How To Survive An Encounter With The Police


Sam Wilkinson

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

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189 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    I’m impressed they charged her at all, rather than making up some story about how Jean charged her the moment she came through the door (followed by a long list of every time he even looked like he might be a violent person).Report

    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

      @oscar-gordon I assume that part of it is coming – “Guyger feared for her life and was merely standing her ground!” will be the defense, which will almost certainly work, despite all of the available details.Report

  2. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    My spidey sense suspects that before all of this is done, we’re going to find out this wasn’t really an accidental shooting.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      Like that she some kind of personal issue with Jean?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:


        The whole “I went to the totally wrong floor and went into an apartment with a different number on it that just happened to be unlocked and that was furnished totally different than the one where I live which even though there was a light on in the hall I did’t notice and then I heard a noise because the guy who lived there was just walking around but apparently without bothering to turn on any lights and so I just started shooting” thing just sounds less likely to me than “I shot him and then realized I would have to explain what I had just done so I made up something on the fly.”Report

        • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

          @tod-kelly This does seem very, very fair. But, because she lived and he didn’t, she will be the one getting the benefit of the doubt, the same problem we have seen in other Stand Your Ground cases.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          I agree with this.

          I don’t know whether there’s more to this story (my theory of that they were a bad breakup seems to have been debunked) than what is shown on the face but the face is very, very, very bad.

          Time is reporting that Amber Guyger (the officer in question) shot somebody two years ago. Now, if the details of that previous shooting are accurately stated in the article, I suppose I’d call it a good shoot… but I am not sure I have any reason to believe the details of that previous shooting.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          Other alternative is that she was very drunk, or very tired, to the point that she missed obvious cues regarding where she was when she opened the door (layout and character of the furniture should have been different enough to trigger suspicion that she wasn’t where she was supposed to be).

          People carrying lethal weapon need to be more aware of their surroundings.Report

          • Avatar Dark Matter says:

            Another alternative is the entire story is false from start to finish because in truth it was a massive screw up.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              I had heard somewhere that she had just finished a double shift that was rather active (warrant service, IIRC).

              So mental exhaustion was probably a factor. Not that we give people a break for killing a person after they fall asleep at the wheel, so no reason she should get a break either…Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                So mental exhaustion was probably a factor. Not that we give people a break for killing a person after they fall asleep at the wheel,

                The wheel we don’t… but we do give Doctors a pass for this sort of thing.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                To some extent.

                Got an exhausted doctor pulling a long shift in an ER and they make a fatal mistake with someone who was already in a bad way? Yeah, pass, the system should not be demanding the doctor be functioning (we don’t with pilots). Now if a tired doctor killed a perfectly healthy person…

                Either way, cop was off duty. Exhaustion is surely a factor, and one reason manslaughter charges are appropriate, but it can’t be a justification for killing a person.Report

    • fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

      You mean, like she had a beef with him and was looking for a way? I can’t see how a guy in his own apartment could be a “threat” when a cop essentially entered and shot without even turning on a light to be sure it was her place.

      There’s also a news story that she shot a person in an earlier traffic stop (2017, I think?) That individual had reached for her Taser but he also survived.

      I don’t know. This is one of the news stories today that’s making me wish for what the cool kids back in 2016 were calling SMOD. I am pretty sick of the entire human race right now.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        @tod-kelly The idea that they knew each other before the shooting has been debunked thus far, as she had only recently moved into the complex, and a photograph circulating allegedly of the two of them has been subsequently disproven.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

          Honestly, I did not know that any of these things had been reported to have existed. It’s her story that rings so obviously false to me. And maybe it’s true and it happened like she said, but at the moment at least Occam’s razor is telling me I should be skeptical.Report

  3. Avatar Pinky says:

    Also in Dallas, a white police officer was recently convicted for killing an unarmed black teenager. Did you miss that story? It was about a police shooting. You seem interested in police shootings, so I thought you might have heard about it.

    Officer Roy Oliver shot and killed 15-year-old boy. He was fired from the police force. The prosecutors investigated the case and brought charges. The jury convicted him. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. So if you wanted to write an article comparing shootings, why did you give dated examples from Ohio and Pennsylvania?Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

      Also in Dallas, a Muslim went to work, and didn’t kill anybody.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      Pinky has a point. The people in power got it right. They ought to be acknowledged for not caving to the power of the police or their union. When the sound of praise for getting justice is louder than the call to protect, that will helps us see justice more often.

      It’s unfortunate that we need to be loud about people getting it right, but that is the price we pay for not being vocal about it before.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        I’m thinking of that Chris Rock bit about men who brag about how they take care of their kids, and never beat or molest them.Report

        • Avatar Pinky says:

          Or maybe police and prosecutors and juries doing the right thing is as common as decent Muslims going to work, or dads not abusing their children, and we’re focusing on the outliers out of confirmation bias.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            Could be, but we’re going to need some more examples to make that case.Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

            I should have written an analogy with airplanes, that “Also in Dallas, an airliner landed safely”.

            Which is to say, we demand a much higher level of compliance with cops and airliners than we do Muslims and fathers.

            “Most cops don’t shoot people and get away with it” isn’t any more comforting than “The majority of airplanes land safely”.Report

          • Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

            I think the Chris Rock bit about how some professions don’t get to have bad apples is appropriate here.

            No one gets applauded for doing what they’re supposed to do.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        Yes, normally we don’t praise people who do their jobs competently. We save the praise for going above and beyond.

        However, any given prosecutor has powerful interests and incentives working against the successful prosecution of any given police officer. There are political considerations, the need to be able to work with the police and not worry about them throwing a temper tantrum because you sent one of the gang to jail, public backlash if the public thinks the cop was wronged. etc.

        And there is not a lot of incentive to do it beyond, hey mofo, it’s your effing job.

        If someone comes up with a solid way to limit the impacts of those incentives and interests that want to keep officers out of jail and on the job, then we don’t have to provide a counter.

        But until then, there needs to be a counter to those interests.

        And no, Pinky, it’s not outliers, because the cops work very hard to not allow one of their number to be prosecuted unless (and this is my opinion) that officers actions manage to sufficiently shock the conscious of his co-workers that they aren’t interested in covering for them any further.Report

    • @pinky Police and prosecutors actually did what they’re supposed to? NEAT!Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Oof! Plus ça change…

        Sam, be sure to balance the cop murdering an unarmed man in his own home, with a very real possibility that she’ll get away with it, especially now that the Texas Rangers have basically fed her a story to tell, with an armed cop being shot in the leg during a traffic stop by a man who’ll likely spend much of not the entirety of the rest of his life in prison for it, so that this site remains fair to cops.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          A man who was known to the officers, known gang member, known to be on probation, known to have weapons offenses… I mean, that is a setup that just says, ‘loosen the holster because things have a high probability of going pear shaped’.

          Now find a rash of cases where cops walk into their own homes only to be ambushed by intruders, and we’d have a solid set to compare.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            I’m not at all excusing the shooting in Dallas, but I will also say that being a cop is a very, very hard job. My grandfather (now deceased) was on the force for 40 years. He told me there was rampant alcoholism, failed marriages, etc and that included his own struggles with alcohol. We’re incredibly sensitive these days to PTSD and the mental hardships facing soldiers, and honestly we seem to have very little domestic concern for their actions overseas. It would be nice if we did the same for law enforcement. I think that the stress for being a police officer certainly isn’t getting any easier when someone takes the very small number of unjustified shootings and makes it sound like it’s an epidemic.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              It isn’t easy being the violent domestic arm of the capital and the state. ?


            • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

              I don’t know why people say this.

              Police work is difficult, but no more so than a hundred other occupations.
              Some are more demanding on the body, like construction, some more taxing on the soul, like counseling and ministry.

