Young Black Officer Examines Police Deadly Force
Deadly Force and Homicide by Cop: Tactics, Race, Crime and A Look at Sterling and Castile
The following guest article cannot be copied or otherwise reproduced without the author’s express consent.
A note to the reader:
Let me start off by saying this. The loss of life, good or bad and guilty or innocent, is tragic. As men, it obviously pains us more when the loss of life is of the innocent rather than guilty. God finds both equal saying, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls” (Proverbs 17:17) and “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 18:23).
This past month, we got to witness the violent deaths of two men at the hands of Law Enforcement Officers. Emotions quickly took over for many people, damning the slayings and calling for revenge. Such emotional responses do nothing good for the cause of Justice. Such responses only allow the perversion of Justice as facts are lost in the cloud of fiction and assumptions become the ruling reasons for actions.
The following essay will review quite a few things, from Police Officer Training to the shootings of Sterling and Castile. I ask that you closely consider everything I am writing about. I am not looking to change your mind on an issue (though my arguments are purposely persuasive) but rather to help you better understand the actions and mindset of police officers carrying out their most burdensome duty: the use of deadly force.
I cannot replicate the incidents of that day, and like you I do not know all of the facts and circumstances. With that said, I will be tentative on making an absolute judgement but I will do my best to present the known facts plainly before you. Off those known facts, an assessment (not a judgement) will be made.
Policing today, is extremely different than it was even 10 years ago. There is now more red tape holding back police and law abiding citizens wishing to practice their 2nd amendment rights than there are holding back criminals from damaging our community. While “well intentioned” politicians drop the cost for criminals to serve time for theft and drugs (see Proposition 47 & AB109), they raise the risk to communities and the frustrations of peace officers who detain and arrest the same individuals on an weekly basis.
Today, policing has two styles – Crime Oriented Policing & Community Oriented Policing . Both of these styles are widely in use all over America and have a foothold in a theory known as The “Broken Windows Theory.”
The Broken Window Theory suggest that perception of safety can overcome the shortfalls of community and thereby create a safer community as a whole. In a nutshell, if policing efforts were directed toward the small crimes (vandalism like graffiti and broken windows or public drinking) then it would help the community create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness. Overtime, the community will take pride in themselves and run-off the small time criminals. In doing so, they are also preventing larger more serious crimes (burglary, robbery and murder).
There are pros and cons with anything, including this theory. Some have found over-enforcement can create a spiteful effect between officers and the community; while others wishing for a greater push by police believe the officers don’t care when they pass up the drunk on the corner to go after more serious crimes.
- Crime-Oriented Policing is (also known as Problem-Oriented Policing or POP) is more or less what it sounds like. POP takes policing to a more organized level. Rather than simply responding to calls for service, analyses and data are collected to evaluate the areas, times of day, and modus operandi (aka “m.o.”), which criminals engage in their conduct. POP policing also engages other elements of government (I.e. Code Enforcement) to help deter problems. In some Orange County Police Departments, a specific group operates solely to collect such data and organize it in a way to allow administration level police officers to find the best ways to organize limited resources. Pros and Cons here usually fall into the limit of resources. Administration becomes gravely aware of how much crime they could diminish if they only had more officers or tools at their disposal (an expense the City Council isn’t all too willing to cough up)
- The new wave of policing has landed us at “Community-Oriented Policing” or COP (and in case you are wondering – no – that is not how police got their nickname “Cops”). Community-Oriented Policing is policing that allows the community itself to play a bigger role in the betterment of their community. COP brings together the police department, civic and religious leaders, families, businesses, schools and other government agencies (I.e. Parks & Recreation, Metro-bus, etc) to help solve problems. Such things as “dimly lit streets” are ways COP can deter crime. Others are more encompassing and thorough. Like the other two above, there are pros and cons. Many officers have taken a liking to this style but some see it as wasteful. An officer spending time in meetings with parents and teachers is an officer who can be on the street fighting crime.
- There is also Traffic Policing. The goal of traffic police officers are to prevent auto-related accidents and enforce vehicle code violations (often which are key factors to auto-related accidents). Depending on the operations of the department, Traffic elements operate differently. In Orange County, Traffic policing tends to be problem oriented. If there is a large amount of drunk driving around holidays and celebrations, DUI checkpoints are set up. If there have been too many accidents with pedestrians around certain areas, then a zero-tolerance enforcement goes into effect and “warnings” go out the window.
I bring these up to point to notify you about the different ways of fighting crime. Some people complain about “harassment” by police officers in specific communities like those under NYPD’s jurisdiction (See Stop & Frisk). These individual should do their best to take advantage of the openness many these departments have adopted. Ask your local PD’s sergeant (or Chief) to speak about such issues. Address your complaints and be willing to learn. Too much of our current debate is a battle of postures, showing who could win the most “likes” or nods but remain unwilling to learn.
Police Officers today wear tons of gear. From heavy steel toed boots, wool pants and shirts, metal emblems (known as badges) to signify their authority; the one that gets to most attention (rightfully so) is the gun. That given, the gun is one of many tools an officer has at play.
- Authority. A police officers authority alone is a tool he yields. To the everyday person, this authority is enough to demand respect and compliance but it is often not enough for the criminal. This is called command presence. (Because Verbal authority is often considered a force – I’ll a included it here).
