Police

NPR Segment is an Intriguing and Annoying Look at Police Use of Deadly Force

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National Public Radio recently ran a segment on police use of deadly force. Many of the reactions from the mixture of police officers, a journalist, and callers run the gamut of police-response cliche, with much " he had to make a  split-second decision" talk. However, there are some interesting bits which make it worth a read for those of us curious about the mentality of folks involved in law and order.

For example, journalist Lawrence Mower of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, talks with NPR host Neil Conan:

MOWER:…What we found was that: One, there was a lot of shootings here. Also that the department was very reluctant to learn from its incidents, learn from its shootings, and that they were reluctant to hold officers accountable for them. And really, the review process in place was fairly lax.

In the last decade, Metro's review board had cleared 99 percent of officers who were involved in any kind of incident, serious incident like a shooting. And—but also, the criminal review process was fairly lax, also.

CONAN: Reluctant to do that because they feared for morale, because why?

MOWER: Well, it's interesting. The board that they had set up here—and they still do have set up here—was dominated by citizens. And what we found kind of interesting is we talked to the citizens, and they were very much, very pro-police. They had difficulty holding officers accountable for these incidents.

Oftentimes, it was the officers on the board who were harder on their own officers than the citizens were. But, you know, what you've heard over time from police also is that, well, we don't want to second-guess another officer's decision to use deadly force because these incidents are so rare, and they're not as clear cut, often, as, you know, an officer beating someone up. Well, many officers would not justify that. So—go ahead. [Emphasis added.]

Later, a caller named John, either a cop or a former cop describes an incident in 2005 when he shot someone. The host is talking to a police officer, David Klinger, a former member of the Los Angeles Police department:

JOHN: One of the things that I noticed that your—I'm sorry, the person you're interviewing isn't talking about is the way that police officers are treated after the shooting. It almost feels adversarial in nature. I was involved in a shooting myself a few hours off a training. It was covered by national news, and it was a huge incident.

And, I mean, there was no doubt that I was in the right, but still the fact they take your gun away while you're on-scene, they put you in a patrol car, they separate the different people in the shootings. There's a way that they do it, but it just really feels like they're treating me like a criminal, and I'd like them to speak a little bit about that.

CONAN: David Klinger?

KLINGER: Well, that's unacceptable. One of the things that I do and other people around the country do is train agencies about post-shooting protocols. And to disarm an officer at the scene, there's no reason for that. There's a time and a place to get the officer's weapon for evidence collection, and that's back at the station once the officer is safe, once the scene is secured, so on and so forth.

There's got to be some sort of an adversarial process because there's always the question in our democracy whether an officer used deadly force appropriately. So there has to be a careful investigation of the facts. However, it doesn't have to be adversarial in the sense of trying to make it look as if the officer did something wrong.

When I say adversarial, the district attorney has to take a look at it, make sure everything's squared away. But I agree with the officer: If an agency is not treating the officer with the respect that they deserve—because after all, what happens is they trained the officer, they hired the officer, they gave him a gun, they said go out, and under these circumstances deadly force is appropriate—unless and until there is some evidence that the officer did something wrong, the officer shouldn't be treated like a criminal suspect.

As much as I have to cringe over complaints that cops who kill people (justified or not) are being treated too harshly, it is a (sort of) fair point that police were hired to do a certian job which entailed the potential for deadly force. But maybe that's just further argument for extremely strict standards in hiring and looser ones in firing of police, no?

Read or listen to the whole thing here. And if you're hankering for more police-induced sickness, check out Radley Balko's latest at Huffington Post. It's an appalling look at the death of Floridian Nick Christie, who died in police custody after being subjected to 6 hours of restraint and at least eight doses of pepper spray. Mike Riggs reported on the case back in December as well.

Also check out Reason's latest work on police; Reason.tv on whether cops or the always-controversial Tasers are the problem in high-profile deaths such as that of Alan Kephardt.

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  1. There’s a way that they do it, but it just really feels like they’re treating me like a criminal, and I’d like them to speak a little bit about that.

    He should be treated exactly as they would treat someone who was involved in a self-defense shooting. Oh wait, that’s what they do to those people?

    Boo hoo and shut the fuck up.

    1. waaaaaaaah!

  2. it is a (sort of) fair point that police were hired to do a certian job which entailed the potential for deadly force.

    There’s a potential I might need to shoot a mugger while I’m out taking a walk or something, too. Something tells me the DA is going to look at me a little harder than the cop when he kills somebody.

    1. These LEO who complain about feeling like being treated as a criminal after they take a life, they might want to take a step back and look at how their system, and they personally, treat suspects they take into custody for much less grave incidents.

    2. not in my jurisdiction.

      show me a case in WA state where a guy who shot a mugger, etc. was treated harshly or unfairly by the DA.

      i’ve never seen it.

      cops are actually under more scrutiny, because they WILL get a shooting inquest … happens by policy in ALL officer involved shootings (civilian inquest jury) but only rarely with noncop shootings.

      SOME jurisdictions may treat self defense shootings poorly. absolutely. welcome to the laboratory of states.

      mine treats them quite well

      1. harshly or unfairly by the DA

        Was that what they were saying, because I think they were talking about being treated harshly by the responding officers. I’m going to guess that there is a professional courtesy extended to cops involved in shootings that isn’t granted to normal folks – even folks whom it appears acted in self defense. Granted, it probably varies quite a bit between jurisdictions and the background of the citizen.

  3. There’s a time and a place to get the officer’s weapon for evidence collection, and that’s back at the station once the officer is safe, once the scene is secured, so on and so forth.

    Chain of custody, how does it fucking work?

    Once the officer is safe? WTF? Didn’t he just terminate the threat? Aren’t there scads of other cops around?