              Maybe it comes from cop shows, where the average ordinary cop in involved in wild car chases and firefights once a week. Or maybe it is the bizarre belief that cities are lawless chaotic jungles of crime like Escape From New York.
              But whatever it is, it always comes across as special pleading, like cops are tormented heroes/ psychopaths, prone to snap into berserk violence at a moment’s provocation, but of course it isn’t their fault because its a hard job.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                I don’t know why people say this. Police work is difficult, but no more so than a hundred other occupations. Some are more demanding on the body, like construction, some more taxing on the soul, like counseling and ministry.

                Same reason the news talks about terrorism rather than focusing on the big killers in our society which are traffic deaths, heart disease, smoking, etc. It’s interesting when people die, more so if it’s because someone killed them, even more so if it’s that “someone” is someone we personally might run into.

                [strong]Humans are genetically adapted for tribal war[/strong]. We have instincts for that which ignore the statistics. If genocidal tribal war is the way the world works, then ignoring statistics is a good thing. If they’ve killed one of you then literally everyone is at stake because the matter will escalate.

                The police are at the forefront of those instincts, especially in the context of multiculturalism, and the war on drugs. Their instincts say if they screw up then not only do they die but so does the entire tribe. Presumable some cops take this more seriously than others but whatever.

                It would probably be a good thing to deescalate the “war on drugs”, the “war on crime”, and so forth. And yes, it would be useful to NOT have dozens of police shows/movies showing the police (who are main characters we identify with) being involved in brutal violence every week. It’s free advertising for multiple bad cultural attitudes.

                [strong]The end result is modern policing isn’t a normal job[/strong]. They’re keeping other tribes from killing us, and that’s the most important, dangerous, and stressful job in the tribe. It’s expected they’re occasionally going to kill people (his fault, their fault, no one’s fault, whatever), and that the tribe of whoever they killed will make a big deal of it, and that we’re supposed to back our guy.

                Instincts in humans are normally pretty subtle, we’re really good at explaining them away with intellect after the fact. Also everyone does NOT have every instinct in equal measure. Some members of the public are caught up in this type of thinking, some members of the police force are extremely caught up in it.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                Humans are genetically adapted for tribal war.

                The end result is modern policing isn’t a normal job.

                (:Grumble: The other brackets. “<"Report

              • Humans are genetically adapted for tribal war.

                I personally think ev-psych is 50% just-so stories and 50% ideology. But I don’t want to fight about it.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                This is way to strong on “instincts” and “tribes.” Other countries, made up of humans, police in different ways. The way we do it is not an uncontrollable product of human nature. It is due to choices, lots of them. We can police differently. In fact some cops and in some places in here do train their cops to be better, to deescalate, to recognize mental illness and such things.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                There’s no such thing as “an uncontrollable product of human nature”, human instincts are not that strong. And we can most certainly police differently.

                But it wasn’t so much “choices” as a lack of them which put us in this situation. No group calls for the police to be able to kill innocent people by breaking into their homes for, at best, no reason.

                “Tribal instincts” is a good way to describe the reality of what we’re seeing. The police there are doing their best to get her off. Situations this stupid normally involve alcohol, but I expect there was no blood test so evidence has already been destroyed. Individual cops are trying to prove this guy was a criminal of whatever flavor. If he wasn’t a saint he’ll have something they can spin, someone on the jury (if it gets that far) will refuse to jail “a good cop” over someone from another tribe.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              And what, exactly are the police doing to combat the stress and PTSD?

              Also, such stress & PTSD is even more rampant among combat veterans, and the military is still not entirely on board with treating those issues, and yet I don’t see the CJ taking it easy on vets who become violent.

              As a matter of fact, they kill them. And those two cases, the vet was trying to help others or defend themselves.

              Perhaps, when the various PDs in the country get effing serious about positively dealing with officer stress and PTSD, and stop allowing officers to be trained by people who run programs that ramp up the daily fear and paranoia, we can start talking about how dangerous the job really is, rather than how dangerous officers are told to believe it is.

              Until then, too many cops are being told to operate in Condition Yellow or Red, all the time, and that their lives are ultimately more important than anyone else’s (as evidenced by the ideal that the only thing that is important is to come home alive at the end of the shift).

              This is only partially on the rank & file, and mostly upon the leadership who either turn a blind eye toward these issues, or encourage them. Hell, it’s not even every PD, because there are plenty of medium to large PDs where the police rarely draw, and even more rarely shoot, and somehow manage to avoid beating or killing citizens.

              But those PDs where this is a problem, they mess it up for everyone, and the whole culture excuses the bad apples for the sake of the blue line.Report

  4. Avatar Will Truman says:

    Well this is certainly dandy…


    • This is getting extremely much uglier, which was perhaps entirely predictable. They seem to be offloading responsibility onto Jean to know that he was dealing with a police officer.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        That’s another bit that pisses me off, the offloading of responsibility onto citizens to know intuitively that a given person is a cop (really a cop, and not someone impersonating a cop for advantage) and to know exactly how to act to satisfy that cops biases and fears.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          I am honestly surprised that there haven’t been more incidents involving fake (or stolen) uniforms.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            There have been, but it’s usually one set of known criminals robbing another set of known criminals, so it doesn’t get the play in the news. And on the rare cases where the victims aren’t known criminals, the police encourage the media to downplay it so as not to undermine the authority of public trust of the police.Report

          • fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

            There have been reports out of Dallas – not recently, but in past years – warning people (esp. young women, for obvious reasons) about men who may be impersonating police officers. Mostly what would happen there were faked traffic stops followed by an attempted (or, IIRC, in one case, actual) sexual assault.

            I dunno. All this does for me is tell me “never open your front door to anyone unless you 100% know who they are and are expecting them.”Report

      • Note that the AP tags that as:

        MLB Shootings Dallas Arrests Jean Crime U.S. News

        presumably because it’s being investigated by the Texas Rangers.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      Ah, yes, “he ignored her commands”. Of course he did, he’s in his own damn apartment. She has no warrant and no legal right to be in his place. A place which is dark, according to the officer. It probably wasn’t that dark, her night vision just hadn’t adjusted yet, but she would have been a silhouette, so Jean might not have been able to make out a gun, or enough other detail to know it was an armed cop at the door, so why would he obey the commands of a strange silhouette in his doorway?

      There needs to be a better limit to “obeying officer commands”. That can not alone be a justification for homicide.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        What evidence is that that she even did this?

        She was the one who was apparently so confused she walked into the wrong apartment.

        I think the burden of proof needs to be on her, not the dead man.


  5. Avatar Damon says:

    It’s very clear that there are those who the law applies to and there are those that the law is a bit more “flexible”. If you are surprised by this, I”m sure you’re surprised about Kennedy, Clinton, a lot of cops….do I need to go on?Report

  6. Avatar InMD says:

    What a mess. I predict conviction with these facts. The crucial aspect is that she wasn’t on duty so most of the usual excuses won’t be in play. She probably will be shown leniency a non-LEO citizen wouldn’t be though. The state takes care of its own.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Two thoughts.

      Thought the first: “This is bullshit. She is obviously guilty of Murder One! Why in the hell is the prosecutor going for Manslaughter!?!?”

      Thought the second: “Jesus. She’ll probably be convicted of Manslaughter.”Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        “Murder One” involves premeditation. She’s guilty as hell of something like manslaughter but is there any evidence she planned to go kill the guy?Report

        • Avatar DavidTC says:

          This is neither murder in the first degree nor manslaughter.

          It’s textbook murder in the _second_ degree, in that she intended a death to happen (Shooting bullets at someone is pretty much intending for them to die.) but does not appear to have any premeditation before that point.

          A manslaughter charge is, indeed, nonsense. Voluntary manslaughter is intended to cover the rare instances where the escalation to death is compromised by emotions in some manner, and the attack is not intended to cause death.

          It’s not something that applies when the killer and the victim did not exchange any words and there’s absolutely no reason she would have gotten extremely angry at him and lost control…and a police officer should be well aware shooting at someone is trying to kill them.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        Murder One is clearly outside the realm of the facts, unless the DA can prove a preexisting relationship or other motive that would indicate premeditation. Even murder two is a stretch, without some kind of ‘heat of the moment’.

