Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bean Bag


Regular readers of this column will already know that I have a real respect and support for LEOs. The Thin Blue Line catches a lot grief, and people not on it sometimes have a great deal of difficulty understanding how hard it is. Having a couple officers in my own family, and having known more than a few outside that, I've heard some horror stories, and being any kind of cop is often a thankless job. I wouldn't want to do it.

That said -- you ought to know me well enough by now that such a set-up isn't going to abolish the hot seat -- we have had a little problem locally about which I feel the need to speak ...

Here's the basic background.( If you want to read a more detailed account, go here.)

Recently a party let out one evening in Portland, and of a moment, the streets were full of kids, some of whom were known troublemakers. Local law was sent to make sure it didn't turn into a riot. So far, so good.

The kids -- some of whom were way too young to be out on their own at eleven o'clock at night -- started going their ways, and several of them took to the local light rail train, aka MAX.

Because some of these little darlings had raised ruckus on the buses and trains before, they had basically been kicked off and banned for their activities.

Portland PD spotted a couple of these supposed-to-be-excluded troublemakers on the train, knew who they were, and told them to exit.

Off the train, one of the girls got feisty. Words were exchanged, the officer on hand and his partner decided they were going to take her into custody, and she swung on them, hitting one in the face.

Apparently he missed the class on block and parry.

Now, let's be straight about this part -- this girl was not a petite powder puff, but a sizeable five-seven and about one-fifty. That makes a difference.

The officer took her down, she flailed and continued to resist, and so the officer's partner leaned in and helpfully popped her in the leg with a bean bag round from the special shotgun designed to shoot such things, which he just happened to be carrying.

Understand that these bean bags aren't the little patty-cake things you and your children toss around, but essentially a shotgun load wrapped in a sack so it thumps the hell out of whatever it hits. Shots to the torso are not to be taken any closer than fifteen feet, minimum, because less-than-lethal doesn't mean non-lethal and people have died from these things. But apparently, there aren't any department guidelines on thigh shots.

That shot calmed her right down. She eventually was trucked off to juvie hall and everybody went back to their business.

Here's the catch:

The girl was twelve years old.

The bean bag round was delivered at contact range. And the shooter was a guy already part of a major excessive force lawsuit in which a schizophrenic man (James Chasse) died after a pile-on, with twenty-six breaks in sixteen ribs, and other assorted thumpings, for the crime of suspicion of public urination. They hollered at him, he took off, they ran him down and he didn't want to go quietly.

Because he was paranoid.

Cops and doctors and nurses know about Excited Delirium, which can sky your body temp into the red zone and turn you into a screaming maniac. People die from this, they blow out arteries, burn up, but Chasse died from injuries received at the scene, medical examiner guessed knee drops, kicks, and what, no two ways about it, has to be considered a really bad beat-down, given that it fucking killed him.

The deputies at the jail turned him away when they brought him in -- Jeez, take him to the fuckin' hospital, dude, you ain't bringing him in here to die!

Which was, by then, too late. He died in the ambulance enroute.

It took the Chief three years to get around to finding there was no fault in the incident. Three years. No fault.

The Police Commissioner overruled the Chief and wanted to give the responsible officer a couple weeks off. Political? Yeah. Justified? When somebody dies as a result of police action, you have to ask why, and if it takes three years to answer the question? Something's wrong with the system. It doesn't smell good.

The Union went ballistic. They wrote articles in the local paper, talking about how everything was by the book and there was no fault involved.

I have to say, that if a full-grown man is turned into mushy kindling for suspicion that he pissed on the bushes and dies from the pounding? Something is wrong with that picture, crazy or not.

Pissing in public -- if he actually did -- is not generally a capital crime in this country.

A big part of the problem with serving and protecting the public is how you are viewed in that service. And part of that is the basic wonder with this latest episode: Yeah, she was a strapping child and all, but if two experienced police officers can't go hand-to-hand with one twelve-year-old girl without resorting to a bean bag shotgun, what does that say about them to the general public?

I'll tell you what it says: Maybe they ought to be in a different line of work. 'Cause they sure don't seem to be doing so well in this one. Maybe ... Parking Meter Patrol? Crossing guard? Flower arranging?

If you can't deal with an angry twelve-year-old girl, how are you gonna deal with a full grown crazed man? Oh, yeah, right. We covered that.

The Chief was going to sit the shooter on a desk and poke at it; the Police Commissioner overruled her again. Send him home. You can pay him, but get him off the job.

The Police Union is bellowing hither and yon about no confidence in the Chief and the Commish, and marching and making speeches. Do they really want to be drawing the line over this one? The girl wasn't armed, and no matter how you slice it, it doesn't make the local force look good if this is the place they choose to make a stand.

Stoned loon with a gun shooting at folks? Sure. Whatever you need. That happened in Hillsboro a couple days ago -- guy went nuts, drove down the road, filling the air with bullets. Killed a passenger in a car, and got killed himself when he stopped and started to shoot it out with the law. His bad, and that's why we want cops working the streets, to protect us from him.