    Plus, what Epi said.

    1. What epi said here, or the other day when he was talking about how hot Julia Louis-Dreyfus is?

      1. actually, there is an easy solution. my agency does it.

        when an officer is involved in a shooting, we have a response team that responds with a replacement gun. solves the problem

        works very well.

        1. I actually do like that solution. It allows the cop to continue doing his job while the shooting is investigated, and still bags the applicable evidence at the scene.

          1. Yeah, God forbid we should deny him the ability to shoot someone else before the investigation into the previous shooting is complete.

  4. If there’s one positive thing about the Occupy Wall Street protests, it’s that they finally dragged outlets like the NYTimes and NPR into talking about the militarization of police. Though I’m sure in about 6 months time they’ll go back to labeling people who criticize the TSA as tea-party militia loonies.

  5. Wow, I hadn’t seen that Balko story before. It’s insane that nothing has been done to those cops. They can literally get away with murder in Fla.

    1. “They can literally get away with murder in Fla.”

      You’re safe from the cops down here as long as you’re white and don’t understand your civil rights. But deny a cop the chance to search your car during a routine traffic stop and you’re asking for trouble.

  6. ?unless and until there is some evidence that the officer did something wrong, the officer shouldn’t be treated like a criminal suspect.

    Once again, someone argues that the police should be held to a lower standard. A few years back my father was involved in an auto accident that ended with a fatality. It was a no-fault accident (a teenage driver lost control of her car on a patch of ice) and witnesses at the scene all testified that my father did all he could do to prevent it. Nevertheless, he had to submit to a pee test and do all sorts of things because the law required the accident to be treated as a crime (vehicular homicide or manslaughter) until a formal determination could be reached that it was not.

    Now if my father had to be treated as a potential murderer when it was clear it was a simple auto accident, why should a cop who shot someone (which entails intent, even if justified) not have to submit to something similar?

  7. …unless and until there is some evidence that the officer did something wrong, the officer shouldn’t be treated like a criminal suspect.

    so officers should be presumed innocent until evidence of guilt is found…but criminal ‘suspects’, well, not so much?

  8. when w respond to an OBVIOUS self defense shooting, we don’t treat the person like a suspect.

    i am talking about a homeowner shooting a burglar.

    the problem with doing so, though, is that if we don’t , for example, mirandize them (which is treating them like a suspect), it can create suppression issues when and if it DOES turn out to be a criminal case, because a defense attorney will argue for suppression, that it was custodial.

    that’s a tough call.

    but most obvious self defense shootings in my state, the person is NOT treated like a suspect at all

    as even media reports show, they are NOT arrested, they are not taken from the scene, etc.

    they MAY be handcuffed initially, until the scene is ‘made safe’ but even that only happens sometimes

    again, our state law is superior in that the state has the burden to DISPROVE self defense, thus making it much easier for anybody (noncops included) to avoid a trial (state is also responsible for lawyer and lost wages fee if case is ruled self defense) since there is significant disincentive on prosecutors to try them

    recall that in NYC for example, for example bernie goetz, he was found not guilty (althoug still convicted on weapons charges). in WA, i doubt they would have even prosecuted him given the fact pattern

    but the idea that in evidence citizen self defense shootings, the person is arrested automatically, etc. is simply hogwash. we had that case i posted a little while ago (for examplke, i think it was bainbridge) where the guy shot the guy and there was no arrest

    not at ALL uncommon

    1. e.g. http://www.examiner.com/gun-ri…..d-citizens

      note this noncop shot an UNARMED aggressive person. if a cop did it, the reasonoid bigorati would be screaming DOUBLE STANDARD

      he was not charged.

      hth

    2. I have no problem with this. Most of the ire with this piece, and from the commenters here, is directed at the cop epi quoted who complained about receiving similar treatment – even if it’s just basic precaution.

  9. high speed pursuit with dying dog…

    http://www.policeone.com/polic…..dying-dog/

    1. or here…

      http://www.nwcn.com/news/washi…..72624.html

      again, note: not good tactics, and he shot at LIGHTS shining in his eyes, did not even identify a bad guy with a gun, etc.

      doesn’t matter. not arrested or charged

      1. drug dealers not charged after self defense shooting

        http://209.157.64.201/focus/ne…..sts?page=4

    2. I’m a little surprised that cop didn’t just shoot the guy’s dog.

  10. i heard the segment btw. it was pretty well done. props to NPR. i loathe the idea of state sponsored media, but given its existence, NPR isn’t half bad

    i like all things considered, etc.

  11. they trained the officer, they hired the officer, they gave him a gun

    Unwittingly, he speaks the truth. If the municipality explicitly admits their boy fucked up…

    1. municipalities have NO problem dismissing and stating a cop did wrong, when it’s reasonbly clear he did so e.g. the SPD whittler shooting where within a few days, the shooting was already ruled unjustified.

  12. Hey, Fosdick’s here; come on, Fearless, give us some more of your retarded gibberish about how the Precautionary Principle is the ultimate embodiment of libertarianism in action.

    1. ah “retarded gibberish” yet more contentless ad hominem childish attacks vs. REASONed discourse

      how unsurprising. it’s what bigots do

  13. a response team that responds with a replacement gun. solves the problem

    They call those “drop guns” in the movies.

    1. teehee.

      i lol’d

  14. The only hiring standards I can find for cops is that they have an IQ of 100 or less and are bullies.

  15. Many of the reactions from the mixture of police officers, a journalist, and callers run the gamut of police-response cliche, with much ” he had to make a split-second decision” talk.

    That makes sense. After all, cops totally understand how homeowners have to make split-second decisions when their doors are knocked down in 4 a.m. no-knock raids.

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