Policing is Complicated: there are Good Cops and Bad Cops and sometimes they are the Same Cops

I have never fantasized about being a cop. Not even a little bit. Not when I was a boy, not when I grew older, not at any point in my life. It just doesn’t interest me at all.

If anything has been demonstrated in spades over the last few months, it’s that policing is complicated and there are good cops and there are bad cops, and sometimes they’re the same people.

On the Good Cops front

Recent examples of “good cops” include:

  • Eugene Goodman, the capitol police officer who led insurrectionists away from the Senate chamber and helped save Senatorial lives during the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol.
  • Brian Sicknick, the capitol police officer who died defending the Capitol complex during the January 6, 2021 insurrection.
  • Eric Tallie, the officer responding at the recent mass shooting at the King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, who was shot when he charged into the supermarket.
  • Billy Evans, another capitol police officer, this time killed when a psychopath pinned him against the north barricade in an attempt to ram into the capitol complex on April 2, 2021.
  • Adam Wilson, who was injured in a school shooting at the Austin East High School in Knoxville TN on April 12, 2021.
  • The (unidentified) officers responding to the massacre at the Fedex plant in Indiana on April 15, 2021, and who were too late to rescue anyone.

On the Bad Cops front

Recent examples of “bad cops” include:

  • Officer Derek Chauvin, the Minnesota cop who killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for 9:29.
  • Officer Kim Goodman, the 26-year veteran officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, who killed 20 year old Duante Wright during a traffic stop.
  • Officer Joe Gutierrez, who pepper-sprayed army medic  Lt. Caron Nazario while he was in uniform, because he had temporary license plates on his new SUV.
  • Officer Eric Stillman, who killed 13-year old Adam Toledo after a foot chase in the Little Village neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago.

Derek Chauvin

When I first saw the video of George Floyd being kneeled on by Derek Chauvin, it was obvious to me that Derek Chauvin just didn’t give a shit whether Floyd lived or died. I don’t think he was intending to kill him. I think he was intending to send Floyd a message:

  • You don’t matter.
  • You’re nothing.
  • I don’t give a shit about you.

If you’ve followed the trial at all, you know that Floyd was being arrested for passing a counterfeit $20 bill; you know that it’s likely that Floyd didn’t even know the bill was counterfeit; you know that Floyd was compliant in every way until they tried to shove him into the back seat of the police cruiser, where his claustrophobia acted up; you know that Floyd was handcuffed and completely under control, and there was no need to kneel on his neck; and you know that many bystanders, including a trained firefighter, were begging Chauvin to get off of Floyd because they could see that he couldn’t breathe.

And if you look at the video of Floyd in Cup Foods, he doesn’t look like a person who is about to be dead. He looks like a goofy guy who is having fun, not someone who is overdosing or in the middle of committing a crime.

Derek Chauvin just didn’t consider him to be a real human being.

Chauvin must be convicted. He must be convicted, or another generation of black and brown people will conclude that there is no way that they can ever get justice where the police are involved.

Kim Goodman

Can an experienced officer really mistake a gun for a taser? Isn’t the taser bright yellow? Isn’t it carried on the left side of your belt if the gun is carried on the right side?

Goodman isn’t the first officer to make this claim, and she probably won’t be the last. But it is hard to believe.

Officer Goodman is the 26-year veteran (and former police union President) in Brooklyn Center Minnesota, who shot Duante Wright while trying to arrest him. At the time Goodman was training another cop. And Brooklyn  Center is literally 10 minutes from where the Derek Chauvin trial has been going on.

  • Yes, Wright had a warrant for his arrest, but it was for misdemeanor offenses where he hadn’t shown up in court.
  • Yes, Wright tried to escape, but weren’t there other ways that they could apprehend him? They had his license plate number and knew where he lived.

Many other people have asked the question whether it was necessary to tase Wright, and whether Goodman would have attempted than if Wright had been a white person.

Joe Gutierrez

This idiot pepper-sprayed an Army medic who was in uniform, because he had a temporary license plate on his new SUV. The medic — Lt. Caron Nazario — drove a couple of miles after seeing the blue lights, because he wanted to stop in a well-lit place, so he pulled over into a gas station. 

  • Caron turned the video on in his cell phone and told the officers, “I’m honestly afraid to get out of the car.”
  • “You should be,” was Officer Gutierrez’s response. 
  • And then he pepper-sprayed the Lieutenant.
  • Why? Just to show him who’s the boss?