Twelve-year-old bad girls who violate a bus exclusion? Bean bag shotgun at contact distance? Somebody needs to stop and think about this one. It just doesn't sound right.

Yeah, yeah, I wasn't there, I didn't see how fierce the pre-teen girl was, it's easy for me to be a Monday-morning quarterback, but c'mon. In some cases, what it looks like is going to be far more important than what it might actually be, and in this case, these two guys are going to be seen as stepping stupid, and I find it hard not to nod and agree when I hear that.

38 comments:

jks9199 said...

I have a very hard time coming up with a justification for using a bean bag round at contact ranges like that. Using a Taser in drive stun or normal mode... sure.

But the bean bag is propelled by a shotgun charge. At that sort of range, it's almost surprising that she didn't end up with crippling damage to the leg.

Somebody's got some explaining to do.

Jason Couch said...

Ouch. And here I thought tasering the 10 year old was bad.

Bobbe Edmonds said...

I go around the block on this one...You have postulated on this blog about what to do if a fellow wearing the appropriate blue uniform and outfitted with the latest in explosive-discharge lead particle propellant approaches you in an aggravated state: Keep your fucking hands where they can see them, period. Even I know that, and I can't be accused of being the smartest banana in the bunch.

But a 12 year old girl...? I have to question if the training of the officer was sufficient, that it led him to think it would be "alright" to do that. I'm not trained like them, so what other options they have, I couldn't say. But I do think there must have been SOMETHING.

Still and all...I think I would side with the police on this. I would be the first to say that what they did was wrong, but I would also say that about a shark if it had just eaten a 12 year old girl who jumped into the shark pool...Didn't she KNOW they would do that? What was she thinking..."Hey guys, watch this! It'll be cool!"

What kind of moron resists arrest? The girl, 12 years old or not, defaulted on the primary rule, right there. The news story says she got popped once, started to comply, then resisted AGAIN, after being shot with a beanbag! They demonstrated what they were willing to do to her, and she all but said "Bring it, boys!"

Who were her parents, that taught her it was okay to do such things? Why are THEY not locked up for willfully endangering a child?

I don't want to come across as the Darth Vader of child rearing, but if that had been MY kid...Her ass would have resembled a freshly skinned carcass for weeks, and the next time she would have been let out to see daylight, Obama's DAUGHTERS would be running for president.

Wrong approaches all around on this one.

Steve Perry said...

Getting hit with a bean bag round, so I have been told by somebody who enjoyed that experience, is rather like getting tagged by somebody with a good arm swinging a ball peen hammer trying to see how big a dent he can put into a car door.

Police are taught to use the right tool for the job. And if they are not taught that Big Brother is everywhere watching, they surely know he has spy eyes at the MAX station, and all this wonderful activity was going to be recorded. Which it was.

If you are gonna do something questionable during an arrest of a twelve-year-old, doing it on camera is maybe not the best idea.

If you already have a record of excessive force when it comes to dealing with suspects, you might want to, you figure, tone it down when you know it is being videoed for the Six O'Clock News.

And I still maintain that once the hostilities commenced, two veteran police officers ought to be able to take down a preteen girl without resorting to a tool that offers the chance of serious, debilitating injury. Hands, tasers, batons.

A bad twelve-year-old acting foolish is expected. I cut them more slack than a seasoned street cop armed to the teeth, because when the unarmed girl stops flailing, nobody is apt to be hurt much. When the police get enthusiastic, people can be dead.

What the action seems to imply is that the officer didn't want to do it the hard way, so he just up and shot her. Which, given that his partner was wrapped up with the suspect, was interesting in that he could have caught that round if they'd twitched at the wrong second.

Morality aside, it's not the brightest tactical move.

Are these the guys I want standing between me an anarchy? Maybe if it's led by the children ...

James said...

We do a huge disservice to ourselves and our profession when we defend actions like this. Police officers should be the first to stand up and say "You were wrong". We decry the gangster mentality when the talk about "snitches" but when we close ranks to defend the indefensible, is it really any different? True, our motivations are better and our goals on a different end of the legal spectrum, but we have to take the lead in policing ourselves. Or others will do it for us.
Lest this seem a rush to judgment, I wasn't there and the final decision should be rendered after a careful investigation of the incident and analysis of the facts. But I have seen similar things, many times, over the course of my career, and they have usually resulted from the LEO being scared or inadequately trained. This is one of the reasons I have also been a long-time proponent of LEOs being involved in the martial arts. I have never seen one of my fellow officers who has some ranking in a MA over-react. There is a level of confidence that physical competence in the MA breeds that tends to preclude these kind of actions.
Plus, you get to sweat a lot and beat up on your friends. The best of both worlds, really.

Scott said...

I've heard the argument that blood chokes are dangerous, so cops shouldn't use them. Sounds plausible, but... more dangerous than shotguns? I don't think so.

For that matter; takedown, guard pass, scarf hold or knee ride? Or, you know, pin, if you like plain ol' wrasslin'.

Scott said...

"What kind of moron resists arrest?"

Kids? Holding a 12 year old to an adult standard of behavior seems a little unreasonable; punishing that violation with a beanbag round from a 12 gauge seems evil.

