Controversial encounters between law-enforcement and civilians - the omnibus thread

TLDR version:

This is the law-enforcement omnibus thread. Discuss controversial shootings, tasings, pepper-sprayings, arrests, and other police encounter here. It’s in the Pit because these discussions sometimes get heated.

Full version:

I figured someone would probably do it eventually, so i figured that it might as well be me.

There are currently four threads on the front page of the Pit discussing violent incidents between law enforcement officers and civilians. Some folks have begun suggesting, both in those threads and in a now-closed ATMB thread, that maybe starting a new discussion for every single new incident might be a rather unproductive task. Or at least a rather repetitive one. Hence this thread.

Now, it could be that people will tell me to take a hike, arguing that they should be allowed to start as many damn threads as they like about this stuff. And if that’s the consensus, then by all means ignore this thread and let it sink.

There are reasonable arguments to be made against what i’m doing here. Some folks might worry, for example, that having an omnibus thread for these sorts of incidents will result in individual cases not receiving the in-depth discussion that they deserve. This might especially be true for long-running, high-profile cases like the Ferguson shooting. Others might be concerned that “ghettoizing” all such incidents to a single thread runs the risk of reducing their visibility, and minimizing or even trivializing their serious nature.

I am sensible of these concerns, and i am sure that there might be other objections. Still, i think that this might be worth a shot (first pun of the thread!), even if we sometimes also end up with separate threads for particularly important cases.

One of my motivations in starting a single thread for such incidents is to connect the specific with the universal. I believe that each incident of conflict or violence is unique and deserves to be assessed on its merits. I also believe, however, that issues such as the use of police authority in our society, and the significance of race and social class in shaping encounters between law enforcement and civilians, constitute broad structural problems that are reflected not only in each individual encounter, but in the totality of relations between police and citizens. We need to have the individual discussions, but we also need to talk about the big picture.

For example, even if a full and fair and complete investigation in the Ferguson case were to find that the officer did not violate any police regulation and did not violate the law, i still believe that there is a very good chance that the officer’s response to the situation reflected problematic assumptions and a law enforcement attitude that treats crime committed by some groups as requiring more attention and a more confrontational approach than very similar crimes committed by other groups. I also believe that the Ferguson Police Department’s response to the initial incident demonstrates some problems with the department itself, problems that are independent of whatever may or may not have happened on the street that day. That is, even when individual cases might not rise to the level of abuse of authority or illegal activity on the part of the police, the pattern of policing might still reflect very problematic attitudes within law enforcement, and might also, as part of a broader pattern, constitute an abuse of the civil liberties of particular sections of the community, and demonstrate systemic problems within police departments.

Structural problems are important. For example, every low-level contact with a black youth might go completely by the book, with no violence and no infringements on individual liberties, but if the cops carrying out those contacts fail to make similar contact with white youth under similar circumstances, i think that we as a society have the right to ask them why they work this way, and require them to change their practices. And if cops use guns or tasers or pepper-spray on some groups more than others, under similar circumstances, we should ask the same questions. Books i’ve read recently on race and the American justice system (Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow; Randall Kennedy, Race, Crime, and the Law) note that courts in America have been reluctant to interfere in broad policing strategies, even when those strategies seem to unfairly target particular racial or ethnic groups, but that doesn’t mean that we as a society need ignore those issues, and nor does it mean that we can’t pressure our law enforcement agencies to eliminate structural biases.

I’m not starting this thread only for people who agree with me, of course, and i don’t consider myself anti-cop. My stepfather is a retired cop (rank of Inspector), and i think that a good police officer is an incredibly valuable member of civil society. But we also need to hold law enforcement accountable for how they do their job; their role is not simply to control us and order us around, but to protect and serve.

I think it would behoove people on all sides of this debate to try to evaluate the evidence fairly, in each individual case and in the broader arena of social policy. Try not to assume, in every incident, that the cop was a redneck just looking for an excuse to mow down a civilian, and try not to assume, in every incident, that the discharge of a police weapon is, by itself, sufficient evidence that the civilian bleeding on the ground had it coming.