The police officers did not arrest Lieutenant Nazario and have not filed charges.

At least they didn’t kill him.

But Lt. Nazario has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the officers and the town, so maybe he will actually have the last laugh.

Eric Stillman

This is the officer who shot 13 year old Adam Toledo after a lengthy foot chase. A lot has been made of the fact that the kid was only 13, and that at the moment that he was shot he actually had his hands up and appeared to be complying with commands. To be fair, Officer Stillman’s situation has many more extenuating circumstances than the others:

  • This was after a lengthy foot chase.
  • Shots had been fired.
  • It was 2:30 in the morning.
  • Toledo did, in fact, have a gun, which he dropped at the moment that the Officer asked him to put his hands up.
  • There was no way the officer could know the kid’s age at the time he shot him.
  • Stillman was visibly distraught after he shot the kid.

Did Officer Stillman make a serious mistake here? No question. But he was dealing with a kid who had a gun, and it’s possible that the sound of the gun hitting the ground made the cop believe that a shot had been fired. 

Who knows?

But this one, to me, is very different from the other three cases. It’s still problematic, but it is different, and those differences should, at least, be acknowledged, lest we paint all cops with the same brush.

Good Cops and Bad Cops can be the same people.

It should also be noted that sometimes good cops and bad cops are the same people. That was illustrated back in the 2004 movie “Crash,” where the fictional Officer “John Ryan” (played by Matt Dillon) both harasses a bad couple during a traffic stop, and then saves the woman from that couple from her exploding vehicle after a serious traffic accident.

Was Billy Evans, the capitol police officer who was recently killed by Noah Green at the north barricade a good officer? What did he do during the insurrection? Whose side was he on?

I have no idea.

He was at his post, where he was supposed to be, when he became another police victim, killed in the line of duty.

Is it the System or the Officers?

Is the problem that there are so many cops who are “bad apples,” or is the problem the system. Is it a small miracle that the police system produces as many “good apples” as it does?

It’s a legitimate question, I think.

The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah recently posited that question, and suggested that the problem is police culture. In a more academic vein, Georgetown law professor (and former federal prosecutor) Paul Butler  has made a similar set of suggestions, and emphasized how much “extraordinary” power police officers hold over black men and women at traffic stops.

One suggestion — which I completely agree with — is that police should, at a minimum, keep their weapons in their holsters during a routine traffic stop until or unless something happens, that requires a weapon to be unholstered.

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Count me among those who think it’s a mistake to pause the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration announced yesterday that they are jointly recommending a “pause” in the use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. They’re recommending this pause after that six women (out of the almost 7 million persons who got the vaccine) developed rare blood clots within a week or two, with one of them dying and one in critical condition.

That, my friends, makes developing a blood clot post-vaccine less likely than being struck by lightning.

Still, the two agencies are recommending the pause out of an “abundance of caution” while a thorough review is being conducted.

Wrong.

Bad idea.

In a country where there is so much vaccine hesitancy already, making an issue out of this will just compound the problem.

We already had the previous problem with AstraZeneca and their vaccine, and the question of link to blood clots, which risk was also found to be incredibly small. Better that one or two people die of blood clots — which may or may not be related to the vaccine — than that thousands more die of Covid while hesitating to get vaccinated.

I mean they should go ahead and conduct their investigation, and do it as intensely and quickly as possible, but don’t pause the vaccine roll-out, and don’t scare more Americans unnecessarily.

Let’s keep things moving, for crying out loud.

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CDC Director Rachelle Walensky is prophesizing a “4th wave” of the coronavirus.

Earlier this week Dr. Rachelle Walensky prophesized “doom” and a the eruption of a 4th wave of the coronavirus.

Dr. Rochelle Wallensky warning of “impending doom”

Fantastic, everybody!

Great work!

Earlier this week I mentioned that we really “aren’t smart enough to stay alive” as a species, and I stand by that observation.

We’re so close to the finish line, but we just can’t control our impulses.

We should be so grateful that we’re living in 2020-2021 and not 1918-1920, when the “Spanish Flu” was ravaging our planet right after World War I.

They didn’t have vaccines.

We have at least four, not including the Russian and Chinese vaccines.

So here’s what we have:

  1. The Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine.
  2. The Moderna vaccine.
  3. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
  4. The Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine.

In addition:

  1. The Russians have the Sputnik V vaccine.
  2. The Chinese have the Convidecia vaccine.

Honestly, that is effing amazing!