- Hands & Feet. Police officers are authorized to use as much force ” reasonable and necessary to effect an arrest”. If that means a body slam before handcuffing, then so be it. If it’s a show of force (presentation of a firearm) then this is also necessary. The first and most basic of these forces is an officers hands and feet. The use of hands and feet differ and can be responsible for force compliance (pulling hands and feet in a way to place handcuffs) or pain compliance (from application of joint locking maneuvers to punches in the face).
- OC Spray (or pepper spray). Pepper spray is a pain compliance tool. Less popular than hands-on force or the Taser, pepper spray is sprayed into the face and/or eyes of a combative subject in hopes to temporary blind and/or provoke pain compliance. OC Spray is limited at a distance and doesn’t have a desired effect on a small percentage of the populace (a higher percentage among the minority community). It also can get into the eyes and skin of the officer attempting to effect the arrest.
- Taser. The taser is a pain and force compliance tool The taser shoots two-pronged hooks that attach to the skin of a combative subject to induce an electric shock that temporarily demobilizes said subject. The taser is very limited in that it cannot penetrate a certain level or type of clothing, does not spread far enough at close distances, and can be inaccurate or too short at long distances. The taser prongs need to spread out far enough to have the desired effect; when this does not happen it will effectively “not work.” Without the prongs, the taser can be used as a pain compliance stun gun.
- Baton. More common in riot situations, the baton is rarely used (but carried) by police officers. It’s not popular due to it’s appearance. A pain compliance tool, the baton is used as a striking weapon. Though effective, the baton’s appearance (especially with a subject who is impervious to pain due to drugs) is detrimental to the officers actions (especially now that every police encounter seems to be recorded). The most notable uses of the baton conjure up images of the 1950-60’s south, or Rodney King beating.
- Bean Bag / Rubber Bullet / 40mm. These specialized tools are cumbersome and not carried by police officers on regular patrol. They are obtained usually in situations where a primary deadly force option is present, in conjunction with this option. These weapons need to be secured when an incident is occurring. They are used in specific events. They are essentially projectile pain compliance tool shot from a gun. Though not deadly, they can cause deadly force if the wrong areas are struck.
- K-9. Limited in its use, the K-9 is a weapon used for two reasons: (a) apprehension of a felon (non-compliant) and or in defense of a police officer (especially the handler). They are also used as bomb/drug/gun sniffing dogs.
- Gun. The gun is a primary deadly force option weapon. The gun is carried by all officers. The average police officer will never discharge their weapon on duty, and even less will shoot and hit someone; the amount of officers that have shot and killed a person on duty is likely less than 5% (and that is most likely a high number).
- The Patrol Car. Besides being an office, desk and meeting space, the police car in itself is a weapon and can be used as such in critical circumstance against another vehicle or person.
- Special Weapons & Tactic (SWAT): The first SWAT team came to life in Los Angeles. An elite group of police officers with military-assault styled training, they possess special weapons including fully automatic rifles, flash-bang (blinding-concussion) grenades, specialized non-lethal weaponry, robotics and in special cases – bombs (when paired with Bomb Squad).
In the past, a “Use of Force Continuum” was in place. The continuum forced officers to run a check list for their actions, suggesting they must first try the lesser force before moving on to a greater force. Now, the continuum can be skipped from 1 to 9 if necessary.
In Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985),  the Court suggested that there are three circumstances when an officer can use deadly force: first, when the officer is threatened with a deadly weapon; second, when the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm or death to the officer or to another; or third, when the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect has committed a crime involving threatened or actual serious physical harm or death to another person. The Court also noted that, when feasible, a warning should precede the use of deadly force.
Now, there are some critical assumptions made about policing when it comes to application of deadly force. Deadly force is used in those 3 critical incidents (above). Deadly force has the expectation to result in a deadly action. Deadly force isn’t used to “maim” or “injure” someone but rather to “stop” the threat. When one is shot, there is an expectation that death is imminent unless medical attention can change that diagnosis.
I bring this up for the civilians who remark “why can’t they shoot him in the leg?” There are multiple problems with that.
- As explained, deadly force isn’t meant to injure but rather stop a threat.
- Common practice in every field that utilizes a gun as a weapon (soldier to civilian) is to shoot for the center mass. The center mass (Stomach-Chest Area) contains vital organs that are critical to our well being (hence protection by our rib cage). When struck with a bullet, a shut down is imminent. Now, a bullet doesn’t always have the same effect on everyone so there will always be differences, but one thing is true – you will die if no medical attention is applied.
- In a high stress situation, like an officer-involved shooting, a skilled shooter’s accuracy will drop to approximately 20% or below his routine training score. This is also true for police officers and military as well. This is due to adrenaline and other environmental factors. Such high stress situations produce massive amounts of adrenaline that allow us to fight or flight. Pulling the trigger on a gun, if you ever tried, is a fine skill movement. Fine skill movements are not particularly easy to apply in high stress situations. The more the shooter is exposed to such situations the better and more accurate he is. This isn’t a skill that is easy to practice or one you want officers being skilled in (unless they were to come from the military after experiencing combat).
- With #3 in mind, the likelihood of someone to “aim” for the leg means there is a greater likelihood for them to miss. This puts themselves and the public in danger.
- High stress situations are usually fast moving and do not allow for aiming at appendages.
- Shooting the leg is an ill fated goal. The leg holds the “femoral,” one of the largest most important arteries in a human body. When severed, a person can “bleed out” in less than a minute.