That’s all i’ve got. If you think this thread is useful, start adding incidents to it as they happen; if not, let it fall. If it attracts interest and content, i’ll try, every week or so, to make a new post listing all incidents recorded so far, so that we have a running digest that people can consult without going back and reading the whole thread.

I’m glad for this thread because I wanted to bitch about this incident but didn’t want to add yet another What The Fuck Is Wrong With Police? thread.

NYC police steal $1300 in a stop and frisk.

They take his money. Pepper spray him when he starts yelling for them to give him his money back and then pepper spray his sister when she asks for his badge number.

No idea as to the truth of all that, but that officer is surprisingly heavy. I thought there were physical mobility requirements to continue being a police officer?

Here’s one I mentioned late in another thread: cop takes money out of suspect’s pocket on film in NY.

Dude, read the thread. There were only 2 posts.

Oops! Somehow I read the other ones as North Carolina instead of NYC.

I’m sure soon the usual suspects will be along to explain why it’s legal and reasonable for a cop to steal someone’s money and pepper spray his wife for the offense of asking for a badge number. (They won’t say it’s because the “perps” were black, but that’s a big part of it.)

As for why the cop was so tubby - and in the other thread where there’s a link to two fat cops beating up a kid - actually, there’s a reason for that; it’s very hard to fire unionized employees for any reason short of criminal activity. Police forces TRY to have fitness standards but enforcing them is very, very difficult. If a person is fit enough to join the force but later on puts on eighty pounds of donut weight you can’t just fire them; there are 25 different legal and contractual barriers the cop (or other employee in any unionized government job) can throw in front of you.

Police forces would absolutely love to only have fit cops, but practically speaking it’s very hard to do.

Having this thread is probably a better idea than the suggestion I was about to make of a forum name change to “The Police Blotter”.

This seems like the appropriate place to link to John Oliver’s piece on Civil Asset Forfeiture. Apparently the cops can take your stuff based on little more than suspicion that you’re using it for illegal purposes, and it’s the devil to get it back again - the burden’s on you to prove that your money, your house, your car, whatever weren’t being used for some criminal purpose.

How this sort of thing isn’t an unconstitutional taking is beyond my comprehension.

It’s a depressing thought, but I’m willing to bet that this thread ends up with as many posts as the on-going “Stupid Republican Idea of the Day” thread, which currently stands at 17,326 posts. Non-corrupt, non-racist cops are rarer than unicorns these days, it seems.

I like the single thread idea. That is all.

Here is a great article from the Washington Post about thisissue.

The prosecutors in our jurisdiction get several free multi-day trainings, including a long weekend at the beach for their families. All paid for by forfeitures. Meanwhile, our agency has to beg, borrow and steal to get us 6 hours of free training a year… which only accounts for half of the credits we need yearly. Balls. :mad:

If this is news to you, you haven’t been paying attention.

How is it not a violation of due process?

Them that takes your gold makes the rules.

Oh, I doubt they’re rare (or indeed less than a clear majority). We just don’t notice them going about their jobs without incident.

No doubt. The great majority of everybody are decent, hard-working people who wish ill of no-one. But it seems like bad cops have escalated from the odd chicken-shit ticket and donut-stealing to open shake-downs and murder.

Nope. They have always been this way. If you were black, Puerto Rican or poor. There was never any recourse. No one believed us when we complained about the treatment we were receiving. Or they didn’t care. Or blamed us.

The only difference is the video proof. And even with the video proof, people still blame us. Or don’t care.

I know this doesn’t apply to all cops, or even most cops, but you have to think that there is a certain category of people drawn to this profession in order to “kick some criminal ass”. We clearly need to do a better job screening, but I doubt we’ll ever rid the system of those people.

Even the dogs aren’t safe.

Dumb fucks come to the wrong address and shoot the family dog.