A little sexism, there; I wouldn't be as vexed if he shot a 12-year-old boy; certainly I deserved it multiple times when I was 12. ;-)

Bobbe Edmonds said...

Well, the comment isn't mutually exclusive - What kind of KID disobeys an ADULT that it has been taught is an AUTHORITY FIGURE? Furthermore, one that has caught her with her hand in the cookie jar in the first place?

The cops were wrong in their approach, I'm not arguing that one. Someone with a badge did something stupid.

The kid, in my opinion, was DOUBLY wrong - She broke the prime directive in the first place. If it had been her parents instead of a cop, would they have tolerated that behavior? I think not.

That she was shot...Inexcusable.

That she put herself in that position in the FIRST place, willingly, even gleefully?

MORON. Textbook case. Cast Iron. Short bus, coupled with Ritalin and a drool monitor. As I said earlier, if it had been MY kid, she'd need a pillow to sit down for a month.

Because if this is what she's like at 12, and doesn't get reigned in...Get used to the idea of a phone call in the middle of the night, five years later. You can make the choice then, whether or not to post bail.

Scott said...

Egad, a rebellious tween; who saw THAT coming? ;-)

We agree the cops were wrong; we agree the girl was an idiot; I do have a rule against hitting kids; much easier to maintain said moral high ground since I don't have any kids of my own, of course; but I do have Siberian huskies, and the redhead is smarter than I am, and I don't hit them either, even when it costs me a hundred bucks worth of steak or a few hundred dollars of neighbor's cat's vet bill or a pair of absurdly expensive shoes....

I did have to do something about the shoes; Italian leather doesn't come cheap, and they were using them as chew toys. Hiding them behind closed doors was useless, Penny (avatar pic) turns doorknobs just fine, even kid-proof ones.

So I lost my temper one afternoon with the chewed-up shoes, screaming fury and beating the shoes with my fists until floor tiles broke and my blood was all over the floor; big tantrum, carefully directed away from loved ones and, more generally, the animate. Worked great, the girls gave guilty looks to my shoes and never hurt one again.

Teaching your kids is really, really important, agreed; hitting them, though, is, IMO, unacceptable; more egregious than hitting an adult, more egregious than hitting someone else's kid; how's that for food for thought?

BlakeErven said...

Very interesting Steve.

I can't honestly imagine what kind of 150 pound teen once on the ground would be hard to restrain with two cops. Perhaps the story would be different if she or any teen of that stature was hopped up on something stronger than insubordination but the 2 vs 1 is a hard argument. This wasn't a riot situation.

In my humble less than educated opinion, discharging a weapon is discharging a weapon. "Less than lethal" is not the same as "non-lethal" especially at close range. If she at 150 lbs happened to be a pissed off Oscar De La Hoya perhaps the situation would have been different.

No party was fully innocent. However, only one party could be deemed ignorant. If she finds a lawyer with a pulse her first car will be a new Mercedes SLK.

Hopefully she learns to deal with authority quick. I sure as hell never assume cops are carrying bean bag guns when they pull me over.

Scott said...

Pump shotguns have the same primordial lizard-brain Oh Fuck nut-shriveling sound effect as rattlesnakes; SHK SHK gets attention at a firing range, you know? Using one on a twelve-year-old girl..., yeah, lawyer pumps an empty one in court, big easy win.

Master Plan said...

Videos
http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2009/11/portland_officer_suspend_after.html

Ideal response in the situation of a...publicly inoffensive...non-cooperative individual?


Anybody got anything on the PPD use of force rules?

Worg said...

There's something bad going on in this country.

Consider this: our police now carry devices that are banned for sale to many countries under export controls because their cops might use them as electrical torture devices.

The fact is, they're trampling on our rights six ways from sunday and the trend shows no sign of abating.

What kind of country allows the prison guard union to dictate public policy about what's legal on the outside and what isn't?

jks9199 said...

For the record -- I am a cop.

I'm not going to publicly speculate on this -- though I have some guesses. I still have a hard time justifying shooting an unarmed suspect who'd be classed as an active resister from the video, not an assailant.

According to the articles I've seen -- this guy's got a really troubling history. He needs a real hard look, and careful evaluation as to whether or not he should be employed.

The girl absolutely was wrong to resist arrest in any form. When it comes down to it, it's the cop's job to make someone comply, using only appropriate force. I just can't come up with an argument that it's appropriate force to use the bean bag round in this case. Like I said -- I could see a Taser. Not a bean bag round.

J.D. Ray said...

I watched the video a couple of times today. The girl certainly resisted arrest, though with flailing, fully extended arms; she certainly wasn't throwing boxer's punches. She's big for a twelve year old, sure, but I haven't ever heard of a situation where a fully grown adult male street cop didn't have the upper body strength to subdue even the largest FEMALE twelve year old.

Thing is, it seemed to me that one cop had her face down on the ground before the other one shot her in the leg with the beanbag. And, by the way the shooter was circling, it seemed like he was just looking for an opportunity to use his newfangled toy. Even as he was just entering the fray, he kept reaching behind him, touching the shotgun, reassuring himself that it was there, ready to be used, like Gollum checking his pocket for his Precious.

