Stephon Clark’s Killers Go Free


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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232 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    At this point, I am unsurprised. Prosecutors have powerful incentives to protect police, and no one is offering a stronger incentive to counter.

    Perhaps if after every such shooting, there was a significant recall effort…Report

  2. Avatar Dark Matter says:

    Test quote Test.

    What is the new “quote” technique?Report

  3. Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

    Clark’s family is, very understandably, pursuing a lawsuit against Sacramento.

    I’m pretty sure the survivors of the shooting don’t really give a rat’s ass, since it won’t be coming out of their pockets. The taxpayers will once again take it on the chin for official misconduct.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Make the unions pay for it. If the unions defend the guy and the guy is found liable, make the funds come out of the union.

      (Of course, if the unions defend the guy and the guy is found to have made a good call, no problem.)Report

      • Avatar Aaron David says:

        I like this idea. It should also be reflected in SPD’s retirement pay.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          If it’s a righteous shoot, hey. That will be found in a court of law.

          And if the cop is found liable, then *THAT* will be found in a court of law.

          And if the unions have reason to look at a case and say “yeah, you know what? We’re not going to support you in this one. We can’t afford to throw in with you on this one. I’m hoping to retire next week and I’ve got a lot of grandkids to take care of…”, then that might eventually trickle down to the guys who, thus far, have seen no reason to remember whether they were going for their service revolver or their taser.Report

          • Avatar Aaron David says:

            That is what I am thinking, too. Without incentive, nothing will change. And will probably get worse, as the ratchet will only turn one way in this case.Report

      • Avatar CJColucci says:

        What does “if the unions defend the guy” mean? Usually, cops are defended by the city attorney, county attorney, or corporation counsel, or, for smaller municipalities, private counsel paid out of the public fisc. The union’s “defense” amounts to the usual pro-cop posturing that union leaders are expected to spout. It doesn’t provide the lawyers or fund the defense effort. Basically, you’re advocating making unions pay verdicts for expressing predictable opinions.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Oh, I thought that they helped with lawyers.

          I retract the statement.

          I’d be okay with making it less acceptable to express predictable opinions, though.Report

  4. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    I am happy to stipulate that this should have gone to trial but maybe we could actually advance the conversation beyond the general call for outrage in the OP…

    I asked last week, what is an acceptable number of shootings of unarmed men in the United States? If it’s more than zero, I’d be curious to hear what the acceptable level of Quality is? To perhaps offer some guidance, in the aerospace logistics business we strive for a defect rate of 50 DPPM (Defective Parts Per Million). We know that there are about 45 police shootings of unarmed people per year. About 15 of those are black men. If we knew how many police interactions there are in the United States per year, we could construct an acceptable level of Quality…right? Anyone want to suggest a number?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Hospitals have a category called Never Events.

      This is shit like when a guy goes in to have his left leg amputated, but they amputate his right leg. Or Phillip Wilson goes in to get his gallbladder removed, but Chynna Phillips, who is there for something else entirely, gets her gallbladder removed because the guy thought “hey, Wilson Phillips” and wasn’t paying attention.

      You know the number of Never Events that is considered an acceptable number?

      Fucking Zero.

      “Well, how many gallbladders get removed every year?” conversations are not held. “You have to understand how much stress head nurses get under. They see a lot of sick people!” is not considered a decent excuse.

      Now, hey, if you want to argue that this isn’t *REALLY* a never event and it’s difficult to categorize never events then, hey, I’d agree with you. But then I’d point you out to a link where they discuss how never events get categorized.

      What’s an acceptable number of shootings of unarmed men in the United States?

      Let’s say… half of what we have now.

      I imagine we can eventually get it down to 75% of what we have now… but let’s say, given our bullshit baseline being where it is, an acceptable level is “half”.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter says:

        This wasn’t clearly a never event, this was more like a policy choice.

        Never “police” events we’ve talked about here would be that yoga instructor in a bathrobe shot by the police she summoned because she startled them. The cop playing russian roulette. The cop shooting someone in their apartment. The guy shot because he told the cop he had a gun in the car. Various other screw ups where everyone knew damn well the person was unarmed and/or posing no threat. Various screw ups where the police have the guy cooperating, then issue conflicting instructions and lose control of their emotions and then the situation.

        Here the police thought (probably correctly) that they were dealing with a criminal in a rough neighborhood. The crimes are property crimes, whether smash and grab is violent is iffy. Visibility is bad, the odds of him being armed are non-trivial, there’s room to read what you want to into the situation. He’s desperate and not surrendering, if he’s also armed it’s going to get bad.

        So at what point do the police get to shoot? As far as I can tell it’s NOT “when bullets start flying” because that gets them killed. Is it “when they see a gun”? Is it “when they think he’s pulling one”? What does that mean in this situation?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          We weren’t talking about this event, Dark.

          The question was “what is an acceptable number of shootings of unarmed men in the United States?”

          It does feel like we pivoted from “wait, let’s not talk about this *PARTICULAR* issue, let’s talk about the big picture” and then, when I said “sure, let’s talk about the big picture”, I’m being told “wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, let’s talk about this particular issue” again.

          Which would you prefer to hammer out?Report

        • Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

          Have you ever mistaken anything for a gun that wasn’t a gun? I sure haven’t. Even in the dark.Report

          • Avatar Dark Matter says:

            I haven’t, but plenty of times I’ve incorrectly seen what I expected, or not seen what I didn’t expect.

            I’m claiming our current case is a good example of a marginal shooting driven by policy. How much danger/risk do we expect the police to take on, how clear does the danger need to be, and so forth. They reached a point where they couldn’t tell if their lives were in danger or not while confronting an active criminal during a 911 call.

            So they shot him because he could/should have a gun, not because he did.Report

          • Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

            @Dark Matter (Replying to nested replies seems to have gone away, so I hope this ends up in the right place.

            I, too, have mistaken things for other things. I, also, have not whipped out my pistol and shot someone holding said thing. What would make someone assume that a guy breaking car windows is armed?Report

          • Avatar Dark Matter says:

            Slade: I, too, have mistaken things for other things. I, also, have not whipped out my pistol and shot someone holding said thing. What would make someone assume that a guy breaking car windows is armed?

            Members of Clark’s family have been killed, so I’d assumed it was that kind of neighborhood. However there was a weird disconnect when I looked up the murder/violent crime rate.

            Meadowview has the rep of a serious crime zone but the numbers don’t bare that out. I found multiple links talking about that.Report

          • Avatar Aaron David says:

            Meadowview is just south of the four F’s, Florin specifically. It is a blue-collar African-American neighborhood. Dying strip malls mostly.Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar says:

      What’s the acceptable number of air crash fatalities? What’s the acceptable number of truck crashes? In the first case I’m pretty sure the ATSB says “zero”. I know the answer from my safety dept in the second case is “zero”.

      More to the point, what’s the acceptable number of on-duty police fatalities? Because it sure looks to me like the answer from PDs and cop unions is “zero”. Which in turn seems to be the justification for these “OMG, I thought he had a gun!” shootings.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


        When we’re comparing industries, what is the right industry to compare police work to so that we can arrive at some kind of acceptable fail rate? Is it truck drivers? Pilots? Firefighters? Or should it be something more like ‘soldier’?

        Remember hearing all of the outrage over this? Yeah, me neither.

        • Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

          There’s a lot of discussion about the militarization of police forces these days. Advancing an us vs. them narrative is not going to solve the problem.

          As I understand the role of police, their job is to apprehend criminals. It’s time we knock off the thank you for your service nonsense and hold our public servants to standards that will allow them to regain the trust of the public they’re supposed to serve.Report

    • “We know that there are about 45 police shootings of unarmed people every year. About 15 of those are black men.”

      Neither of these are accurate claims.

      In 2018, there were 47 police shootings of unarmed people (18 were black men).
      In 2017, there were 69 police shootings of unarmed people (21 were black men).
      In 2016, there were 51 police shootings of unarmed people (19 were black men).
      In 2015, there were 94 police shootings of unarmed people (38 were black men).

      For those keeping track, those are averages of 65 unarmed people (and 24 were black men). The annual average of police shootings during the same time frame was 986, which means that roughly 6.5 percent of all police shootings/killings (in the last four years) have involved police killing unarmed people.

      The obvious answer is that the goal should be 0 killings of unarmed people, per year, and that anything more than 0 should be rightly regarded as, at the minimum, a systematic failure by police to do the job that they are tasked with doing. That regard should then be refocused into an effort to figure out not only what went wrong, but to hold those who made it go wrong accountable for their decision to kill an unarmed person.

      Excusing away Clark’s killing – as Schubert did – puts no pressure on police to stop shooting unarmed people. If there are no consequences for doing so, there is no reason not to do so.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        “…anything more than 0 should be rightly regarded as, at the minimum, a systematic failure by police to do the job that they are tasked with doing.”

        There are nearly 18,000 police agencies in the United States. If we have one fail under your criteria, does that mean they all fail, or do we look at it on a more micro level? And if zero is your target, then wouldn’t it make more sense to advocate for things like a total ban on handguns in the United States or that police are no longer allowed to carry lethal weapons?Report

      • Avatar JoeSal says:

        What consequences are you proposing?

        There are probably two types of failures going on:

        I can see how maybe a consequence could effect a attributable failure. I don’t see how a consequence address the non-attribute failure. If the only goal is zero, I don’t see how you reach that when there (as far as I can tell) will always be non-attribute failures.

        If reality is that there will always be non-attribute failures, why would you propose a zero failure as attainable?

        I say this with the possibility that the non- attribute failure may just be a condition of being human, and that the system we are looking at is a human driven system.

        From what we have seen of AI automated driving systems, I don’t think there is a possibility of even automated systems reaching zero at this time.

        (I say this in full recognition that there exists some attributable failures that can be addressed, and I recognize the legitimacy of the position. The position may have merit in this singular case.)

        I would also weigh the current failure rate against the costs of the current system, and would like to know the costs associated to getting to a zero attributable failure rate. My suspicions is that it would be considerably high.(my other suspicion is that the goal posts would be moved to start making non-attribute failures look a lot like attributable failures.)Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


          In my work we talk a lot about the ‘cost of Quality’. An example we give is a railroad crossing. Level 1 would be putting up a sign warning people that there is a railroad crossing. Level 2 would be automatic barricades and flashing lights. Level 3 would be building a bridge over the railroad crossing. Level 3 gets a lot closer to zero defects, but there is costs involved.

          Even in very controlled work environments no Quality professional would ever claim they can run a zero defect operation, but many of us strive for it because it drives continuous improvement. So I don’t have a problem with Sam saying zero should be the goal. What I have a problem with is that he says a single failure is proof of a system fail, but the system he is pointing to is the justice system, not society. We could probably reduce police killings of unarmed another 50% with some very aggressive policy decisions, but to get to zero we need to acknowledge other inputs that lead to negative outcomes…and I have not seen Sam demonstrate a willingness to do so.Report

          • Avatar JoeSal says:

            I have a little bit of a problem in saying zero is a goal, because any realistic system is going to set attainable goals.

            I see it both in Safety and Quality, that zero is the expectation, even in human driven systems.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Yeah, we always say ‘zero errors’ is the goal but it’s just to drive continuous improvement. I just had a conversation about this with my boss last week. We have a customer that insists on seeing our internal quality numbers and at some point we started sharing them, which is not our standard policy. Our director got wind of this and said we should stop doing it because it’s none of their business what we do internally and they should only see our external quality numbers. The problem I had with his position though is that because this customer is up our ass with demands for corrective actions every time we have an internal failure, it has made that operation really, really good. So my point is that while zero is unattainable, it’s not a bad thing to put it out there.

            With these unarmed shootings there are so many variables. Sam tends to take the position that it’s systemic racism and other nefarious reasons, but it could be lots of other factors. Was the police officer involved in a similar situation previously where the person DID have a gun and the officer was nearly killed? What were the environmental conditions? What happened to them that day?

            When I was on my jury trial a couple of weeks ago we had an officer come in one morning to go over the investigation into the shooting in 2015. He told us he had just gotten off the night shift and as he was getting off the stand he and the judge were joking about how he had to be back on the clock in 8 hours. His comment to the judge was, “Sleep is over-rated.” Who’s to say what situation he might have found himself in at 2am, with not enough sleep, and how that plays out? That is the stuff that should factor into these conversations about unarmed shootings, but because Sam mostly only cherry-picks the ones where black people are killed and never really digs into the detail, it just paints this ridiculous narrative of racist police departments run amok. The much more boring reason might be poor best practices related to time between shifts or whatever. But of course, that doesn’t write blog posts.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter says:

        A goal of 0 killings of unarmed people is absurd on the face of it. There is a difference between “unarmed” and “not dangerous”. Ferguson’s Mike Brown is a good example. Obama’s FBI concluded the 290lb criminal wouldn’t stop attacking the cop until he was dead. Similarly trying to knife someone seems like a good reason to get shot.

        The goal should be 0 killings of un-violent people.

        Which is not to say people won’t disagree on the definition of “violent”, but at a handwave there’s less to disagree about.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          Agreed on the ‘unarmed’ number being slightly misleading…

          “The “unarmed” label is literally accurate, but it frequently fails to convey highly-charged policing situations. In a number of cases, if the victim ended up being unarmed, it was certainly not for lack of trying. At least five black victims had reportedly tried to grab the officer’s gun, or had been beating the cop with his own equipment. Some were shot from an accidental discharge triggered by their own assault on the officer. “

          Even though this might slightly reduce Sam’s number of 65 shootings per year, i am fine with sticking with that numbers for the purposes of analysis. Despite Sam trying to get creative with the failure %, my math is actually based on quality principles. A fail rate of 0.000052% means there are about 1,917,858 successful interactions per shooting. Still not perfect, but it does provide some perspective.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    I don’t think that those two examples fit here because the truth is that in many of the shootings the police are there because domeone has already broken the law (the Clatk shooting being no different).

    So if our starting point is a 50% reduction then we’ll say roughly 22 shootings per year are okay. Fair enough. So when they happen, how do we review the system error and do root cause corrective action? Also, does it matter that there are several thousand police departments in the united states or is it still fair to look at the problem nationally?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      While I understand the reasons to support the death penalty and, even though I don’t consider myself a supporter, I don’t have my heart in it when I argue against it. Even so, I generally assume that the person has been tried before it gets applied to them.

      This ain’t Judge Dredd and I would be 100% down with arguing that something that looked a lot like a gun being sufficient reason to believe that a person has a gun, I am not down with automatically assuming that a cop who shoots a guy ought to be believed when he says “oh, I thought that what he was holding looked like a gun”.

      What’s the acceptable level of police corruption, Mike? Do you think we’re somewhere around the sweet spot?Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


        Police corruption is a whole other issue IMO. I’m sure several people here will tell me they are somehow linked but for my purposes here I am going to just assume we are talking about the shootings themselves. So…

        This is some very quick math but I took the 2008 numbers for law enforcement in the U.S. which is:

        765000 full time
        44000 part time

        So we will say that means 787000 full-time officers. I am also assuming 1/3 of those are in jobs where they don’t respond to 911 calls. So now we have about 519,420 that are responding to 911 calls. We’ll assume they get 4 weeks per year off so they work 48 weeks. 5 shifts per week. We’ll also assume that they have one 911 call per day that is dodgy enough that guns could get drawn. That’s 124,660,800 ‘interactions’ per year. If 45 people are killed that were unarmed, we have a fail rate of 0.000036%. You have suggested that we need to halve that so we’re aiming for 0.000018% fail rate of unarmed people being shot per year or basically 22 people losing their lives due to police mistakes. If we get to that number, do we stop having this conversation?

        Now, obviously there is a lot of room to dispute my math. I actually think my interaction number is very low. While a rural officer might only have a handful of these interactions per year (not one per shift) there are other officers that have multiples of these higher-risk interactions per day., So maybe it averages out to 124,660,800 or maybe it doesn’t. I also know lots of cops pick up extra shifts, so they probably work well over 240 days per year.