One other critical assumption civilians also make is this: unarmed means not-dangerous. A gun is involved in every encounter an officer has. In the case where no one else is armed, the officer brings his gun. With that said, if an officer is in trouble so that he may be demobilized (rendered unconscious or paralyzed) his life is immediately at risk. This can by way of a punch to the jaw (knockout) or being pushed to the ground (hitting head of pavement). An officer’s gun can go from a tool of his advantage to a tool of disadvantage is such cases.
Furthermore, an officer cannot nor should not assume an unarmed person (lacking any weapon) is an unskilled person. Today, there are mixed martial arts, traditional martial arts, etc. gyms in almost every community. Today, an officer that is simply a good “fighter” may be outmatched by a female black-belt skilled in Tae Kwon Do. Who is to say anyone they meet with isn’t skilled? These chances cannot be taken. This is why control is important for the officer. Often, police arrive on scene with no knowledge of a persons skill, identity, and/or possession of weapons. So to be offended when they ask you to “remove your hands from your pocket” is to be offended by your own ignorance. Communication and control is key for police. This is why the seemingly unsympathetic statement “comply and stay alive” is also very true.
Race: Why it Matters
When it comes to the law, every law enforcement officer I know, and I know many, conducts himself with the idea that race does not matter. The law matters. That said, should it matter? The answer, in a contradictory way, is yes.
As a Christian, I learned something important: the only race that matters is the human race. As image bearers of God, we are all equally valuable to Him. I love to sit in my community and church surrounded by people from every nation and race. It fits me as a person. My ethnic make-up is diverse. Largely of Mexican and Black heritage: my Mexican half has Cuban, Mayan and Spanish descent, while my Black side is creole. Diversity is in my veins. That said, thanks to my skin color, I largely recognize as black (though my hazel eyes giveaway the mixture).
As a human, I also learned the importance of race in connecting with people. Race helps us identify cultural similarities, differences, and ideals. I used to hate identifying as one race because to me it betrayed who I was. Later, I saw how important it was to recognize as a black man because there aren’t many young black police officers. Even more so, there aren’t many young black men who take their faith so seriously; young black men with a masters degree; and young black men who identify as conservatives. I am all four. If I can reach out or be an ambassador in any of those categories. My goal is to do like Paul and be black to the blacks and Hispanic to the Hispanics. In doing so, I do not betray who I am.
I never understood the idea of all black churches. For me, they were, in a way, somewhat racist. It was later that I realized the church make-up was because of the community at large and because of the cultural understanding. That said, culturally focused institutions should not neglect other cultures, especially churches.
I remember sitting outside of a classroom at the University of California, Los Angeles, when a group of Korean students were walking around proselytizing to other students. I was proud to see them work for God until I noticed one thing in particular. They were targeting other Asian students. While largely Korean, Grace On Campus, the church this group was a part of, was targeting all types of eastern Asians (Japanese, Taiwanese, Chinese, and Koreans). But they skipped past Hispanics, Whites and Black students. I thought, perhaps they simply missed the opportunity to speak with me, so I placed myself right in their mix and still, I was largely ignored or avoided entirely. I was upset by the event, not because I didn’t understand their purpose – I knew they were targeting familiar cultures for a reason – but when considering the gospel, why does race matter? Don’t we all need saving? It troubled me greatly and it still does.
As an officer, I have had the opportunity to explain cultural differences and habits to other officers with less experience in that area. Such things become important knowledge on how to address specific communities. For example, in Hispanic cultures, the firstborn male is idolized as a prize. This helped me explain to a fellow white officer why a mother of a probationer was so unwilling to kick her son out of the house or force him to get a job. That was her boy and she would die for him despite his stupidity.
Thanks to new laws, race will become a huge factor in how police operate. I believe these laws are largely misguided and will simply be used as fuel for division. I also think they will be an opportunity for police departments to show how evenly prejudice they are against those who willingly break the law.
Soon, police officers will have to dictate race in such instances as this: “Prior to the traffic stop, what race did you believe the driver was?” “During the traffic stop, what race did you believe the driver was?” “After the traffic stop, what race did you determine the driver was?” These questions seemingly beg the officer to be caught in a situation where they appear to be prejudicial. Nevertheless, it will become the law in California.
Race is also important to policing when it comes to perception. Minorities are excited when they see an officer of their race don the uniform. I have been congratulated and thanked for patrolling the streets by black men and women simply for being black. Many of them say “We need more brothers and sisters out there.” While I will defend my white brother and sisters in Blue (to the death), I understand her sentiment has to do with perception and familiarity.
Perception is also important for the police and how they look at civilians and criminals. Civilians of all races are often seen as clueless. Not used to dealing with stressful situations like police do on a daily basis, civilians have a tendency to dramatize and forget many important factors in an incident they witness. Unfortunately, when civilians are witnesses or victims of crimes, this “cluelessness” is particularly troubling. This is specifically true when a civilian is a victim of black crime. The victim of a black criminal has a tendency to focus on one particular thing – skin color. Given that blacks are only 13% of the population in the United States, skin color stands out. They are, after all not like the other 87%. When said victim of black crime is unable to describe anything beyond skin color, you have a tendency for crime broadcasts to be very generalized. Many of them sound like this: “Male Black, 5’7” to 6’00, muscular build, short dark hair.” Then you have the impending traffic stop with an officer explaining to the upset black occupant, “I am sorry sir, you simply matched a description.”
