My Blog List

Friday, November 8, 2013

Losing Trust and Respect

[Heads up - if you don't like swearin', don't keep reading...]

I've mentioned before that I've got a close familial and friend relationship with law enforcement.  My dad was an Oakland cop during the 1960's and then was a lieutenant with the Marin County Sheriff's department.  I've got a brother who's a senior cop with a California agency.  I've been in 3 cop weddings and attended many others.  I've hired two different retired cops in my PM business.

For the first thirty-odd years of my life I thought all cops were like my dad and my brother.  Good, decent men that loved, and lived in, the communities they served.  They were held in high esteem because they had earned that respect.

Well, 22 years ago, my bubble was burst.  I was on a jury for a meth cooker.  This guy was dirty as hell.  He did the cooking and distribution out of an auto repair shop he owned.  The irrefutable evidence found in the shop and in his home would put this 1-strike felon away for good.

During the trial, they presented evidence of gun ownership in the guy's home.  The police said they found a rifle in a back bedroom, and a pistol under the guy's bed.

The DA was questioning the guy about the guns.  He admitted to the rifle in the back bedroom - a felony by itself (convicted felons cannot knowingly possess any weapons).  When she got to the gun under the bed, he said, "No damned way, ma'am."  Not his, had never seen it, not a clue where it came from.

I think it would be safe to say that, at this point, all of us on the jury thought, "bullshit."

The DA finished up with the cooker, and brought up a cop.  A very special cop.  He was a member of some multi-jurisdictional, soooooper dooooper drug unit.  All decked out in the (now common) black cop jump suit.  Everything was either black cloth, black leather or polished chrome.  Very tacti-cool looking, and made him seem more "elite" that a regular beat cop.  This dude means business.

The DA asked him where the rifle was found, and he gave very detailed, very precise information.  When she got to the pistol, he described the make, model and caliber, how it was approximately 2 to 3 feet under the bed and would be easily accessible by anyone laying in the bed.

She finished up and handed him off to the defense attorney.  They jabbered back and forth, and this cop never wavered.  His story never veered.

They then got to the pistol.  The attorney asked to cop to refresh the jury's memory on what kind of gun was found and its location.  The cop repeated his testimony verbatim.

The attorney then flipped on an overhead projector.  On the screen was a picture of the bed.  The cop was asked if this was the bed under which the gun was found.  He examined the screen, noted the headboard, night stand, bed spread and some other items he remembered from the arrest.

Yep, that was the bed.

The attorney asked the cop to repeat where he found the gun.  Two to three feet under the bed.  He asked the cop to show on his arm how far under the bed he had to reach to get the gun.  The cop held out his arm, and motioned to his arm pit.  "About this far."

As the cop motioned to his arm pit, the attorney pushed a button and the image on the screen changed.  It now showed the same bed, except the bed spread was now pulled back.  The judge, jury and courtroom could see that the bed in question was a platform bed.  There were perhaps 4 or 6 inches of space under the bed.

There was literally a gasp from the audience!

The attorney asked the cop if he'd like to change any or all of his testimony.  He declined, explaining he stood by his earlier testimony.

Excuse my language, but my thought was, "That piece of shit just looked us in the eye and lied like a mother fucker."  When we got back for deliberations the next day, every single one of us on the jury said we were ignoring every single bit of evidence presented by that asshole (no worries - scumbag meth cooker was still convicted for the rifle and the cooking).

The arrogance of this bastard was shocking.  Having been around "good cops" my entire life, this was a gut-punch.  How could someone who had sworn an oath, "to serve and protect" devolve into such a lying piece of crap?

This rocked my world, and forever changed my impression of cops.  They were human, like the rest of us, no longer granted respect simply because of their choice of profession.  Background check and vetting or not, there were criminals among their ranks, just like society at large.

Over the past 22 years, this problem has gotten worse, not better.  This arrogance, this feeling of superiority by sworn officers seems to be growing.  It is becoming the rule, and not the exception.

I've written a number of times about all of the military equipment and para-military training domestic police services attend.  It's all under the "terrorist threat" and public safety umbrella.  Sadly, most Americans accept the, "freedom for safety" trade quite readily.

I remember heated arguments with folks over DUI checkpoints.  For God's Sake, there could not be a more blatant disregard for the fourth amendment.  But the public accepted it with open arms, the Supreme's gave their stamp of legitimacy, and it's been downhill ever since.