        I’m all about continuous improvement and obviously there is room here but I also think it’s important to acknowledge that this whole conversation is nipping at the margins. I’m happy to speculate the real reasons for it ( but if we’re going to nip at the margins there should be some kind of root-cause corrective actions that have some legitimate chance of succeeding.

        My math is below

        Full-time law enforcement in the United States…….787,000
        66% ……………………………………………………………519,420
        Weeks working………………………………………………48
        Days working…………………………………………………240
        Interactions per year……………………………………….124,660,800
        # of shootings of unarmed people……………………..45
        Fail rate………………………………………………………..0.000036%Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Well, they’re not *ALWAYS* linked but the ways that they are linked are interesting.

          They’re linked in two ways:
          1. Really really obvious ways like in the Kathryn Johnston shooting or the much more recent Houston Drug Raid.
          2. The Blue Wall that acts like Omerta. Would you call a cop who does a bad thing a good cop? Would you call a cop who covers up for a bad cop a good cop? Would you call a cop who asks why reporters would investigate a bad cop a good cop? Would you call a cop who yells “yeah!” when the cop who complains about journalists investigating bad cops complains?

          If you define corruption narrowly like “raping a woman in custody”, there might not be *THAT* many corrupt cops. If you define corruption broadly like “covering up for cops who rape sex workers in custody”, you’ve got a lot more. And if you define corruption broadly enough to include police officers opposing bans on having sex with the prostitutes they’re investigating, we may just have a problem here.

          And you don’t even need math. You can just point to never events.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            Keeping the conversation on unarmed shootings and not police corruption like stealing money from marijuana dispensaries, would you willing to put a % on what share of unarmed police shootings could be traced back to corruption as the root cause? Do you think the officers that shot Clark has internalized a sense of non-accountability? I’m totally open to that idea because I have operations where they do not enforce accountability and they have high fail rates. But I also have operations that don’t enforce accountability and they have really low fail rates.

            W.Edward Deming said that system breakdowns are responsible for about 85% of all Fails, so I think you are right that unarmed shootings represent system failures. My question is, which system? Is it the justice system or society?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            would you willing to put a % on what share of unarmed police shootings could be traced back to corruption as the root cause?

            It depends on whether we can agree that the knowledge that even if you shoot a guy in the back and plant a taser that you can rely on none of your police brethren calling you out qualifies as corruption.

            It’s the whole “I can trust the system to protect me” that is what creates the environment where these shootings of unarmed people become acceptable and it changes where the margins are.

            Where the margins are affects the number of shootings.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Deming said, “A bad system will beat a good person every time.” His point was not that bad systems make good people bad. His point was that bad systems allow good people to fail.

            Your position seems to imply that a bad system will make a good person become bad. I am inclined to disagree with that, but I’m open to being proven wrong. I think our history has proven there have been periods of widespread police corruption and the trope of the good cop becoming a bad guy has launched hundreds of Hollywood monologues.

            With that said, I think when we’re talking about bad systems, I’m inclined more towards poor training, poor rules of engagement, etc. Maybe those are rooted in corruption, but just as likely they are rooted in false notions that the current system helps keep officers alive or the unethical notion that the officers’ lives are worth more. Either way, I don’t know if I would call that corruption as much as I would call it a policy failure.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Can we not start with “your position seems to imply” and then argue against the implication?

            I put a lot of work into my comments and choose my phrasings with a great deal of care.

            The stuff I actually say is meaty enough to argue against on its own merits. Even if I do say so myself.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Fair enough, your comment explicitly states that a bad system makes good people bad. Or that the system is bad because the actors in it are bad. Or both.

            Do I have that right?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            No, it’s that the number of police shootings are directly tied to, among other things, the knowledge that their brethren will cover for them if they shoot a guy in the back and plant a taser and it takes a video taken by a bystander to change that outcome and turn a “police officer’s word against the dead guy’s” into something that actually makes it to trial.

            Omerta changes where the margins are for bad shoots.

            As such, police corruption is tied to the number of bad shoots.

            And pushing for policies that reduce corruption get a lot of pushback not only by the police but by the types of people who buy Thin Blue Line beach towels.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Your position seems to imply that a bad system will make a good person become bad.

            I’m not sure that all this internalism is useful in order to tease out the distinctions Jaybird finds relevant. The issue isn’t whether any particular set of conditions will make a *person* bad, but that they will incentivize – and in that sense cause – that person to engage in bad acts. Personally speaking, I don’t see how that could be viewed as a contentious claim.

            But more to the point, it’s very disorienting to me to hear a conservative imply that people are fundamentally good (which is a very woke view of humanity!) rather than either of the two alternatives. Historically, conservative policy is based on the presumption that people are, in fact, *not* good, so according power to people in the form of governmental authority is viewed as a generally bad idea. Yet here you are defending cops as somehow being uniquely different than the rest of humanity, not only in their fundamental impulses but their ability to overcome situational contexts that might otherwise make them engage in bad acts. Strange.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Do we agree that covering for your fellow officers that have made a bad shooting makes you a bad person?

            And if so, were they likely already bad when they joined the force or did they become bad once they were indoctrinated into the culture of corruption?Report

          • Avatar JoeSal says:

            If we are talking Deming, I think Jays point is probably very valid. Especially in terms of the structure of the system is responsible for the quality outcome.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            I think Jaybird and I both agree there are systemic failures but I think we wildly disagree on what those failures are and how they play out. I will admit though that his version is way more interesting than mine.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Do we agree that covering for your fellow officers that have made a bad shooting makes you a bad person?

            And if so, were they likely already bad when they joined the force or did they become bad once they were indoctrinated into the culture of corruption?

            I think that there is a slippery slope. It’s easy to move from being silent to yelling “yeah!” when a brother complains about cops just doing their jobs being investigated. It’s easy to move from yelling “yeah!” to complaining about cops just doing their jobs being investigated. It’s easy to move from complaining about cops just doing their jobs being investigated to complaining about why the investigations target cops who cut corners instead of investigating the drug dealers. It’s easy to move from complaining about those investigations to complaining about citizen journalists taking videos of cops covering up crimes.

            It’s easy to slip down a slope. It’s as easy as falling.

            I’m not saying that only a bad person would do bad things.

            I’m saying that it’s really easy to wake up one day and be a cop that doesn’t say anything when your partner plants a taser on a guy he shot in the back.

            When that guy got out of the academy, would he have done that? HELL NO.

            Clarence Habersham appears to still be employed by the police department, if the google is any indication.Report

          • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

            Here, for the sake of discussion, is an officer punished for refusing to classify a bad shooting – a police officer in Chicago shot an autistic kid, then made up a reason for doing so that was immediately disproven by nearby security footage – by his superiors, who wanted him to side with the shooting police officer instead.

            This was plainly an abuse of power and authority, designed to justify a shooting that was unjustifiable. This problem is systemic.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


          Do you believe the current conditions incentivize bad behavior or don’t do a good job at disincentivizing them? Because there is a big difference there.

          Firstly, I’m not as conservative as you think. I just appear that way in the context of the site because I’m not a woke progressive. Secondly, I do think most people are good or at least try to be, but that’s not the question. When you are assessing the effectiveness of a system it’s best not to assume the people in the system are actively trying to subvert that system. That forces you to focus on the system and tightening your controls.

          In the Quality profession we tell people all the time that blaming people for Fails is a lazy analysis. That’s why we do things like Fishbone Diagrams that only indicate people as one of 6 possible root causes. That’s a big part of the reason why i get so cranked up when the racist cop angle is taken because A) a good system shouldn’t allow people to Fail even if they have bad intentions B) it’s the least likely cause of the shootings and C) it doesn’t focus on the factors that were most likely at faultReport

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Do you believe the current conditions incentivize bad behavior or don’t do a good job at disincentivizing them? Because there is a big difference there.


          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            How does the current system incentivize a police officer to kill someone that is unarmed?Report

            • Avatar Em Carpenter says:

              Well, there was that case I wrote up recently in which the officer who didn’t shoot was fired for it… that’s incentive, keeping your job.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            By not prosecuting officers who do.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            What is the reward for the police officer that kills an unarmed person? What is the carrot being offered?Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            The reward for shooting an unarmed person and not being prosecuted is that doing so doesn’t result on prosecution. That’s the reward.

            If you’re asking about the psychological state of cops who shoot unarmed people, the answer shows up in the testimony they provide: they legitimately feared for their own life. So, presumably, the reward for shooting unarmed people – the carrot – is the subjectively determined preservation of their own life.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            BTW, I wrote the above fully recognizing that you’re up to your old tricks again, so I’ll likely bow out of this discussion pretty soon.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            I don’t think you understand the difference between carrot and stick. The idea of incentives is to encourage people do something. Basically, someone decides this behavior is desirable and creates incentives to make them happen. Are you suggesting that police forces want their cops to kill unarmed men?

            If not, then the only way not being charged with a crime amounts to a reward is if the cop wanted to shoot someone.

            * I have no idea what you mean by ‘old tricks’ but by all means, bow out now if you think I’m not discussing this in good faith.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            There does not have to be a reward, as such, just a lack of incentive to take the same degree of care a citizen would.

            Let me put it this way, when I carry a firearm, I have internalized a set of conditions that I feel would justify me showing, pulling, and using that firearm. Those conditions are strongly informed not by my fear of a potential assailant, but by my fear of the CJ system reviewing my actions from the safety of their office desk and finding them wanting. I don’t get to merely claim I was in fear for my life, I have to be able to offer up evidence that I has a reason to be afraid for my life.

            The police are not as afraid of being found wanting by their fellows, because historically they have not, and the courts, and juries, have repeatedly accepted that the police do not need to offer up evidence that they had a reason to be afraid, only their word that they were.

            Hence the reward is that their word will be taken at face value, unless their is evidence to show that their word is no good.

            ETA: Hence the police have a very different set of internalized conditions for using force.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            I don’t think you understand the difference between carrot and stick.

            I don’t think you understand the difference between a psychological motivation and an incentive structure that either rewards or punishes acting on it. You asked what the carrot is when an officer shoots another person, which is ambiguous between their subjectively determined reasons and the incentive structure in which that action takes place. I gave an answer consistent with the concept of an incentive structure: that preserving their own life is the reward (tho it’s not a carrot).Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            The carrots are given by solidarity with your brethren. You stick up for them and you know that they’ll stick up for you.

            I mean, how difficult is it to go from “being silent” to yelling “yeah!” when your brother complains about those journalists having nothing better to do than investigate sheepdogs when they *SHOULD* be investigating wolves?

            I mean, would you call a cop who yelled “yeah!” a bad cop?

            What if the sheepdogs were being investigated for actual criminality?

            How far is it from yelling “yeah!” to giving the speech the next time you see a headline that says “Police Investigated Following Scandal”?

            Would you say that a cop who gives that speech is a bad cop?

            Let’s say that you found out that one of your brothers happened to be engaging in acts that those journalists would find it worth reporting on. Would you go to IA or would you just look the other way and say nothing?

            Would you say that a cop that fails to go to IA is a bad cop?

            Being a brother has benefits that include carrots. Knowing that *YOU* are a member of the fraternity is a benefit.

            The slope actually is slippery. And you don’t have to be a bad person, deep down, to be a bad cop. You can be a good person.

            You just have to agree with your brothers. You just have to look the other way.

            Why are people so upset about bad cops when they should be upset about bad criminals, anyway?Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            {{well, in addition to the other answer I gave}}Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            If I drive 10 over the speed limit every day and no police officers pull me over, I don’t consider it a reward. I would say that I managed to avoid punishment for breaking the law. I don’t consider avoiding that punishment to be an incentive to speed. But I also know I am speeding. I am making a conscious choice to do so.

            Incentives only work if people want to accept them. If incentives truly exist for police to shoot unarmed people, they must be either motivating people to consider murder that previously would not have or they are giving wannabee murderers the cover to act on their impulses. Right?Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            What is the penalty for going 10 over the limit? A ticket if you get caught, maybe. Some points on your license, a hit to your insurance.

            What is the penalty for homicide? Prison, loss of badge and the status and privileges that go with it, a lifetime of being a felon.

            Incentives are not just benefits, they are also costs, and they are weighed.

            There is no incentive for police to shoot people. There is no carrot, as such. There just isn’t much of a stick for them to weigh in their calculations regarding when they should pull the trigger. And they have an institutional mantra that the life of the officer is worth more than the life of the person they are confronting.

            If going 10 over the limit got you the kind of treatment blowing a 0.1 BAC would get you, you’d have a lot more incentive to watch your speed.

            But if you knew, because of your badge, that no other officer write you a ticket, you might be more careless about your speed. And if you had everyone telling you that your time is way more important than other people, and you have the training to drive fast, you should go as fast you can on the roads so as to waste as little time on them as possible…

            Privilege is a power, and power corrupts.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            “And they have an institutional mantra that the life of the officer is worth more than the life of the person they are confronting.”

            This comes back to SOP and ROE. From my perspective those are the things that can lead to a good person shooting an unarmed citizen, not the Blue Wall encouraging them to do so.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            I agree, but how does one dismantle the blue wall? It is literally codified into law these days.Report

      • Jay,

        It is also worth noting that no police officer anywhere is ever going to say, “I thought he had a phone/wallet/etc so I shot him.” The system is structurally set up to encourage officers to insist that they thought a suspect was armed; doing anything less opens up the possibility that the officer was wrong. But as long as they claim that they believed that the other individual was armed, prosecutors can say, “Well, he thought he was armed, and even though he wasn’t, the actual facts don’t matter.”Report

  6. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    I’d be happy if every shooting where the officer does not have clear and convincing evidence (read: video footage) he was facing a person intent on causing harm went to trial.

    Not a grand jury, trial.

    Because that is pretty close to the standard the rest of us have to operate under.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      Why not just send them all to trial? Once we hit 100% body camera and dashboard camera numbers, I would be okay with every single police shooting having to go through a review process that included citizens. and that could lead to criminal charges for gross negligence. I’m also okay with the feds putting up the money for those cameras today. There should be weekly audits of camera footage and any missing footage and/or audio should be disciplinary grounds.Report

  7. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Yes, to all. Every cop has a body cam, and the only time they are turned off during a shift is break time. I would remove the ability for the officer to turn it off, and instead have it controlled by dispatch (since officers have to report when they go on break, and come back from break).

    But part of why I would send every shooting, and every use of force case that caused the citizen to be admitted to the hospital, to trial is because we need juries to start taking use of force seriously, we need to keep the concept in the public mind so DAs can’t phone in a prosecution of a cop.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      When you say we need to them to ‘start taking use of force seriously’ am I clear that you believe a fail rate of 0.000036% demonstrates NOT taking things seriously?Report

      • The fail rate is 6.5 percent.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          That’s not how fail rates are calculated. You don’t take the number of fails and then bounce that off the number of catastrophic fails. You take the number of opportunities for failure and bounce that off actual failures. I used a conservative estimate for the number of police interactions per day that could lead to a shooting. That is the accurate number. If I use your number of 65 the fail rate is 0.000052%.

          What you are doing is the equivalent of using all of the defects on an assembly line as your total sample and then bouncing the number of catastrophic defects off of that and saying that is your fail rate. Again, that’s not how it is done. What you could do is pareto out the fails so we get a more complete picture of how things typically go. it might look something like this:

          124,660,800 interactions per year

          Outcome for civilian
          – no injuries X%
          – minor injuries X%
          – major injuries X%
          – shooting (armed) X%
          – shooting (unarmed) X%

          That last one is where the 0.000052% would go.Report

          • It isn’t “my” number. It is “the” number based upon publicly available data.

            More importantly: we are discussing shootings. Your underlying presumption that all shootings are failures is, at best, an odd one, given your routine defense of shootings when they occur, as well as your outright hostility toward discussing the issue. Yours is also a far more extreme position than my own, apparently, which is equally weird.