And the range he shot her at? I'm surprised she doesn't have burns from the muzzle flash.

Portland is a generally peaceful town, at least by measure of what I hear of other places around the country. We don't have areas of town where it's unsafe to go at night if your skin is this color or that. Gun violence deaths still make the evening news, even though they're more common than we like. Why on Earth do we need hard-assed cops that think beating someone to death is an okay way to apprehend them? Why does any municipality?

I'd be happy to see this guy go somewhere else and do some other job. He can take his protectionist boss with him. We don't need either of them.

Steve Perry said...

That's the thing. Most of the the time, most cops do their job like they are supposed to do it. And when one screws up, it shines a bad light on everybody. People jump to the conclusion that if one is bad, they are all, and it just isn't so.

Which is why the good cops ought to be the ones policing the bad ones. Instead of reflexively bouncing up to defend somebody who is, at best, questionable in his use of force, they need to be the first guys to say, Hey, that ain't right.

Joining ranks to backstop a somebody who goes beyond the standards just gets the fish eye from the public, and rightly so.

We all make mistakes and you have to cut an officer whose ass is on the line some slack. Somebody jumps 'em, bare, knife, club, whatever, s/he has the right to do whatever is necessary to protect him- or herself, and since s/he is the person there, they have to decide.

But there was no active assault, only resisting. Not the same.

I watched that vid a couple times from both angles, and it sure looked like that shooter wanted to shoot, he was hoping for the chance, it shined from him.

That wasn't Xena, Warrior Princess they were dealing with and she was on the ground and while struggling and batting at him the officer who took her down had enough control that neither he nor his partner were in any danger. A couple more minutes, she would have probably have gassed and that would have been that.

No, she shouldn't have resisted, and when you do that, you have to expect to pay for it. But eye for a toenail is a little steep ...

Worg said...

"He needs a real hard look, and careful evaluation as to whether or not he should be employed. "

WHETHER OR NOT HE SHOULD BE EMPLOYED?

That right there is the heart of the problem. He should unquestionably NOT be employed.

The question is whether to charge him with the typical stacking of charges that police officers so gleefully throw at their subjects, those of us without badges. Felony child endangerment. Gross negligence. Attempted murder? Would that stick? Or could we use that as a charge to force him to plead guilty to something less, the way you so cavalierly do to the rest of us, JKS?

This man belongs in prison. The fact that a law enforcement officer would defend him in this way makes me want to vomit.

Let's hope YOUR child gets shot point blank with a stunbag, or tasered, or jailed in a defacto rape camp for victimless crimes. Then perhaps you'll have a more realistic opinion about whether this scumbag should be "employed" or not as anything other than a prison sweeper in general population.

Worg said...

JKS, let's put your little comment about tasers in perspective also.

Tasers are under a great deal of scrutiny by Amnesty International.

According to their statistics, 334 people have died during or after electrical shocks from tasers.

So what you're suggesting is that a potentially fatal instrument should be used on an UNARMED TWELVE YEAR OLD GIRL.

What a big tough guy you must be with that gun and badge and the full weight of the law behind you.

jks9199 said...

First... I'm not condemning the officer based solely on the press and video that leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Have I said it looks good? No. But might the situation be different if it turns out that, hidden from the view of the fixed cameras that she had a knife or gun? Or was reaching for one of the other officer's guns? There is a possibility that he was justified -- or that he was within policy and training. So... it gets investigated. Depending on the outcome -- he gets fired, he gets sued, and/or he gets prosecuted. But I'm not making that call before the investigation.

Second... Tasers. I've taken the full ride. I'd do it again if necessary. Not high on my list of things to re-experience, but far from the bottom. Hell, the pistachio/cilantro stuffed turkey breast my wife made a couple years back is much higher on the list of things I don't ever want to re-experience. Getting sprayed with pepper is higher on the list...

Amnesty International is far from a neutral observer. The Taser has been used on thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people -- many of the cops in training classes. The rate of complications is minimal. (I think Steve posted about the warning that Taser put out 2 or 3 months ago...) Most of the deaths that are linked to Taser use are far from causally linked; in many cases there were extensive contributing factors like Excited Delerium, serious drug abuse, or pre-existing, unknowable medical conditions. Used in drive stun, it's even less likely to cause a problem. At that point, it's a pure pain compliance tool, like any other stun gun. But my money's where my mouth is; I've said I'm willing to take the ride again. In either mode.

Let me try to make something else clear. I'd love to feel like I could absolutely, no doubt about it, stand behind this officer's actions. But I've already said I can't say that. I hope he can adequately justify his actions; I hope that the press reports about excessive force are inaccurate or the result of false impressions. (I know one agency that feels any officer using force more than 3 times in a year has a problem -- no matter where they work or if the use was justified... Think about the headlines as a cop who had defended himself from 3 clear unequivocal attacks and gotten suspended for investigation of excessive force than is involved in a less clear cut situation...)