Police perceptions on criminals is just as sharp. Yes, cops stereotype like all people. White criminals are often stereotyped with involvement with drugs (sales or usage) or white collar crime (identity theft, etc.). They are also known to be those who are more likely to do unusual things (like harm family members or hold up an entire building). Hispanic criminals are often stereotyped to be involved in unlicensed driving, gang involvement, drinking and domestic violence. They are also more prone to flee arrest. Black criminals tend to be more involved in strong armed crime (robbery, car theft, and burglary) and drug usage. When they run, they have a tendency to fight when cornered. While a stereotype, it’s important to know these are also based off data, experience, and facts. Now one must also understand, as stereotypes, these things are not always true. Do police profile? Sure, but that is to see they “criminally profile” – an officer that does not know what a criminal type look like is probably not a very good officer.
The stats on crime when it comes to race, are plentiful. But allow me to plagiarize my most recent blog when describing Violent Crime in particular.
The other day, I watched a black man (arrested for murder) attempt to disarm a police officer by stealing his gun. This man was stopped and re-cuffed to stand trial. This happens everyday, to all races alike. In fact, the vast majority of incidents involve no use of force – and when I mean vast majority – that is over 99% of police contacts. Of those use of force incidents resulting in a death at the hand of police officers – that number is so small it is incredibly telling of the foolishness of this statement that cops are out to kill. In 2015: 1186 people were killed by police and approximately 13 million people arrested (for various crimes ranging from a citation to felony). That means approximately 0.009% of all potentially arrested were killed.
In breaking down these statistics, some will be quick to point out that more whites were killed by police (581) than Blacks (306). But speaking proportionally, you cannot ignore the fact that Blacks are killed far more than whites when you consider the population: Whites account for 64% of the population and Blacks account for 12%.
Even with this lopsided proportion in the share of deaths, there is one more telling statistic to account for. Despite being only 12% of the population, Black/African-Americans are responsible for 38% of violent crime arrests (Murder/Manslaughter, Rape, Robbery, Burglary, Theft, Arson). This statistic is second only to Whites who hold 58.4% of the share of violent crime.
When we consider that criminals are more likely to fight (to deadly measures) if they are going to face the threat of a higher punishment (which comes with violent crimes), it makes more sense that Whites and Blacks hold the top two places for deaths at the hands of police officers given they commit the most violent crimes,, proportions of deaths at the hands of police more closely match the proportions for violent crime: (Share of Deaths By Police % vs. Share of Violent Crime %) for Whites it’s (51% vs 58%) and for Blacks (26% vs 38%).
As some may challenge, this does not explain the brutality shown to some man and woman of color during the past year! And you are right. I don’t seek to explain away every officer’s motives, failures, thoughts or actions but I do mean to put away the falsely propagated idea that cops are out to kill or imprison and destroy the lives on young black men and women. This is not true and needs to end. Sadly, it will not. As long as it can be used as a political tool to incite and mobilize the masses and secure more votes, it will be used.
Unfortunately, police officers cannot fix in 15-minutes what parents ruined in 15 years (their sons and daughters). Officers everywhere have the responsibility to protect and serve but parents everywhere have the responsibility to raise good people. Unfortunately, my community, despite being 13% of the population, is responsible for 28-30% of all criminal arrest. Even if such arrest were illegitimate (say 2%), that number would still be double the size of the black population. This is a problem WE must address.
Every time the issue of police violence against a black person comes to national television, we have those on a certain side stating an unfortunate fact: “Blacks kill way more black than cops.” This seemingly stupid statement is often lambasted by sympathetic supporters of the slain. But why do we ignore this? Why does black lives matter and true mobilization of the black community only start (emphatically and nationally) when a black man is shot or killed by a cop? We must make changes at home. The ignorant meme circulating on social media suggesting “will I be next” shouldn’t be targeted toward police, but rather toward your own community.
On this topic, I am going to gladly borrow from the eloquent post by Officer J. Stalien from Florida, a black police officer.
Complaint: Police always targeting us, they always messing with the black man.
Fact: A city where the majority of citizens are black (Baltimore for example) …will ALWAYS have a higher rate of black people getting arrested, it will ALWAYS have a higher rate of blacks getting stopped, and will ALWAYS have a higher rate of blacks getting killed, and the reason why is because a city with those characteristics will ALWAYS have a higher rate of blacks committing crime. The statistics will follow the same trend for Asians if you go to China, for Hispanics if you go to Puerto Rico, for whites if you go to Russia, and the list goes on. It’s called Demographics
Complaint: More black people get arrested than white boys.
Fact: Black People commit a grossly disproportionate amount of crime. Data from the FBI shows that Nationwide, Blacks committed 5,173 homicides in 2014, whites committed 4,367. Chicago’s death toll is almost equal to that of both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, combined. Chicago’s death toll from 2001–November, 26 2015 stands at 7,401. The combined total deaths during Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2015: 4,815) and Operation Enduring Freedom/Afghanistan (2001-2015: 3,506), total 8,321.
Complaint: Blacks are the only ones getting killed by police, or they are killed more.
Fact: As of July 2016, the breakdown of the number of US Citizens killed by Police this year is, 238 White people killed, 123 Black people killed, 79 Hispanics, 69 other/or unknown race.
Fact: Black people kill more other blacks than Police do, and there are only protest and outrage when a cop kills a black man. University of Toledo criminologist Dr. Richard R. Johnson examined the latest crime data from the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports and Centers for Disease Control and found that an average of 4,472 black men were killed by other black men annually between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2012. Professor Johnson’s research further concluded that 112 black men died from both justified and unjustified police-involved killings annually during this same period.