        Manslaughter, on the other hand, fits the facts.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC says:

          What are you talking about? Pointing a gun at someone and pulling the trigger on purpose and killing them is, pretty much automatically, murder in the second degree.

          Voluntary manslaughter is the thing that needs some sort of extra justification on it, some reason to bring it down from murder. That’s the one with the ‘heat of the moment’ justification.Report

        • fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

          Unless we find she made a social media post or something say “Wow, that guy [and naming him], I hate that guy, I wish he was dead.”

          Given how odd this case has been I would not be surprised to find such a post actually existed.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            From RawStory:

            Guyger has been charged with manslaughter, but an attorney for her victim has pointed to several inconsistencies, including neighbors saying they heard a female knocking and shouting “let me in” before the killing.

            The attorney for the victim, S. Lee Meritt, appeared on CNN Tuesday where he was asked by host Brooke Baldwin whether there was any connection between the two.

            “The only connection we have been able to make is that she was his immediate downstairs neighbor,” Meritt said. “And there were noise complaints from the immediate downstairs neighbors about whoever was upstairs, and that would have been Botham. In fact, there were noise complaints that very day about upstairs activity in Botham’s apartment. Botham received a phone call about noise coming from his apartment from the downstairs neighbor.”


            • Avatar Dark Matter says:

              She killed a neighbor because she was tired and he was loud? That’s stupid enough to be plausible. We need something so bad it makes her current story look reasonable… and her story makes no sense multiple different ways.

              If I go to my apartment and find the door unlocked it’s panic time but that’s not her story. Hallway light should have been enough to show it wasn’t her apartment even if the internal lights weren’t on. Apartments have the same floor plan, ergo entrance light switches all have the same location. Ergo muscle memory would have been enough for her to find and turn on the internal lights, which would have been the first thing she did if it’s so dark she can’t tell the place isn’t hers.

              Her story reads like a lie made up with no time to come up with something reasonable.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Obviously some authority will have to make sense of this shooting eventually and I can’t imagine a scenario where she justifies doing it. With that said, the armchair quarterbacking is smug IMO.

                Years ago a buddy told me to meet him at his girlfriend’s apartment, which I had been to a few times. He said he would not be home and to make myself comfortable. I let myself in, had a couple of beers, used the restroom… eventually a lady knocks on the door and tells me the apartment’s owners left their car lights on. I look out and tell her she has the wrong car. She tells me, no, that IS their car. I finally get rid of her and it was then that I realize the pictures on the wall don’t look familiar. Yep, I was in the wrong apartment. I got the hell out of there and thanked the universe that I didn’t get shot when the owners came home.

                So yeah, different scenario and this cop should have known better, but do crazy things happen and people get confused? Absolutely. I’d like to hear what her last few workdays looked like. Not that it excuses what happend, but there is always more to the story. Unfortunately the vast majority of our commentariat is quick to assume the worst on this subject and the author of this post is leading the charge.Report

              • Avatar KenB says:

                Have you seen David French’s latest essay? It’s not about this specific incident but uses it (and the reaction to his recent article about it) as a jumping-off point.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                I had not seen that but I will definitely check it out.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                First of all, yes, all of that. At this point in the news cycle I’d thought the Ferguson shooting could never be justified. Elegant theories get destroyed by brutal facts.

                Having said that, supposedly we’re only looking at the police’s statements on what happened, which implies her situation can only get worse from here.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                My whole thing is this: If there are bad cops out there, let’s be better than them. Let’s figure out what the facts are and then discuss. The shooting in Dallas seems pretty cut and dry and some of the other ones also do, but even in this thread there was some confusion about the details between Sam and his patron. The problem is that some people have this confirmation bias thing on this issue and it feels like they just sit around waiting for the next shooting so they can complain about the police some more.

                The shooting in Dallas, while tragic, isn’t even necessarily a cop issue. The shooter happens to be a cop, but this wasn’t in the line of duty, yet it fits the narrative that Sam wants to tell so we get another post on this topic.Report

              • Avatar Jesse says:

                Yeah, why can’t Sam post some about all the times cops don’t use their extralegal power to kill people indiscriminately and without cause?

                How about this – we’ll stop “complaining” about all the times cops keep killing unarmed civilians when they can stop doing it so often and when we stop getting knee jerk defenses of how tough cops have it out there.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                Suppose we had a commenter talking about all the black kids killing people in Chicago and made a bunch of broad cultural statements. Would that be fair or a gross generalization? Because we can find those stories almost every day.Report

              • Are there always people explaining how it was the victims’ fault for acting like a threat, because being a gang member is a tough life and of course they’re not going to take any chances?Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                For me, the problem has never been bad cops and wrongful deaths, it’s always been the blue line. Even now we are seeing fellow officers crafting their language on warrants to lend an air of justification to her actions. There is the concern that police do everything they can to diminish the act and the victim and cover for the officer.

                This is what can not stand. This is what needs to stop. If that stops, the questionable use of force will be a problem that takes care of itself.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Even if the blue line does get some cops off the hook that should have been charged and convicted, do you really believe that in general, police have an attitude of, “I can shoot whoever I want and nothing will happen to me,”? And this translates to the decisions they often make in the heat of the moment? I’m just not buying that.

                Even if this officer gets off, I can’t imagine any of the publicity, criticism, questioning she will have to answer will somehow seem like a fair trade just so she gets to shoot more people.

                When people like Sam use language like ‘murder’ and ‘execute’ on a regular basis it all implies a concious plan to kill citizens as though this is a big unified effort across the country. The reality is that it’s thousands of little mocro decisions every day that sometimes result in tragic deaths. Police officers ahould absolutely have to be scrutinized every time they fire their guns…but this isn’t some blue murder cult.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                I believe that police witness the same things we do, where no matter how egregious an offense, the blue wall will form a shield around any officer and fight to the death to protect them.

                Where are the whistleblower cops? Where are the ones testifying in court against their corrupt brethren?Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Fine, I will explain this again.

                Does an individual officer consciously think about the blue wall in the heat of the moment, or even as they calmly and casually murder a man crawling along the floor, begging for his life?

                No, of course not, that’s absurd.

                But the blue wall informs every aspect of police culture, including, and most importantly, the training protocols and the general attitude of police trainers. The message being imprinted onto officers is this:

                Whatever you do, you go home safe at the end of your shift. It’s better to be safe and alive than not, so listen to your fear, and act as if it is truth[1]. And if you are wrong, don’t worry, we got your back, we will protect you.

                And if you do something that shocks the collective conscious (like killing an unarmed man laid out prone), remember that chances are high that at least one person on the jury will refuse to convict, and DAs rarely go after cops twice[2].

                All of that adds up to police not second guessing their fear, or anger, and instead acting upon it without reason. Not all cops, clearly. Most cops probably don’t scare easy, and know how to manage those emotions so they aren’t taking rash actions. But the ones who allow fear or anger to control their gun, they need, at a minimum, to lose their credentials and never carry a badge and gun again. Ideally, they should face the same penalty you or I would face if we killed someone who was not a threat to us.

                But the blue wall does not differentiate, even though I hear, time and again, that the good cops know who the bad cops are, so it could. But it won’t.

                So no, it’s not a conscious thing. It’s something that is imprinted through culture and training such that it truly is unconscious.

                [1] Or worse, the training is a flavor of Killology

                [2] Compare to the military, where we are clearly told that if we violate the UCMJ during combat or otherwise, JAG will investigate, and they will, if they feel they have a case, come after you with both barrels. They will not hesitate to go after anyone who tries to cover for you. They will burn a whole unit to the ground and sleep soundly at night, if they think it was covering something up.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                But there are huge disparities in the % of killings between various police departments. For example, Chicago, which has a very high murder rate, also has a relatively low rate of police shootings. If there is a general problem with police culture, then wouldn’t the rates be relatively the same across the country?

