What’s wrong with Americans?

I got drawn in into a graphic video, which came from a dashcam. One source is http://ktla.com/2015/04/11/christian-family-band-members-in-deadly-parking-lot-brawl-police-say/, the other one is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEnuSVQe8E4.

The two sources, especially the second one, which shows a very disturbing event.

The event starts at 00:29. The officer states ‘We need to separate these folks and talk to them’, the emphases was very very clear, namely ‘talk to them’. At this point there are around 5 police officers and 8 civilians. Within three seconds the civilians start a fight. What is wrong with these Americans? As far as I could see, there was an issue, the police wants to clear up and learn what exactly the issue is. Within 20 seconds we have civilians fighting each other, two civilians jumping a police officer. This goes on for a little while. At 1:20 there is clear view that police officers are still trying to break up the fight as best as they can. At 1:30 if I see it correct, one Taser has been discharged. It is a scuffle and one voice starts screaming: “Stop being Nazi’s!” As I see it, there are no Nazi’s, just police officers in a bad situation, trying to stop the escalation as much as they can. At 1:55 we hear “You’re hitting children“. Well that is not quite correct was it? These civilians had a beef and would not restrain themselves to talking and violence erupted. Violence against the police who are up to this point showing restraint as far as possible. At 3:00 the police has had enough, now the threatening command ‘get down’ is issued. One policeman is on the floor dealing with (not really clear) two civilians. At 3:20 a shot is fired. Now the screaming starts ‘oh my god’, ‘oh my god’. The police continues the command ‘everybody down’. It is almost like they are dealing with a group of severely mentally unhinged individuals. They refuse clear directives that were given by police officers.

Now, when we consider the title that KTLA gives us, ‘Christian Family Band Members in Deadly Arizona Parking Lot Brawl, Police Say‘, many might wonder what came over the police initially, but the KTLA news as well as the dashcam gives us another picture, one that gives pause to the question, how come there are so little instances of police escalations. KTLA reported in addition the part that the videos would not have shown: “Officers wanted to question them about the alleged assault of a Walmart employee who was going into the store bathroom“, so there was a response to violence, the civilians escalated it even further and ‘Enoch Gaver, 21, was killed in the fight‘.

A death that his family members could have prevented from the very beginning by listening to the clear instructions. Ignoring them caused a fatality 170 seconds later. A fatality they themselves instigated.

So what is wrong with Americans?

Now, this generalisation sounds extremely unfair to the rest of the Americans, but there is a larger issue that goes beyond Ferguson. When we see clear biased filming and we see sources like http://journalistsresource.org/studies/government/criminal-justice/police-reasonable-force-brutality-race-research-review-statistics, many non-Americans wonder just how bad the police there is, yet this video clearly showed restraint by the police (as much as possible) and the danger the police faces (as one officer was injured in the process).

The linked article shows something a lot more important and more unsettling. The view comes from FBI Director James B. Comey. As he sees it there is no reliable grasp of the problem. This view is supported with the following statement: “Not long after riots broke out in Ferguson late last summer, I asked my staff to tell me how many people shot by police were African-American in this country. I wanted to see trends. I wanted to see information. They couldn’t give it to me, and it wasn’t their fault. Demographic data regarding officer-involved shootings is not consistently reported to us through our Uniform Crime Reporting Program. Because reporting is voluntary, our data is incomplete and therefore, in the aggregate, unreliable“, which ponders the question, why? In my view the voluntary nature of the UCRP data is centre in all this. I cannot go into that reasoning because I do not have insight in the system and infrastructure that relates to all this, but one of the oldest credence’s we know in regards to statistics is ‘to measure is to know‘, which cannot be maintained from a voluntary point of view. “I recently listened to a thoughtful big city police chief express his frustration with that lack of reliable data. He said he didn’t know whether the Ferguson police shot one person a week, one a year, or one a century, and that in the absence of good data, “all we get are ideological thunderbolts, when what we need are ideological agnostics who use information to try to solve problems.” He’s right“. The statement can be accepted as valid, but in my view it is not entirely correct. My reasoning here is that several parties in all this are frustrated, but the voluntary nature of reporting has not (at present) changed, why not? Is the first solution to an unknown to gather the data that illuminates a road to solutions? Why is the infrastructure and nature of the UCRP not addressed? There might be a valid reason for this, but as stated, I know too little regarding the UCRP, its mandate and its responsibilities. We can however agree that reporting is centre in finding or managing a road to a solution, or to a better situation, which is a path not trodden at present.

My question gains additional weight as we see “Without a doubt, training for police has become more standardized and professionalized in recent decades. A 2008 paper in the Northwestern University Law Review provides useful background on the evolving legal and policy history relating to the use of force by police and the “reasonableness” standard by which officers are judged. Related jurisprudence is still being defined, most recently in the 2007 Scott v. Harris decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. But inadequate data and reporting — and the challenge of uniformly defining excessive versus justified force — make objective understanding of trends difficult

You see Scott v. Harris is well over half a decade old and that case shows the need for clarity, not just in data, but in insight. It is not just the dissenting voice of Justice Stevens in this matter. His view “Justice Stevens’s lone dissent argued that the videotape was not as definitive as the majority made it out to be and that a jury should make the determination on the justifiability of deadly force“, but if the judgment comes from a jury of peers, who would be the peer? A jury of police officers who know and almost daily see the consequences of hazardous driving, or a jury of civilians who could feel that the police should never have intervened with the criminal act of speeding? Like Enoch Gaver, Victor Harris learned the hard way what the consequences are of not obeying a clear directive from a police officer. A directive that was given in response to a crime that was being committed at that time. The cases have similarities in cause and effect.

What I personally see to be a factor is one that is not mentioned and might be ignored by many players, including FBI Director James B. Comey. The escalation that come from the disobedience from the alleged criminals. As the situation could not be diffused, the alleged factor is diminished into multiple criminal acts that were direct, instantly and almost undeniable. That part is clearly seen in the Walmart case. So if we consider the factor ‘escalation through disobedience‘, which is a lot more likely to evolve into acts of “justifiable homicide” by law enforcement officers, then the shifted statistics could show that certain events require a different mentality, not by the police, but by the population at large. For if we see evidence that clearly implies that certain statistics might no longer be valid (read: correct). That is seen in the quote “an estimated 1.7% of all contacts result in police threats or use of force, while 20% of arrests do“. The mere act of disobedience, or better stated ‘intentionally resisting arrest’, which is not just a crime, it is also a clear factor that results in fatalities. If that can somehow be addressed then a possible move towards clarity and less fatalities could become a reality. The question becomes, how to best go about it. I reckon it requires a person more intelligent than me to resolve or address it.

 

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