No need to change the Constitution when it's easier to just ignore it.

Law enforcement and virtually all government entities now regularly act unchecked.  NSA spying.  The President enforcing some parts of a law, ignoring others for political favors.  IRS abuses.  Government agencies shutting down whole industries because they're not "green".  TSA checkpoints.  VIPR Checkpoints.  DUI checkpoints.  Obscene abuses of citizens and their rights.  Color Of Authority abuses that regularly go unpunished.  Procedure was followed, dear citizens.

We're no longer a constitutional republic.  Not even close.  At best, we're a monarchy.  The king, and the earls, and the dukes get to make the rules, and decide who must follow them.

A case in point [link]:
D.C. law requires residents to register every firearm with the police, and only registered gun owners can possess ammunition, which includes spent shells and casings. The maximum penalty for violating these laws is a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.
On its face, this is insane.  Spent shells and casings are considered ammunition?  But let's say the police believe someone has broken this law.  How would you respond?  Like this?
The police banged on the front door of Mr. Witaschek’s Georgetown home at 8:20 p.m. on July 7, 2012, to execute a search warrant for “firearms and ammunition … gun cleaning equipment, holsters, bullet holders and ammunition receipts.” 
Mr. Witaschek’s 14-year-old daughter let inside some 30 armed officers in full tactical gear
His 16-year-old son was in the shower when the police arrived. “They used a battering ram to bash down the bathroom door and pull him out of the shower, naked,” said his father. “The police put all the children together in a room, while we were handcuffed upstairs. I could hear them crying, not knowing what was happening.”
These are the tactics you use against hardened Al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan, not Americans that may be subject to a thousand dollar fine.  There is not a single, rational justification for this use of force.

How about you call the guy and tell him you need to discuss something (like his ex-wife's false accusations)?  Send three cops to his house.  As he comes out of the house, have one cop give him the warrant to search his property, have the other two go in, clear everybody out, and search the joint.

Why would you feel the need to employ this level of violence for this potential offense?

[This came to my attention while I was writing this piece]

My condensed version [full version and entire dash cam footage here]:  Dad and son have argument over dad's refusal to buy son some cigarettes.  Son takes dad's work truck.  Dad calls cops "to teach his son a lesson".  Cop sees truck, starts pursuit.  Cop lights up son, son does not respond.  Son backs truck/trailer into front of cop car.  Son races through town, dispatch suggests cop stop pursuit.  He continues pursuit, and notes that the son is on the wrong side of the road, blowing thru red lights, etc.  Dispatch, again, suggests he break off pursuit because, "we know who he is."  Cop catches up with son, son rams him again, another cop shows up, they chase him around, cops ram him, son crashes into a tree.  Cop gets out and shoots him 6 times when he refuses to turn off and exit the truck.  Son is dead.

Good God Almighty.  While the son had earlier attacked the officer with a deadly weapon (the truck), after that point in time (around 1:57 in the video), he was told to stop his pursuit, and chose not to do so.  At around 3 minutes, the cop was again told to "back it off".  No deal.  One minute later, the kid was dead.  At the time of the shooting, the kids truck was stopped, was apparently disabled, and could no longer be used as a weapon.  Even if it wasn't disabled, it was not in a position to put either of the officers in harm's way.

With the information at hand, this is murder.  You and I are held to a standard of, "threat of imminent death or grave bodily harm" if we make the decision to fire our gun in self defense.  At the time the shots were fired, no threat was present.  If it is shown that, off camera, the kid was pulling out a gun or something that would threaten the lives of the officers, that would obviously change things.

[I just participated in a rather heated discussion over at Claire's place regarding the recent shooting of a 13 year old by a Sonoma County deputy.  With the evidence and information that is now publicly available, I continue to believe that the shooting was legitimate.  Horrible, tragic, but legitimate.  If information changes, I'll modify my opinion as I see necessary.  I'll likely discuss that case here at a later date.]

These actions by government employees have serious implications.  I could fill ten post with nothing more than links to articles about abusive government and police tactics.

I don't have to.  The Cato Institute is on the job with the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project [link].   They list 10 to 20 incidents.  Each day!