            But, whatever the case, the fail rate is (at least) 6.5 percent, presuming that we define shooting an unarmed person as a failure, which I would argue that we should.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            You are taking the number of shootings as your total sample and pointing to unarmed shootings as Fails. That implies that armed shootings were successful outcomes (Passes). From my perspective, every police interaction that ends with an injury should be seen as a Fail. That seems common sense to me.

            It appears that you are calling them positive outcomes because it allows you to create a much smaller sample to bounce your fail number off of or you truly don’t have a problem with police interactions that end in fatal shootings as long as the person deserved it.

            I have explained this once, but I will try again…The sample size should be ALL high-risk situations that police officers are involved in and the Fails are when someone gets hurt. Unarmed shootings are one type of fail. So is someone getting their arm broken. So, actually the number of 0.000052% would be higher if we included all of that data, but since you are focused on unarmed shootings the data remains the same. They are a fraction of 1% of all high-risk police interactions.Report

          • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

            The topic here is fatal police shootings. The sample size is fatal police shootings. Of fatal police shootings, which have averaged just under 1000 per year for the last four years, roughly 6.5 percent of the total are fatal shootings of unarmed individuals (like Stephon Clark, the topic of the original post).Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            Maybe this will help you. In the example they are talking about broken glasses. They say this:

            “Before a failure event there first must be an opportunity for a glass to be used. Along the bottom of the plot we see many situations and events where glasses are needed. There are birthday parties, annual festivities, family gatherings, visits by friends, anniversaries, special occasions, and many other times where we bring out a glass to have a drink. Each use is an opportunity for a glass to be broken.”

            That last sentence is key. EVERY TIME the glass is used is an opportunity for it to break. By your logic we would only count the times that the glass is dropped as an opportunity. That is not how failure rates are calculated. Again, either you just don’t get this or you are trying to deliberately skew the numbers by creating a very small opportunity group.

            It’s a pretty simple question really: Do you consider a shooting of an armed person a Pass?Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Maybe this ( will help you. In the example they are talking about broken glasses. They say this:

            “Before a failure event there first must be an opportunity for a glass to be used. Along the bottom of the plot we see many situations and events where glasses are needed. There are birthday parties, annual festivities, family gatherings, visits by friends, anniversaries, special occasions, and many other times where we bring out a glass to have a drink. Each use is an opportunity for a glass to be broken.”

            That last sentence is key. EVERY TIME the glass is used is an opportunity for it to break. By your logic we would only count the times that the glass is dropped as an opportunity. That is not how failure rates are calculated. Again, either you just don’t get this or you are trying to deliberately skew the numbers by creating a very small opportunity group.

            It’s a pretty simple question really: Do you consider a shooting of an armed person a Pass?Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        Remember the Mesa, AZ cop who killed the guy crawling along the floor, begging for his life. Remember how he walked? Remember Castille and Yanez? Remember Kelly Thomas? While cases like these are rare, the failure of these prosecutions are as damaging to trust in the CJ system as when the rich dodge the gavel through connections and the ability to afford legal representation most of us can’t dream of.

        I can only assume that either juries are unwilling to take police violence seriously, or prosecutors are phoning in the prosecution.

        Either way, I want police to be subjected to the same expectations as the rest of us. I am very intolerant of tiered justice, and police are clearly in a separate tier.

        And that is really the crux of it, how do we ensure that police are, reasonably*, subjected to the same justice as the rest of us.

        *Obviously it is reasonable for an officer to use force to effect an arrest, so they have a somewhat higher bar for what constitutes assault over simple, “doing the job”. But there should be a bright line between doing the job, and just beating the shit out of someone, and a person winding up hospitalized or needing significant medical attention (broken bones, needing stitches, etc.) is a good benchmark for putting the incident up for critical review.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


          I think I have been very clear about being okay with full accountability. I also think though that sending cops out onto streets with a certain number of violent felons, illegal guns, etc is more similar to a patrol in Afghanistan than walking the beat in Mayberry. If we’re saying this is REALLY a problem, isn’t it time to start talking about how to make those streets more like Mayberry and less like Afghanistan? I’m already on record here as supporting a full handgun ban in the United States. What other things could we do to de-escalate the environment police officers operate in to further reduce the number of shootings?

          And I think that last part is key. Sam isn’t writing about how tragic it is that there are police shootings. He says that the armed men shot were not systematic fails. But weren’t they? He’s looking at an unarmed shooting as a failure of the justice system but I’m saying all shootings are a failure of the larger system i.e. the United States. Why does Sam not consider over 900 ‘justified’ killings per year to be proof of a system fail?Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            I know you take issue with how Sam highlights the failures, but highlighting the failures is a must.

            Leaving how Sam approaches this aside, the problem is that there is very little accountability because the police have multiple cutouts from the CJ system that no one else has. I would start with eliminating almost all of those cutouts.

            As for comparing Mayberry to Afghanistan, I would love that. Let’s put police under ROEs that the military operating in civilian areas use, and while we are at it, let’s put the police under the UCMJ, with JAG lawyers looking at things, rather than other cops who have a vested interest in maintaining the Blue Wall.

            Seriously, go look at the ROEs for troops in the sandbox. One of the things you will see is that it is very common for rule 1 to be, you may not fire until fired upon. The military is quite allergic to killing non-combatants and investigations into the deaths of non-combatants is done by JAG officers outside the chain of command, and not internal investigators.

            I’d love for the Justice Department to have a division whose mandate is to ensure that police are subjected to the same justice as the rest of us.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            I don’t have an issue with highlighting failures. I have an issue with the story that some people tell because they are trying to demonstrate their wokeness. I argue with my operators all of the time because they want to blame their failures on the employees. They claim the employees don’t care about doing a good job or that some are actively trying to sabotage things. That sounds a lot like painting this picture of racist cops roaming the streets looking for opportunities to kill unarmed black men.

            As far as ROEs, if the public decides that police can’t shoot unless fired upon, I’m okay with that. Five years of that policy might really tell us what the truly attainable number is. And maybe we lose a few more police officers in the short term, but hey, progress right?Report

          • Avatar JoeSal says:

            @ Oscar
            What happens when the police are put under the same accountability as the military?

            Do you see the failure rate reaching zero?Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            Personally, I think the number of racist cops out there looking to kill black men is a rounding error. I think police, as a culture, have internalized a danger narrative that is not supported by evidence.

            Look at it this way, how often are police killed in a direct confrontation with an armed suspect? IIRC, usually when police are shot, it is either an ambush killing (cop never saw it coming), or it’s part of a larger firefight or operation (a raid gone pear shaped, or stuff like the Hollywood shootout).

            I might be wrong, but my understanding is that it is very rare for an officer to initiate a contact, or to be in pursuit, and to be killed by the very first bullet fired. Why? Because most people who are willing to engage police in a firefight are untrained morons, and hitting a target with a handgun, even at close range, is very difficult when the target is busy reacting (dodging and pulling their own weapon). Also, if they are armed and running, they almost always shoot at pursuit, and don’t wait until cornered to fire, unless they are looking for suicide by cop. And even in the cases where they are cornered and fire, officers are rarely ever hit, because we get back to “untrained morons”.

            The police act as if every armed suspect is a stone cold killer with plenty of firearms training.

            So honestly, if the police were to go to an ROE that was ‘wait to be fired upon’, we might (big might here), see a few more injuries, but given that almost every patrol cop wears a vest, the number of deaths will likely remain constant.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


            Depends on how you measure failure. The military still kills non-combatants, but the soldiers are as afraid of the JAG officers as they are the enemy combatants, if not more afraid. The military is not shy about holding it’s soldiers accountable for their actions.

            Again, as I said, police have a number of cutouts from the CJ system that protect them from accountability and consequences. I would eliminate every single one of them that is codified into law or contract.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            I think Sam has stated before that his line is that they are allowed to shoot only when fired upon first. If you believe that would be the most effective change, then I’m fine with cosigning that.

            The question for me is, what number would we end up with if that was adopted as ROE for the nearly 18,000 police departments in the country? Would it be zero or some number higher? If we did a risk assessment on that, what would we find?

            Another question is whether or not racism is the reason why this won’t be adopted? or some other reason? The problem with Sam’s posts and his additional commentary is that he very much has said that this is a racial issue, not a procedural one.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            I don’t agree with Sam that this is explicitly a racial issue. I think it expresses as a racial issue thanks to structural racism leading to AA’s having a greater degree of contact with police.

            Regarding your risk assessment: Risk for who? Officers or Citizens or both? My gut tells me officers would not experience any actual increase in risk, while citizens would experience a reduction in risk.Report

          • Avatar JoeSal says:

            I was fully aware that the military does have failures, the measure being killing unarmed non-combatant folks.

            That goes against the concept that military style punishments achieves the zero-ism that is being proposed in these police abuse posts.

            The zero-ism is mentioned by Sam above, particularly:

            “anything more than 0 should be rightly regarded as, at the minimum, a systematic failure by police to do the job that they are tasked with doing.”

            Now if we were to give a zero-ist the checkbook and let them start writing checks to get it to absolute zero instead of as Mike has offered 0.000052%.

            Do you see the economy making it out alive. Because that starts looking a whole lot like spending money to make humans perfect.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            I’m talking about assessing risk of a recurrence of Failures i.e. would a change in ROE get the number of shootings to the zero Sam wants or would it maybe reduce to it to 20 per year? If so, what’s next? And if changing the ROE actually does get us to zero (or very close to it) then what other factors contribute?

            I think an ROE conversation is extremely productive because it looks at process changes that would almost certainly produce measurable results. I mean, let’s say we could invent some kind of personal force-field generator that would ensure no police officer could ever be hurt by a shooter. It seems like we would see the shooting rate for even armed suspects go waaaaay down. When the social justice crowd focuses so much on systematic stuff and Jaybird is writing his script for Serpico 2…it feels a lot like they are talking about things they can’t change simply so they can keep complaining.

            I’d love to actually go through an FMEA of a police shooting sometime.

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


            I don’t believe in Zero as an achievable. I have no interest in chasing rainbows and unicorns. As long as we expect police to engage violent individuals, that number will be non-zero.

            What I want is accountability when they get it wrong. Actual accountability of both the individual that made a fatal mistake, and the system that enabled the officer to make that mistake.

            ETA: Salient to Mike, a military style ROE helps with accountability. If no one shot at you, you need to demonstrate why you felt to need to shoot first, with evidence. I am not taking a severe line on this, because I’ve seen video of people engaging officers and clearly acting as if they had a weapon and intended to use it (I posted about one such case a few years back, if Jaybird wants to find it). But not being shot at is a good marker for a much closer look at the incident.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Here’s an additional question: Let’s say we had full accountability and the rate only went down a little bit (20% or less)? Would anyone be satisfied with that? That’s what i was getting at earlier. I have operations with very robust accountability programs and yet they still have quality problems. That points to systemic issues. As previously stated, I’m positive that police SOPs can be significantly improved. We could also deploy additional technology that would mitigate the need for lethal force. There are also system issues that create the real/perceived threat to officers in the first place. Felons carrying guns, police killed in the line of duty, etc. If we don’t also address that, we’re still going to ave a non-zero number.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            Let’s say we had full accountability and the rate only went down a little bit

            Are you discounting the effect of trust in the system?

            Part of the issue here (for me, at least) is less that the failure rate is non-zero, but that the system is not interested in holding those failures to account. I mean, if the police were still killing unarmed people, despite the fact that officers were going to prison over it, I’d still keep sending officers to prison, but I’d also be looking real hard at what else is going on.

            I mean, at your place of work, if you have a group having quality control issues, isn’t enforcing accountability one of the first things to try, unless there is some other more reasonable issue glaring you in the face (like an environmental cause, etc.)?

            That’s a good question for you. Do you have an alternative possible cause for why police are shooting people who clearly do not pose a real threat to them? Remember, in a lot of these cases, blaming the victim isn’t going to get you anywhere, despite what the DA in the OP thinks.Report

          • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

            In 2018, 52 officers were shot and killed in the line of duty.
            In 2017, 45 officers were shot and killed in the line of duty.
            In 2016, 64 officers were shot and killed in the line of duty.
            In 2015, 41 officers were shot and killed in the line of duty.

            In other words, an average of roughly 51 officers were shot and killed annually in the line of duty. As a reminder, an average of roughly 65 unarmed individuals were killed annually interacting with the police.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            I never start with an accountability program because all it does is send a message to my operators that I think they have a personnel problem, which is what they want to believe anyway. Instead, I walk them through a Five Why on a specific failure and usually try to get them to see that their system failed to prevent the error from getting to the end of the line. Human error is always going to happen. Your system is supposed to mitigate that. And training is considered part of the system, so I will often cite that as a factor.

            With regards to policing and bad shootings I think the biggest reason is poor training. They don’t get nearly the amount of recurring training that military folks do, even though in many ways they are ‘switched on’ far more often than the average soldier. I assume that’s a budgetary thing for them, just like it is in my business (an employee in a training room is not making us any money). Additional factors are probably the amount of hours officers are working, where they are working, etc. I like to see employees rotate in and out of various job functions regularly (at least weekly, if not daily). That keeps them more sharp, etc. I have never read anything where they looked at an officers deployment history over the last several months leading up to a bad shooting. Was he formally in a low-crime area and then forced to transfer to a high-crime area? Did that make him fearful? Was he given the proper amount of training in that area by an officer with more experience? Those things are huge.

            We do something called OJS (On the Job Survey) in my company. New employees are supposed to be observed daily at first, then weekly and then quarterly until we are comfortable that they know what they are doing. Even after than we still do an OJS at least twice per year on every employee. I’m currently dealing with a formerly good operation that suddenly had an error spike in the last 6 weeks. When I inquired about it last Friday they said they had some new employees that were making mistakes. I scheduled a meeting for tomorrow to speak with the operations management team and the first thing I am going to ask them is where the OJS sheets are for these employees. I guarantee I am going to find out they received minimal training and were then thrown onto the floor. That’s a system failure.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            That’s all a good set of ideas, but we still have the issue of, “an officer killed someone without the necessary justification citizens require”. A citizen killing another citizen doesn’t get a quality control review instead of a trial.

            Yes, do the QC review, but a life was taken, that can’t be excused by poor SOP or training. If we are unwilling to hold the officer to account, then whoever was responsible for the officer needs to be held to account, but someone needs to go on trial. And the CJ cutouts have to go. Police shouldn’t get to hide behind special rights and union contracts.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Well my very first comment stipulated that the Clark shooting should have gone to trial, although I must say that having just sat on a jury that IMO delivered a bad verdict I would probably create something more like a military court, but have some kind of civilian component. And as noted, I would have every single officer-involved shooting go through that process, not just the most egregious ones.

            At the same time as all that though, do some Quality analysis. I mean, Sam kind of stumbles into that when he talks about the police interactions that did not end in shootings, but those are just as good for analysis. What did the cops do right in those situations? What were the factors that contributed to a successful outcome? I know our local social justice warriors will point to skin color but I think it’s probably not that considering how many armed and unarmed white people are also shot by police every year.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            As long as you could keep the blue wall out of the review body, that would probably go a long way.Report

          • Avatar JoeSal says:

            What if race was one of the things that are attributable, then what?Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            My company isn’t union so we really don’t include the employee in our disciplinary process beyond giving them a chance to explain themselves. Someone here
            at OT advocated the idea of every police shooting being an automatic termination from the force with some kind of pension. I kind of like the automatic termination part. Maybe the review board would simply determine if they received a severance package or were referred for criminal trial. Lots of things to consider.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


            If race is attributable, then we treat it as a civil rights issue. Once upon a time, white supremacists could kill black men without fear of repercussions, because local LE would look the other way. Now, if the locals do turn a blind eye, chances are the feds will step up and pursue it.

