardless due to circumstances of the universe.

                        There may be other issues that would provide greater effects, but the ubiquity of smartphone cameras and social media has, IMHO, brought this battle to the fore, whether either side wants it right now or not.


                      • I don’t particularly find it all that convincing that POC need to choose other battles to fight, mostly because I feel safe in assuming that they know best where the pressure in their lives is coming from.

                        If justice-when-dealing-with-the-police is actually POC’s top priority, and if it’s understood this isn’t the root cause of the various other problems, then great. Go for it. That’s an informed choice. But I don’t think BLM understands that after they’re done, POC will continue to be killed by the police at the current much higher rates than Whites.

                        The root of inequality used to be racism enforced by law enforcement, and I think we’re still dealing with that narrative and trying to fix that problem. IMHO they’re not doing what they think they’re doing.

                        Get back to the original example: why is tolerable that Bennett was pulled out of a crowd with guns drawn on him and his life threatened? Are you seriously asking him to simply accept this treatment?

                        Of course not. No more than I’d ask someone dying of brain cancer to simply accept their fate, or the parents of some kid lost in the ocean to simply accept we won’t find him in time. But I do question whether that person should have first call on society’s scarce resources.

                        When we misprioritize resources (and reform efforts are resources) we leave low hanging fruit on the tree. In this case that presumably means asking POC to continue living with the war on drugs which is fueling vast levels of violence, corruption, etc.

                        If the price of preventing Bennett from being pulled out of the crowd is ignoring the carnage that is war-on-drug-fueled black-on-black crime, then that seems a poor trade.


  9. What srruck me the most was the reaction of members of the Seattle sports media. These are fairly liberal guys, as you’d expect – I’ve slammed them before for tin-eared redneck-shaming elitism.

    What got to them was not the incident or reaction to it. Not the fact that a number of other athletes spoke out sharing similar experiences. Not even the fact that almost all of them have HAD a similar experience. But how matter of fact every one of them was about it.

    To the hosts, it’s a burning injustice that would stand out in memory forever. But to the guys involved, it’s just the way the world is. The hosts were floored that they have been interacting with these guys on a daily basis, and never even realized this thing that’s sitting in the background. That doesn’t even get mentioned because it’s so pervasive.

    That they never considered that there’s a world where the police are a force of nature. Impersonal and uncaring. Something not to be fought but to be survived.

    Me, I was arrested on false charges by a cop abusing his authority at a very young age, so I’ve never had the foundation of trust that a lot of Americans do. But I’m also white, so while I know it can happen to anyone at any time, I’m free from having to swim in those waters on a daily basis.

    If there’s a bright side, Bennett speaking out might lead to some other white folks being aware of the existence of the waters.


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