Having the bean bag shotgun on the call isn't indefensible; they were responding to a report of what amounted to a riot. But the use of it on this person... that's harder to justify.

jks9199 said...

FYI: Steve's post on Tasers was on 10/21, Mommas, Don't Let Yore Babies Grow Up to Shoot Tasers.

I provided links to Taser's website and materials.

Steve Perry said...

The nature of legislating a police force to maintain civil order requires that they be trained and equipped to deal with violent criminals. If a man is willing to rob or shoot his neighbor, then the people you hire to stop or apprehend him have to be as well-armed and willing as he is to do battle.

When violence comes down, the LEO on the spot is the person running the adrenaline dragster, and s/he is now and then going to make a bad choice.
It's understandable, but it also doesn't buy them a free ride. It might mitigate what comes next, but the reason you get the gun and the badge is because you are supposed to know how to make the right choice.

Use of force needs to be appropriate to the task at hand, but it will be necessary and someone who is a danger to his or her fellow citizens needs to be dealt with with as much oomph as necessary to stop them.

I'm not for abolishing the police, nor for taking away their guns, tasers, beanbags, pepper spray or anything else they need, and replacing those with Nerf batons and harsh language.

But as discussed, less-than-lethal means just that, and now and again, the less-than part doesn't work, which means the circumstances always need to be figured in. Somebody who is pulled over for a tailight out or for some infraction that would result in a tag-and-release ticket who winds up dead?

That doesn't inspire confidence in the force by the citizens it is hired to protect. Spit on the sidewalk and die? Bad policy. And dangerous for the LEOs. If I think I might be seriously injured or cooked if I get caught for an expired parking meter, maybe I'll choose to shoot it out, figuring I got nothing to lose.

I do think the arms race is sometimes exaggerated. And if you are going to start issuing black rifles with every unit because the bad guys have Uzis or Kriss Supers, then it behooves the forces to make sure the guys know how to use the new tools, how and when. If you can't hit somebody with six from your ancient wheelgun, then a twenty-round Glock isn't going to make you a better shooter.

A lot of it comes down to training, and what is legally and morally acceptable. And any time somebody dies or is seriously injured by police action, it has to be examined. The police are necessary and useful, but they ain't Gort ...

Steve Perry said...

Training:

In the early nineties, there were a couple of local incidents in the Portland PD's actions that drew critical attention, and resulted in some police policy changes.

In one, a six-four burglar was spotted and chased by police. He broke into a house and took a twelve-year-old boy hostage. He had a knife. Facing police, now with back-up, he threatened the child, who was not much cover, given his size. The burglar twitched and the police opened up. He was hit fourteen times. The child was hit twice in the head. From a distance of less than ten feet.

Another incident, the next year --
A couple guys got rowdy on bus. One of them had gun tucked into his waistband. Driver called it in. A unit pulled the bus over, the guy with the gun took off. Gun fell, or was dropped, as soon as he hit the ground running. The two officers chasing him unshipped their high-cap Glocks. Depending on which news source you like, they fired twenty-seven times -- one officer emptied his weapon and reloaded.

Hit the fleeing man twice -- once in the elbow, once in the ass. One office shot four times. The other made up the balance.

That's a lot of jacketed lead going downrange and no backstop. Miracle nobody caught a stray bullet.

The guy who shot twenty-three rounds was, after an investigation, fired. The union screamed, it went to arbitration, and the fired LEO was reinstated with full back pay.

Didn't inspire me. If you can't do it with six -- and barely with twenty-seven -- what does that say about you as a shooter?

They qualify better these days, but those kinds of incidents stick in the memory ...

Worg said...

Another huge problem in this country is the fact that we can't trust the cops.

I don't know ANYBODY who does.

jks9199 said...

Steve,

I realize you probably are aware of much of this... but shooting in a life & death situation is vastly different than putting holes in paper, spinning poppers or anything else on the range. As we've come to better understand the effects of stress, we've changed police training methodologies -- but they're far from perfect yet. Even those trying to do the right things often do them in the wrong way; for example, I've seen force-on-force training with marking pistols done as what amounts to a giant game of capture the flag, rather than realistic scenario-based training. Or I've seen instructors set up scenarios that are unbeatable... and wonder why students don't take 'em seriously. The Force Science Institute has done a lot of research into what happens in a police use of force situation, both lethal and non-lethal. Dave Grossman also discusses a lot of this in On Killing.

Worg... Maybe my perspective and experience is biased, but I know quite a large percentage of the population actually does generally trust the police. Yes, we're often our own worst enemy -- as the folks doing a knee jerk defense of the officer in this incident show. I've not said he was right or wrong; unless and until he justifies it to me or in public, I don't know for sure. And -- even if it was a justified, within policy, use of force -- it looks terrible when a cop uses any sort of munition to handle unarmed resistance, especially when there are several officers involved.

There are bad cops out there, and there are cops who just plain do stupid or unwise things. They subsets don't overlap completely. And there's also the subset of cops who just make honest mistakes; they do their best, and make the wrong decision. Most cops do their best to avoid being in any of these subsets -- and most cops don't have much tolerance for the truly dirty cops, either.