            But I doubt race enters into it except through the structural route I described above. Fix the structural issue, and we’ll see if race falls out of the equation.Report

          • Avatar JoeSal says:

            Fair enough.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            If you mean was race a contributing factor, I think that is REALLY hard to prove. I mean, that is a core disagreement I have with the social justice Left because they use racism as a cudgel that is almost impossible to disprove. When you look at the shooting statistics they are roughly in line with the racial demographics on all crime, which is what a lot of people have pointed out for years. If you could prove the officer was racist, I guess sure, that should be considered, but the criteria should probably be more than, “They disagreed with me about a race topic in the comment section of a blog.”Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


            That would be a good start. I’d make two exceptions.

            1) Use of non-lethal weapons isn’t an instant dismissal, unless it escalates to a fatality.

            2) SWAT teams, on a SWAT call-out, get a pass unless their is evidence of misconduct. If a department is rolling SWAT, chances are that people are already using violence, or have demonstrated a strong willingness to use violence against police. Of course, then we have to clearly delineate SWAT from jumped up Tac Teams trying to be all high speed, low drag.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            I would agree to those two exceptions.Report

          • Avatar JoeSal says:

            @ Mike
            In order to prove it I think it would have to be separated from the non-attribute events, which I think you are correct, that it would be tough to prove.Report

          • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

            It is not at all difficult to prove that race is a contributing factor, given how laws are written, how communities are policed, and what the statistics plainly show. It isn’t by accident that researchers continue to find evidence of racially motivated policing.

            What is difficult is convincing people who are deadset against the idea that police officers could possibly be motivated by anything other than the deepest concerns for their communities and the people they are policing. Those folks will never agree, because they have mythologized police, and refuse to consider any narrative in which police officers are anything less than good people doing good work, no matter how much evidence exists otherwise.Report

          • Avatar JoeSal says:

            The social construct of enforcement is a expensive luxury. Even more so when added with all the other social constructs.

            Even if it could be proven that race was a primary attribute in 2% of the 6.5% that is still a rare event.

            Front line police aren’t angels but aren’t devils either. They are just humans in a human driven system.

            By my estimates funding will run out for these social constructs somewhere over the next three decades. We will be lucky to see failure rates lower than 25% for a very long time.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            You said:

            “It is not at all difficult to prove that race is a contributing factor, given how laws are written, how communities are policed, and what the statistics plainly show. It isn’t by accident that researchers continue to find evidence of racially motivated policing.”

            But you might consider this:

            “Interestingly, as use of force increases from putting hands on a civilian to striking them with a baton, the overall probability of such an incident occurring decreases dramatically but the racial difference remains roughly constant. Even when officers report civilians have been compliant and no arrest was made, blacks are 21.2 percent more likely to endure some form of force in an interaction. Yet, on the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we are unable to detect any racial differences in either the raw data or when accounting for controls.”

            We argue that these facts are most consistent with a model of taste-based discrimination in which police officers face discretely higher costs for officer-involved shootings relative to non-lethal uses of force. “


          • Avatar Maribou says:


            As I’ve pointed out every time you bring up that study as a trump card to the point where the ways you continue to bring it up feel to me like you’ve been saying “la la la I can’t hear you” the whole time:

            1) other studies contradict it
            2) you keep narrowing its findings to a level of nuance that is far lacking compared to what the actual study says and to what Fryer says it says, eg it does not account at all for police bias in certain situations in who gets stopped in the first place which leads to greater absolute numbers (eg traffic stops) even if the percentage after the stop has been done is the same. And also it does not study anything on a national level, it studies a few departments and then focuses on the *case study* that it had the most reliable data for. You emphasize your social sciences background enough that I would expect you to know a case study is a way to pilot further study and to shape interesting questions for further study, NOT the type of research that should lead to drawing conclusions using it as a basis.
            3) you keep using it to try and shut down and attack Sam’s postings about this when what *Fryer* (the authority you are appealing to) says, according to the NYT, is “Mr. Fryer hopes his analysis — and reader examination of it — leads to better data on the police use of force. “It’s not the finish,” he said. “It’s the start.”

            If you’re wondering why people find your arguments disingenuous, spending more time with this study, the sequelae to this study, and what the people doing the study themselves say about the study – the whole picture, both what agrees with your arguments and the large amounts of aspects of it that do not – would be a *start*.Report

        • Avatar Maribou says:


          On a separate note, which you may obviously feel free to ignore, the way individuals agitate for more data consists, in part, of yelling angrily about what seems to them to be clearly happening, in the absence of good data. That is an actual way that change happens, whether you think it’s overly messy or unfair, or not. It’s how things get fixed.

          Sam is not your employee or your child, so his priors and his way of dealing with the world are not your responsibility. (Neither are yours mine, so yeah, pot kettle, sure. But at least I’m direct instead of being passive-aggressive and pretending it’s not happening.) It’s unfair and unreasonable of you to keep trying to control and demean his choices of what to get mad about, through multiple tactics including those that are generally used to shame people. It’s unfair and unreasonable of you, in this post’s comments, to keep attacking him personally and then pulling “you’re the lone wolf” manipulative tactics while claiming to be acting rationally. If you want to be *clear* in your arguments and make changes in how people see things, less bad faith behavior on your part would probably help with that. If you want to keep learning and changing your mind (which you have said before is your main motivator for being on this site, and which you appear to be invested in on this particular topic, where you have changed your mind considerably over the last few years) without driving many potential teachers up a wall to the point where they don’t want to interact with you at all, less bad faith behavior like this on your part would probably help with that too.Report

  8. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


    I hear a lot of the other commenters (myself included) thinking through this issue. You are the only one that sounds certain of your position. On a scale of 1-10, how certain are your narrative? And is there any evidence we could present that would lower that number?Report

    • How certain am I that police shootings are not taken seriously, that police treat some communities very differently than they treat others, that police and prosecutors (and juries) cannot be trusted to actually police the police?

      10 out of 10.

      Feel free to present any evidence otherwise. Show me police getting prosecuted for criminality. Show me prosecutors throwing the book at police. Show me juries punishing officers for killing innocent people. Show me evidence that the system works the way you insist that it does. And, when you do, account for stories that I have presented, not with numbers you have manipulated to excuse police killings, but with explanations as to why it does not and should not matter when officers kill unarmed people.

      What this fight has always boiled down to is one side, myself and some commenters here, saying that it matters very much when police fail given the power and authority and leeway that they are afforded, and your side insisting that it doesn’t.Report

      • Avatar JoeSal says:

        I can’t tell which argument is the primary. From one side it looks like there is a perfectionism making the enemy of the good. I mean I don’t like social constructs, and think they shouldn’t exist, but this one that has 787,000 humans producing 50-60 failures a year. I doubt the general population would come close to that number. Of course every failure matters but that should be on balance with what is possible with a human driven system.

        You yourself have worked in a quasi enforcement role. You should know that some variables can be hidden until a event occurs. Hell, you know that events aren’t particularly predictable.

        The second argument, which I hope we have argued into the grave is the thought of ‘zero instances/failures’. That in itself is arguing that humans can be perfect, which should never, ever happen, especially by people who want some say in social engineering.

        There appears to be two solutions being offered by both sides:

        The fact that (as far as I can tell) both sides agree that the abuse ‘matters’ to a point that these should be deployed makes a counter argument about Mikes side not thinking that the abuse does matter.

        For myself, the failure rates look pretty smallish, the issues of the courts, unions and DAs siding with cops probably should be addressed, but we get into one of those situations where we are policing the police, that police those police, that police those police, until we are about four layers deep in social engineering nonsense. All of which adds cost to a ridiculous costly system to start with.

        The other question is what value does accountability, and consequences add? If there becomes the expectation that the system will never reach zero, what is a acceptable failure rate per cost associated? Are we past the sweet spot on costs?

        This is the social objectivity problem all over again. I ask Mike, he will probably say one thing, I ask you it will be something else. No one that I know of has set an empirical objective standard on how close to perfect a (787,000) human driven system should/can be. I suspect it’s getting about as good as it gets. If you want to tilt into singular events that have obvious issues, go for it, but I think when it is zoomed out to the 200,000 foot level the view is different.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter says:

          I wouldn’t say “no” to Accountability or Consequences, but let me put another suggestion on the table, quasi-seriously.

          We give the police a total pass on shootings if they come clean about all details (with that pass being revoked if they lie about it).

          Since we’re going to let them go anyway, we treat these events as a system failure and try to learn from them. Currently we’re not going to learn much since everyone involved in the process currently has so much incentive to lie about how it happened, thus every case becomes “I was afraid for my life”.

          Meaning yes, if the cop say he was a drunk racist scumbag and killed someone because he was black and didn’t hold the door for him, the cop gets a pass and we try to eliminate people like him from the police force going forward.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            I think you are going to find it hard to get anyone on the social justice side of this one to agree to that. If there is one thing this conversation makes abundantly clear is that their primary focus is on making sure that police officers who shoot unarmed citizens go to jail. Full stop. Sam has basically said that he’s okay with shooting armed citizens (those are calculate as passes on his Fail Rate). Stillwater says training is silly and we should focus on punishment. And let’s also be honest that even with unarmed shootings, their main attention is on those that involve black men.

            Given Ralph’s enlightening post from yesterday, one can see that the long-term damage done by the justice system is those death-by-a-thousand cuts situations where someone can just never break free of the cycle of being in trouble with the law. I guess this is part of the Ferguson Effect. It’s unfortunate though because the Left have ceded the rest of the conversation.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Stillwater says training is silly and we should focus on punishment.

            Hmmmm. Mike, I’d refer you to a comment I made upthread, but Trumwill redacted it.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Oscar and I both pointed out that training was probably better approach and you doubled down on punitive. I’d say that i explained your position correctly.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            No, Mike, you did not. And your misrepresentation of Sam’s views were also disingenuous.

            Cut that out.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            Sam’s position is that a shooting of an armed citizen is a Pass, which is how he get’s his Fail rate of 6.5%. That’s just basic math. If you’re going to step in to moderate, maybe you can explain how I am misunderstanding him.

            As for Stillwater…Oscar said:

            “…if the goal is to reduce police use of force, training is where we start.”

            Stillwater’s response was:

            “I disagree. Maybe conceptually it’s where you would like to start, but in practice there has to be an incentive to actually do so. So we start with the incentives which would result in cops exercising better judgment and would justify more training. That means punishing cops who use excessive force.”

            So how am I misrepresenting him?Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            Selective reading. Among other things they’ve said are:

            “I’ve said plenty other times in different discussion that more training is a good thing. Right now, on this thread, we’re talking about cops shooting unarmed citizens, not facing any consequences, and the incentives that dynamic creates. I’m perfectly fine with you and Mike talking about redirecting 50% of current funding to training cops on better practices” -Stillwater

            “I think [prosecuting bad cops is] necessary, not sufficient” -Stillwater

            “[S]ince it requires heaven and earth to even move the needle on police shooting unarmed people, that is where we have to focus, despite it being plainly obviously that plenty of shootings of “armed” people are not accounting for the reality of the situation, which is that the individual did not pose a threat to the officers, but rather, to themselves.” -Sam

            Both are taking more broad positions that you are selectively reading and shortering into sounding some combination of extreme and dumb.Report

          • That isn’t my position Mike, as I have explained elsewhere in this thread. I have also explained that I have been using unarmed shootings as the baseline, as they are the least defensible (although, obviously, we have had no problem finding people willing to defend even them).

            But you do you.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Fair enough. I retract my statement about Stillwater. I apologize for missing the nuance of their position.

            As for Sam, I’ve gone to great lengths to explain the math on calculating Fail Rates. The variables in that formula are pretty straight forward. You need the number of tests (A) and the number of fails (B). B/A = % effective. 100% – % effective is your Fail Rate. Pretty simple.

            If Sam uses the total number of shootings as A and unarmed shooting as B, then armed shootings become Passes in the calculation. Again, this isn’t subjective. It’s basic math and basic Quality principles.

            I understand that Sam says his focus is on shootings, so he only wants to talk about that and not ALL the other times people are arrested and no one gets shot, but that is deliberately skewing the data in the guise of narrowing the conversation topic. Are you seriously telling me you don’t see that?Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            You want to say that Sam doesn’t understand how failure rates are measured? I’m not sure how many people care, but go ahead and continue to make that argument.

            Attempts to reverse-engineer his views on armed-suspect shootings from that, though, are too clever by half when he clearly outlines his views on the matter.

            I believe he’s wrong about the failure rates and how they work, and I believe you’re right. But I know what his views are about armed-suspect shootings because I read what he had to say, specifically, about armed-suspect shootings.Report

          • Mike,

            Yes, weirdly, in a conversation about shootings, I want to focus on fatal shootings, and not things that are not shootings, which are not the topic of conversation. And I certainly don’t want to focus on evaluating shootings via your preferred metric, which is used to evaluate the fail rate of physical/mechanical inanimate objects, owing to the two things being completely different.

            But even if we continue to disagree about that, there is the plain fact that I have clearly stated that my standard is NOT that unarmed shootings are the only fails, but they are the minimal fail.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            You patented the post style of talking about police encounters that did NOT end in shootings and contrasting them with police encounters that did, usually to imply that racism was at play in the second example. You’ve done it lots and lots of times here. Saying that now you don’t want to talk about non-shooting events when the data starts to get away from you speaks for itself.

            And I have already explained that formula is also used to measure the pass/fail rate of human processes. Since you are having a hard time getting your head around that, this page has lots of human examples.


          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


            Sounds like Garrity Rights.

            The idea is not without some merit, but experience has shown that despite Garrity protections, which implies that the police know exactly what happened per the officers testimony, departments are unable or unwilling to make changes from the inside.

            Again, these kinds of changes are going to have to come from us demanding that they do better.Report

  9. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    As requested, police being prosecuted for criminality:

    Also, I linked to an academic piece above that indicates no racial bias in police shootings. I neglected to link to the two other studies that came to the same conclusion. Interested to hear your thoughts on any or all of the articles.

    “On average, an estimated 1 in 291 stops/arrests resulted in hospital-treated injury or death of a suspect or bystander. Ratios of admitted and fatal injury due to legal police intervention per 10 000 stops/arrests did not differ significantly between racial/ethnic groups.”

    “For the entire country, 28.9 percent of arrestees were African-American. This number is not very different from the 31.8 percent of police-shooting victims who were African-Americans. If police discrimination were a big factor in the actual killings, we would have expected a larger gap between the arrest rate and the police-killing rate.

    This in turn suggests that removing police racial bias will have little effect on the killing rate. Suppose each arrest creates an equal risk of shooting for both African-Americans and whites. In that case, with the current arrest rate, 28.9 percent of all those killed by police officers would still be African-American. This is only slightly smaller than the 31.8 percent of killings we actually see, and it is much greater than the 13.2 percent level of African-Americans in the overall population.”

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      As I re-read the NYT piece it struck me that my methodology in calculating the Fail Rate was probably wrong. I was estimating police interactions to get my Opportunity Group. As the article notes, those researchers used arrest numbers. I pulled up the FBI numbers for 2017 and there were an estimated 10,554,985 arrests. Acknowledging that attempted arrests probably create the most potential for shootings and plugging that number in as the Opportunity Group, it appears my Fail Rate of 0.000052% was off by a factor of 11 (my apologies, I was NOT a math major). Anyway, the revised Fail Rate would be 0.000616%. My math below:

      Arrests Per Year (2017)…………………10,554,985
      # of shootings of unarmed people……65
      % effective…………………………………..99.999384%
      Fail Rate………………………………………0.000616%

      If we consider my suggestion that ALL shootings represent a failure, this number climbs even more. Using Sam’s number of 986 shootings per year (armed and unarmed) the fail rate would be 0.009342%.Report

      • The fail rate remains 6.5 percent, no matter how often you manipulate your numbers to force us toward your preferred conclusion. Again, of the roughly 1000 people police shoot fatally every year, 6.5 percent of them are unarmed and pose no threat to the officers.