Six vaccines, plus several others in development in countries like India and South Africa.

All that we have to do is stay patient a little longer, not open everything up, put the fire out now and not keep giving it oxygen.

That’s all we have to do.

For Christ’s sake, not even Germany (Germany!), a country famous for its orderly and efficient processes, can get this right.

People, we have to do better. I’m as tired of all of this as all the rest of you, but I’ve got one dose in my arm and will have a second one soon. When I do, I’m not going to go out and celebrate, because we’re not out of the woods yet. I will continue to wear a mask in stores or crowded settings — even though I personally will be almost completely out of danger — because stores aren’t going to know who and who isn’t vaccinated, and I want to do my part to get us out of the woods. That’s all.

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The Republican Effort to Suppress Voting, part 4 (the Filibuster)

If we can all agree that the filibuster has become problematic (frankly for both sides, for both Democrats and Republicans), the question is, how do we reform the filibuster? There seem to be two options:

  1. Eliminate it entirely.
  2. Return to a “talking” filibuster.

Mark me down in agreement with the “two Joes” — Biden and Mancin — that completely eliminating the filibuster carries with it certain risks. There may come a time in the future, such as in 2017-2018, where the Republicans could hold the House, Senate and Presidency together, and at that point there would be no limiting the mischief they could make.

A talking filibuster isn’t much of a brake, but it’s a little bit of a brake.

Bernie Sanders refusing to yield in 1992 discussion of military spending (although not actually a filibuster)

On the other hand, nothing prevents the Republicans from blowing up the filibuster the next time they are in the majority.

And one of the ironies of the “For the People” Act is that without the voter suppression that the Act would limit, the Republicans might never get back the House, Senate and Presidency, at least not until they abandon their current strategy of running on race baiting and the culture wars.

In any case, the reform that I would support is going back to the “talking” filibuster, the Mr. Smith Goes to Washington filibuster, the Wendy Davis Texas filibuster, the Strom Thurmond 24-hour filibuster, the one where you have to put on your adult diapers, hydrate yourself, and then keep the floor without going to the bathroom, without drinking, without eating, or without engaging in any other bodily function.

I mean, Strom Thuromd was completely on the wrong side of history, but at least he had the courage of his convictions.

On behalf of a much better cause, former Texas State Senator (and one-time gubernatorial aspirant) Wendy Davis spent 13 hours in 2013 filibustering a Texas bill that banned abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization and added other restrictions. (This bill was eventually enacted.)

Discomfort is supposed to be the point.

In the meantime, the “For the People” Act may be the defining issue for the Congress for the next few years if not the next decade. 

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The Republican Effort to Suppress Voting, part 3 (the Filibuster)

For the last couple of days we’ve been talking about the Repubican efforts to suppress the vote in the aftermath of the 2020 election. The Democrats have the perfect response with the “For the People” Act, but they have to get around the filibuster first.

Ah, the filibuster.

The filibuster has been a problem for quite some time. I wrote about it way back in 2013.

At that time I noted the history of the filibuster and how Strom Thurmond famously filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for 24 hours and 18 minutes.

Now, that was a filibuster! 

(Okay, it was for a terrible cause, but at least Thurmond put his money where his mouth was.)

https://apps.npr.org/dailygraphics/graphics/filibuster-timeline-20210324

Over the course of the last half century, there were three important changes made in the filibuster:

  1. Congress lowered the threshold from two-thirds to three-fifths of Senators present and voting to pass a cloture vote.
  2. Congress passed laws that limited filibusters on certain kinds of bills, including budget reconciliation bills, fast track consideration of trade acts and votes related to the war powers act (because these were all “must pass” legislation).
  3. The Senate began to allow Senators to put “holds” on legislation by “threatening” a filibuster, instead of actually having to get up and keep the floor by talking.

It’s this last change that proved to be an effing disaster. It was intended to relieve Senators from some of the discomfort and annoyance of having to actually filibuster something instead of just placing a hold on it.

Since then, the filibuster has been eroded, first by the Democrats under Obama when Mitch McConnell used it to block just about every federal judicial appointment, and then by McConnell himself so that he could get the conservative justices that he wanted on the Supreme Court. 

Now, the Democrats are threatening to eviscerate it completely so that they can get things like the “For the People” Act signed into law.

McConnell has, of course, threatened to turn the Senate into “scorched earth” terrain if the Democrats revoke the filibuster. 

Here’s one of the ironies about the filibuster: it can be changed with a simple majority vote, because the Senate rules themselves can be affirmed with a simple majority vote.