                Or is it fair to say that each police department has its own unique issues, and it’s very, very complicated to pin these things down?Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Chicago also has a history of police abusing their authority and power in other ways, so I don’t know that I’d hold that department up to the light.

                But yes, each department has it’s own issues. Lots of PDs are awesome, rarely having a shooting, never have a use of force case that even remotely looks suspicious, etc. Lots of PDs do it right. And many do it wrong, but for the PDs that are doing it wrong, the one thing they all have in common is the Blue Wall covers sins from accountability to the public. Maybe they have some kind of internal discipline that they feel is adequate, but if the public doesn’t see it, how are they supposed to trust that it’s worth a damn?

                The Blue Wall has to come down, first and foremost. It doesn’t matter if the PD is awesome, or a corrupt hive, the blue wall is anathema to an open democracy.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                “Lots of PDs do it right. And many do it wrong,”

                It would be interesting to put some % to that.

                Also, I’m not saying we should abandon all hope, but something tells me the people were complaining about Pharaohs’ palace guards in much the same way. I also see it in a non-life threatening way in my job. I’m in management so I am privy to a lot of meetings where other management tell me they know they should be doing things a certain way but the realities on the ground make that impossible. With the police, it feels like a terrible feedback loop. They feel under-fire, which makes them behave a certain way, which increases public hatred, which only re-enforces the police perception of being under attack. The 60s changed a lot…Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                It would be interesting to put some % to that.

                It would be interesting, and if the laws requiring PDs to report use of force to the FBI had some teeth to them, we might have some %’s to look at. Guess who the biggest opponent of doing that is?

                With the police, it feels like a terrible feedback loop.

                It is, I agree. And the longer it persists, the further behind the blue wall the police retreat. I think the departments that are doing it right have made strides towards breaking that cycle and coming out from behind the wall.

                And some places need their wall torn down. Both internally, and among the public perception (juries giving police too much slack when things do go to trial supports the wall as much as anything).

                But in the end, the wall must be removed, across the board. Police can not be allowed to protect each other from the consequences of their actions.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                With the police, it feels like a terrible feedback loop. They feel under-fire, which makes them behave a certain way, which increases public hatred, which only re-enforces the police perception of being under attack. The 60s changed a lot…

                I strongly suspect things were worse before the 1960’s when the Police looked the other way for lynchings and organized crime was the rule and not the exception. I also seem to remember corruption and predatory behavior on silly levels back then, like the police basically being a different type of organized crime.

                We want to remember Mayberry but the reality is things are MUCH better now in terms of all sorts of things. In the ’50’s this current case wouldn’t have gotten anywhere close to as far as it has.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Yes and no. Louisville, like man cities, had race riots in 1968 after MLK was killed. These went on for weeks. My grandfather was on the force then and used to tell me how it seemed like everything changed after that. The police force looked at minorities differently, and they looked at the police differently. One could argue that before this, they ‘knew their place’ and made policing easier and after they decided they weren’t going to lie down anymore. I don’t discount that. But if the police force also shifted their attitudes to assume more hostility, this began a vicious circle.

                Wikipedia also had this to say:

                The disturbances had a longer-lasting effect. Most white business owners quickly pulled out or were forced, by the threat of racial violence, out of Parkland and surrounding areas. Most white residents also left the West End, which had been almost entirely white north of Broadway, from subdivision until the 1960s. The riot would have effects that shaped the image which whites would hold of Louisville’s West End, that it was predominantly black.

                The West End used to have a lot of Irish Catholic families, including many of my ancestors. Now it is considered a black-only area and also unfortunately our highest crime area. 4 weeks of riots and the effects are still being felt a half-century later.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                That’s a point… the riots did a lot to concentrate poverty. Ending segregation is sometime accused of the same, the black middle class fled.

                If we end up pointing the finger at concentrated poverty then we have a real problem because we’re still trying to figure out what to do about that.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                Compare to the military, where we are clearly told that if we violate the UCMJ during combat or otherwise, JAG will investigate, and they will, if they feel they have a case, come after you with both barrels. They will not hesitate to go after anyone who tries to cover for you. They will burn a whole unit to the ground and sleep soundly at night, if they think it was covering something up.

                How high up the management chain do we need to go before JAG and the unit they’re investigating are answering to the same person?

                Basically what we have with the police is… a unit investigating itself? A company?Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                The difference is that all law enforcement investigations are political. Prosecutors report to state’s attorneys or DAs which are elected at the county or municipal level. Chiefs of Police are appointed by elected officials. Most authority and day to day decision making around these issues is at the local level. State governments usually can intervene if they want but that also is a political decision.

                The military on the other hand is much bigger and subject to a uniform code. It allows for a level of independence within the same branch that I think is harder to achieve even even in the governments of large cities. This doesn’t mean that accountability is impossible or that everyone in local government is operating in bad faith but absent some serious motivation from the electorate intertia/path of least resistance tends to prevail.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                It allows for a level of independence within the same branch that I think is harder to achieve even even in the governments of large cities.

                It’s not just “independence”, it’s also “sympathy” and so forth. People working in IT are NOT in the same branch of the company as I am and this causes all sorts of problems because of totally different objectives, priorities, and mindsets.

                The JAG has this same issue relative to the groups they investigate, totally different objectives, priorities, and loyalties, not only of themselves individually but for multiple levels of management up.

                The Dallas police department has 7 stations and 2,900 officers and 556 civilians (wiki). That’s getting close to mid-sized company and the people trying to “investigate” this situation know darn well that last week she had exactly the same job, responsibilities, and loyalties as they did.

                So if we wanted to end these conflicts of interest, we’d need a totally separate group to handle the investigation, maybe the FBI? What are the problems with this? I think murder is a federal crime. For that matter, didn’t we do something like this with the death of Mike Brown (Ferguson).Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                So if we wanted to end these conflicts of interest, we’d need a totally separate group to handle the investigation, maybe the FBI? What are the problems with this? I think murder is a federal crime.

                A somewhat random idea: There have been proposals, in recent years, to make an Inspector General of the United States. Basically, unifying all the (theoretically) independent inspector generals in various departments under a single cabinet-level department, and also let them poke around in departments without an inspector general currently. (Although this position would not be part of the cabinet, because the premise is that they would be politically independent.)

                Why do I mention this? Because I’m wondering if what we might want is the same thing, but at state level.

                The reason we like going to the FBI for investigation of police shootings is that they are theoretically independent of local police, and even of local prosecutors. The problem is…they don’t actually act like it. Going to the FBI doesn’t result in police who shoot innocent people being charged, it results in them not being charged _and_ the local government being able to wash their hands of it. The FBI doesn’t actually have the ties that render it unable to work…but it has near identical ties and is in the near-identical situation, so…let’s just say they have too much empathy for the suspects to actually do any sort of reasonable job prosecuting them.

                And ‘internal affairs’ is even worse. A lot of police departments basically have a completely broken IA, or one that really only cares about crimes against the department. Police officers stealing evidence or faking time cards or harassing other officers or whatnot. They, like the FBI, are on the same side of the blue line.

                But inspector generals…are not. They have investigative staff, but they don’t generally think of themselves as ‘the police’, and their entire purpose is to investigate _the government_. Which, yes, is also IA’s purpose, but IA is made up of a bunch of police officers and works with police officers and local prosecutors. IG offices are _not_ made of police officers, and…a lot of the time they aren’t going for prosecution, but an objective report on what happened.

                But wait, if I’m not asking them to prosecute, what exactly do I think will happen? Well, I think an IG official should show up on the scene immediately and start _documenting shit_. Collecting evidence, interviewing people. Be someone official there _besides the police, aka the people trying to excuse the shooting_.

                Their mere presence would stop a lot of this nonsense. And I’d be all for letting them convene and present evidence to a grand jury, too. At which point, yes, the prosecutor’s office gets involved, but the IG’s office has basically a public report laying out the entire incident and the prosecutor’s ability to throw the case is now limited. (And, hell, if they do…the IG can investigate _that_.)Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                That is essentially how JAG works for the military, as an IG.