Sadly, when it comes to black-on-black crime, not only are black people responsible for 90% of violent crime committed against their “own” people, but blacks are also responsible for the highest percentage of crime committed against ALL other races (excluding that very race). That means blacks are 2nd when it comes to violent crime committed against all other ethnicities. Unfortunately for us (blacks), we are responsible for our very own image.
Deadly Force – Side Effect
When it comes to deadly force & police brutality in general, perception is far more powerful than fact. This video adequately explains the issue at hand: [CLICK HERE]. Key Stats from video:
- US Population in 2013: 313,910,00
- Sworn police: 670,439
- Police contacted approximate 17% of the population (from witness statements to arrests) ~ 53 Million contacts
- Approximate 4% was arrested (infraction citation to felony) – assuming no repeated arrests
- 26,000 complaints of excessive force were made (0.049% of contacts)
- 2,080 complaints were sustained: 0.0039% of all contacts
So to those talking about how fearful they are for their black friends and family to be harmed by police: you are 7x more likely to be murdered, 15x more likely to die in a car crash or 42x more likely to be raped – then you are to be harmed in some way be a police officer. Double that number if you are worried about being killed by a police officer. Meanwhile a cop is 2.5x more likely to be killed by a black man than for a cop to kill a black man.
The side effects don’t stop at the civilian level. Cops are also harmed when deadly force or brutality is claimed. They are often placed on administrative leave, reduced in rank or pay, or suspended from duty and even fired despite being cleared of wrongdoing. The political weight of their presence becomes unbecoming to the department as a whole. This is one of many reasons why police officers endure such a higher rate of medical illnesses (like stress endured heart disease), divorce, PTSD, and suicide (somewhere between 150-200 per year). This sidelining of officers also has a effect on the city budget, and community at large (loss of personnel).
One thing to note is this: A police officer does not go out seeking to use his gun. Every officer is a human being with a family and a life outside of work. Though he or she has chosen to put their lives in danger to protect others, they rather not do it unnecessarily. The goal of every officer is to go home at the end of the day and to enjoy life, much like you. The fact that I have to explain this to people shows how far we have gone. People are continually perpetuating a false idea that police are willing to kill for no cause.
Castile & Sterling
Though we will look at both instances, it’s important to set aside what you think you know about them. There has been an egregious and unfortunate rush to judgement on all sides of the aisle (and the fact that this has become so partisan is criminal in itself). The case of police using deadly force in the black community should be a concern for everyone. But how a black man’s death in Baton Rogue is connected to another black man’s death in Minnesota is beyond me. Outside of race and means of death (by police) there is no relation. Neither incident has any hint of racism. Racism is always found when you create a world where racism is prevalent and the number one cause for the current state of the black community. When you do this, then it’s easy to play make belief on everything else. That said, judging police by the actions of 1 person or 1 incident is very negligent.
Each police force is completely different. Los Angeles County has 88 different cities which operate differently. Some of those cities share common services (like the Los Angeles County Sheriffs as police) but do the actions of Bell (and the corruption that took place there) mean Redondo Beach is also corrupt and should be punished?
When it comes to court, it’s important to know that a police officer, if facing prosecution or a lawsuit for his actions, cannot be judged in hindsight. Case law says a ruling must be based on the facts, knowledge and circumstances known in the case. For example, if a man holds up a store and shoots a round into the ceiling, then flees and is later cornered and killed by police, you cannot judge the police officer for murder after it was later discovered the gun he had only had 1 bullet in it and it was used inside the store. The fact and circumstances showed that the man was a danger to the community at large and willing to use a deadly weapon to get what he wanted. The officer is not liable to know the man had no other bullets to use. When people move to judge police on social media, they are not only violating this convention (to eliminate bias) they are also quite possibly tainting those who may actually serve on a Grand Jury or jury of peers. Let’s keep this in mind when we look at both cases.
Because we do not have to accounts of the officers readily available, we must fill in some blanks with assumptions. I will do so based off my training and experience and will do my best to remain objective. Both cases will be analyzed as follows: (A) What we know, (B) what we don’t know, (C) Need to know, (D) In-retrospect & Conclusion.
Case #1: Alton Sterling
Alton Sterling was outside of a convenient store selling CDs. He had permission to be on the premises through the owner. The legality of the CDs are unknown. At some point, an altercation occurred between Sterling & a homeless subject who advised Sterling had brandished the weapon at them. The homeless subject gave Sterlings description (red shirt, etc.) and location to police dispatchers. When officers arrived, a force continuum came into play as officers contact Sterling and verbally gave him orders. The confrontation between officers and Sterling quickly escalated. One officer used a taser on Sterling but the taser was ineffective. The officer then immediately tackled Sterling and a struggle ensued on the ground. While attempting to subdue Sterling, repeated warning were given and one officer could be heard stating “He has a gun” and “He is going for his gun!” Sterling was subsequently shot 3 times. After a short pause, 3 more shots were heard. Officers called for EMS and stood by. Sterling eventually passed away from his injuries.
In the video, it is clearly seen that Sterling was not under the control of the officers but there are certain things we cannot clearly see – such as: 1) if Sterlings hands were being placed into his pocket (to grab the gun). 2) if the homeless caller (anonymous) was actually threatened with a gun. 3) if the officers had prior contacts or knowledge of who Sterling is or knew his background 4) if the officers suffered injuries during the fight 5) if the officers are racists 6) or Sterlings state of mind at the time of the incident (I.e. Sobriety).