I don't think there's any question that the girl in this incident was in the wrong; she was trespassing in violation of notice, and she was resisting arrest. The offense in question is arrestable; some use of force became justified the moment she resisted. The exact nature and extent of the force used is the only issue. I'll say that I most likely would not have used a bean bag round, though I may have used a Taser. Or a baton. Or empty hand strikes. I will say that once I decided to arrest -- she would go. And I would use whatever force was necessary to arrest her.

Sun Bear said...

I am not particularly impressed with the officer's actions in this incident (I, also, live in the Portland area). There does seem to be a pattern of behavior starting to turn up. The range was certainly inappropriate.

There can be a lot of "wrong tool for the job" incidences going on around the country.

And while the Taser issue may not be clear, as yet, considering that they are using them (with insufficient reason sometimes) in our public schools, I think they need to be well and thoroughly vetted. How many dead kids are an "acceptable" statistic.

People join law enforcement for various reasons. Sometimes...its for very inappropriate reasons. We once had problems with a neighbor who was a reserve sheriff deputy. A day came when he abused his uniform to further his agenda of harassing us. Luckily, he wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, and erred in what he did. I was able to get a commitment from the Sheriff Department to fire him that week. In part, this happened because he had failed the psych profile (by his own admission) three times...and yet they still hired him, at least part-time!

We probably need to look at 1) higher standards/better screening of potential law enforcement officers 2) better training of officers in all aspects of weapons training - empty hand, non-lethal,
lethal - as well as explicit guidelines of when to use what, and 3) better accountability for an individual's actions.

jks9199 said...

While the exact process varies from agency to agency -- the law enforcement application process is generally very demanding and every effort is made to weed out through selection and training those who shouldn't have a badge. Unfortunately, the fact is that there are things you just won't know until you have a person on the street, working as a cop. There are things you just can't see in even the best training scenario, or even while under the close supervision of field training. That's why most agencies have long (like 6 to 12 months after the academy & FTO) probationary periods.

It's impossible to provide explicit guidelines for most law enforcement actions; there are just too many variables and there's no way to do some sort "if I've got A, I need to do B" in the time often available during a highly dynamic situation. Consider how few bright lines the US Supreme Court has drawn for law enforcement, and the High Court's consistent reluctance to examine use of force through the lenses of perfect hindsight.

I've not said that the use of the bean bag round in this case was wrong; only that it requires significant justification. If his justification was within the agency policy and consistent with his training -- then he is OK. I'm still not completely comfortable with it, and it looks absolutely terrible, but so does almost any use of force. And it definitely wasn't the most politically/publicity-mindedly astute choice! But that doesn't mean it was automatically indefensible, either.

Steve Perry said...

Use of force is tricky, to be sure, and what constitutes acceptable in one jurisdiction might be considered excessive elsewhere. Plus there is always the judgement call from the officer on the hot seat.

I know the logic: Sometimes, asking forgiveness is better than asking permission.

If there hadn't be a camera there, chances are this would have all blown right past, and that's what spooks civilians. Yeah, we saw this one, and it wasn't just that it was ugly, it wasn't really necessary. The officer on the ground had enough control that he wasn't in danger, nor was anybody else. The beanbag round was let off because the guy with the weapon looked like he was itching to use it.

How many times did this happen when there wasn't a camera there?

What was in the officer's mind matters, of course, but what the camera saw is what showed up on the Six O'clock News, and to me, a guy who is used to getting thumped and doing a little thumping, it looked excessive, To Joe and Joan Public who aren't good a parsing the intricate details of exactly where the policy line gets drawn?

You have two fair-sized, experienced officers who, one would hope, could take down a twelve-year-old girl with a minimum of fuss, uncorking a twelve-gauge LTL round into her thigh at what looked like barely enough room for it to clear the muzzle.

You can shine it all you want, but it still looks like a turd.

Yep, she was a bad girl and she did something foolish, and yes, once the decision to take her in was made, they couldn't walk away, but knee-jerk defense of the officers isn't going to help the public get squat. What they see is the Portland Police force coming together to protect its own, at any cost, for any reason, and while I believe most cops are mostly decent most of the time, when one screws up, s/he needs to be called on it.

The police are held to a higher standard than the rest of us, and they should be.

Rory and I talked about this today, and he was on the side of the LEO's on the street, because he knows all about such things.

But, like Caesar's wife must be above suspicion, so must the the men and women you hire to uphold the law. If you can't trust the cops, who can you trust?

And you have to remember that a few years back, after Portland PD choked out a security guard who subsequently died, they decided to take away the technique. So the boys in blue had T-shirts printed up: Don't Choke 'em, Smoke 'em!

Funny. And a valid point, in that the carotid block is usually a lot safer than unloading a magazine in the suspect's direction. (Especially if you can't shoot straight.)

But it doesn't play well on the evening news, does it?

Worg said...

Cops often seem very bitter about the deteriorating public perception of the police force. But they can't even control their own people. And then when called on it, they close ranks in a way reminiscent of the Catholic Church, making sure that their poker buddies don't even get charged for crimes that would send the rest of us up for five or ten (or life, or the death penalty).