        Also, none of these numbers are “my” numbers. They are the actual numbers, based on the actual data, which do not involve projection, perception, or assumption.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


          My math is right there for anyone to look at and I already linked to an explanation of how Failure Rates are calculated. This is pretty boilerplate stuff. Anyone else is welcome to weigh in since you clearly don’t understand the methodology.

          Here’s a simple question you have avoided answering? Do you consider shooting an armed person to be a successful outcome of a police interaction?Report

        • Avatar JoeSal says:

          Would you be willing to terminate 200,000 police that failed a ‘shoot-no shoot unarmed’ test?Report

          • JoeSal,

            What other conclusion would be reasonable? Why on Earth would any police force knowingly keep officers who cannot differentiate between armed and unarmed suspects in a no-pressure testing environment?Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            “Barney? That bullet in your pocket? Hand it over.”Report

          • Avatar JoeSal says:

            what if the positions were closed and the funding moved into training and accountability?

            Would it be worth some areas not being policed, but those that are, would have a higher quality? possibly reducing the 6.5% to 3% but at the expense of possibly more crime occurring on the whole?Report

          • JoeSal,

            So what your proposal is that worse trained officers do a better job of keeping crime down – despite killing more unarmed individuals – than better trained officers would do killing fewer unarmed individuals?Report

          • Avatar JoeSal says:

            That’s not really what I was saying. The shift is having fewer cops, but tested and with more training.

            With reduced number of cops (about a third less) about a third of neighborhoods/areas would not be patrolled. the expectation is that crime in general would increase in volume with less/no patrols in those areas.

            The balance is between higher crime but reduced number of failures in shooting unarmed persons.Report

        • Mike,

          I understand the methodology that you are going with, which is designed entirely to arrive at your two preferred conclusions: that police shootings do not matter (because they are so rare) and that police are doing a really good job. That is the difference between your number, and my numbers. The ones I’m offering are a snapshot of the actual issue. Yours are designed to get you to the conclusions you already hold.

          And no, I do not consider that shooting an armed person is necessarily a successful outcome of a police interaction. Those incidents need to be understood and evaluated on a case by case basis.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            I’m not sure how I’m designing the outcome I want by using standard statistical methods for measuring Quality. This is the formula:

            Quality = Good Units / Units Started


            Every attempted arrest would be a ‘started interaction’. A shooting would be a failure of that interaction.

            Quality = No shootings / Attempted arrests


            Quality = 10,554,920 / 10,554,985 (99.9994%)

            Again, your logic only works if we consider the shooting of armed suspects to be a successful encounter (Pass). You can keep repeating 6.5% as your Fail Rate, like a preacher doing call and response at Sunday service, but that doesn’t make it true.Report

          • Mike,

            You are using a measure of “Machines and Equipment.” It is right there at the top of the page. It is entirely unrelated to what we are discussing.

            As a reminder, what we are discussing are fatal police shootings. The total number of those is roughly 1000 annually. The total number of fails, if we define fails simply as shooting unarmed people, is roughly 65. Hence, we have a fail rate of at least 6.5 percent.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Oh geez…. Now I’m positive you don’t understand. In Quality* we use the exact same formula to measure the performance of human processes. I track Quality for roughly 600 employees weekly using that exact formula. Those numbers are reported to my VP who has a Masters degree in Math. Something tells me he would let me know if my methodology was bad.

            *Not just Quality at my company, but like, Quality everywhere. Report

          • Mike,

            I am equally certain that you do not understand what we are discussing, given your continuing claims that discussions about fatal police shootings, and subsets within that total population, need to account for things that are not police shootings.

            Please consider remaining focused on the subject we are discussing which is, as I have already clarified, fatal police shootings.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Happy to. Are you agreeing that fatal shootings all represent systemic Fails?Report

    • It is wild that you can quote somebody writing that the 28.9 percent of arrestees were African-American, that 31.8 percent of police-shooting victims were African-American, all while ignoring that final, and most important, number: that 13.2 percent of the population is African-American.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


        Yeah, I’ve heard that for a long time, but there are dozens of articles out there that refute that logic. Police shootings align with the crime rate, not the population numbers. For example, blacks are around 31% of Chicago’s population but commit about 79% of the homicides. They also commit other crimes at a rate higher than their population %. That (unfortunately) brings them into contact with the police more often. If we use the previously mentioned arrest numbers as our Opportunity Group then, again, it makes sense that we would see the numbers align more with the crime rate and not the general population.Report

        • It is extremely difficult to deny the obvious truth that minority populations are targeted for significantly more policing than are white populations. Your answer to that is the amorphous accusation of “culture” which is; mine is racism.

          If you see that 30(ish) percent of police shootings target 13 percent of the population, and you conclude, “Well, it’s entirely that population’s fault,” then we are quite obviously never going to find any middle ground on this issue.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Yeah, I’m also aware of the meme that if blacks weren’t policed as much they would have a crime rate comparable to whites, but I also feel like that has been disproven too. I’m much more inclined to believe your vague racism idea if you say that racism forces blacks into ghettos and ghettos tend to have higher crime rates…but that wouldn’t make your point.Report

          • Ahh, yes, the “meme” of noting that policing falls disproportionately on minority communities, which then produces statistics which are then used to justify policing minority communities. That famous “meme” with which we are all familiar.Report

          • Avatar JoeSal says:

            ‘obvious truth’
            It’s not social objective truth until the social truth component is resolved.

            I am not aware of all the issues as those who live in population centers, but will offer a alternative argument that crime could pivot around isolated and non-isolated turf wars that are on going.

            These aren’t specifically racial as many members vary. If I had to pick a reasoning, it would be how semi well off folks tend to go to the central business district areas to extract resources, while ‘turf’ folks are trying to extract resources locally.

            I think if you find areas that can produce considerable local(legal) tangible capital formation, this turf crime stuff tends to drop off. The american population centers are structured to create nearly the opposite effect. High costs of living with ever fewer more competitive niches in which to produce wealth.(I guess I should now add top down money extraction schemes by higher up city officials, damnit Stillwater!)

            I think Oscar linked to a article before that showed just handing out money to members of these areas reduces crime. I’m not for that sort of thing, but consider that it does indicate that the problems is wealth related.

            There is a bit of a chicken and egg thing going on with the race issue. Did the turf folks end up there because they were discriminated in some way to become turf folks, or did they just not prefer engaging in the central business areas for that type of resource extraction? I ask that knowing there aren’t clear boundaries, and the issue is complex.

            IMO pushing the race button is the less nuanced thing to do. It’s probably easier too.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            (I guess I should now add top down money extraction schemes by higher up city officials, damnit Stillwater!)

            Just playing my part Joe. 🙂Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          This Vox article, based on a DOJ investigation of the Ferguson PD, may be relevant:

          The report noted that, although black people made up about 67 percent of Ferguson’s population… There were … racial disparities in traffic stops. From 2012 to 2014, 85 percent of people stopped, 90 percent of people who received a citation, and 93 percent of people arrested were black. Black drivers were more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to be searched during vehicle stops, but 26 percent less likely to have contraband.

          One way to account for this data might be that black people commit more traffic offenses than white people. But alas, no.

          The disparities were rooted in the city’s reliance on the police department and courts for local budget revenue: Federal officials found that city officials worked together at every level of enforcement — from city management to the local prosecutor to the police department — to make as much money from fines and court fees as possible, ranging from schemes to raise total fines for municipal code violations to asking cops to write as many citations as possible.


  10. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    One thing to keep in mind, as we talk about failure rates and all, is the severity of the failure.

    An officer killing a citizen, for whatever reason, is not equivalent to, say, dropping a glass on the floor while using it.

    It’s the equivalent of scramming a nuclear reactor.

    Scramming a reactor is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. It might be necessary to scram it to protect the reactor and everyone nearby. But the reason a reactor gets scrammed is vitally important. If it was because of equipment failure, or sabotage, or a natural disaster, then yes, scram it.

    But if it gets scrammed because Homer wasn’t paying attention, or was being careless, or misread a gauge, and he scrammed it out of panic…

    In short, a scramming a reactor needs to be avoided unless absolutely necessary. And let’s be honest, if your local reactor got scrammed, and your area lost power for a bit, and had to buy power from other places for a time, and the NRC offered up explanations about how it wasn’t Homer’s fault, it was the reactor, it’d been working too hard, and was having a bad day, or everyone’s AC was pulling too much power, etc., well, people would rightly wonder WTF the NRC was smoking.Report

    • Avatar JoeSal says:

      What is the budget for the nuclear power plant automation installed in an attempt to prevent failures?

      It would be costly to install/apply that type of automation to each cop.

      It would likely be cheaper to disarm cops, but then cops will ask for more pay, and the unions will become more powerful.

      Funding horizon could go from 30 years to within 15 years.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Well, one widely agreed on fix is to prosecute cops for shooting unarmed citizens, which costs basically nothing.Report

        • Avatar JoeSal says:

          I think that falls under cosequences, which appears to be one agreed upon parameter to change.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


          I think pretty much everyone here, right-leaning folks included, have said they are okay with trials for cops that shoot unarmed citizens. With that said, it’s important to keep in mind that is a reactive measure, not a proactive one. I’m opposed to the death penalty for murders for a number of reasons, but the most important one is that it doesn’t seem to work as a deterrent. Would-be murders probably don’t think about the death penalty at the time they commit the act and that includes lots of murders that are premeditated.

          So, even if every single officer that shot an unarmed citizen went to trial, given what we know about the death penalty, do you see it moving the needle? Because I don’t, really. I’m happy to allow for those trials so that there is justice, just like I want to see murderers go on trial for their crimes, but in both case, I’m far more interested in upstream fixes.

          In order for a shooting to happen a bunch of things have to go wrong first. Let’s take the Clark shooting. Clearly Clark was not a great guy and was in the act of committing a crime when the police were called. What was his life like before that? Did the educational system fail him? Had he been in trouble with the law before and the courts failed him (see Randolph’s post from yesterday)? Did his parents fail him? Concerning the officers, what was their day like that day? Did they have enough sleep? Were they properly trained? Had they already had bad run-ins with suspects before the Clark call and they were ‘switched on’? What were the environmental conditions like? Etc, etc.

          Many of those data points could be considered system breakdowns upstream of the shooting. If the shooting was Step 15 in that process, what systemic fixes (control points) could have interrupted Steps 1-12 and led to a better outcome? THAT is how you fix this problem IMO, not demanding trials for the officers or griping about some vague idea of racism in policing.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            With that said, it’s important to keep in mind that is a reactive measure, not a proactive one.

            I think it’s necessary, not sufficient, and I disagree that there’s widely shared agreement even on that (unless conservatives have revised their views about all the other unarmed shooting deaths we’ve talked about here over the years).

            Add: You may have changed your mind about this, but I don’t get why you think you’re in a position to speak for all conservatives at this site.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            (By here I meant the people commenting on this post. )

            So when we talk about things that are ‘sufficient’ we could estimate the potential effectiveness of proposed corrective actions. It’s not a very scientific exercise but it’s usually the way things are done before a potential solution is deployed. If we did that, I would rank ‘more trials for cops’ as pretty low on the list. I would also rank ‘end racial bias’ pretty low because it’s such a vague target. But yet, isn’t that about 99% of the push we see from the Left on this site with regards to this problem?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Yeah. The existence of “Never Events” isn’t intended to say that no mistakes are ever made in the hospital ever. Hospitals make mistakes all the time! It’s a particular category of a particular type of mistake.

      They even go out of their way to spell them out.

      I’d like to see the Police Departments spell out what their “Never Events” would be. I have an inkling but given a handful of the links above, it seems that “not shooting a perp who could conceivably be armed” might be on there.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


      “One thing to keep in mind, as we talk about failure rates and all, is the severity of the failure.”

      In my line of work we use the terms ‘customer-impacting’ and ‘non-customer impacting’ to separate our errors. For example, a non-customer impacting error might be that a label was not applied to a box correctly. A customer -impacting error might be that the quantity of parts was wrong. We use the all-in errors to calculate our internal quality but only the customer-impacting errors to calculate our external quality.

      In the case of calculating a Fail Rate for police, there are lots of options. If the public is the customer, non-customer impacting errors might be not filling out paperwork correctly or other more clerical items. Chain of custody issues would probably fall under this because if detected that usually works out in the public’s favor, not the police.

      For customer-impacting errors, we could say that any time a citizen sustains a permanent injury or worse, that is a Fail. We could say that any injury is a Fail. We could also filter for injuries that were possibly caused by the arrestee themselves by resisting or pulling a weapon, or whatever. Lots of options there.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        Totally, I just don’t want folks getting into the mindset that the customer impacting fail is just a minor thing. It might be, like a cop misreading the tags on a car and pulling a person over for that. That impact is a few minutes of minor anxiety and delay.

        But injury or death caused by the police out of fear or over-zealousness, that’s a whole different class of problem.

        And I still hold that it is largely a training and culture problem. Too much culture that focuses on the self-important, and too little training that focuses on ending a confrontation without lethal violence. Departments are not always willing to spend money on that kind of training, preferring to buy toys or increase pay or staffing.

        Now personally, if we did do something like you suggested, where an officer killing someone is almost always going to result in their permanent removal from all police work, that would be, IMHO, a very powerful incentive for changes by the police. Not only in training and other SOP, but also in how much LEAs push weapons manufacturers to develop reliable non-lethal weapons. Because if my career can be completely derailed by one guy wanting suicide by cop, or one guy pulling a weapon to get away (and knowing that police won’t want to shoot at him), I’m going to want a set of tools that can keep my career intact and let me get the job done.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          You’re absolutely correct about tools. Why doesn’t the justice department have their own version of DARPA? Seriously, even a drone armed with a taser could have probably prevented the Clark shooting. And you know, a lot of people get all bent out of shape when cops start wearing tactical gear, but if we knew that gear made them feel safer and more inclined to try to end confrontations by non-lethal means, would we change our minds?

          Also agree on training. Think about all of the reps that a special forces team get. They are constantly training. What if we said cops would spend 50% of their time training and 50% on the street? Would taxpayers support that?Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            How much training do you need to *not* shoot a kid holding a cell phone in his own yard 6 times in the back?Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Have you ever worked in a job where you had to make split-second decisions?Report

          • Avatar Road Scholar says:

            Only every day, dude. And it’s always pretty much assumed that the accident is my fault because, you know… I’m the professional. Sorta the same way cops are supposed to be the professionals.

            But whenever we get into these convos we’re always treated to a somber disquisition on the split-second mistakes the civilian — the amateur — made that resulted in him being shot by the (supposed) highly-trained professional.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            If I’m a new truck driver, should I receive a little training or a lot? And what about recurring training to make sure I stay good at my job?

            Keep in mind, I suggested cops should get lots of recurring training to prevent bad shootings and Stillwater balked at the idea. So that’s where I am going with this.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            {This comment, reducible to insult, was redacted by Trumwill.}Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


            That’s not what the training is for. The training is so the officers aren’t thinking with their lizard brain because they’ve been doing something that has got their adrenaline and anger spiked, short circuiting reason and logic.

            Think about anyone in a fighting position in the military, or hell, think about firefighters and airline pilots. All the training they do, and it is considerable, is all about making sure that when everything is going to hell around them, they keep it together until they either get through the hell, or die trying.

            Now this is something to consider. Fire fighters train a lot. If they aren’t on duty, they are probably training. Same with pilots, and everyone in the military. But police don’t. Training is almost secondary, because we (the population) demands that they be on patrol and thus immediately responsive almost all the time. So police have to divide their time between being out on patrol, back at the station doing all the record keeping necessary for a CJ system to function, getting down time, and somehow squeezing in some training of, let’s face it, dubious quality*.

