Police Abuse

The Authoritarian Response to Andrew Hawkins's Call for Justice

Obey this


Last Sunday, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins drew national attention for wearing a shirt with the words "Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford" printed on it.  Hawkins's shirt referred to two recent shootings by police in Ohio.  Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old child who was killed by police despite the fact that a 911 caller said the gun Rice had was probably fake (the caller was right—it was a toy pellet gun).  John Crawford was a 22-year-old man who was walking with a BB rifle in the toy gun aisle of a Wal-Mart when he was shot and killed by police

There are reasons to be concerned about the legitimacy of police actions in each case.  Video footage showed Crawford did not point the BB gun at police and also raises questions about police claims that they only shot Crawford after he ignored their repeated demands that he drop the gun (the video suggests police may have shot Crawford immediately, without waiting for a response).  Similarly, after the Rice shooting, police claimed that they believed the 12 year old was a threat to bystanders and ignored their demands that he raise his hands, but video footage raises questions about both claims.

None of this means the police officers who shot Rice and Crawford are lying, much less that they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  That's what trials are for (as the Rice family has suggested).  Officers might well have a convincing way to answer the questions raised by video footage in each case.  But Hawkins wasn't calling for summary action against the police.  His shirt asked for "justice"—which suggests simply that the criminal justice system investigate the shootings and that authorities take action through prosecution if warranted. 

It is not surprising that police officers and those who represent them would disagree with Hawkins—just as it is his right to call for justice, it is their right to defend themselves publicly.  But a Cleveland police union official went further.  Patrolman Union president Jeffrey Follmer demanded an apology from the Browns and then went on cable television to declare that the best way for people to avoid being shot by police is to  "[l]isten to police officers' commands. Listen to what we tell you, and just stop…I think that eliminates a lot of problems."

That may be good advice for people living in an authoritarian state, but it does not sit well with a constitutional democracy.  Moreover, it's not very good legal advice.  Just because a police officer says something doesn't always mean you must obey.  For instance, police officers often conduct "consent" searches—meaning that they ask for permission to conduct a search of someone's possessions when they don't have independent legal grounds to conduct a search (which would typically, though not always, require a warrant).  If people took Follmer's advice to obey, they'd give away their constitutional right to say no in some circumstances.  Even if Follmer's advice was meant to be limited to the very specific context where a police officer tells someone with a gun (or who they suspect to have a gun) to follow their command, obeying their commands doesn't always ensure a good result, as Levar Jones found out when a police officer shot him while Jones was trying to retrieve his driver's license from his car.  (Michael Eric Dyson pointed to the Jones case as well when discussing Follmer's admonition on MSNBC).

Police officers, like the rest of us, aren't always right.  They deserve respect and appreciation when they do their jobs well, and people ought to respect and follow their lawful orders.  Certainly, there are limits on how civilians can interact with the police—just as there are limits on how the police can interact with civilians (as Sen. Rand Paul, for one, has suggested). But we don't live in a society where citizens are required to submissively obey the police in all circumstances.  Andrew Hawkins has the right to call for justice in the Rice and Crawford cases—which does not mean that a specific result is preordained.  Jeffrey Follmer is the one who needs to apologize for attempting to intimidate Hawkins and the rest of us into overly deferring to authority.

NEXT: Elizabeth Warren Doesn't Understand Regulatory Capture. That's a Problem for a Would-Be Regulator.

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  1. Patrolman Union president Jeffrey Follmer needs to be told “Turn in your badge and clear out your locker; I think that eliminates a lot of problems. Or at least ONE.”


    1. Police deserve respect? Well no. Caution – very much so.

  2. “people ought to respect and follow their lawful orders”.
    Given the potential consequences, one is better to follow their unlawful orders too and take it up with them through legal action
    (though that might not fly either if the cop reasonably thought your action was unlawful.) Those of you living in small jurisdictions may try something I’ve found useful – join a local committee or other voluntary organization and you’ll soon have opportunity to meet cops, even the chief. Suck up to them and be friendly and it just may pay off down the road for you.

    1. It is a survival tactic for an authoritarian state. It may lack dignity, but it is probably necessary for many.

      For me, I simply will try common courtesy – not because I expect it to be returned, but because that is what I will give every person. I have dealt with many angry people over the years and have found that being polite even in the face of aggressive behavior can usually defuse the situation. Returning aggressive behavior always leads to escalation.

      1. That’s certainly didn’t happen in Saratoga County, NY. When you stand on your 4th Amendment rights, you will get slapped around, you will get your car keys taken away, and your car will be illegally searched anyway.

        And what did the deputy get? Official Misconduct. An A misdemeanor. Apparently NY needs an “Official Misconduct in the First Degree” defined as Official Misconduct by a peace officer or law enforcement officer.

  3. I saw the video’s,those two were shot without warning and without reason. I’m a life long Browns fan and like what Hawkins did. I’d like to see the Browns fire all cops working there during games and hire private security.Send a message.But that would take balls,something NFL owners lack.