In most cases, a persons pasts is unimportant unless one is attempting to influence opinions for sake of credibility. Just as it is important for a Jury to be unbiased when judging those on trial, it is important for us to look at all individuals from a unbiased perspective. For the police officers, we must look at them as non-racist. For Sterling, we must judge him as an everyday citizen. Unfortunately in this case, Sterling’s past is very vital to understanding given that it is the basis for the officer’s standing to use force:
- At the time of contact, Sterling was on probation for past violent crimes. Anyone on probation is required (by law) to obey all laws and all commands by police officers (regardless of their inconvenience). Therefore, by simply non-compliance, Sterling is in violation of his probation (Crime 1)
- Sterling is also a registered sex offender. Along with his probation status, Sterling is prohibited from owning and/or carrying a firearm (Crime 2 & 3).
- Many have pointed out in Sterlings defense, that LA is a open-carry state. They have erroneously interpreted open-carry as (a) available to all and (b) meaning you can carry the weapon anywhere. In open-carry LA, one cannot practice such right if they are a convicted felon (as Sterling was) and they cannot practice such right if they are in fact concealing the weapon. A gun in the pocket is not “open carry.” (Crime 4 & 5).
- As stated earlier, the call to police was made by a homeless person who encountered and was threatened by Sterling. The gun was apparently brandished at this person. If true, this would also be a crime (Crime 6).
- The video was shot by an activist group that were able to push the video directly to individuals who are tied to those who are able to quickly mobilize people. These people are the reason why the incident became such a large movement though the facts and circumstances would suggest, the shooting was justified. The movement, thanks to those who shot the video, got ahead of the facts. A dangerous new trend in media.
Why are these need to know? They are the basis for action by police officers. These facts are also important in understanding Sterling’s propensity (or lack there of) for violence.
D) When one looks at the facts and circumstances of this specific incident, one cannot deny that the shooting was justified. A large male who fights with police, and has a gun is most likely going to get shot. A large men who is on probation, has a history of violence, is a documented gang member and reaches for his weapon while fighting with police, will definitely get shot. Though the facts and circumstances are stacked against Sterling, he has received an outpouring of support.
As alluded to earlier, this is because of the activists that shot the incident and because of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement that had already gained momentum in Ferguson. This is also because the video shows 2 officers versus 1 man. While, many would assume two people versus one person is a easy victory not requiring deadly force, these same people are most likely to be the type that have not fought on the ground with another person. The other day, my partner and I had to wrestle a scrawny 5 ft 4 inch (120 lbs) 18 year old. Though I am 5 ft 8 inches and 165 pounds (and my partner larger and heavier) the wrestling match took approximately 4 minutes before we were able to place him into handcuffs. 4 minutes, sweat, blood, bumps, bruises, abrasions and a bit more wisdom were my prize.
Attempting to force an intelligent person to do what they do not want to do by force is not an easy task. Any pet owner who tries to wash their animal knows this to be true. It is a struggle. Now exchange that animal for a full grown human being, with hands (and thumbs), and the intelligence of a man – it’s darn near impossible without exceptional understanding of martial arts tactics or overwhelming strength. That fight becomes even more dangerous and difficult when guns are involved. The violence depicted in the video is nothing short of brutal. It’s real and difficult to watch. It doesn’t go down easy for anyone on any side of the aisle. But it’s reality.
So now that the facts have emerged, do they sway opinion on the matters? No. Rather, you will probably watch Sterling’s family paraded before the Democratic National Convention with the likes of Michael Brown’s mother as well as Trayvon Martin’s. Much like how the “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” narrative has been proven to be false, it’s become a tool for movements and will carry on despite truth on the matter. It appeals to emotion. The evidence and circumstances of this case are so heavily against Sterling (and his actions) that even if it were discovered that both officers were card carrying members of the KKK – their actions would still be justified.
Case #2: Philando Castile
Philando Castile was headed home with his girlfriend and a 4 year old child in the back seat when they were pulled over by a St. Anthony Police Officer for a broken tail-light. The Officer, requested to see Castile’s drivers license and registration. Castile advised the officer he was in possession of a gun. At some point, Castile reached and was shot by the officer multiple times. During the detention, after Castile was shot, his girlfriend turns on Facebook Live (on her phone) and records as her boyfriend slumped over in agony. In what can only be described as an eerie calmness, she stated “The officer said don’t move. As he was putting his hands back up, the officer shot him in the arm four or five times.” While the incident continues, the officer can be seen and heard yelling in reply “I told him not to reach for it! I told him to get his hand open” – with a distraught tone that seemed to be both apologetic and in agreement with Diamond’s initial statement. Much of the narrative of this case is firmly planted in the video shot by the girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds.
B) There a plethora of unknowns in this incident: (1) where was the gun at the time of the incident, (2) the instructions the officer gave prior to the shooting, (3) what the officer was able to see, hear, smell, etc., (4) why the Diamond decided to record instead of applying medical treatment of some sort (if she knew how) (5) prior history and or knowledge of officers on scene with Castile or Diamond, (6) is the area high or low crime, etc.,
(C) What we do know is helpful but in this case they do not show us why the incident occurred the way it did. (1) Castile was in possession of a hand gun and had the correct permits to wield said weapons in a concealed manner (CCW). (2) Officers on scene pulled over the vehicle driven by Castile to investigate a robbery that had occurred prior to the stop. The traffic stop “broken tail-light” was a pretext for the stop. (3) Castile matched the description (Image) of the robber.