            In short, police should probably be spending at a bare minimum, half a shift a week on some kind of active training that will help them do their job on patrol. Be it range time, or hand to hand combat, or a shoot house, or (and most importantly) de-escalation training through role playing. But I doubt if they are putting in that much time per month on active training.

            And, as the old saying goes, you train like you fight, which means if we want police to not reach for violence first, we (the public) have to insist that they stop training that way. No more letting every itchy trigger finger join up with the wannabe-SWAT Tac Teams, no more letting police attend killology classes while they wear a badge, etc. That means we have to actually put our collective foots down, which translates to the middle class and above need to do this, because no one is going to listen to the poor folks.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            I’m starting to wonder if this is a reading comprehension problem, so let’s recap:

            Mike : “Also agree on training. Think about all of the reps that a special forces team get. They are constantly training. What if we said cops would spend 50% of their time training and 50% on the street? Would taxpayers support that?”

            Stillwater: “How much training do you need to *not* shoot a kid holding a cell phone in his own yard 6 times in the back?”

            I call that balking. Or just being a snarky asshole. I won’t go into pointing out just how ignorant your response was, since Oscar did a thorough job of explaining the importance of training is. I mean, seriously, have you never worked at a job that required training? I recommend a MINIMUM of quarterly retrains for my operations staff and they are putting parts into boxes. You seem to take issue with regular training for police officers with guns while at the same time complaining that they kill too many unarmed people…and I’m the bad interlocuter?Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Oscar, I’ve said plenty other times in different discussion that more training is a good thing. Right now, on this thread, we’re talking about cops shooting unarmed citizens, not facing any consequences, and the incentives that dynamic creates. I’m perfectly fine with you and Mike talking about redirecting 50% of current funding to training cops on better practices so that Mike’s .000006 failure rate goes down to .0000059. (Mike knows that will never happen and that it’s a silly idea.). But it seems to me the *solution* isn’t better training, it’s a different culture*. And punishing cops for what almost everyone on the street views as excessive force and cop malpractice is a necessary first step in accomplishing that.

            *Mike’s hyperfocus on this one issue sorta gives the game away, in my view, since the problems in our criminal justice system really are system wide.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Mike, you can train up cops all you want, but if you have a culture within criminal justice that protects cops when they shoot unarmed citizens while simultaneously promoting the idea that any perceived fear of loss of life suffices for pulling the trigger, effectively nothing is going to change.

            I do think the analogy to military training is instructive here, since the purpose of cops is *not* to engage and kill the enemy. So I’ll ask you again: how much training does a cop need to not chase down a kid holding a cell phone and shoot him in the back s times?Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            Oscar and I have both suggested that improved training will help because other occupations where life and death decisions need to be made very quickly do LOTS of training. Policing is actually an outlier in that there is very little recurring training. I also see it in my industry, which is certainly not life-or-death, but the more reps our people get before they begin a new job, the less fails we see.

            In the case of the Clark shooting, training probably had nothing to do with the decision to chase him down, but it absolutely might have prevented them from pulling the trigger as soon as they saw something in his hands. Drills like this should be at minimum monthly:


            You are welcome to focus on punishment for bad cop behavior and hope that it improves that behavior, but how has that worked from a criminal standpoint? Do harsher penalties decrease crime rates? This feels very much like a social justice thing. Fire and brimstone, people need to pay for their mistakes, etc. Is this actually about making things better or just prolonging the fight of Good vs. Evil?Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Another video worth watching:


          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


            I am all for changing the culture, and part of how we can do that is through training.

            It’s also through, as I mentioned before, removing the CJ cutouts that police enjoy, so that when there is a significant failure, responsibility and accountability are met.

            But Mike is right, that if the goal is to reduce police use of force, training is where we start.

            That said, the VERY first thing we have to do is break the police and their supporters of the idea that only the police are qualified to set their own training and policies, etc. Sometimes they get it right, but we’ve seen the “Warrior Cop” as a growing trend, and that is because the police have entered into an internal feedback loop where their top priority is officer safety, and thus the bulk of their training is how to make sure that they never lose the conflict, rather than preventing the conflict from occurring in the first place. Of course, when all your tools are hammers…

            So step one is to start making police refocus their training on serving their community and everyone in it[1], and not on the latest HSLD[2] tac team training that only a small number of officers actually need. And we also need to make sure that the officers take such training seriously, and if they don’t, they need to be gone (which will involve taking the Unions to task).

            We need to get back to the days when an officer would retire proud of the fact that never fired their service weapon, and doubly so if they never had to draw it.

            [1] The irony is that the military teams these PDs want to emulate actually get a lot of training about how to peacefully interact with non-combatants so as to maximize the cooperation potential.

            [2] High Speed, Low DragReport

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            Good point about training being the place where positive culture is communicated. That’s why we talk about kitchen tables being good places for parents to communicate their values and (sometimes) fear what professors are doing in their classrooms…and every scenario in between. Training is an opportunity to keep hammering home the values of preserving life, protecting the public, etc.

            Also agreed on the warrior culture thing. I am not surprised about it and think it’s a natural reaction to the anti-police sentiment out there (It’s a whole other discussion but in general there is a growing movement of men especially starting to reclaim masculinity, in both good and bad ways). I don’t know where I read this but once I heard that the samurai code regarding their swords was, “Never drawn except to be used, never used except to kill,” with the idea being that drawing the weapon is a last resort. I think too often going into a situation with gun drawn is increasing the likelihood of a shooting, so obviously tactics need to be reviewed.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            But Mike is right, that if the goal is to reduce police use of force, training is where we start.

            I disagree. Maybe conceptually it’s where you would like to start, but in practice there has to be an incentive to actually do so. So we start with the incentives which would result in cops exercising better judgment and would justify more training. That means punishing cops who use excessive force. It means reducing the scope of qualified immunity. It means (somehow) going after cops who falsify reports, plant evidence, turn off their body cams, etc etc, all the bad acts which exist in a culture without accountability. As it stands right now, if PDs thought better training was necessary they could do so. Nothing stops them from pulling cops off their beat and getting trained up on non-violent conflict resolution or whatever. They need a push, no? And all the things I mentioned (and more) should happen *even if* PDs voluntarily engage in more training.Report

          • Avatar JoeSal says:

            @ Stillwater
            Mike has proposed that accountability is on the list, maybe not as high as you would like to see it.

            What is your proposal?

            I somewhat agree that prosecution is reactive. Accountability may have some portion of pro activeness about it. Both of these are negative reinforcements. What I haven’t seen suggested yet is positive reinforcement.

            There may be a limit on what negative reinforcement can do as it works its way up the exponential function attempting to change behavior/culture. Use of positive reinforcement may be deployed also. There will be diminishing returns eventually on both negative and positive reinforcement. I don’t think we are there yet, but with a limited funding supply something will have to be shifted around to attempt that.

            What is it worth to attempt that? Reduce the number of police down to 500,000? Just reducing the number of police reduces the failures.

            It’s weird because I don’t know where the rank and file conservative would be on this issue. Some are for smaller government which would allow the reduction in the number of enforcement, others would be opposed to a reduction of enforcement.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            What is your proposal?

            It’s in the comment.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            “Maybe conceptually it’s where you would like to start, but in practice there has to be an incentive to actually do so. So we start with the incentives which would result in cops exercising better judgment and would justify more training. That means punishing cops who use excessive force. It means reducing the scope of qualified immunity. It means (somehow) going after cops who falsify reports, plant evidence, turn off their body cams, etc etc, all the bad acts which exist in a culture without accountability.”

            How many bad things happen while your punitive program plays out? Training communicates a change in values from Day 1.

            “Nothing stops them from pulling cops off their beat and getting trained up on non-violent conflict resolution or whatever. They need a push, no?”

            Police departments have to answer to their budgets just like any other organization. They also face labor shortages and are asked to do more with less, just like other organizations. In the longterm, training should reduce costs. In this case it would be preventing some of the large settlements paid out to the families of people injured or killed by mistake. It would also (hopefully) dial back some of the worst rhetoric directed at police by the social justice crowd. With that said, it’s very hard to convince any organization that the long term benefits of training outweigh the short term costs and police departments do not have the luxury of not worrying about the financial impact, not to mention the political and community blowback if there is a perception that there are not enough cops on the street.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:


            How many bad things happen while your punitive program plays out?

            My “punitive program” as you call it consists of cops being held to the same standard under the law as anyone else. How is that punitive?

            Add: and not even the same standard. Just closer. (Even tho at the end of the day I think cops should be held to a *higher* standard than the citizenry…)Report

          • Avatar JoeSal says:

            What is the enforcement mechanism of your proposal?Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            Again, I am all for demanding that police face the same justice as the rest of us. But if all we do is demand justice, the police will just bunker down even further, and their supporters will even further entrench that bunkering in law.

            We need to do both. Removing the cutouts (and preventing the Unions from trying to sneak them back in through contract negotiations) will provide the stick that hopefully gets police to accept new training that we, the public, DEMAND they take (and take seriously). And then we give them the carrot of better budgets and staffing for said training, because we expect lower payouts for lawsuits.

            What we absolutely can not do is trust the police to make the desired changes simply because we’ve taken away their protections. Police have no cultural interest in accepting things that make them feel less like Warrior Cops, so we need to start changing that culture from the word Go.Report

  11. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


    It’s a punitive program in the sense that you are using punishments for bad behavior as the driving force for reform instead of looking upstream at proactive measures designed to keep those bad things from happening in the first place. It’s ‘reactive’ but worse than that because it still doesn’t do any root-cause correction.Report

  12. Avatar DavidTC says:

    Can I just point out that this discussion has accepted the rather incorrect idea that the only bad shoots are of _unarmed_ people?

    As far as I am aware, carrying a weapon is not an instant capital offense in this society, nor is it the standard by which we are supposed to judge police actions.

    If we want to find the ‘failure rate’ of the police shooting people, we have to include all shootings where the person, despite being armed in some manner, did not pose a threat at the time.

    This includes pretty much all instances where the person was shot without any warning at all, which the police do with surprising regularity. The shooting of Tamir Rice, for example, got a lot of attention because he was so young, and unarmed, but even if he had been actually armed, and had been an adult, shooting someone because they are walking around armed is a pretty serious failure.

    The police claimed he reached in a manner that looked like he was going for his gun, but as he obviously _didn’t have_ a gun, that claim just serves to demonstrate what we already knew from all the times they claim ‘made a motion towards a possible gun’ happens when there wasn’t a gun: We really shouldn’t trust _any_ of their claims in that regard about anything, and that we should probably classify 90% of the police shooting someone who _actually does_ happen to be wearing (not holding, wearing) an actual gun and then they claim he was ‘reaching for it’ as utter bullshit and a bad shooting. And honestly 90% is too low there…people held at gunpoint do not tend to try to get their weapon.

    This is not to say there are not ‘good’ police shootings, shootings where someone actively was holding a hostage or had already shot at people are probably mostly good ones, but we as society seem all too willing to go ‘Oh, he actually _did_ possess a weapon at the time? That must make the shooting okay.’

    The threshold for measuring success vs. failure is ‘Was he actively endangering others?’, not ‘Was there a weapon in his pocket?’.Report

    • This is an entirely fair observation, but unfortunately, since it requires heaven and earth to even move the needle on police shooting unarmed people, that is where we have to focus, despite it being plainly obviously that plenty of shootings of “armed” people are not accounting for the reality of the situation, which is that the individual did not pose a threat to the officers, but rather, to themselves. The officers merely stepped in to take responsibility for the threat instead.Report

    • Avatar JoeSal says:

      Good point, I think Mike mentioned that up above and parsed it as a parameter. I think the parameters narrowed to just shootings of unarmed people as a matter of narrowing parameters.

      I have suggested before to just disarm the enforcement, which mostly fixes the issue of shooting armed and unarmed alike, but do not defend it as a viable position because the costs of finding police willing to enforce without being armed would be excessive

      (Hell, I’m for dismantling the construct altogether, even if it appears to be doing a fair job of it)Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


      You are absolutely right. I already suggested that we consider ALL police shootings as a system Fail.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      Concur, and this goes back to my point about how the kind of people who pull a gun on the police are almost entirely untrained when it comes to firearm usage. The chances they’ll get a gun drawn and aimed before an officer can positively identify the threat and react is extremely low. But police act as if such edge cases are the norm.Report

      • Avatar JoeSal says:

        The problem with enforcement, is the attribute failure list gets rather odd.

        I mean if you got shot at, or that guy Jimmy patrolling on the south side got shot at, that changes the perceptions of social norms in the construct. ‘My peers are getting shot at’ is a hell of a thing to minimize even with training and statistics that show everything is ‘just fine’.

        A job flipping burgers doesn’t typically have that odd of a attribute failure list.

        (Even if I were talking with Road up above, I would ask how that ‘near miss’ stuff is treating him.)Report

  13. Avatar Dark Matter says:

    Stillwater: How much training do you need to *not* shoot a kid holding a cell phone in his own yard 6 times in the back?

    Early 20’s is hardly a child. That “6 times in the back” was from the family’s pathologist and 5 other pathologists disagreed sharply.

    Stephon Clark makes for a poor poster child for “innocent civilian killed”.

    He has served time for doing something close to what the police were summoned to stop. His tox screen showed multiple interesting substances. The police helicopter saw him breaking car windows and then jumping fences to get to his backyard. He was on probation and his drug use suggests his family’s talk of him getting his act together was overly optimistic.

    The level of force used was excessive but he had a lot to do with the creation of this situation.

    On the subject of excessive force, here’s a link to the NYT’s effort to put together all the video evidence. What stands out is the cops shot him, probably nonlethally, then put him down with a second volley.

    I can also see why the police thought them getting shot was on the menu. After fleeing, Clark started approaching them while they were behind a corner. I think Clark decided to record his interaction with the cops so he got out his phone, pointed it at them, and started walking towards them. So not the best judgement, maybe connected to his tox screen.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      The level of force used was excessive

      Given that, why go on and on about stuff that simply doesn’t matter?Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter says:

        Given that, why go on and on about stuff that simply doesn’t matter?

        Conclusions can change depending on facts being introduced, so it’s best to introduce all of them. IMHO Clark likely being high plays a part in this tapestry and should be mentioned. Ditto him being guilty.

        Whether I view Clark having more right to live than I do to having my windows unbroken can be a judgement call. Fundamentally I expect the police to deal with the likes of Clark. Ideally I expect them to do so without killing him.

        I don’t think I need to choose, but if I do need to, my windows being broken is my problem and Clark being dead is his.Report

        • Avatar Maribou says:

          “Whether I view Clark having more right to live than I do to having my windows unbroken can be a judgement call.”

          Are you clear on the fact that many many people do not see that as a judgment call at all?

          I’d rather have all my windows broken (assuming that’s where it stopped and no one physically harmed me or credibly verbally threatened me) than have a cop kill someone.

          Infinity times rather.

          And I say that as someone who has had all the car windows broken, and yes, it was weird and scary and upsetting and I couldn’t afford it and if I couldn’t count on it not happening again it’d have real and serious consequences for my life.

          Notwithstanding, INFINITY times rather.

          It’s very very weird to me that someone could see those two options as a judgment call at all, to the point where my brain instantly starts trying to explain how you must actually mean something else that I can parse better.

          Do you actually mean something else??Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

            Lets not be hasty here.

            Whether a banker at Wells Fargo who fraudulently signed mortgages has more of a right to live, than I have a right not to be defrauded, is a judgement call.

            If a cop were to walk in and shoot him, who are we to second guess that decision?

            I for one, welcome our new Jacobin overlords!Report

          • Avatar Dark Matter says:

            Are you clear on the fact that many many people do not see that as a judgment call at all?

            IMHO I have fewer self delusions than most. This is like those schools run by the so-called liberal left which are in practice every bit as segregated as the deep South. Similarly everyone who eats meat (including me) must be fine with animal torture no matter what they claim.

            The only way to get rid of the possibility of the police killing someone while enforcing a law is to make it legal.