What's wrong with this picture?

I say again: corrupt cops need mandatory minimums. Then they need to spend time in genpop with some of the guys they sent there for smoking a joint.

Then maybe they'll be a little more punctilious about things like use of force on twelve year old girls.

It may be that the choice will be made for them, however. I expect to see far more Lakewoods in the near future. If we're an occupied population they can expect us to act like one.

Steve Perry said...

Worg --

I don't think the Lakewood comment is appropriate in this context -- A thug who murders four police officers is a mad dog and he shouldn't have been on the streets.

I don't think we are anything close to an occupied country, nor are the police forces the jackboots you seem to think they are. Yes, there are bad cops and they step over the line -- and when they do, they should get called on it, and by their own first and foremost. Nobody suffers more from a bad cop than good cops.

Even when I was a hippie I didn't call them pigs. They represented The Man, but as much as I didn't want to be him, there is a need for somebody to stand between the civilians and the wolves, and I expect that won't go away any time soon.

Anybody who wants to see more Lakewoods, or even tacitly approves of such isn't going to get any love around here.

BlakeErven said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Perry said...

Follow up:

Officer Humphreys, suspended by the Commish, was reinstated yesterday. He'll be riding a desk, pending the investigation into the use-of-force incident at the MAX station.

I'm guessing that the girl will get bigger, stronger, and more and more like Wonder Woman in the retelling of the incident from the LEO's side. And more and more like Shirley Temple from the other side ...

Basically, the Commissioner caved -- the union held a no-confidence vote, and rather than allow that to be made public -- as if anybody with two neurons couldn't figure out the results -- decided to do a little horse-trading.

Why do I say this? Because the union would never allowed it to come to a vote if they didn't know how it would go. And because politicians hate being the subject of such things. Come re-election, it will rise like a zombie to eat their faces off.

The Mayor -- bless his admittedly-lying heart -- should have kept the police force under his wing, as is traditional, but he passed it off. Easy to see why.

Everybody is smiling now, albeit those expressions look as sincere as your average crocodile's, and we'll see how long it takes to clear Humphreys -- or decide that maybe he was overzealous.

I wouldn't be surprised either way.

jks9199 said...

Unfortunately, I predict that a few things will come out this.

Some folks will find further justification for the way they feel about the police, ignoring any issues about whether it fit the policy and was justifiable or not.

There will be a law suit, in federal court, alleging that the officers (yes, all three present will be named, as will the chief, the commissioner, and more...) violated the girl's civil rights. Even if they successfully defend themselves, this will cost each officer (or, maybe, if they're real lucky, the PD will cover it) several tens of thousands of dollars...

The FBI will be pressured to investigate the alleged violations of her civil rights. Especially if the PD doesn't find that the officer was wrong.

Steve Perry said...

Yeah, it's going to cost the city money. It always does every time something like this happens, and maybe that's how the system will eventually self-correct.

Humphrey's earlier altercation with the homeless guy cost the city a hair under a million for the first settlement, and there's another suit pending, neither of which include the lawyers's costs.

And Civil Rights do get violated from time to time and what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If you can't do the time, don't do the crime. If the feds didn't have that right to have a look, you can book it that a lot more violations would go down. If somebody is looking over your shoulder, maybe you move a bit more carefully.

Or maybe not, if you think you are bulletproof.

So Humphreys has already cost the city a bundle, and as you say, there's a lawsuit a'coming on this incident. Far as I know, the city picks up his tab in civil suits, or the union does. So what you wonder about is the diminishing returns -- how good an officer does he have to be to make up for maybe a couple-three million bucks in operating costs over his pay?

I mean, supporting the troops in the field is one thing, but if some of them seem to be walking lawsuits waiting to happen? Wouldn't a re-evaluation seem to be reasonable?

I'm not offering that the force is corrupt or out-of-control, but a case-by-case basis makes sense. If you see a loose cannon rolling around and you don't make any effort to dog it down? You own fault if it goes off and blows a hole in somebody.

jks9199 said...

I'm a big fan of the simple "loser pays" tort reform idea. Or was until I recently saw a case where a federal judge didn't allow testimony favorable to the respondant - civil trial -(an officer), told the jury that he had already decided that the defendant was wrong, so they only had to decide how much he had to pay (I would have sworn the jury was the triar of fact, when present, not the judge...), and the jury returned a verdict of NO punitive and NO compensatory damages... Kind of like they maybe disagreed with the judge, huh? That's the civil side.

What I don't like is when the FBI investigates or is pressured to investigate cops because of politics, not actual wrong-doing. Assuming a decent department, it should carry a lot of weight if they've done a good investigation, and found that the officer wasn't violating policy, procedures, or the suspect's rights. It shouldn't turn into a "let's keep going till we find something" fishing expedition -- especially when the motivation isn't justice, but politics.

Worg said...

Steve: "Anybody who wants to see more Lakewoods, or even tacitly approves of such isn't going to get any love around here."