But, there is some push back.  And, I predict, if the police and bureaucrats don't start policing themselves, I believe hell is going to rain down on their heads.  The push back will become more common, more covert and more aggressive.

It is already happening on a sporadic basis.  The recent shooting at LAX was by a guy pissed off at TSA tactics.  There was just some guy in Arkansas that was caught blowing up electrical transmission lines.  Christopher Dorner - the former LA cop - went off on a killing spree because he felt the system was being stacked against him.

This government 'superiority complex' is out of control.

You can't buy a big soda.  You can't buy trans-fats.  You can't buy your own health insurance.  You can't buy a gun, drive a car, start a business, cut down a tree or add a room to your house without first getting permission.  You can't catch a flight, catch a train or drive your car without the potential to be subjected to unconstitutional searches.

Land Of The Free?  My ass.

When abuses happen, government officials need to ensure punishment is administered quickly, publicly and unambiguously.  And this 'government immunity' crap has got to be dismantled.  A municipality, state or federal agency that allows its employees to display this type of conduct needs to be held accountable.

But we all know nothing will change.  In fact, it will get worse.  If, as I predicted, people start shooting back,  sabotaging government facilities and assets, and in general, making life unpleasant for TPTB, the police and government officials will only clamp down even tighter.  We'll have more restrictions, more intrusions, more checkpoints, more abuse.  This will bring more retribution.

It will be a vicious, vicious circle.

My advice?  Right now, I've got no idea.  I'd seen the financial storm that is now upon us, and have planned and acted accordingly.  I don't know what to do about this tyranny.  There are lots of moving parts, and there are truly life-or-death consequences for making a wrong move.

This is going to take some noodling.  More to come.

Copyright 2013 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you. My husband is an officer and the stories he tells of his fellow officers are distressing. I also think that the newer generation starting to enter the ranks have no concept of how to work hard and be responsible. The arrogance and sense of entitlement is astonishing!

Crustyrusty said...

Collapse and anarchy are imminent. Prepare accordingly.

Pretty simplistic, maybe, but that's what it's boiling down to.

Chief Instructor said...

Anon, you're in my head for my next post - the sense of entitlement. I think this goes hand-in-hand with an earlier post on Learned Helplessness. We've got an ever-growing portion of our society who has either had parents or the government give them whatever they want. When they become adults, they expect the same. It's this sense of omnipotence - I get and do as I please.

Crusty - yep. The Makers will only support the Takers for so long. I think we're VERY close to that point, and the SHTF is in our near-future.

Adam said...

I'm actually going to disagree with you about the Ames, IA shooting. First off, the person on the radio who suggested they terminate was another officer who was not involved and who did not have that information.

Once you have assaulted a police officer with a deadly weapon it's a game changer. There were numerous ISU students who were placed in danger once he was on the campus and ramming police cars. The officer who fired his weapon had just gotten out of his car and was standing next to it when the car was rammed again, which is when he fired. Considering how hard his car was hit the first time (knocking it completely sideways) I'd have thought the same was about to happen again. I'd have shot too.

Nothing irritates me more than when people call the police and then are upset the police take action. An example would be a domestic situation where the woman calls the police because the man is beating her. Then she gets pissed when the police arrest the man and she assaults the police. It happens every day. Why are people surprised when they call the police and they take action?

Do the police know the dad was "trying to teach his son a lesson?" I'm going to go with they didn't. They know they had a stolen vehicle and treated it like every other stolen vehicle. The suspect could have simply stopped and nothing would have happened. He'd have gone to jail and that would have been that. Instead he decided to flee and assault cops with a vehicle. Would he have stopped had they backed off? I would highly doubt it. He very likely would have sped through the campus, striking a student. Which would have been worse?

I guarantee you if you were standing next to your car when it got purposely rammed by someone, and you shot, you'd be fine. Well, maybe not in CA, but in the rest of America, you would be.

I agree with you about everything else in your post. And so do the vast majority of my coworkers.

Chief Instructor said...

Adam, I was hoping you'd reply. I very much appreciate your perspective on this kind of issue.

RE: Breaking off pursuit - gotta disagree. It was a report of a stolen truck, not of a kid shooting a gun out of his window driving down the street. I believe the public was placed in greater danger by maintaining the pursuit, than by breaking it off.

Once you have assaulted a police officer with a deadly weapon it's a game changer.

