The Pathos of Politics (112-8) Policing


An officer may use deadly force under certain circumstances even if the suspect is fleeing. ~ US Department of Justice

In the early 21st century, American police summarily execute well over 1,000 residents annually. Most incidents are nothing more than cold-blooded murder. Besides capriciously killing, American law enforcement specializes in terrorizing the populace, especially minorities and the poor.

(Black males, which are 6% of the population, account for 22% of those murdered by police. White males are 44% of the kill tally, and Hispanic males 18%. 25% of police shootings involve mentally distressed people. 88% of those killed had wielded some kind of weapon, which may have been planted on them by police after the fact to keep the situation looking copasetic.)

(Police officers have been fired for not slaughtering citizens when their bosses thought that murder was called for.)

The US Supreme Court supports the police state, letting police do as they will.

All claims that law enforcement officials have used excessive force – deadly or not – are properly analyzed under the 4th Amendment’s “objective reasonableness” standard, rather than under a substantive due process standard. The 4th Amendment “reasonableness” inquiry is without regard to underlying intent or motivation. The “reasonableness” of a use of force must allow for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation. The “reasonableness” must be judged from the perspective of an officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. ~ SCOTUS in Graham v. Connor (1989)

Graham v. Connor is the floor, and not the ceiling, for supporting shootings that are lawful but awful and morally unacceptable. ~ American criminologist and policing expert Chuck Wexler

Juries are very reluctant to convict officers who testify in their own defense that they perceived an imminent threat, whether their actions were objectively reasonable or not. As soon as the officer takes the stand, it seems that all the work the prosecutors have done is disregarded or given less weight by the trier of fact than the officer’s own testimony. ~ American criminologist and policing expert Philip Stinson

  Dustin Pigeon

I will fucking shoot you! ~ Oklahoma City police sergeant Keith Sweeney, moments before doing so

On 15 November 2017, multiple Oklahoma City police officers responded to a call about a suicidal person: 29-year-old Dustin Pigeon. When police arrived, they approached Pigeon, who had doused himself with lighter fluid, and was sitting by himself on his lawn, holding a lighter. Pigeon momentarily refused Sgt. Keith Sweeney’s order to lay down on the ground, so Sweeney shot Pigeon to death: peppering him with 5 bullets from his handgun.

Dustin Pigeon was unarmed and not a threat to officers when he was shot by Sgt. Sweeney. Deadly force was not justified. ~ Oklahoma City police investigator in a court affidavit

  Jordan Edwards

He was a good student who was very well liked by his teachers, coaches, and his fellow students. ~ Mesquite High School (Balch Springs, Texas), on Jordan Edwards

Jordan Edwards was a high school freshman: a young man with a bright future until ruthlessly murdered by Texas policeman Roy Oliver.

On 29 April 2017, someone called the cops about a disturbance. Police showed shortly thereafter. Oliver immediately took out his AR-15 rifle and made multiple shots through the passenger-side window of a car, killing Jordan.

At first, the killer and his partner claimed that the car Jordan was sitting in was backing down the street toward them in an “aggressive manner.” Video camera review instead revealed, as the Balch Springs police chief explained, that “the car was moving forward, not backward, and away from the officers, not toward them. There was no altercation.” Unsurprisingly, Jordan was black and Oliver white.

In the instance of Jordan Edwards, Oliver was later charged with murder, and convicted. The legal action against Oliver was exceptional.

For an officer to be convicted of murder resulting from an on-duty shooting, the facts of the incident have to be so bizarre that there is no rational explanation for the officer’s actions. I think that shooting into a car full of teenagers as they slowly drive down the street away from the officer fits that pattern. ~ Philip Stinson

Murderous police are hardly ever prosecuted for their crimes, and conviction is exceedingly rare. At their own expense, families of those slaughtered may seek justice for a civil rights violation, but it is outrageously expensive and seldom successful, as the courts uniformly favor law enforcement as their on-the-street henchmen.

  Francisco Serna

We thought we were dealing with an armed subject. ~ Bakersfield police chief Lyle Martin

In the early hours of 12 December 2016, Bakersfield, California police received a call that a man armed with a gun was in a certain neighborhood. When police arrived, the woman caller pointed to a stooped 73-year-old man in a driveway across the street. So, a policeman promptly pulled out his pistol and shot the elderly man 7 times; an instantly lethal dose of alacritous lead.

Francisco Serna, the victim, was unarmed. To protect the guilty, the murderous officer was not identified.

Days later, after a public uproar, police claimed that Serna had a crucifix on him that was mistaken for a gun (though they did not see any crucifix until they searched his corpse). Police also asserted that Serna was shot 6 meters away as he approached while ignoring commands to take his hands out of his pockets. (A shuffling old man with his hands in his pockets is doubtlessly an imminent lethal threat.)