(We’ll be looking at how to reform the filibuster tomorrow.)

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The Republican Effort to Suppress Voting, part 2

In response to the more than 253 bills that would restrict voting access that have been introduced in 43 states and efforts like the recently signed  “Election Integrity Act of 2021” in Georgia, the Democrats in Congress introduced the “For the People” Act.

Let’s take a quick look at what the “For the People” Act would do. Among other things it would:

  1. Require states to offer same-day voter registration for federal elections and to permit voters to make changes to their registration at the polls.
  2. Require states to hold early voting for at least two weeks and would establish automatic voter registration for citizens who provide information to state agencies (such as state departments of motor vehicles) unless they opt out of doing so.
  3. Make Election Day a federal holiday.
  4. Require states to offer online voter registration.
  5. Authorize 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote in advance of their becoming 18.
  6. Limit states’ ability to remove registered voters from the rolls, and set conditions for when they could do so.
  7. Prohibit voter purges from taking place less than six months before an election.
  8. Restore voting rights to felons who complete prison terms.
  9. Mandate the use of paper ballots that can be marked by voters either by hand or with a ballot marking device.
  10. Require state officials to preserve paper ballots for recounts or audits, and to conduct a hand count of ballots for recounts and audits.
  11. Require the voting machines used in all federal elections to be manufactured in the United States.
  12. Impose stricter limitations on foreign lobbying.
  13. Require super PACs and other “dark money” organizations to disclose their donors.
  14. Require the president and vice president, as well as presidential and vice-presidential candidates, to publicly disclose their previous ten years of income tax returns.
  15. Thwart gerrymandering by requiring states to use independent commissions to draw congressional district lines.

That’s a lot of good stuff in there. Frankly, in a rational world, these are proposals that — for the most part — should be supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

But, as we all know, we don’t live in a rational world.

By the way, it should be noted that the Democrats don’t just have the “For the People” Act, but they also have the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which, among other things, would restore and strengthen parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, especially those provisions that were struck down by Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. 529 (2013), requiring certain states to “pre-clear” changes to their voting laws with the Attorney General of the United States.

Which brings us to the next issue: how to get the “For the People” Act (and the John Lewis Act) into law as long as we have the filibuster.

Ah, the filibuster.

(That will be tomorrow’s topic)

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The Republican Effort to Suppress Voting, part 1

Last week Governor Brian Kemp1 of Georgia signed the “Election Integrity Act of 2021” as part of the opening salvo in the Republican efforts to suppress the votes of minorities, liberals, progressives, and anyone else who isn’t a conservative white man. Among other things this bill:

  • Restricts absentee voting to voters over 65, with a disability, in the military or who live overseas;
  • Reduces the time that voters can request mail-in ballots from 180 days to 11 weeks;
  • Requesting and returning a ballot will also require a driver’s license number or state ID number;
  • State and local governments are no longer allowed to send unsolicited applications;
  • Caps the number of drop boxes at one per 100,000 active voters or one for every early voting site (whichever is smaller);
  • Prohibits rural and urban counties from receiving grant funding from philanthropic outlets such as the Center for Tech and Civic Life; and
  • Establishes that the secretary of state will no longer chair the State Election Board, becoming instead a non-voting ex-officio member.

Then, finally, there was the provision that got the most attention because of its extreme pettiness, and that is the one that:

  • Prohibits anyone (except poll workers) from handing out water to voters in line, and criminalizes passing out food and water to voters within 150 feet of a polling place or within 25 feet of any voter standing in line.

(Now, to be fair, it must also be pointed out that there are some provisions in the bill that appear to actually strengthen the voting process, such as one that allows local election officials to begin processing (but not tabulating) absentee ballots starting two weeks before the election.)

What is very interesting about all of this is what the Republican legislature cited as their reason for wanting to enact these changes. It was not to combat fraud in the voting process. No, it is “significant lack of confidence in Georgia election systems,”  with “many electors concerned about allegations of rampant voter suppression and many electors concerned about allegations of rampant voter fraud.”

It’s right there in their whereas clause, in their statement of legislative intent.

Of course, the bill doesn’t address voter suppression at all. But it sure addresses allegations of voter fraud. Allegations which were put forth by Trump and the Republicans as part of the big lie. So, to recap:

  1. Republicans sow doubt about the election system with false allegations of voter fraud and the big lie that the election was stolen from Trump;
  2. Republicans use the doubt that they sowed as the reason for enacting laws that are designed to suppress the vote.