(D) The case here simply does not have enough available evidence to tell me the shooting was justified (from the Officers perspective). By justified, I do not mean “correct” but rather – a reasonable action based off the circumstances. If the officer told Castile to not move but Castile reached for his gun (in hopes of innocently surrendering it during the stop) it would be justified for the Officer to shoot. How so? Given the reasoning for the stop, the Officer believed Castile to be a suspect in a robbery involving a gun. When Castile advises the Officer he has a gun, two dominoes fall into play in his mind: (1) he looks like the suspect and (2) he is armed. This of course does not mean Castile is the right man but he will be treated as a dangerous person until determined otherwise.
What many people mistake is the idea that “innocent until proven guilty” denotes that Officers must treat people as innocent. Officers have an inherently dangerous job. It is their job to uphold laws and constitutional rights but they cannot assume innocence or guilt. Instead they take pre-cautions for their own safety. When someone is placed under arrest, they are not presumed guilty but rather allow the facts and circumstances of the investigation to determine probable cause for involvement. The courts determine if someone is innocent or not.
People lie to police Officers all the time. In fact, unless trust is gained, an Officer will assume almost everyone detained is lying. In doing so, they permit themselves to better investigate an issue by asking more relevant questions. This assumption is not a judgement on character but a tactic for investigations. For all the Officer knew, Castile was lying. For all he knew, Castile made the statement to cause the officer to think twice and any movement toward the gun weapon was meant to give the officer pause. Criminals look for any advantage over a police officer – it’s a learned skill by criminals in prison. For police, Safety, is paramount. Most police shootings take place in and around vehicles (on traffic stops or otherwise) than anywhere else.
I tend to give the Officer a benefit of the doubt. I am biased. But we can also do the same for Castile. Given Castile’s lack of a record, he deserves that benefit. The incident could have been a simple mistake in Castile’s movement toward the gun that caused the Officer to fire. Or it could be extreme racial bigotry on behalf of the Officer.
One of the most frustrating issues when covering such problems as “inherent racism” (as liberals claim) is the idea that people have subconscious racial tendencies that cause them to act the way they do. In this case, many state “If Castile was White he would not have been shot.” This idea is racist in itself in that it presumes the “non-black” Officer to have an automatically inherently racist mindset (even if subconscious). Arguing with such a ideal is like arguing with someone who enacts circular reasoning. You can’t win, but if you do, it’s because you are too blind or tainted by society to see the racial underpinning in everything. For the record, the Officer who shot Castile is Mexican-American.
The Castile case is truly tragic. From the facts we have so far, the shooting is not justifiable but it also notably does not point to racism in anyway. As far as I am concerned, the incident is a tragic error and consequences will be laid upon the Officer in due time.
Now, I know skeptics will say “justice won’t come.” And “police get away with murder all the time.” That is not true, but the reaction is understandable. You see, police officers are judged according to a set of rules when they face court for their actions. Where media has time to sit and Monday-morning quarterback an officer’s split-second decision, juries and judges are strictly prohibited to judging their decision from the eyes and perspective of the officer on trial. This is important because the 1,000 foot level view of an incident (where we know the outcome and more circumstances and facts than the officer did at the time) is an unfair perspective. Judging an officers actions from that point of view would mean we should expect the officer to by God (all knowing and all seeing). You cannot expect that on anyone.
The point of this blog was to inform. I feel it is a burden of mine to inform the uninformed and speak truth wherever and whenever I can. In a world of instant information and endless resources, we are bombarded with misinformation and lies everyday.
One of the worst of these lies is that Police Officers around the nation purposely targets minority communities. This is an absolute falsehood. For a various number of reasons, minority communities are disproportionately involved in crime. Some blame this on economics, others say it’s the fault of ill-designed laws, some say schooling, and still others blame the “system.” As a conservative, I believe the issue is far deeper. While acknowledging that all of the factors named above are contributing to the chaos, the most important factor starts with the home.
The home, or the family structure, is where man is first introduced to law, order, and structure. It is where we learn respect, honor, faith, wisdom and a myriad of other undervalued ideals. Unfortunately, especially in the black community, the home is broken. 3 out of every 4 black children born today will be born without a father – in other words – in a broken home. These children, fatherless children, have the biggest disadvantage of any group. Fatherless children are more liable to be poor, be imprisoned, commit crimes, try drugs, commit suicide, etc.
Now some, like Michelle Alexander (author of the New Jim Crow) state that bad laws beget fatherless homes. While a small factor, the lack of personal responsibility in said community is an even greater one. Some of her ilk have also suggested that slavery has taught the black community that fatherlessness is common. How so? They suggest that when white masters rape their female slaves and leave the mother and child to fend for themselves, the idea of fatherlessness has become natural to the black woman. This can’t be anything further from the truth. Truth is, whole black families outnumbered whole white families in the decades immediately following the Emancipation of black slaves (187-1900). Now, you mean to tell me that people closer to slavery (who would immediately remember the pains of their mothers) somehow were unaffected by this practice?
The time for excuses are over. The black community needs to wake up to correct their own faults. Blacks in the United States of America have the opportunity to advance monetarily, politically, religiously and socially as high as any other ethnicity in the nation. Here, they have more opportunities than any other black community in the World – including in Africa. Yet, in 2016, we look to slavery as an excuse for our current conditions. Don’t mistake this for self hate. There are and were many wrongs acted out on the black community for decades, dare I say a whole century after slavery, but these wrongs have been largely dissolved and corrected. The statistics presented above are not meant to excuse prejudice or stereotypes people and police may have for the black community but rather they are meant to show you a picture of what the black community is dealing with internally. We suffer at our own hand much more than anything else.