    1. The Browns won’t do that, they have to let you down one more time.

  4. “Jeffrey Follmer is the one who needs to apologize for attempting to intimidate Hawkins and the rest of us into overly deferring to authority.

    Call me when the sun rises in the west.

    1. Have you noticed all these cop union guys look and sound like mobsters form Good Fellows?

      1. When I saw Fowler’s picture, my first thought was that he looked like a gang enforcer.

        1. That’s because he is.

          1. best gang in the city

            fucking love my union!!!!!

            1. your an ass

            2. Suddenly I’m hungry for bacon.

            3. Suddenly I’m hungry for bacon.

  5. “[The Police] deserve respect and appreciation when they do their jobs well, and people ought to respect and follow their lawful orders.”

    I beg to differ.

    There’s a certain mentality required to enforce the law–no matter what the law is.

    Even beyond that, remember that the police we see on the street today didn’t sign up for duty before the Drug War started. 1) They watched incarceration rates increase like the rest of us 2) they know minorities are arrested and incarcerated disproportionately 3) They’ve watched the police become increasingly militarized.

    …and they wanted to be a part of that.


    Whatever injustices you think the government perpetrates against people in this country, feel free to blame the voters, our politicians, and the Supreme Court, but also keep in mind that the people who are perpetrating those injustices in practice are the police–and they volunteered for that job.

    That’s the kind of people they are. Deserve respect and appreciation? I’m not convinced they deserve the benefit of the doubt. And something tells me they’d keep their jobs anyway even if more people in society thought of them with contempt. Because they like their job of bossing people around. They like doing their jobs. That’s the kind of people they are.

    1. I’m sure many, if not most new cops are lured by the power and the protection form punishment. Plus,they mostly drive around or sit behind a desk.Not the most demanding work.

    2. I give them the same respect and appreciation that I show to rabid dogs and wild baboons that that are eyeing my as prey.

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  7. That may be good advice for people living in an authoritarian state, but it does not sit well with a constitutional democracy REPUBLIC.

    That is all.

    1. Thank you, Scum. “Constitutional democracy” is a contradiction in terms by definition. The only thing the Constitution in such a State would say is, “The poeple shall do whatever they collectively vote to do.”

      I don’t want to live there.

  8. “None of this means the police officers who shot Rice and Crawford are lying…”

    No, the mere fact that they are trained professional law enforcement officers means they are lying. That’s one of the first things they teach them to do at the police academy.

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  10. “None of this means the police officers who shot Rice and Crawford are lying,…”

    No? Then I am at a loss as to what to call it. Hauling in Crawford’s girlfriend and trying to coerce her into saying that he smuggled a gun into wal-mart when they already knew what the circumstances were….what do you call that?

    They are lying motherfuckers who murdered children in cold blood. What should we call them?

    1. They are absolutely lying. The reports teh popo filed in both cases are directly contradicted by the videos. If it weren’t for the videos, these would also have been swept under the rug like all the cases where there isn’t video proof.

    2. That line was some latent journalist cop sucking.

      Any other group of people that engaged in that behavior would not only be called liars but be said to have engaged in a conspiracy to cover up what they did. That’s giving them the benefit of the doubt that it wasn’t flat out murder.

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  12. I said it a month ago, Ill say it again…

    The Tamir Rice video appears to show a blatant bad shoot, and a very likely CRIMINAL act.

    I am perfectly willing to change my mind given evidence, which is always the case, but thus far, I see nothing in the Tamir Rice case except a rogue police officer who should be given due process for a shooting that must violate policy (any reasonable policy as every UOF policy i have seen regarding deadly force is), as well as law, and thus his csae should be presented to GJ.

    I’m not convinced it’s murder, but it appears AT LEAST manslaughter

    1. I am not sure he was even rogue. From what I have heard of the guy he is completely nuts.

      I have seen panic fire a few times. There is nothing more dangerous than a frightened coward with a gun. That is not to say they are not responsible. Holding these POS accountable in the same way non-cops are would put a stop to this shit in a heartbeat. It would entirely change cop culture.

      1. I realize you believe the myth that, in general, rogue cops and/or cops who get in bad shoots are not held accountable, but we can at least agree that this incident thus far appears to be a bad shoot that needs to be addressed through both dept discipline and a grand jury

        again, as somebody who has ACTUALLY investigated shooting and uses of force by “non-cops” i can tell you that, at least here in WA, i have seen roughly the same standards apply, if a bit looser for civilian uses of force. heck, there was that case in nearby oregon where a neighbor shot (with a bow and arrow and hit the guy in the buttocks) a fleeing burglar (to his NEIGHBOR’s house) as he ran away, well away from the residence, with nobody home in the house he burgled and with NO evidence of violence or being armed whatsoever and didn’t even get indicted.

        there is no way on god’s green earth a cop would have got away scot free in such a situation

        i can cite plenty more, but i am aware your mind is made up

        either way, tamir rice case has major fuckupedness

        1. Because the cop in question was an emotional fruitcake – a fact which was well known by the people who gave him a badge and gun.