                There should be state and federal IGs for the whole government, both to investigate police and other corruption or government misbehavior.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                How high up the management chain do we need to go before JAG and the unit they’re investigating are answering to the same person?

                Pretty G-D high.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                Basically what we have with the police is… a unit investigating itself? A company?

                Often the problem isn’t that, or just that. It’s the prosecutors also. Prosecutors work extremely…integrated with the police, I guess is the world I want. Work very closely with them. Both police and prosecutors often seem to think of it as the police work _for_ the prosecutors, that the job of the police is to produce evidence for the prosecutors to use.

                This is _not_ correct, and is a problem in general. The job of the police is to keep the peace and, if possible, defuse things before criminality happened. And even if they are investigating crimes after the fact, their job is to figure out who did things, instead of coming up with a theory and trying to produce evidence just for that theory, which is how they operate a lot of the time.

                So incorrect understanding of their job is already a bad thing…but in the case of police officers shooting innocent people it’s made much worse, because the prosecutor sees the police as one of them. Its not just the _police_ who are inside the blue line.

                And because of the way our legal system is set up, if the prosecutor’s office doesn’t want someone to be found guilty of a crime, they will _not_ be. The prosecutors can fail to charge people, or undercharge them, they can make deliberately crappy presentations to the grand jury (Officer-involved shootings are, somehow, one of the few cases prosecutors find it hard to get grand juries to indict.), they can fail to force the police to collect the required evidence, they can deliberately scuttle the case in all sorts of ways. Especially when they’re working hand-in-hand with the police towards that purpose.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Good comment, Oscar. ++

                Especially as cops increasingly take on a militaristic role in our society.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Honestly, if PDs had to function under something even a little bit like the UCMJ, with all internal investigations being handled by something like JAG, the bad cops would be purged within 5 years.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                “Even if this officer gets off, I can’t imagine any of the publicity, criticism, questioning she will have to answer will somehow seem like a fair trade just so she gets to shoot more people.”

                That’s not the trade. The trade is “just so she doesn’t have to serve a significant prison sentence for murder in the second degree.”

                And if she doesn’t think it’s a fair trade, she should fishing turn herself in and stop trying to mount a defense.

                To me it seems like a monumentally unfair trade, but in the opposite direction – that’s a pretty light sentence to exchange for a murder 2 (or even a manslaughter) rap.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Years ago a buddy told me to meet him at his girlfriend’s apartment, which I had been to a few times.

                I didn’t finish the comment but did it end with you going to the wrong person’s apartment and then shooting them and then justifying it because of how you felt?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          So let’s flip it around.

          A black guy breaks/enters into a white female cop’s house. Yells at her, then shoots her. When the cops arrive he says “I’m sorry, I thought it was *MY* house.”

          But back to the real point: Let’s say Murder Two. Make everybody happy. You think she’d get off on Murder Two? I think that there’s a good shot she might.Report

          • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

            @jaybird She’s going to get away with it. They’re going to claim that she was in uniform, so Jean was bound to follow her commands, and that he should have known she was a police officer. The burden will be shifted entirely onto the victim, who is obviously in no position to tell a story that opposes the one that she is going to tell, and she will end up walking.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              I hate that you are right.

              Maybe the DA will take this to trial, and maybe a jury won’t buy that line of crap. But in all likelihood, she’ll walk because of what you said, and because she is a female cop, and a jury will have a hard time putting a scared young female cop in prison.Report

  7. Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

    Oh, hey, neat, the NRA decided that Botham Jean not having survived his interaction with Amber Guyger is…his fault.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      Sure, he’d be alive, she’d be dead, and Jean would be facing murder of a cop.Report

      • Avatar pillsy says:

        Or she’d have outdrawn him, he’d be dead, and the NRA would be blaming him for going for his gun when confronted by a cop.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        Nah, he’d still be dead, and the cop wouldn’t even be facing manslaughter charges because “The subject was armed, I was afraid for my life” and the fact that it was his apartment wouldn’t matter.

        The Castle Doctrine doesn’t matter. Open carry doesn’t matter. Laws don’t matter. If a cop shoots you, you deserve to be dead. There is no such thing as a bad shoot, there is only “Sad circumstances that non-cops don’t understand, because they aren’t out here doing this impossible job, show some gratitude to your betters, peons!”.Report

  8. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Good news! The police have applied for warrants to search Botham Jean’s apartment.

    Maybe they’ll find contraband!Report

    • Avatar Em Carpenter says:

      Just saw this. What insanity! It looks to me like they use boilerplate language in their warrant affidavits (based on the mention of “narcotics or other contraband”) which in and of itself is bad, because they are supposed to state with particularity just exactly what they believe may be in the premises and why they believe those things are there. Absolutely no reason to suspect “narcotics”.

      But if they did intentionally include narcotics, not just as standard language then they are clearly just looking to smear him. I call BS on needing his phone and laptop to see whether his door was open because he was expecting company. They need those things because they are hoping to find evidence he’s some kind of dangerous criminal the world is better off without.

      This is all so disgusting and sad.Report

      • @em-carpenter It seems entirely clear that the investigators, and their cultural cheerleaders, have every intention of excusing away Guyger having murdered Bophet Jean. It’s wild, but entirely predictable, to actually watch it happening in real time though.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          “It seems entirely clear that the investigators, and their cultural cheerleaders, have every intention…”

          Is this clairvoyance or just a deep understanding of their souls?Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Neither. It’s based on an accurate appraisal of how cops and DAs operate when one of their own murders an innocent person.

            For the life of me I can’t understand why you and Pinky walk the plank for cop institutions which you gain no direct benefit from. These MFers are evil Mike. That cop murdered an innocent person. She should fry. Clear as day.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              These MFers are evil Mike.

              Police forces?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses
                Some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Absolutely, yes. Totally yes. Some cops are evil, full stop.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Still confused. All cops or just some cops? All police departments or just some?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                No, you’re not confused. You already know that some cops are evil. ANd you know that some DAs are evil. Don’t play games.

                No one is making the argument that every cop everywhere is evil.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Sure – every group has bad/evil people. I mean, no hyperbole here and I don’t want to go off-topic, but I think Hillary Clinton is a TERRIBLE person. Evil is pretty strong, but damn close. And I’m sure if we made of list of senators plenty of them would check the box. Is it institutional? I don’t know.

                It sounds though like you are sort of throwing the baby out with the bath water though. You’re asking me why I ‘walk the plank’ for these people? Because I actually know a lot of them. It makes it hard to view them as a monolithic group.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                It sounds though like you are sort of throwing the baby out with the bath water though. You’re asking me why I ‘walk the plank’ for these people? Because I actually know a lot of them. It makes it hard to view them as aa monolithic group.

                Why? Seems to me, and I say this after years of reading your comments to police abuse allegations, that you think *any* criticism of cops constitutes throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I mean, let’s get real for a second. There is absolutely no way that cops, as role-playing individuals, can get it right every time. Agreed?

                There’s also no way that cops, as role playing individuals, can get it right by a metric outside of their own, right? Agreed?

                So the issue is whether cops, as role players in society, are bettering society without creating a culture which accords them impunity to violate the laws they’re supposed to be upholding. It’s not a new problem. “who guards the guardians?” I just have a hard time believing you’re sincere when you say cops should never be subject to criticism. I mean, on your own terms, from what I can tell, that’s absurd.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Who said they should never be criticized? I’m talking about taking each situation as it happens, waiting for the facts to come out and then making judgements. Every time Sam’s Batphone lights up and he fires off another post you all are VERY quick to issue broad statements. These people are evil. They are murders. They who? It’s the rush to judgement, the rush to accuse, the rush to make pronouncements that I rail against, not the individual cases. There are plenty of police shootings where the officer should probably go to jail. But there are plenty where they should not.