            There’s no way I’m going to legalize junkies randomly smashing windows, even if it means they occasionally die. I don’t think I need to choose between those two, but if I need to pick there’s STILL NO WAY I’m going to legalize what he was doing.

            As a matter of practicality everyone has priorities. A junkie running amuck smashing windows locally will be viewed as so unacceptable it will produce tremendous pressure on the authorities to do something. If they don’t they’ll be replaced with others who will.

            My expectation is that, no matter what people claim about never picking him to die, the reality is there’s no way the general public will tolerate what he’s doing. We’re willing to put resources into stopping him. We’re less willing to put resources into keeping him alive.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            “As a matter of practicality everyone has priorities. A junkie running amuck smashing windows locally will be viewed as so unacceptable it will produce tremendous pressure on the authorities to do something. If they don’t they’ll be replaced with others who will.”

            I think this pretty clearly explains my exasperation with Sam’s 6.5% number. Of we had actually had a Fail Rate of 6.5% then people would be in the streets demanding legalization of most crimes to keep the bodies from stacking up.Report

          • Mike,

            Your exasperation is based upon my unwillingness to accept your nonsense standard, which is that police officers deserve a gold star for everybody that they don’t kill, and if we count everybody that they don’t kill, then the number of people that they do kill is actually very small. I cannot imagine a lesser standard to use to evaluate, and I certainly cannot imagine choosing that standard unless my goal was to produce the outcome that you want, which is the conclusion that police shootings really don’t matter (and thus they should never be discussed, nor criticized, nor written about).Report

          • Avatar Dark Matter says:

            Chip: Whether a banker at Wells Fargo who fraudulently signed mortgages has more of a right to live, than I have a right not to be defrauded, is a judgement call. If a cop were to walk in and shoot him, who are we to second guess that decision?

            The death penalty for property crimes has a long history. For example hanging was the standard punishment for stealing cattle.

            My expectation is that a White Collar criminal who chooses to introduce violence into his arrest is very much running the risk of being shot by the police. My further expectation is that it’s happened.

            For example, locally 4+ police departments got together and killed someone over what was basically a family rental dispute. The son was violent, crazy, and heavily armed. Everyone knew darn well the level of violence would increase (thus all local departments being involved).Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            I’m not picking that variable because it’s convenient for me. That’s just a bonus. The reason I picked that variable is because I actually understand what I am talking about, while it appears you do not. In virtually any business that tracks quality, successful completion of a task is essentially a point for the employee. Every time they fail, we mark a point against them. So in my business they get a point for every part they pick correctly or order they ship correctly, or whatever. It’s very micro. In manufacturing it’s even more granular, which is why they often use DPPM (Defective Parts Per Million). Every widget produced without a defect is a Pass.

            So when we’re talking about police officers doing their job correctly, it seems pretty reasonable to say, “Every time you arrest someone and don’t use lethal force, you get a Pass.” You might say it is setting a very low bar by telling them, “Just don’t kill anyone,” but you’re concerned about shootings, so ‘Don’t kill anyone’ is in fact the goal. Not doing that is a Pass.

            If you want to raise the bar and create a tighter metric where no one gets hurt, I’m happy to have that discussion since the paper I linked to suggests non-lethal injuries is actually where race might be a factor, but that’s a whole other conversation.

            Again, I’m just following your logic here. If you say shooting an unarmed person is a Fail then the math says you have to count armed shootings as Passes. I don’t see any other conclusion to reach while still using established quality principles for job performance.Report

          • Avatar Dark Matter says:

            Apparently I have less “Quality” exposure than Mike does but I do have some. As far as I can tell he’s using the math correctly.

            The issue that led to Stephon Clark’s death was his arrest. Big picture we expect the police to be able to arrest anyone with being the ones to introduce violence and we’re mostly ok with them upping the level of violence if need be.

            Here the police both introduced violence (unless we consider prop damage to be violence in which case it was already there) and upped it… however them arresting Clark was very much legit and in the line of duty.

            This was an arrest failure. Taking the number of arrests as a baseline and seeing how many go bad is the way to go.Report

          • Avatar JoeSal says:

            @ Sam,
            I think the way you are looking at this subtracts the nuances in the math. Mike is correct, that if you have a pool of people that can generate a failure and those people are engaging in events that have a probability to add to the failure rate then you have to include those people and the engagements that produce the failure rate.

            When you define a subsection of failure it excludes all the possibilities of those other possible failures. Mike has attempted to correct that math shenanigan. I will add my voice to it, and echo, that this is what is seen in industry, when looking at human driven systems.

            Again, Mike has included accountability in the list of things that
            could be changed in response to saying he doesn’t think the killings matter.

            Is there some reason your position is not acknowledging that position?

            Again I hope we can send that notion of zero failures to the grave. Even in my desire to have all police disarmed I still expect failures.

            Eric Garner was unarmed and not even shot. The arrest was supervised by Sergeant Kizzy Adoni, a African American. A member of the minority being arrested.

            The unarmed guy was killed without using a gun, the arrest being supervised by a minority Sergeant in one of the more progressive cities in this nation.

            With this low of a failure rate, I think the burden of proof should be on the ‘social justice faction’ to PROVE they can do better on the WHOLE than these front line workers are doing.

            Otherwise the mantra of ‘obvious truth’ and any kind of social objectivity to your position is invalid, and frankly a bit hypocritical.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            I consider myself a Centrist and outside of this weird little site I am mostly arguing to the left of my truly conservative friends. Perhaps my lot in life is to be a radical contrarian. So I approach this issue from angle of trying to inject a bit of perspective. Unfortunately that is usually taken as blind defense of police abuses, and no doubt that has been a fair charge at times (family biases are hard to overcome). For me the discussion of police shootings is really this simple:

            According to the FBI, police make 10,554,985 arrest per year
            0.0006% end in an unarmed shooting

            Every time we all argue with each other and call each other names and tell each other to go to hell, I think it’s important to remind ourselves that conversation is about 0.0006% of all arrests made in the United States. It reminds me of a quote from Bo Wineguard: “A progressive looks at modern Western Society and sees a list of ills and misfortunes; a centrist looks and is relieved that the list is so short.”

            As I noted elsewhere in this thread, there is probably a much more impactful discussion to be had around non-lethal outcomes because these are more prevalent and probably affect public opinion a lot more (absent social media stirring people up over the next shooting). A study that I think offers a lot of really interesting discussion points was released by the Justice Department last year.

            Contacts Between Police and Public, 2015

            I skimmed it when it came out last fall and kind of forgot to dig in deeper, but I found some of the conclusions both surprising and unsurprising. Maybe someone will pick this up and run with it and we can have a good conversation about it down the road.Report

          • JoeSal and Mike,

            Obviously, we disagree about the issue of fail rates. I believe we should limit our discussion to fatal police shootings, in that that is what we are discussing. You believe we need to credit officers for every single time they do not shoot an unarmed person, no matter the circumstances. That strikes me as both absurd and an intentional attempt to minimize the seriousness of police officers killing unarmed people. I will also note that the attempt to calculate this number keeps featuring shifting standards – first it was unarmed shootings versus estimated total police interactions, now it is unarmed shootings versus total arrests (despite Stephon Clark never having been arrested) – but this is perhaps par for the course when the only goal is excusing shootings.

            Clearly, we are not going to agree on this. You guys believe that police departments need to be given at least 65 (unarmed) killings annually and I don’t. I believe calculating the fail rates of fatal police shootings should focus entirely upon fatal police shootings and you don’t. There is likely no middle ground here.

            So let’s try something else instead: what was the fail rate in the Laquan McDonald shooting? When you offer your answer, please define what you considered a fail.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            Looking at how often things go right is only useful when trying to compute the numbers. It’s not useful when examining the whether or not a given failure is worthy of our attention. We, the public, are not going to focus our attention on how often, say, a given readout in the nuclear plant deviates from the norm, because it doesn’t impact us. The plant probably cares, because such deviations can be leading indicators of other issues, but the general public doesn’t.

            We care, greatly, when the reactor scrams. Doesn’t matter how many days it ran without so much as a hiccup, what matters is that it scrammed, because that does affect the rest of us.

            So when the police seriously injure or kill someone who was not a threat to them (nor acting as if they were a threat), that is worthy of our attention.

            Also, regarding the whataboutism of minority populations killing themselves:

            Murder is bad. Murder committed by agents of the state, acting under the authority of the state, which is subsequently excused/dismissed by other agents of the state, is very much a bigger issue. The state is bound to follow due process, as are all of it’s agents. When it acts against a citizen without following due process, and then dismisses that act, or attempts to shift the fault for the act to the citizen, we ALL have cause for concern.

            And given how the state has, within living memory, actively and openly denied minority communities their rights and due process; and still acts against such communities through the discretion available to it’s agents (for whatever reason*), it’s an issue. Because if we permit the state to do that to them, we have no reason to complain should it choose to do it to us.

            *Doesn’t have to be because the agent is racist, it can be due to any prejudice on the agents part. Maybe they don’t like White Trash, or Hollywood Starlets.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            You are correct that numbers and public sentiment do not always have to match. If Sam’s response was that even though a tiny fraction of all arrests end in an unarmed person being killed, he still believed it was worthy of so much outrage and debate, I could accept that. He’s not saying that though. He is continuing to use bad math to exaggerate his claims (and at this point I’m convinced it’s not even intentional, he just doesn’t get it).

            I completely acknowledge that what some of us are doing is saying, “Nevermind how you feel about those 65 shootings, look at all the times police arrested someone without killing them,” but at the end of the day a lot of non-social justice people believe priorities should be based on numbers, not feelings.

            I will also say that I am opposed to the death penalty based on a relatively small % of bad verdicts, but death penalty trial fails are at a rate 649,537 times higher than unarmed shootings.


          • Avatar JoeSal says:

            @ Oscar

            number of events/number of possible outcomes

            We are not looking at one nuclear plant where one person is looking at one gauge.

            We are looking at approx. 750,000 nuclear plants with each person reading inputs from multiple sensors.

            I get that each killing matters. I get that each person dying is like a whole world dying. I get that 65 deaths is like 65 worlds dying.

            I will say this again, and it is not my first rodeo. THIS IS A HUMAN DRIVEN SYSTEM. I have had to repeat that to CEOs at risk of being fired, I have to repeat that to quality control managers, I’ve had to repeat that to safety managers.

            If you cannot withstand human failures in a human driven system, either fully automate, or close the doors and do something else.

            Why did the social people ever build social constructs like these if what they are ever going to do is complain to no end about the failures of humans in the system. It’s fishing crazy, and I mean really, really, really mental.

            If the social construct of enforcement is doing such a crap job, and everyone thinks it can be done better, let the general population do it. Close the doors.

            The saving grace of individual sovereignty/individual constructs/individual republics is it isolates to bitching about what a poor job you yourself are doing. It takes the ‘other guy’ out of the vise that is trying to squeeze perfection out of humanity and puts you into its jaws. If the jaws scare the hell out of the social people….it probably should.

            (Sorry this was a bit of a rant, and not particularly at you but at the issue)Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


            If every killing was akin to Clark’s; a report of a person doing bad things, that person running from police through darkened yards (getting everyone’s adrenaline going full steam), then that person doing something like turning towards police and moving in a manner that could be construed as threatening (after a chase, and in the dark, etc.)… If they all followed that kind of pattern, we’d be having a different discussion.

            It’s not about the intolerance of failures, it’s about the failures that were due to gross negligence or incompetence being treated by the state as the same as the failures that were failures of information and the limits of human ability or conditioning. These are very different. Tragic, but not unexpected. Akin to the homeowner killing the drunk who had the wrong house.

            I can look at Clark as a singular incident and agree that the behavior of Clark and everything else probably led to his shooting, and that in that kind of case, better training for officers would help them remember to clearly ID themselves as police and keep their cool and not react wholly on instinct. I can also look at the post incident actions and damn those same officers for turning off their cameras and waiting 5+ minutes before even trying to administer any kind of medical aid.

            However, all that said, that is not how every police killing goes. Too often, police shoot and kill people who were no threat to anyone. I already listed a few cases where police killed a person who was asking for help, or who was making a good faith effort to comply with officers, or who was already fully detained, or who was just having a bad day, but not in a violent way, etc. Those failures get treated by the police almost exactly the same as the failures that are tragic, if understandable. And since the police insist on treating them the same, guess what, so does the public.

            Now, if the cases where the police had no valid justification for the use of violence consistently resulted in the dismissal of officers, the striping of their credentials, and the filing of charges (even if a jury lets them off), then we’d be able to separate the two types of failures into distinct categories.

            In short, it isn’t about the failures. Shit happens, failures are expected. It’s about how those institutions which have failed choose to respond to those failures that is an issue. How they choose to respond tells us about how those institutions view their responsibility to others.Report

          • Avatar JoeSal says:

            @ Oscar
            I will not defend a institution behaving badly. If there was any indication that I was defending it please note I have absolutely zero interest in that sort of thing. Actually my position is exactly the opposite. Institutions, or what I call social constructs should be perishables. (ETA or shouldn’t exist in the first place.)

            There was a statement long ago that hinted at tearing them down and rebuilding every 20 years, we probably should have went with that.

            I think it was you who once mentioned the Iron Law of institutions, maybe this is just another example.Report

          • Officers can be trained, surely, to identify themselves. The officers chasing Clark never did. All he knew was that he was be chased by armed individuals shouting orders at him. That he was subsequently denied the right to be afraid in that situation makes it all the more galling. It wouldn’t take moving mountains to make progress.

            (And that’s before Clark being out on trial by the prosecutor who was supposed to investigating the police. She did not release their phone records, nor their toxicology reports.)Report

          • Avatar Dark Matter says:

            Sam: Officers can be trained, surely, to identify themselves.

            I think Clark knew who and what they were regardless.

            He’s an experienced hood. He’s out causing trouble. He’s being tracked by a police helicopter. The cops are acting like cops… so much so that he wanted to tape his encounter BLM-ish.Report

          • Avatar JoeSal says:

            Which part is creating the biggest issue for you?

            a.) The action of a cop or cops

            b.)The action/inaction of the institution that isn’t the cop

            c.)The aggression against the person

            d.)The power of the institution

            e.)The power of the individual cop

            Can you break these down by the percentage of importance?Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


          At this point you are making it sound like I am being sneaky bu applying the same logic and principles to police work that literally thousands of companies use every day across hundreds of industries. I think this conversation has probably reached its inevitable sad conclusion. See you in the next thread when we run it all back.

          P.S. If you post another bomb-ass recipe instead I promise I’ll only say nice things.Report

  14. Avatar FortyTwo says:

    A cop in South Carolina shot a man in the back, planted a gun, and it was caught on video. He was not convicted. I am a professional engineer. I want the bad ones out. Police officers don’t seem to feel the same way.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Yeah, I was going to talk about that story.

      A retired Baltimore police sergeant was indicted for allegedly planting a pellet gun on a suspect after another officer intentionally ran him over, prosecutors said.

      Former Baltimore Police Department Sgt. Keith Gladstone pleaded not guilty to federal civil rights and witness tampering charges on Tuesday in connection with a 2014 incident that involved members of a corrupt police task, according to an indictment.

      Acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison suspended three unnamed officers in the wake of the indictment and said they would be investigated by the department’s Internal Affairs unit.

      “Based on today’s indictment and other information provided to me, I am suspending three current Baltimore Police officers pending the outcome of an Internal Affairs investigation,” Harrison said in a statement. “A fourth officer listed in today’s indictment had already been suspended and will also be investigated by our Internal Affairs section.”

      I’m not sure how training could have avoided this sort of thing.Report

  15. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


    “I will also note that the attempt to calculate this number keeps featuring shifting standards – first it was unarmed shootings versus estimated total police interactions, now it is unarmed shootings versus total arrests (despite Stephon Clark never having been arrested) – but this is perhaps par for the course when the only goal is excusing shootings.”