          1. im not sure what emotional fruitcake means, but i have advocated that just like cops should be required yearly to take PT test and pass with a high standard of physical fitness, cops should be required to take psychological tests once a year OR given reasonable suspicion that there is an issue

            these are reforms that need to happen

            cops should not be allowed to get weak , fat or out of shape, and cops should be routinely monitored for mental health as well
            WITH THE UNDERSTANDING that cops aer not just fired for issues, but given chance for remedial treatment, etc. so that situations can be FIXED and cops are not just tossed under the bus

            1. It means that the guy was found to be emotionally unstable – frequently being observed as “depressed and weepy” while on a firing range. I think, too, that putting down “under the table jobs and mom” as previous sources of income on is police application makes his stability and sanity questionable.

              But, he got a gun, badge and keys to a squad car regardless.

              1. I dont agree with the part about under the table jobs but i do know that most PD’s and I am willing to bet the PD in question had extensive psychological testing to get IN

                the problem is most agencies dont require it to STAY in and are also very hesitant to require it even when there are strong indications there are issues.

                and part of this has to do with the stigma of mental illness, when it should be no more stigmatizing than an ulcer etc

                cops supervisors should not be afraid to recommend a cop for psych testing and cops who take psych testing should do so iwht the understanding that the dept will SUPPORT them and help them get treatment

                just like if a cop loses most hearing in the ear, the agency will have to *(under ADA) allow for reasonable accomodation like a hearing aid,

                if a cop develops a mental illness etc. they should have to try to get the guy squared away through treatment and accomodation

                obviously, if it cant be done, you have to let the guy go (or put him in a positionhe CAN do), but just like as with physical disability, accomodation and support are key

                and when officers KNOW that they will get support, they will be more likely to come forward themselves

                lets’ do this shit

        2. Yeah, we agree that these two shoots were bad.

          I doubt we will have a productive conversation since you keep telling me what I believe and that my mind can’t be changed.

          Goddamn Dunphy, even when you are right you are a dick.

          1. What’s obvious is what’s obvious

            it’s CW here as to these canards, and you will see ZERO questioning of these reasonoid religious beliefs, such as “cops routinely get away with bad uses of force, get special treatment (only in their favour, which i have debunked countles times), are out of control vis a vis deadly force (which no dispassionate study of statistics could support etc)

            heck reasonoids even believ the progressives myths about cop UOF being racially biased despite mountains of evidence to the contrary

            for example, yes cops shoot black men disproportionately to their percentage of the population .

            the same is true for men, who are 96%+ of police shooting victims while making up less than 50% of population

            BUT when you look at Part I offender rates, NCVS data (again, CRIME victim data NOT cop data as to who offends in rape, murder, etc.) you see that cops disproportionately use force against those groups almost in EXACT proportion to how those groups disproportionately commit violent crime

            40% of cops are shot by black men, 40% of those shot by cops are black men

            reason will NEVER report or acknowledge these disparities nor will anticop bigots.

            1. btw, it’s not race that is a predictor (and remember cops shoot white males far MORE disproportionately than many racial minorities…) as well as believe it or not two factors

              1) gender (obviousyl)
              2) and having been born out of wedlock and without a father while growing up

              if you adjust for those two factors, race, etc. becomes largely irrelevant as to whether somebody will get shot by police

              just as any criminologist will tell you these two factors are the most highly predictive as to whether somebody will commit crime andor end up in prison, they are highly predictive towards getting shot by police

              police have no way of knowing whether somebody they are about to shoot is a product of OOW birth etc. but unamazingly, men who are a product of OOW birth (and lack of father figure in their life) are way way way way disproportionately shot

              exactly because they disproportionately are criminals

              it cant be bias, because cops have no way of knowing if a person they are about to shoot is such a product

              note that those shot by “civilians” are equally disproportionate

              1. I do extensive backgrounds on criminal suspects. It helps with interrogation, to get the truth etc.

                this holds true in my experience.

                it is amazing what a high percentage of criminal suspects in part I crimes end up being OOW products with no “dad” in their lives

                simply put, having your parents in your life vs. being brought up w/o your dad, and especially KNOWING it’s because he abandoned you, etc. makes you way way way way more likely to end up drug addicted and being a crimina

                1. Doesn’t interrogating a suspect violate his Fifth Amendment rights, the way you said interrogating a cop in an IA investigation before he’s prosecuted would violate his Fifth Amendment rights?


            2. Dunphy, does being a dick come naturally to you, or did you have to work at it? Because you have quite a talent for it.

              1. he takes it seriously. its his job.

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  16. The fundamental problem is that police are increasingly trained to treat suspects as enemy combatants to be pacified with immediate and overwhelming force, and not as citizens to “server and protect”.

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