                I would remind you that being conservative also means ‘a slow and measured approach’. Aren’t you really just criticizing me for nuance and patience in judgement? It feels to me like you all are saying, “We clearly have all the facts we need to make judgements so we will speak now.” And that is ultimately why conservatives don’t trust liberals on any number of issues.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Who said they should never be criticized? I’m talking about taking each situation as it happens,

                Ie, looking at the trees but not the forest. “Each tree is a unique expression of nature’s wonder.”Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                It’s easy to see each tree as unique when you actually get to know them.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Interestingly, tho, conservatism doesn’t care about the specifics of each tree but instead wants to preserve the state in which certain select trees exist.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I would remind you that being conservative also means ‘a slow and measured approach’.

                You’re stuck in a Burkean past that doesn’t exist anymore. Conservatives are now revolutionaries. Returners to a bygone time. All that nonsense. Politically anyway.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Is a cop that doesn’t stand up to cops who shoot people in their apartments a “good cop”?

                Is a DA (or assistant DA) who doesn’t scream about shit like this, a good DA (or assistant DA)?

                Is a judge who signs a warrant to search the guy’s house a good judge? Is a judge who refuses to comment on the other judge signing the warrant a good judge?Report

            • Avatar Zac Black says:

              Frankly, it’s because deferral to armed and/or patriarchal authority is the central praxis of conservative thought.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              Here’s the thing I would also say…you talk about how Pinky and I ‘walk the plank’ by not piling on when Sam does his weekly police-hate piece. So what are you looking for instead? Some kind of circle jerk where you all tut-tut and call them murderers, etc?

              Here’s the deal, and I really mean this… if I ever felt about the police the way you all seem to I would either run for an office where I could actually change policy or I would leave the country. I mean seriously, what other alternative is there? Uniformed murderers in our midst protected by conspiracy? It boggles the mind that none of you are actually doing anything about it. I mean, I guess Sam’s posts are his little public protests (he at least has the balls to sign his real name to them). But even then, if it’s really that bad, why raise a family here?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                It boggles the mind that none of you are actually doing anything about it.

                We talk about it *all the time*. The spectrum is wide, from Jaybird and Kolohe and InMD and Oscar to Leeesq and greginak and Sam and me. What are we supposed to do? Shoot people? Blow up buildings and bridges?

                we talk about it because that’s the way things work in a democracy.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                There are plenty of citizen’s group that work with police departments. Run for mayor or get on their staff. Etc, etc.

                And I don’t advise this for every civic issue someone is passionate about. But when you throw around the terms you all do, at some point don’t you also become complicit?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Mike, I mean this with all the sincerity I can express on a blog, so take that for what it’s worth …

                when people say they’re f***ing sick and d***am tired of cops shooting innocent civilians and being exonerated, THEY’RE DOING ALL THEY CAN DO.

                The idea that they should run for office is an absurd rejoinder.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                “Hey, if you don’t like the shift in baseball why don’t you become an MLB manager?? Gotcha dude!”Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Are you comparing MLB to organized murder organizations supported by a corrupt judicial system?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                I think you’re trolling now.

                On the slim chance you’re not, no, the argument isn’t that MLB managers are murderers, but instead they’re used to highlight the absurdity of your view that having judgements about existing problems are disingenuous unless a person becomes a decision-maker in the process by which those problems are allowed to exist.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I’m talking about a situation where you all are contending that police forces are staffed enough murders to make you concern and the DA is in collusion to protect them. There’s a big difference between that and people complaining about other civics problems (and i already spelled out above that this was an exception to the rule that words are enough).

                Again, seriously, if I thought that was a problem on the scale you all are implying, I would move or try to do something about it.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                “Some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses.”

                You keep saying that if you felt that way you’d do something, but Sam, as an example, writes posts about this stuff *all the time* and you criticize him for having a secret agenda. I mean, you’re a parody of yourownself, no?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                As noted above, writing those posts is mildly brave in that he signs his actual name to them. Do they have any potential to create change? Again, you live where you want, ignore what you want.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Well that’s Trumpism in a nutshell: the voices don’t matter, only the power does.

                Sam has a job and a family and a quality of life. Criticizing him for not *doing more* misses the entire point of what he’s trying to communicate. I mean, if you’re only responsive to power concepts, then cry till the cows come home. You and Pinky and Dark and TVD if he was still here. For all your caterwauling about Sam, his posts aren’t abour power politics, but reason. He’s making an argument.

                But I guess that if unreasonable people won’t see reason then you’ll get your wish in the end anyway, that power is the final arbiter.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Tho on re-reading, I’m glad you included cops in the category of “organized murder organizations supported by a corrupt judicial system”.Report

              • Avatar KenB says:

                This discussion takes me back to the early days of the blogosphere during the Iraq War, when folks on the left ridiculed the “101st Fighting Keyboardists” who loudly supported the war, and wondered why they weren’t leaving their computers and enlisting if they were so sure the war was necessary.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Yes, in one case the cheerleadering was to kill lots of innocent civilians and in the other it was to refrain from killing innocent civilians. But other than that, both sides were the same. Both sides did it.Report

              • Avatar KenB says:

                The mentality is the same. Sorry you’re not able to get to the necessary level of abstraction to see that.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                But the substance isn’t. Sorry that you’re not able to understand that.Report

              • Avatar KenB says:

                The question is, to what extent is “making passionate comments on blogs” equivalent to doing something about an issue, and adjacent to that, is it fair to assess someone’s level of commitment to a cause based on how much they’re personally willing to sacrifice for it (in terms of time, money, risk, etc.)? It seems to me that one’s answer to these questions ought to be pretty consistent from one issue to the next, regardless of what side you happen to be on.

                Personally, I think commenting on blogs should be categorized as leisure activity, not activism — we do it mainly because it’s enjoyable (in some ways), not because we started with the question of “how can I best do something about this important issue” and landed on blog commenting as the most impactful approach.

                As for the other question — it’s good for all of us to bear in mind the gap between talking about something and doing something about it. It doesn’t mean we can’t have strong opinions if we’re not acting on them, but we should be a little measured in our language based on how much we’ve personally decided to invest in an issue.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Personally, I think commenting on blogs should be categorized as leisure activity, not activism

                Does the rise of the alt-right constitute a counterexample to that view? Politics moves to the left or right, up or down, because people share their views, influence or are influenced by others, coalesce around central political themes, in communities which become significant enough to find representation by candidates in specific policy positions. I mean, the acceptance of gay marriage (and resistance to it) is primarily a function of people talking about the issue. Same with any other issue, seems to me. If criminal justice reform gains traction as a politically viable policy position, it will be because people like Oscar and Jaybird and InMD and others express their views in compelling language that blunts resistance to implementing those policies, promotes acceptance of those policies, makes them not only intellectually acceptable but politically viable.

                Same with plastic straws. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:


                How do you have any idea about whether people are doing something about it or not?

                Like, there are things I do to work with my local police officers in my role at the college, but I don’t talk about it on here much – not sure I ever have, maybe once or twice in passing – because a) things I’m told in confidence about police department internal workings by police who are improving things don’t belong on the internet under a transparent pseudonym, even if said things are probably actually public knowledge if you know where to look (I’ve not looked hard because I’m busy doing things rather than researching them); b) this is a place to talk about ideas and opinions and call awareness to things, not (for the most part) brag on what paltry ability I may be exercising to effect change; and c) I don’t talk about my workplace online that much because, again, transparent pseudonym.

                But it doesn’t change that I am and have been doing things both to make improvements to our local police force AND to make it clear that I understand when students have police fears and ways they can route around that and still get help and protection, and to work for both those things as part of my role at my day job …. it just changes how much information you have about that work.

                “None of you are actually doing anything about it” is a very strong claim to make from mostly ignorance.