Nice self-supporting feedback loop there.

It’s not just Georgia. As of February 2021, more than 253 bills that would restrict voting access have been introduced in 43 states across America.

These bills aren’t just trying to disenfranchise my black and brown brothers and sisters. They’re also trying to disenfranchise me. Because I’m a progressive, and if my friends can’t vote in places like Georgia, then my progressive voice won’t be heard in the federal Congress. And I don’t like that at all.

The Democrats in the federal Congress have, as many of you know, proposed H.R.1, the “For the People Act” as a way to protect against these Republican efforts at voter suppression. (More on that tomorrow.)

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I’m sorry to report that, as a species, we really aren’t smart enough to stay alive

We’re supposed to be the “smart” species on the planet, but I’m sorry to report that as a species, we really aren’t smart enough to stay alive. Or, in any case we don’t have the needed self-control.

Forget, for a moment, about our inability to accept, handle or effectively deal with climate change. Let’s just look at Covid-19 for the moment.

We are so close to the finish line.

We are so close to the finish line.

But we just can’t keep ourselves from opening up too soon, even here in progressive Massachusetts. We’re seeing a renewed uptick, this time in the more dangerous and infectious versions of the virus, especially among people under 30 (who are largely unvaccinated).

Why, oh why, can’t just wait for two or three more months when it really will be safe to reopen. How does sort of kind of quasi-reopening help anybody now?

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Well, that wasn’t suspenseful in the least

When I heard that there had been three separate shootings of women at Asian “massage” parlors in the Atlanta area I thought — probably the same as you — this is guaranteed to be some ugly rat-faced sexually dysfunctional skinny little white teen-age punk.

Right on the money, of course.

Robert Aaron Long, the ugly rat-faced sexually dysfunctional skinny little white teen-age punk in question, already confessed.

Well, that takes the mystery out of that.

He also claims that it was “not a hate-crime” and that he has a sex addiction, and saw these locations as a “temptation” for him that he “wanted to eliminate.”

How about just not going there.

Apologists for our former Liar-in-Chief will claim that this has nothing to do with the environment that he procured, and environment where he blamed the Chinese for deliberately having manufactured the coronavirus in a lab in Wuhan, calling it the “Wuhan virus” and the “Kung Flu,” among other things.

And we just happen to be having a spike in anti-Asian violence at this very moment.

Eight lives, this little fucker took.

Eight lives.

Life imprisonment for this little fucker, just like Dylann Roof, his twin in multiple murders. (Although technically Roof got the death sentence which is, of course, under appeal.)

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Our Hypocrisy is not like theirs, part 25

Last week Joe Biden signed the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021,” which he had also championed as his first order of business as the new President. Then, on Thursday, Joe Biden gave a speech to the nation in which he told folks that he was hoping that everyone would be able to gather without restrictions by July 4th.

How did conservatives interpret this comment?

They claimed (falsely) that Biden was trying to limit their (our) ability to gather on July 4th, when it was clear that Biden was trying to do the opposite.

How do we know?

Well, because we have the transcript.

Here’s what Joe Biden actually said:

I promise I will do everything in my power, I will not relent until we beat this virus, but I need you, the American people. I need you. I need every American to do their part. And that’s not hyperbole. I need you.

I need you to get vaccinated when it’s your turn and when you can find an opportunity, and to help your family and friends and neighbors get vaccinated as well.

Because here’s the point: If we do all this, if we do our part, if we do this together, by July the 4th, there’s a good chance you, your families, and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day. That doesn’t mean large events with lots of people together, but it does mean small groups will be able to get together.

After this long hard year, that will make this Independence Day something truly special, where we not only mark our independence as a nation, but we begin to mark our independence from this virus.

Joe Biden’s March 11, 2021 speech to the nation

Now, some of your conservative friends will object that the press regularly misquoted Donald Trump. Except, that’s not true. The press quoted Donald Trump accurately, and then the question was, did he really mean the shit that he said.

  • Did he really believe that there were “good people” on both sides of the Charlottesville equation?
  • Did he really mean that the medical establishment should look into the use of lysol as a disinfectant for the coronavirus?
  • Does he really believe that he won the 2020 election, or is he just pulling our collective leg?

Shit like that.

Democrats are betting that the stimulus package will help them in the 2022 midterms, which may (or may not) prove true. But Republicans have to bet that we’re all going to have a collective case of amnesia by the time the 2022 midterms arrive.

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