The police did not notify the family that they had slaughtered Serna. Instead, the family found out watching the TV news.

  Stephon Clark

He was at the wrong place at the wrong time in his own back yard? ~ Stephon Clark’s grandmother Sequita Thompson

On 18 March 2018, after dark, Sacramento, California police got a call about a man breaking vehicle windows. The 2 policemen who responded thought they had a suspect, whom they tried to follow in a frantic foot pursuit. The police ended up behind the back yard of Stephon Clark, who is standing on his covered patio, having a conversation on his white iPhone. Clark heard a commotion and took a step toward the noise.

Cowering behind a wall, a policeman yelled: “show me your hands,” and then declared “gun, gun, gun” – whereupon Clark is shot down in cold blood as the police unload 20 bullets at him. From verbal confrontation to murder took 6 seconds.

The police later lied to cover up their tragic mistake. The county coroner tried to cover for the police by wrongly analyzing the bullet wounds. Clark had been shot in the back. As is the norm, the murderous police were not charged.

  Justine Damond

Justine Damond was an Australian meditation instructor and life-coach: a petite, white woman, living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. On the night of 15 July 2017, she called the police to report a crime. Instead, she became the victim of one.

When the police came, Damond approached the police car in her pajamas. Seeing her coming while sitting in the passenger side of the patrol car, 31-year-old Somali-American policeman Mohamed Noor opened fire, shooting Damond multiple times, killing her on the spot.

Usually, people who call the police in their pajamas are not ambushers, especially spiritual healers and pacifists. ~ American criminal defense attorney Bob Bennett

Citizen complaints had previously been lodged with police about Noor; to no avail. The Minneapolis police chief, Janee Harteau, defended Noor by explaining that he was well trained; which is to say that Noor’s homicidal reflex is what should be expected of American police.

This officer completed that training, very well, just like every officer, he was very suited to be on the street. ~ Janee Harteau

As expectable, after public outrage, the police lied about what happened, trying to justify the homicide.

In a highly unusual aftermath, a jury found Noor guilty of murder. It helped that Damond was a gentle, attractive white woman and Noor was a swarthy Somali.

  Daniel Shaver

Please don’t shoot me. ~ a sobbing Daniel Shaver, futilely begging police for his life

On 18 January 2016, guests at a La Quinta Inn in Mesa, Arizona reported seeing a man with a rifle in the window of a 5th floor room. Like crows, a murder of 6 police officers showed up.

Policeman Philip Brailsford ordered Daniel Shaver to exit his hotel room, lay face-down in the hallway, and not make any sudden movements. Shaver complied and begged the police not to kill him. It was obvious that Shaver was unarmed.

Then, rather than cuff Shaver, Brailsford ordered Shaver to crawl toward him. Shaver again complied. When Shaver twisted slightly on the floor, raising his elbow, Brailsford opened fire with his AR-15 rifle. The 5 bullets pumped into Shaver killed him on the spot.

I saw the individual doing everything he could to comply with what the officer was asking. And so the officer’s actions then were inexplicable. ~ Chuck Wexler

Brailsford had inscribed “You’re Fucked” on his rifle, against department regulations prohibiting profanity on weapons. The judge in Brailsford’s murder trial refused to let that salient fact into evidence. Brailsford got off Scott-free.

(Both Brailsford and Shaver were young white men. Shaver was married, with 2 young children. Brailsford was single. Shortly after the shooting, Brailsford was fired from the police force for multiple departmental violations, after serving for over 2 years.)

Mesa, Arizona police refused to issue the shocking video footage they had, only doing so after Brailsford was acquitted for slaying Shaver.

Mr. Shaver certainly didn’t deserve to die that night. ~ Philip Brailsford’s defense attorney, Michael Piccarreta, after the trial verdict

I just don’t understand how anybody could watch that video and then say ‘not guilty,’ that this is justified; that Daniel deserved this and that Philip Brailsford doesn’t deserve to be held accountable for his actions. ~ Shaver’s widow, Laney Sweet

  Andrew Finch

He took such good care of family. ~ Lisa Finch, Andrew Finch’s mother, about Andrew

In the early evening of 28 December 2017, 28-year-old Andrew Finch, a father of 2 young children, heard movement at the front of his house. Finch opened his front door and was immediately shot dead by a Wichita, Kansas policeman. The killing was straightaway: no questions asked, no confrontation. Police blamed their trigger-happy, homicidal ways on a false report made to them.

This was the irresponsible actions of a prankster. ~ Wichita deputy police chief Troy Livingston