                That aside, also, no. No, one does not become complicit by not participating in a dangerous and corrupt system and rather choosing to attack it from the outside, and in words. Positive change requires both. The idea that you have to be part of the system to improve the system is, in my view, one of the most pernicious ways of maintaining power that power structures have. Healthy power structures should be *reaching out* to critics and finding ways to learn from them and make improvements, and if they are not, that in no way makes the relatively powerless complicit in the harms the power structures do. Some people can successfully work with some oppressive systems from the inside, or in partnership, and some can’t. That’s not a matter of fault.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                So it’s problematic to make assumptions about a group of people without having all the facts in front of me…?Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                @mike-dwyer It’s problematic to make wrong assumptions based on very little fact.

                Which is what you are doing.

                “Very little fact” is not what Sam and others are doing – for the most part, at least, I’d exempt for example Sam’s unwarranted dig at Doctor Jay the other day.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                Alternately (and I tried to add this to the original comment but ran out of time because I’m working right now), yes, we’re also all complicit.

                I’m complicit in police abuse because I’m not doing more, I’m complicit in systematic racism because I’m not doing more, there is an entire confessional litany of things in which I am complicit and I still pray the old Catholic confessional litany about the things I’ve done and the things I’ve left undone once a week or so in case I start to think otherwise.

                But there’s literally no reason why NOT speaking up about bad things you are aware of would make you less complicit — rather than more.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I had a fellow high school alumni that was involved in a police shooting a couple of years ago. This was pretty cut & dry and even the victim’s family basically said they understood. Eventually the cop was exonerated by the review board and is back on that job.

                That process took 11 months.

                If you’re going to give them a pass on following this in real times and then patting each other on the back like the Hardy Boys finding another clue…and then complain that I am making assumptions about the commenters here, which they literally refute at any time…geez. I don’t even know how to process that.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                ” and then patting each other on the back like the Hardy Boys finding another clue”

                That’s what you see.

                That’s not at all what I see.

                Maybe if you tried a little harder to empathize with their motivations, you’d have a clearer understanding of why I take more issue with you than with them.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Maybe if you tried a little harder to empathize with their motivations…

                I would put confirmation bias at the top of that list. This very thread has been an ongoing linkfest as the story unfolds. I mean, I get that it’s kind of Netflix cool because it seems like they are watching a criminal conspiracy unfold before their eyes and they get to sort of document it in real time, but man, that is not how I roll.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Are you talking about the confirmation bias inclining people to think that a cop who shot a person dead when they opened the door to their own residence is a murderer?Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                @mike-dwyer If the above comment is what it looks like when you’re trying harder to empathize with people, I’m really not sure how to even process that…Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                Oh, also I forgot, in that list of reasons not to talk about it
                d) when I weigh what good I feel I can possibly do about it against how bad things are, I get despondent and that is not a good place to be.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                Mike, I don’t get why you think it’s a meaningful defense to say that it’s rare for police to kill innocent people with legal impunity. Is there a number of innocent 12 year olds that you think is acceptable for police to kill without facing charges? A two-tier justice system is a very big deal even if the number of cases in which justice is plainly not done is small in the grand scheme of things. It’s like saying that people should chill about the Catholic Church’s sex scandals because most altar boys weren’t molested. The police purport to have moral and legal authority. If people (accurately) perceive that the police apply one set of laws to the public* and another set of laws to themselves, that’s important.

                *Or worse yet, a particular subset of the public.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                I mean seriously Mike, this is an argument you could deploy against people upset about lynching in 1950. It’s ridiculous. You’re better than this.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


                It isn’t that the police occasionally shoot someone by mistake, so much that the police, when they do kill someone whose death can not be so plainly justified, investigate themselves and leverage the system that they exert a large amount of control over in order to avoid the full cost of their actions. And if that wasn’t bad enough, they’ve also carved out all manner of special privileges, through law and contract, so as to give themselves even greater control over the system with regard to how it interacts with their members.

                It doesn’t matter if there were 2 shootings a year nationwide, or 2000, the law is not being applied evenly to all, and the fact that people, legislators, and judges[1] all seem to be just okeedokee with all this just drives me nuts.

                [1] Actually, legislators and judges make sense, since they enjoy considerable tangential benefit from the police getting what they want.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                It isn’t that the police occasionally shoot someone by mistake, so much that the police, when they do kill someone whose death can not be so plainly justified, investigate themselves and leverage the system that they exert a large amount of control over in order to avoid the full cost of their actions.

                It’s not even _that_, honestly. That is just a symptom of a much larger problem of racial and wealth disparities in policing and the justice system, and how the justice system absolutely refuses to do anything about it because large sections of it are extremely broken from top to bottom.

                And has no accountability.

                For even innocent black person shot by police, there are hundreds of thousands of black people in jail solely because they are black and/or poor.

                Perhaps they didn’t commit the crime they were arrested for, but were forced into a plea deal due to lack of bail and a justice system that takes forever. Perhaps they did commit the crime, but the crime was something that would have been laughing off or warned about if they were more ‘respectable’, aka, had lighter skin, or if the cop hadn’t decided to treat a 16 year-old black boy as an adult while treating a 22 year-old white man in college as a kid. Hell, perhaps they did commit the crime, and _should_ probably be in jail, but the police didn’t really do a good job proving it and if they had been able to pay for a competent lawyer they wouldn’t be in jail. Perhaps they did the crime, and the police proved it, but if they had been wealthy their lawyers would have gotten them off anyway, which admittedly is not ‘skin color’ per se, but still seems rather unfair.

                Police shootings of unarmed and/or innocent black people, and how the system reacts to it, is basically the canary in the coal mine. It is not, really, the problem…it’s just a giant flashing indicator of the actual problem, which is a system so utterly broken and so resistant to any sort of oversight that it can do completely outrageous things and get away with it, and everyone else just stands around flapping their hands and shouting impotently.

                The actual problem is that, in interactions with police, the color of a person’s skin is a huge determination of outcomes in general. Even if they aren’t _shot_. And in interactions with the legal system, the amount of money someone can throw at bail and lawyers is basically the _sole_ determination of outcomes. (Which, of course, really sucks for people both poor and black.)Report

  9. Avatar Morat20 says:

    When I was about 17, I was mowing the front yard when I saw a cop car tearing down the street. This was a 20mph residential street, he was going at least 40 (down, of course, the only twisting path without speed bumps), no lights, no sirens.

    He then rear ends a car backing out of their driveway as he whipped around a curve. I mean full on rear-ends them — they had gotten all the way into the street and had started moving forward. No one was seriously injured (although had it been a child he hit, they’d be dead) — I think the civilian got mild whip-lash.

    Over the next 20 minutes, what seemed every cop in our tiny town showed up. Lights going, they took over everything within 100 yards. And then sat there and openly had a bit of a pow-wow, which resulted in them ticketing the driver of the car they hit.

    Which resulted in said driver’s lawyer canvassing our neighborhood looking for witnesses, which thankfully there were several besides myself. From what I recall, the cop claimed he was running sirens on and lights going, responding to a call when the car backed into him, interfering with his duty.

    I understand he maintained that story right up until the charges against the guy that got hit were mysteriously dropped, the city quietly paid his medical bills and fixed his car, and the cop…stayed on the force.

    So at 17, in a quite lily white suburb, I learned that cops would absolutely lie over something as trivial as a minor car accident.

    That formative experience might be one reason I’ve only ever served on one jury.Report

  10. Avatar James K says:

    That’s the key to the whole thing – power without accountability will lead to bad behaviour. Fix the lack of accountability and the rest will follow.Report

  11. Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

    In case anybody anywhere was wonder g how truly despicable police departments can be, we have this blatant ongoing attempt to find any desperate reason to justify Jean’s killing.

    Police cheerleaders will particularly go along for the ride, because defending police is more important to them than innocent people being shot to death, especially if those innocent people happen to be minorities.Report

    • Avatar Dark Matter says:

      If we’re going to go down the rabbit hole of the police looking to smearing him, then the question becomes how far down that hole we want to go.

