On police brutality

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This is a subject that has been in the news frequently lately. Seems like you can’t turn on the TV or read a news site without there being a story about a cop shooting an unarmed suspect. Or, even when they aren’t shooting someone, using a disproportionate amount of force in a relatively benign situation–like the cop who beat down a high school girl who refused to leave the classroom. But that’s not what finally inspired me to write about the subject.

No, that would be this case.

A cop in Pennsylvania killed an unarmed man after she tasered him. You can see quite clearly that he’s convulsing on the ground. She’s screaming commands at him which he attempts to follow. At some point, the officer thinks he’s reaching into his jacket–while being tasered, mind you–to go for a weapon. She shoots him twice, killing him. He ran from the officer after she pulled him over for having expired tags.

Now, a lot of people are outraged that the cop was acquitted of any wrongdoing. Some people even assert she and other cops who have been part of similar incidents should be charged with murder. Murder seems a little harsh–it’s not premeditated. None of these cops got into their squad cars in the morning with the intent of killing these people.

Nor do I think that this is, as is often claimed, an “institutional problem.” A lot of cops would never do something like this. It’s not like page one of the policeman’s handbook says, “Shoot first and ask questions later.”

No, what this case in PA shows is that the real problem is that stupid people are being hired as cops.

This woman is an idiot. I don’t care if she’s the nicest person on the planet, the fact of the matter is that she’s too stupid to be in law enforcement. The missing link in this case and others like it is critical thinking. At no point in this case did the officer use logic, planning, or any other element of critical thinking, and a man is dead now because of it.

The first failure to use critical thinking happened when the man fled. Fine, he ran from a police officer. But he was pulled over for having expired tags. She already had his information. There was no need to chase after him. With his personal and vehicle information, she could have looked up where he lived.

Add to that the man is clearly convulsing from the electricity running through  his body, and it becomes even more baffling that she becomes hysterical and panicked because he won’t follow her commands. I’ve never been tasered, but I’ve been given to understand by people who have that it’s a rather unpleasant experience and unless you’re strung out on PCP, the average person isn’t NOT going to be affected by getting hit with one. Her hysteria seems misplaced an unwarranted.

Let’s look at the cop who body slammed the high school student. You can make all kinds of arguments about whether the student was being a brat or not, but nobody was in physical danger in that situation. There was no weapon, no threat of force. Just a student who wouldn’t leave the room after the teacher asked her too. Why was such force used? The answer is stupidity.

A logical, rational cop in that same situation could have handled that a billion other ways, none of them involving force. He could have called the student’s parents. He could have had everyone else leave the room. Anything other than his stupid and violent response to the situation.

You see, violence is always a last resort. It’s the thing you’re supposed to when all other options have failed. If violence is always the first option you go with, that’s pretty strong proof that you’re either too stupid or too lazy to try other options first, and in either case such people shouldn’t have a badge and a gun.

The solution to this problem isn’t blaming the victims. It isn’t accusing the police of shielding their own (these people were acquitted by juries). It isn’t claiming that police forces around the country promote a culture of violence. The solution is quite simple: stop giving morons who can’t think their way out of a paper bag or are too hysterical to do their job correctly a gun.

That shouldn’t be too hard. There are ways that you can test someone’s ability to think critically.  I had to pass an adaptive test that proved a certain level of critical thinking ability to become a registered nurse. Doesn’t seem like it would too difficult to adapt that to law enforcement.

Because ultimately, what makes a good police officer is good judgment. You have to be able to objectively assess a situation, make an appropriate plan, and then follow through and evaluate that plan. That was the failing of the cop in PA, and all the other cops who have killed unarmed people: they didn’t have good plans, because they didn’t use critical thinking.

We can’t have cops who are too stupid to discern which situations are potentially deadly and which ones are not: pulling someone over for expired tags doesn’t warrant the same response as responding to a break-in or an armed robbery. Nor should we have cops who are so afraid to do their job or paranoid about being killed that they meet every situation with deadly force instead of trying to objectively look at the situation before charging in. These are the cops who kill people who should still be alive today.

Having bad judgment and poor critical thinking skills doesn’t make someone a murderer. It makes them a moron. And morons should not be put in a position of authority or power in law enforcement.

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6 thoughts on “On police brutality

  1. Man, you like to write about the easy to solve problems, eh?
    I do agree about the stupidity issue, but I wonder how many people are taught how to think critically. If news stations and political debates are any indication, only about 3% (totally accurate number, I’m sure) of the population care about critical thinking.
    That PA case was especially rough. I haven’t watched the entire video yet, not sure I will.

    1. That’s an excellent point. It would go a long way if critical thinking were a cultural value here in America. It doesn’t seem to be, sadly. I’m not sure what it would take to turn that around at this point.

  2. You have hit the nail on the head my friend. Could not have been said better. If they had to let go of all the moron cops, 70% of the force would be out of jobs.

    I like to say “you see a lot of Barney’s before you run into any Andy’s.”

    I’d add that not only are a great deal of cops morons, but many are incapable of wearing the uniform without becoming total jackasses at the same time. I don’t care much for cops. I appreciate the job needs doing, but there should be some sort of extensive mental evaluation before they even begin training these people. The jackass morons need to be weeded out early on.

    1. Thank you. I know this was inflammatory, but I tried to keep it focused only on the bad cops. I do respect the job and I know the majority of police officers do use common sense on the job.

      I know there is some kind of psych evaluation for people entering the police force, but I don’t know what it looks like. I’d be curious to find out, though, because apparently whatever they’re doing doesn’t work very well.

  3. When you think about being a cop as a profession, a fairly low paying and dangerous job there are only two type of people generally lining up to take the job. Those who are overtly noble and do want to protect and serve, and those who simply want to have that instant authority and respect and push people around. And while I hope there are more of the former than the latter, the point is that neither of those personality characteristics require intelligence. Those with the intelligence needed for this job will find a better paying and safer job most likely, or end up being detectives. And I still think this woman should have been convicted. Maybe not for murder but for at least involuntary manslaughter and should simply not be a cop anymore. The fact that this woman just gets to return her job is a great injustice for killing a man who didn’t deserve to die.

    1. I couldn’t agree with you more about the woman in the PA case. She definitely should not be back on the streets, and should face some kind of legal consequences for an unjustified killing.

      I know there are review boards in precincts that are supposed to investigate whether or not a shooting was actually justified. Stuff like this makes me wonder just how far off the meter something has to be before they finally stop and say, “Okay, that was too far.” There doesn’t seem to be anything they won’t justify.

      I would say that there needs to be an impartial third party doing such reviews, but after seeing all these juries acquit these officers, I doubt that would help. That’s what’s the most baffling aspect of all of this to me. Fine, perhaps the precinct has a motive for justifying all these killings, but how can the regular people on these juries think it’s okay?

      As for the part about the job, I think you hit the nail on the head. I remember hearing a news story awhile back about how there’s is a recruitment problem in my hometown of Portland, OR. If that’s the case, they’re scraping the bottom on the barrel with the people they hire.

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