HUGE disagreement with you. LEOs MUST be held to the same or higher standards when discharging a weapon. I am only allowed to fire my gun in self-defense if I or others are in imminent danger. If the cop had shot while he was ramming the cop at any point, I'd have been perfectly OK with him firing at the kid. I'd have done the same thing. But once the kid was no longer an imminent threat, the cop was obligated to lower his level of response, because the threat level had been lowered.

The cop fired AFTER the truck was crashed into the tree, not while the kid was in the process of crashing.

I agree with you that I also go nuts when people react with horror when they call the police and the police act. A few years ago, also up in Sonoma county, the parents of some teenager called the police because their kid was getting violent. Cops showed up, the kid charged them with a knife, and they shot and killed him.

The kid was involved in an aggressive, potentially deadly act/threat directed towards the officers, and the police acted correctly.

That just isn't the case with this truck shooting.

Now, here's the rock-and-a-hard-place lesson for the cops that shot the kid with the knife: The parents sued and won millions in the judgement. On the grounds of training issues or some other shit.

So what is the county supposed to do? Require cops to take a bullet or knife wound before they can defend themselves? It sets horrible precedence.

I think we're going to disagree on this truck issue, but thanks for the perspective.

Adam said...

If you watch the video, at 3:49, you hear the door open (chime), which means the officer is now standing outside the vehicle at the driver door. At 3:52, debris comes flying onto the hood of the car and the car rocks. At 3:54 the first gunshot is fired.

Based on normal reaction time, I'd go with, he believed he was in danger due to the guy just hitting his car and the truck still moving.

I don't know what the lights on the truck were. Were the brakes engaged? Were the brakes not engaged and the truck just sitting there? Were the brakes not engaged and the truck moving backward? We can't tell from any of the video.

I'm saying that the game changer is that you don't just let someone go after they've used a deadly weapon against a cop.

One thing that I always have to realize is that some police departments have stricter pursuit policies than others (mine is very strict - not allowed to pursue stolen vehicles, etc). We had an officer dragged by a car and the duty captain refused to allow a pursuit. Want to bet how many people were pissed about that, including the state police? No one trusts that captain anymore because they know he won't get your back. Not every department is as strict.

As for the person coming at you with a knife. No one is required to allow yourself to get stabbed before you take appropriate action to defend yourself.

And I'm ready to agree to disagree. But without looking at the statements by the officers and only the video, I'd go with justified. But that's why you ask probing questions in these kind of investigations. They should be held to a higher standard. But that standard is "What would a reasonable officer do in the same situation given the information the officer had at that moment." What is known later on has NOTHING to do with it (such as the info that dad just wanted to teach the kid a lesson).

Buckaroo Banzai said...

"I'm saying that the game changer is that you don't just let someone go after they've used a deadly weapon against a cop. "

So, you are suggesting that cops are better than everyone else? That their lives are more valuable? I'm not sure there's any other way to interpret your position, and frankly, its indefensible.

Adam said...


That isn't what I'm saying. If you read what I said, you'd know that. But I'll attempt to explain.

I am not better than you or anyone else. My life is not more valuable than yours. Every life has value. What I am required to do is run toward danger and violence and you are not. If someone uses a deadly weapon against a police officer, that means they are an absolute danger to society as a whole. If they will use a deadly weapon against a cop, what will they do to you? I don't have the luxury of throwing up my hands and saying "you win" and let them go. I would hope you would be smart enough not to chase someone who did that to you. I certainly wouldn't do it if I was off duty.

Anonymous said...


The kid was only a threat because he was being chased. Running is an instinct, not a malicious decision. The boy, however screwed up he may have otherwise been, wasn't ramming cars at random. He was trying to escape. He was simply scared, and would have been far less dangerous to the public if the chase had been abandoned. A peace officer would know that. Unfortunately, our modern law enforcement officers aren't trained to keep (or make) peace. They're trained to escalate until submission, generally without respect to the cost.

Everyone knew who he was, and there was fairly high confidence that he'd eventually go home, where he could be arrested with little to no incident. The chase itself was the public danger, and either side could have unilaterally ended it. It came down to the cop's ego versus the child's fear. Frankly, it's terrifying that so many cops put their own egos ahead of public safety. Incidents like this are the result.