Tacitly approve? I don't approve of any gun-wielding psychopath. When they're shooting kids, I'm sure as hell not sympathizing with the cops. Interesting that people who support the tasering of kids do get love.

As more and more police corruption spreads, there are going to be more and more incidents like Lakewood. People are going to sympathize more and more with the shooters and less and less with the shot.

You're going to see more of these. The cat is out of the bag and it's increasingly apparent that the cops are not in fact a legion of Officer Friendly clones. Quite the opposite in many cases.

JKS stated:

"Some folks will find further justification for the way they feel about the police, ignoring any issues about whether it fit the policy and was justifiable or not."

Justification like an unarmed 12 year old shot point blank with a shotgun. Someone's justifying all right.

"What I don't like is when the FBI investigates or is pressured to investigate cops because of politics, not actual wrong-doing. Assuming a decent department, it should carry a lot of weight if they've done a good investigation"

Assuming a decent department? That's looking more and more like a huge assumption. Since you are manifestly not capable of controlling your own, an outside group needs to be called in to monitor and supervise you. Who cares if you like it or not?

The fact is, cops need to be put on a leash. You're manifestly not responsible enough to play with the deadly toys you're given.

The fact is, you're losing the hearts and minds battle. In many places you lost it a long time ago. The situation is deteriorating.

The fact is, this asshole was Clemmons with a badge.

Just so you know, politics is what controls the United States. What would you prefer, rule by police fiat? There's this thing called the voting booth and it's the single thing that separates us from overt police states. As public servants, your responsibility is NOT to close ranks when one of your own is accused.

The vulnerability of cops is astounding, as the Lakewood incident shows. They are absolutely dependent on the goodwill of the populace. In the black community in particular there's a growing movement in favor of reprisal attacks. The same is true in the Latino communities of New Mexico, Texas and Arizona.

How would you like to be a cop in Juarez or Nuevo Laredo? Juarez is coming here. Sure hope you're ready for it.

Steve Perry said...

Some things:

One, we need somebody to watch the watchers. With power comes responsibility, and if you overstep your authority, you need to be called on it. Anybody with any smarts can see this.

What was once thought perfectly valid policy has changed across the land -- police aren't supposed to rubber-hose suspects, pull somebody over for DWB, or razz anybody on a whim without just cause. Does it happen? Sure. But the policies evolve as society dictates.

If policy says it's okay to beanbag preteens at contact distance because the officer feels like it, the policy is wrong.

One of the ways to get bad policy changed is to spot it and drag it out into the light, and the feds, while having their own problems, sometimes do that. An officer might skate because he followed proper procedure; but "proper procedure" might not be that.

I will say it again: If two experienced, large, trained police officers cannot handle an unarmed twelve-year-old girl without resorting to a beanbag shotgun, they aren't going to win my vote for officers of the year. Watch the vid. She sure looked under control to me, and if that was the case, shooting her exceeded reasonable force.

Riding a desk while it gets sorted out is the least the officer should expect, and if department policy says he's good, then I, for one, want to see that policy addressed and changed. It's bullshit.

There are bad cops and nobody wants that. Reflex rank-closing to protect somebody who crosses the line isn't the best way to deal with this problem. The union wins, but the public -- and the force -- loses.

Kicking a man to death because he might have pissed on the sidewalk and then resisted? Last time I looked, resisting arrest wasn't a death penalty offense.

Worg is right about that much: If you get away with stuff like this, the public you serve is gonna shake its head and lose faith.

Machiavelli might be right that fear beats love for a ruler, but in this country, being afraid of the police should be reserved for criminals. A two hundred and sixty pound fifteen-year-old with a baseball bat is a danger. A twelve-year-old unarmed girl is not in the same league.

If you will recall why we are having this discussion, it's because I offered that an officer overstepped the bounds, so he's not getting any slack from me, much less love. (The guy who tased the ten-year-old? He got fired.)

All -- most --cops are not bad cops.

You are allowed to defend yourself, and that applies to actions by police that are unjustified.

But: Parse your statements carefully, Worg. Remedying social ills has lines you don't want to cross: if you offer that shooting random cops in retaliation is any way justifiable, you cross one, and somebody is apt to call somebody and pass it along, in case you are the next guy who is considering going postal.

Worg said...

"if you offer that shooting random cops in retaliation is any way justifiable, you cross one, and somebody is apt to call somebody and pass it along, in case you are the next guy who is considering going postal."

Steve, do you have a problem with reading comprehension? Are you really that stupid?

I'll explain my point yet again. I'll type extra slowly for you because twice was apparently insufficient for you.

1) Public perception of the cops is deteriorating.

2) Incidents such as this one are just part of the reason for the deteriorating public perception of the cops.

3) Police are dependent on public goodwill. If a shooting like that one happened in a place like Oakland, the police would have a devil of a time getting anybody to say anything.

This is a problem that's going to be continuing. It's going to be getting worse.

Now, I expect YOU to explain specifically where you got the stupid, ridiculous idea that *I* was considering doing such a thing.

Also, go fuck yourself.

Steve Perry said...

Hope you enjoyed that, Worg. It's the last post you get to keep under that netnom here.