      So for example, the police have access to “narcotics”, and they’re the ones searching his place. If they “find” something, what does that mean?

      The nasty part is I can’t tell if I’m in tin hat territory or not. This seems like a structural problem, a single point of failure/trust on people who have obvious conflicts of interest.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        If we’re going to go down the rabbit hole of the police looking to smearing him, then the question becomes how far down that hole we want to go.

        No, it doesn’t mean that at all.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        The nasty part is I can’t tell if I’m in tin hat territory or not. This seems like a structural problem, a single point of failure/trust on people who have obvious conflicts of interest.

        Yeah. The conflict of interest is pretty crazy, especially when you’re noticing how awful the story is in the first place.

        “Dude was no angel” is all well and good when there is a conflict.

        There was no conflict here. The scrabbling to find weed looks exactly like an ex post facto justification for an atrocious act.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter says:

          “Dude was no angel” is all well and good when there is a conflict.

          Depends on how far down that rabbit hole we go.

          Let’s say he was a drug dealer and the police find drugs/guns there and his crying relatives say he reformed last year.

          To what degree can we trust the police? They have access to drugs/guns and the guy’s record, it’d be trivial for them to plant all that and they’re strongly motivated to do so. On the flip side, drug using bully was hardly how the crying relatives in Ferguson described their “boy”.

          To be clear, my strong expectation is he’s not a drug dealer because if he were, the cop here would have told that story rather than the one she has.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      They are despicable and stupid if they believe this will work.Report

  12. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    I would move or try to do something about it.

    I do try to do something about it. I can’t join the PD, because disabled. I’m no good at politics, so getting elected is a non-starter (not that I trust that would do much good, plenty of elected officials have tried reforming the police and found the task too much).

    What I can do is raise awareness, and make solid arguments, here, and so very, very many other places. Those arguments, when they hit home, help open peoples eyes to the issues of accountability, so that they are more willing to support politicians who do try to reform the police. And so they engage the police officers they do know to not be so quick to hide the bad actors in their department behind the blue wall. And so should they find themselves on a jury where police misconduct is a factor, they can vote against it (either by convicting a bad cop, or acquitting a person that was on the wrong end of misconduct).

    I use my voice to try and change public attitudes towards police, so people start looking at them with a critical set of eyes. That is what I am doing about it.Report

  13. Avatar Road Scholar says:

    Has anyone else noticed that this isn’t really a “bad police shooting” story? Guyger wasn’t on-duty. She wasn’t serving a warrant or responding to a call. I suppose she was still in uniform, but that and carrying her service weapon was about as far as her “copness” extended. At that point she was just a private citizen returning home from work.

    This is actually a “good guy with a gun” story. Not that those facts make this any more comfortable for the usual suspects. Because if she had left her weapon in her locker at the station and been unarmed, Jean would be alive and she would have been embarrassed but had a funny story to tell. She may have even made a friend, having met a neighbor.

    But that’s not how this story ends, does it?Report

    • Avatar Maribou says:

      A cop in uniform carrying their service weapon *is* a cop though, on-duty or off. Heck, an off-duty cop in a t-shirt carrying an illegal weapon is a cop.

      That’s the blue wall thing Oscar’s (entirely correctly) on about up thread.

      I get what you’re saying, too, though.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:


        Right. I agree totally with everything Oscar’s written here. I would add that this episode really puts the lie to much of the rightwing narrative in support of that blue line. I.e., it’s an incredibly dangerous job and how can we second-guess the split-second decisions of these LEOs who are out there protecting us from the bad guys, etc.

        Guyger was off-duty and wasn’t acting as a LEO at the time of the incident. So that thin blue line that appears to be jumping into action to protect her from the consequences of her actions isn’t doing so in defense of her role as a LEO, as bad as that would be, but instead due to her identity as a LEO.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter says:

          puts the lie to much of the rightwing narrative in support of that blue line. I.e., it’s an incredibly dangerous job and how can we second-guess the split-second decisions of these LEOs who are out there protecting us from the bad guys, etc.

          I don’t follow the rightwing media. Are they supporting her?Report

    • It’s also a “gun is a tool for self-defense” story.

      “Hands up!”

      “You can take whatever you want, but please don’t shoot!”

      “What do you mean, ‘take’? This is my apartment.”

      “What? It’s mine. I’ve lived here for years.”

      “Hold on. Don’t move. (Turns on lights.) OMG, this isn’t my apartment. I’m so sorry. I live in 305.”

      “This is 405. Can you put the gun down now?”

      But a gun isn’t really a tool for self-defense; it’s a tool for killing anyone you think might be a threat, whether they are or not.Report

    • Avatar Dark Matter says:

      Breaking into someone’s apartment so you can force them to quiet down (even if you have to kill them) does not make you “a good guy”.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      If the dead guy had owned a gun, he’d have been perfectly within his rights to shoot the cop dead for breaking and entering. Of course, he’d have been arrested and charged with murder — if you think they’re eager to create a story to exonerate her, they’d be real eager to create a story wherein a heroic off-duty cop responded to “strange noises” or “threats” and after identifying herself as a cop was shot dead by a crazed gunmen.

      And of course if he’d had a gun, the cops wouldn’t need to search for weed. She’d never have been charged. There’s a reason dropping a gun next to someone a cop just shot is so well understood a phenomenon that it’s a common story trope now.Report

  14. Avatar Jaybird says:

    For some reason, people are still questioning the account of the police and pointing to apparent discrepancies between her alleged story and some alleged video that was allegedly taken at the alleged time.

    For example, her story is that the door was ajar and she stumbled in thinking it was hers.

    As it turns out, the doors are allegedly special metal fire doors that automatically slam shut if left to their own devices.

    There are apparently also electronic key setups so that if you put the key in the wrong door, the light turns red instead of green so she couldn’t have accidentally put her key in the door and had it open anyway.

    And something about the door numbers being lit up with neon lights and they’re backlit and stuff but we don’t know if those lights were broken on the night of the shooting.

    I hope the police union demands a full investigation of whether the noise complaints made by Amber Guyger against her immediate upstairs neighbor may have been related to Botham Jean’s marijuana use.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      I am utterly certain investigators will treat these inconsistencies as merely the artifacts of a brain that was tired and stressed, rather than clear evidence of lying, and allow her to alter and amend her statement, just like they do with any other suspect who is not a police officer.

      Oh, wait…Report

  15. Avatar Jaybird says:

    The Dallas Police Department has fired Amber Guyger.

    (That said, she has the right to appeal her termination and goodness only knows if another police department two blocks over won’t hire her immediately.)Report

  16. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I don’t know how relevant this is but, in Florida, a cop was caught on camera planting meth in a car during a traffic stop.

    “Finding drugs” is one of those things that can’t be assumed to be a slam dunk anymore.

    (I mean, it never could have been assumed… but we edge ever closer to common knowledge.)Report

    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

      @jaybird Instead of being so negative, can’t you focus instead on all of the police officers who do not plant drugs on suspects in an attempt to ruin their lives? Is there really anything to be gained from looking at injustice when instead you can pretend it isn’t happening, mostly because you don’t give a damn about the people enduring it?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Eh, I’ve said before that the whole Cops thing reminds me more of a gang than anything else.

        They’re just a gang that I’m loosely affiliated with insofar as I am:
        A: Paid up on my Protection payments
        B: I look like someone paid up on my Protection payments
        C: I live in the part of town where the people most likely to be paid up on Protection payments live in

        So, if I narrow the scope pretty narrowly, I’m someone who benefits from my relationship with the cops.

        On a social level, however, I’d rather not be affiliated with a gang.

        I mean, unless there was some other gang out there. Then I’d pretty much have to pick which gang I’m affiliated with. And if the other gang won’t have me… I’m stuck between affiliating myself with the gang that will have me *OR* saying “I’m not affiliated with anybody!” and get all of the downsides of not being affiliated with a gang with none of the upsides of being affiliated with one.Report