Are police more liable to kill, beat or imprison blacks? The answer is no. Don’t believe a biased “cop” then believe a study from a black Economics Professor from Harvard.
This blog was supposed to be released on July 7, of this year. As I was typing, I watched Fox News show a live peaceful protest of the above incidents, in Dallas. Most people were peaceful and unified. Some walked with officers and took pictures. Some yelled at officers and held them responsible for prejudicial deaths.
Moments later, hundreds of protesters could be seen running. They frantically ran away from the streets and around corners. Fox’s Kelly remarked “We are not sure what is going on here” while the cameraman ran toward the source of the altercation. As he crouched behind a white truck, he zoomed in toward a squad of police cars. There I could see the motionless bodies of what appeared to be two police officers. I watched in horror, knowing exactly what was happening and believing them to have passed. I knew the danger was still there as their bodies laid unattended to by other officers bunkering down for cover nearby. For obvious reasons, I did not finish this blog but rather engrossed myself in the horrible tragedy carried out on my brothers from Texas. 5 dead, 9 wounded police officers.
One week later, another black man charged by the divisive rhetoric fueled by various movements and various people, committed a similar atrocity in Baton Rogue, Louisiana. 3 Officers dead, 3 wounded.
It is with incredible disgust that I write about these incidents knowing somehow these men felt they were justified. It’s just as bad knowing these men felt moved by divisive rhetoric and knowing these men have many who sympathize with them and have yet to put words to action.
Police Officers across the nation have rallied together under the banner of Blue. Police officers of every race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation and political ideology have rallied under one flag knowing despite the nasty rhetoric, they are more than willing to die to protect those who disown them.
Whether you agree or not, Black Lives Matter is a part of that nasty rhetoric. BLM carries on false information and false ideas about police officers that lead to terrible instances like those above. The group doesn’t care about progress but rather cares about it’s own cause. That is why BLM National condemned a beautiful BBQ put on by the local unaffiliated BLM group and Wichita PD, stating specifically that “the group does not represent our values.” What then are your values, I ask?
There is an incredible amount of truth to the statement that “sometimes whites see no racism where there is and sometimes blacks see racism where there isn’t.” We need to ask the right questions and be won over by reason, not feelings.
Black lives matter. They do. So do all other lives. Everyone knows of the illegitimate wrongs and pains the black community feels. But how important are feelings over truth? Should we ignore truth and take on feelings in everything? People of all types have seen the truth. They know Black lives matter but some refuse to repeat the mantra because it has taken on a ridiculous political narrative that forces one to believe in said false narratives. It itself is based on a lie that no one has suggested – that black lives some how do not matter. Who has argued such? The group and the rally cry is not a black rallying cry. It’s a Marxist rallying cry that merely uses the death of black men at the hands of a government employee, to condemn government regardless of if acts were justified or not. This is why you will never see me repeating the mantra, though I, every conservative, and every police officer I know agrees with the literal statement that black lives matter.
Ken Ji grew up in the housing projects of Los Angeles, California neighborhood of San Pedro, where he experienced gang violence, saw plenty of drug usage and criminal activity; this spurred his desire for law enforcement and pursuit of education.
He is the product of a mixed family, raised by his step-father and born to an undocumented immigrant Mexican mother, he is Black & Mexican American.
In order to keep off the streets he laid low and kept up the book study along with an active sports life (baseball). He graduated high school and was accepted into college, but decided to remain local. He got his Associates Degree from Los Angeles Harbor College, transferred to UCLA where he received a B.A. In Political Science (International Relations) and a Minor in Middle-East & North African Studies (2011)
He continued his education by going directly into USC for a Master in Public Administration Degree (MPA) 2013 with a Certificate in Homeland Security & Public Policy.
He has been a police officer for 2 years with an agency in Orange County, California and is currently assigned to Patrol.
- Baton Rogue Polie Ambushhttps://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_shooting_of_Baton_Rouge_police_officers
- Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow)https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/mar/31/america-jim-crow-race-war-on-drugs
- Fatherlessness Statistics http://www.fathers.com/statistics-and-research/the-consequences-of-fatherlessness/
- Dallas Police Ambushhttps://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_shooting_of_Dallas_police_officers
- Castile Shooting https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Philando_Castile
- Sterling Shooting https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Alton_Sterling
- Jay Stalein Post https://www.facebook.com/jay.stalien/posts/911372818974402
- Wichita PD BBQ http://www.mrctv.org/blog/black-lives-matter-dc-bashes-peaceful-wichita-bbq-between-blm-and-wpd
- Black on Black Crime http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/11/28/5-devastating-facts-black-black-crime/
- Police Suicide Rates https://www.policeone.com/health-fitness/articles/137133-Police-Officer-Suicide-Frequency-and-officer-profiles/
- FBI Crime Stats https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/tables/table-43
- Femoral Bleed (Warning Graphic) http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=885_1420607869
- Use of Force Continuum http://www.nij.gov/topics/law-enforcement/officer-safety/use-of-force/pages/continuum.aspx
- Car use of force http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/15/us/arizona-police-run-over-suspect/
- Use of Force https://www.policeone.com/legal/articles/1271618-How-to-ensure-use-of-force-is-reasonable-and-necessary-and-avoid-claims-of-excessive-force/
- NYPD Stop & Frisk https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop-and-frisk_in_New_York_City
- Brutality stats https://youtu.be/nRd5oucG114