    Originally I attempted to estimate police interactions per year, which is how I arrived at the number of 124,660,800 (I showed all of my math on that so the rest of the commenters could chime in). After noticing that the three studies I linked to used attempted arrests, I agreed that was a better methodology, stated that and then shared that math with everyone as well.

    – The first number gives me a fail rate of 0.00005% for unarmed shootings.
    – The second number gives me a fail rate of 0.0006% for unarmed shootings.

    You might notice that there is an extra decimal place in the first number. If I was trying to ‘excuse shootings’ I would have stuck with that, not revised it in a direction that increased the Fail Rate by a factor of 12.

    Look, I can explain this stuff to you all day long, but I can’t understand it for you. My methodology is sound and I’ve shared my math with everyone here. This is starting to feel like the time I tried to convince a Creationist that the Earth was more than 6,000 years old.

    I don’t really know how to interpret the Laquan McDonald question. Assuming the same number of arrests for that year, if that was the only shooting it would be a Fail rate of 0.000009%.

    Maybe I could ask you a question: Do you agree that 0.0006% of all arrests end in the shooting of an unarmed person?Report

    • Mike,

      No explanation is necessary. Over the years you have made it quite clear that police shootings, no matter how outrageous, are not something that you consider to be a big deal. You have gone so far as to defend a police officer breaking into a stranger’s home and then killing that stranger for having been home. There is no police violence that will grab your attention.

      In our time playing this game of yours, your attempts to work back to your goal have taken on various mechanisms, but the goal itself is always the same and forever unchanging: to focus on anything else instead. So that is how I regard your attempt to manipulate statistics about fatal police shootings. You are apparently unwilling to discuss that topic. So instead, you propose that we need to account for all interactions that all police officers have had with all human beings, ever, and by THAT standard, you can get yourself back to you original conclusion: none of this matters (to you).

      Your fundamental inability to accept that the topic of the discussion here is fatal police shootings is a choice you are making. I cannot unmake that choice for you. But I can continue to emphasize that my focus is on the topic I am discussing, and not on the topic you would prefer to be discussing. There is of course a mountain of evidence regarding this being your approach to the issue broadly, but your answer to the very simply question of Laquan McDonald’s shooting is telling. You simply cannot limit yourself to thinking about that single shooting, nor do you bother to engage in any meaningful way with its specifics (which involved not only a killing, but a framing, and a department wide effort to excuse away the killing) because doing so might force you into a position that you choose, repeatedly, not to be in.

      Finally, to your question: do I agree that .0006 percent of all arrests end in the shooting of an unarmed person? No, I do not. Unarmed people who are shot to death by police have not been arrested. They are not arrests.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


        I have been discussing fatal police shootings in this very thread for three days now. Lots of exchanges with other commenters about very specific things like training, prosecutions, etc aimed at reducing that number. You weren’t really participating much in those discussions, I guess because they were too focused on solutions instead of complaints.

        You can keep telling me what the topic of the post is but it STILL doesn’t change the math. You can take Dave’s suggestion and be honest that you don’t care about the numbers, but you can’t actually change those numbers. No one else in this thread has said I manipulated the data except you.

        You asked for a Fail Rate for the McDonald shooting. I gave you one based in math, not feelings. I assume you came up with a higher number using the Sam Wilkinson Fail Rate Calculator? Or if you just wanted my general feelings on that shooting, you should have asked for those.

        Let me rephrase my question since you are trying to lawyer your way out of it: Do you agree that 0.0006% of attempted arrests end in the shooting of an unarmed person? (And if you are planning to say that not all shootings come from attempted arrests i am happy to go back to my number of ALL police interactions.)Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          * To clarify – that was not Dave’s explicit suggestion, but it would be refreshing if Sam was honest about his motivations.Report

  16. Avatar Dave says:

    Well now…I’ll make a partial defense of Sam’s position….this got long. I apologize.


    Do you remember us talking about identity politics and me telling you I wanted to write some posts? Well, seeing as I’m sifting through about 100 sources and trying to make sense of a number of different things, I don’t know when that’s going to happen, but please allow me the opportunity to apply what I’ve learned to this discussion, starting with this comment…

    “I’m not picking that variable because it’s convenient for me. That’s just a bonus. The reason I picked that variable is because I actually understand what I am talking about, while it appears you do not.”

    The post that was published here a few weeks back, The Apolitical Myth, fell short in two ways that I’ll clarify here. They both relate to this discussion.

    The first was about the nature of “the personal is political”. The discussion was far too vague. While he was correct to point out that the idea was attributed to second wave feminism, that he failed to point out that it was radical feminism and not liberal feminism. To me, this is a critical distinction.

    Where liberal feminists focused on political and legal equality (and some degree social), radical feminists believe women are THE oppressed class – oppressed by men through a power structure that transcended sovereign power and social power and went straight to “private” interpersonal relationships.

    This wasn’t just an assertion. Through the use of consciousness raising groups, they acquired knowledge of the lived experiences of women, experiences including rape, sexual abuse, spousal abuse, domestic violence, and other horrors women were subjected to at the hands of men. Given the extent to which this was occurring, they argued that these actions were not individual acts of violence but part of a larger power structure which allowed men to oppress women with impunity.

    Whether or not you agree that it was a class-based form of oppression, you MUST respect the fact that their theory was evidence-based in that they had the blood, bruises and broken bones to show for it. You should also respect, to a degree, the fact that the consciousness raising groups were part of an apparatus that produced knowledge well outside what you or I could have produced. This goes to the development of feminist standpoint epistemology, the three main tenets being:

    a) knowledge is socially situated – seeing as we aren’t in those social situations

    b) marginalized groups are socially situated in ways that make it more possible for them to be aware of things

    These are descriptive and correct in the context. There’s a normative claim that research should start with marginalized communities but it wasn’t applicable to this situation. Also, as I’m aware that standpoint epistemology is controversial and can speak to it, but the way it was applied in the late ’60’s-early ’70’s isn’t the issue. Radical feminists were asserting oppression based on knowledge of it. They weren’t asserting privilege or any of the things associated with modern day identity politics. Right or wrong, they saw a problem and they went after it politically and sought change, doing what they criticized liberal feminists for not doing.

    A way to diagram this – Knowledge —–>theory (oppression) —–> political action

    Note that they didn’t bust out the slide rules or statistical models. Note that they weren’t concerned about the opinions of anthropologists or sociologists or anyone that could have approached from an “objective” or positivist perspective. This was a political issue requiring that people acknowledge the problem as a political one and moving from there. The pencil necks could piss off as far as they were concerned.

    Hopefully, you see where I’m going with this, and I’m glad that you were kind enough to post the Quillette article because while you’re averse to “wokeness”, as am I, I don’t think Sam’s article hits the “woke” threshold by a longshot.

    The only criteria that comes remotely close is the second one – bigotry being pervasive. My concern is that there are ways to make that claim without falling back on moral or ideological dogma. I’m not sure how Sam does that seeing as that he’s using the response to police shootings of unarmed black men by prosecutors. Put that in the context of this country’s history on race and even the historical issues between the black community and police. We can agree or disagree on the evidence-based claims, but “bigotry being pervasive” in wokeland takes on a different meaning.

    So no, Sam’s writing on this issue is not woke. Hell, if I wanted to, I’d draft a response filled with so much critical race theory and accusations of complicity, privilege and fragility that it would make your head spin. That’s woke. It would also make me sick to my stomach and require me to take a shower after writing it so no thanks.

    However, don’t think you’re in the clear. Putting my pessimist hat on, I can make an argument that you’ve failed to engage Sam’s broader arguments. You’ve claimed a certain form of authority on the subject perhaps based on personal/professional grounds…understandable as I’d do the same in certain subjects. However, and I do have to question your approach because I think this is ultimately a POLITICAL matter and should be engaged as such.

    I’ll lay something out in the way I’d approach it rather than me pointing out how wrong everyone else has been…for all I know, I’m the one that’s whacked.

    – We know there’s been longstanding tensions between the black communities and law enforcement. It exists. For the purpose of this discussion, the causes don’t matter.

    – For now, as an analytical tool, but not the only one, take the same broader approach to power structures as the second wave radical feminists understood it. If the idea of an oppressed group is too much, just use dominant/non-dominant. So what if it originates from Marxist thought. It’s a tool. At least I’m not asking you to apply Foucault so give me some credit 😉

    – Standpoint knowledge from non-dominant groups needs to be considered because it may provide insight you (or me) can’t have based on our own standpoints. Note that I’m not asking you to PRIVILEGE their knowledge (that’s the “woke” way) but make efforts to acquire it and understand it the way they do. I know standpoint epistemology is controversial because woke types use it to convey moral and epistemic authority. I reject that approach. I think a deeper dive is required and would most likely require some form of political engagement…I’m lost on the details.

    – I’m not here to argue about structural racism on an abstract level, but I am wondering if there’s a form of racism originating at the personal level that can when combined can pose systemic issues politically or in matters of justice. The radical feminists didn’t need to show that every man was an oppressive abuser, only enough of them. Same goes for bigots, albeit it may be a little harder to demonstrate. The best example I can see clearly is the rise of white identity politics on the far right (and nationalist right wing movements elsewhere).

    – Prosecutors don’t want to prosecute because they don’t think they can secure conviction or the risk-reward ratio is skewed. Are the reasons based on the facts of the case and evidence? Is it a general attitude towards giving law enforcement the benefit of the doubt? Are there concerns about the racial nature of the case that could bias jurors one way or the other? I’d hope jury selection is such that the jury can put personal differences aside, but who the hell knows? It wouldn’t be the first time.

    This isn’t meant to be clean. I’m as much a fan of universalism, objectivity, rationality and reason as the next person, but these are messy problems that geeks and their spreadsheets, models and “objective” standards aren’t going to solve. It requires a different set of rules of engagement.

    None of this should be read to suggest Sam is right. I have no clue. Mike, you could end up being right. I have no clue. What I do know is this – to the extent I see what’s known as systemic racism, I don’t follow the “woke” definition but recognize it two ways:

    1) That there are ways that acts of individual racism or individual racists can create larger collective action problems. I think this can pose a problem in juries in certain kinds of case.

    2) Reactionary politics creating political movements that get propelled to power and then have some control over political institutions. White identity politics on the American Right will always be better at doing this than any kind of left wing identity politics for reasons that should be obvious.

    It’s a tough subject to discuss. It’s an even tougher discussion to have when we talk about figuring out what to do about it.

    All I’m asking for is a look through a different perspective.

    My apologies for the length. I’ve written enough, and lest anyone think I’m writing from a “woke” perspective, I can respond to that with my highest degree of disagreement but until then, this is the best I got for now…Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


      As usual, I find very little room for disagreement between your position and mine. To that point, I don’t really find anything in your comment that I would pushback on. I’m still playing catch-up on getting my eyes opened to some of the items you mentioned but the fog IS lifting.

      I think I have previously stated this, but regardless, I will say it again. My suspicion about Sam’s writing lies primarily with his focus on the shootings of unarmed black men. If he was writing about ALL unarmed shootings with more regularity I would still consider it an exaggeration of the problem but at least feel like he was consistent. When he chooses to almost exclusively focus on the shootings of black people and make a lot of charges of both structural and individual racism, that’s where I feel the ‘wokeness’ creeping in. Now, maybe you are right and on a wokeness scale he is something like a 1 but for me it makes his motives suspect. I also wonder if he focuses on the racial component because it insulates him from a certain amount of criticism because to disagree make his opponents bigots by default. Or maybe it’s just because he is an NBA fan so this is important to him.

      Beyond that, if I am reading you right we’re talking about how social justice becomes applied social justice when politicized. I don’t know if Sam actually does anything on this issue in his personal life and that’s none of my business. What I will say with regards to his writing though is that there is never really a call to action or even much of a policy suggestion. It’s just sort of a vague call for outrage, so maybe it would be generous to even call it progressive activism. Maybe it’s just virtue signaling.

      Enjoyed your comment a lot and thanks.Report

      • Avatar Dave says:

        Thanks Mike. I’ll respond with some comments later but looking through one of the sources, it says that the officers’ body cam footage was released. I’m at work right now so I don’t think it’d be smart of me to search for it but has anyone else seen it?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        As a general matter your focus on the motivations of others is not substantively different than Sam’s focus on the motivations of people who disagree with him. But this…

        Or maybe it’s just because he is an NBA fan so this is important to him.

        kind of just crosses over to weird.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          Great to see you back in the comment section Will !

          Not always, but usually motives become more apparent over time and repetition. Typically, cops that kill one unarmed person don’t go on to kill another person, so it seems like trying to ascertain their individual motives involves a LOT of conjecture. Usually Sam says something like, “There is no other logical conclusion one could reach other than to say they were a racist murderer,” which is using black or white thinking to jump to some pretty serious conclusions, but that’s Sam.

          As for me and my conclusions…Sam has given us a LOT of material on this one subject, so it seems possible to speculate with a higher degree of accuracy. Still, i ask Sam in nearly every thread to explain his motivations for hyper-focusing on this one subject but so far he has declined.

          The NBA thing is just a pet theory, no need to discuss further.Report

          • Mike,

            I would be very interested to know more about this bullshit pet theory of yours. Presumably you’re working your way back to your “white knight” accusation from last summer {redacted by Trumwill} but maybe it’s something else instead. Anyway, I’m very excited to find out how being a basketball fan has anything at all to do with thinking that the state should do a better job policing.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            You know my biography pretty well. White, Catholic kid from the suburbs of a southeastern state with a relatively small minority population. If I suddenly started writing a lot about hate crimes but really, really focused on Muslim hate crimes, talked a lot about how racist white people were, etc…wouldn’t you scratch your head a bit? Wouldn’t you wonder where that was coming from?

            You’ve written about your sobriety. You’ve written about getting a vasectomy. That kind of personal openness was really cool back in the day. Now you primarily focus on police shootings of unarmed black men and when asked about it you just sort of point to same vague idea of justice. So either you drank the BLM kool-aid or something else is at play there. I just think after umpteen posts on this topic, it would be interesting to know where all of that is coming from.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            wouldn’t you scratch your head a bit?

            Maybe, and I might follow up my asking about it. But, after not getting an answer I believe, I might move on. I probably would? He believes an injustice is occurring that deserves more attention. You think it’s an overblown issue and that he doesn’t consider the other side of the story.

            I do not believe that there is, or has really ever been, a need to try to hash it out beyond that.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            The above was Commenter Will.

            As Moderator Will, I am going to go ahead and pull the trigger on this thread and shut it down. All in all, not actually that bad of a discussion given the tedentiousness of the topic. But hopefully next one will go better.Report

  17. Avatar Dark Matter says:

    Dave: the officers’ body cam footage was released. I’m at work right now so I don’t think it’d be smart of me to search for it but has anyone else seen it?

    Yeah that link I posted to the NYT did a good job of going over it. Sometimes they do frame by frame. It was really fast.

    Initiating the confrontation was fine. The helicopter had spotted him roaming (that’s on film, it’s claimed right before that they saw him breaking stuff) and while he ended up in his own backyard he’d hopped the fence to get there and wasn’t acting like it was his.

    Speaking as a civilian who isn’t an expert on violence or police procedures I’m inclined to forgive them the first bullet/volley in shooting him. It’s dark and he’s sneaking/moving towards them with a dark object in his hand pointed at them. It seems reasonable to interpret that the wrong way.

    However after he’s hit he’s on his hands and knees, not facing them, and they finish him off with a second volley. The 2nd volley was very much the killer.

    So… is the training here to keep shooting him until he’s all the way down? They had this weird thing later where they were calling for him to surrender and standing a safe distance away while he was unconscious/dead.

    Oh, and the turning off the cams part was very much later, after the action. If they hadn’t turned them off then to collaborate they’d have had their talk back at the locker room so whatever.Report