|<<>>|136 of 622 Show listMobile Mode

Police stories from the trenches

Published by marco on

Updated by marco on

The first rule of policing

The post Dallas Cops Fight For the First Rule of Policing by Scott H. Greenfield (Simple Justice) defines that rule as “make it home for dinner”. No matter what else is going on that day or how a given situation develops, the first rule is self-preservation. Everything else—including gunned-down innocents—can be handled later and usually papered over with the help of others, both on the force and on the bench.

This post discusses a shooting incident in Dallas, in which a 48-year–old officer was, believe it or not, actually found guilty of using “deadly force […] without fear or justification” and summarily fired. A mere mortal would have been charged with “assault with a deadly weapon” or perhaps even “attempted murder” and would most certainly not be getting even a part of their pension, but let’s not quibble. The termination of employment is enough of a pleasant surprise that we should enjoy it.

The decision leads to an effort to revamp policy to avoid future, similar incidents, which isn’t sitting well with the rest of the Dallas police force. Not being able to shoot people that “surprise” them or aren’t otherwise already lying face-down on the sidewalk in tasered glory is going to seriously impinge on their ability to “get home for dinner”.


“To the cops, the message is that they are to risk potential death at the hands of a threat rather than shoot first as required by the First Rule.”

It’s understood that a cop’s life is on the line in a way not found in most other jobs. But

“[t]here is a wide berth between certainty of safety and certainty of threat […] Ranging from deafness, to confusion, to frozen in fear, to the mistaken grasp of the nature of the police encounter that good people don’t get shot for no good reason, will cause a person to behave in a way that a cop perceives as having the potential to be threatening […] they want the authority to shoot them anyway. Just in case. And not lose their job if it happens that they just shot an unarmed, harmless fellow […] (Emphasis added.)”

This amounts to the same protections demanded by torturers and their backers in US federal employ. Because they’d like to be able to use torture if they deem it necessary, they also want it to be legal. Such a priori legalization benefits only the person who intends to do harm. Anyone who would wield such power carefully would also be willing to bear the responsibility and blame should something go wrong.

“It appears to elude police officers that the harmless people they shoot, just in case, have children too. But what non-police officers do not have is the First Rule of Policing, and that trumps all other rules when it comes to the job of a cop. Something has to give in ambiguous situations, and it’s not going to be the life or job of a cop.”

Engendering fear of police to this degree is going to cause a backlash that can only end in a death-spiral of violence, one that has arguably already begun quite some time ago.

This just in: court does not believe bullshit planted-drugs story

The post 2d Circuit: Aw, Come On. That Can’t Be True by Scott H. Greenfield (Simple Justice) tells the tale of a court that “[did] the unthinkable: reject the government’s allegations as “unreasonable.””

The situation involved an arrested and handcuffed bystander. He was “arrested for being in the vicinity after a fight occurred”, which I didn’t even know was a thing. He allegedly managed to squirrel away drugs into the backseat of a police vehicle. To this, the court found that,

We cannot say it is an absolute impossibility for a person with his hands securely handcuffed behind his back to extract a substantial quantity of crack cocaine from his person or clothing and wedge it into the space where the quantity was found without leaving a trace of cocaine on his fingers or clothing, but we can say that the possibility of such an occurrence is so exceedingly remote that no jury could reasonably find beyond a reasonable doubt that it happened. (Emphasis added.)”

Nicely put. Greenfield goes on to mention that this case really is noteworthy because, while the conclusion is obvious to we lay-people, it is not a foregone conclusion that upholding the “laws of physics [trumps] the rule of law […] when it comes to contraband”.

Kelly Thomas’s killers found innocent

The post The Outrage of the Kelly Thomas Cops’ Acquittal by Scott H. Greenfield (Simple Justice) discusses the recent conclusion of the case against two officers who beat a mentally handicapped man named Kelly Thomas to death.

The beating was captured on video (YouTube). After officers antagonized him for just over 15 minutes, Thomas stands up. This is enough for the officers to pull out their nightsticks and go to work on him. For once, the description of a YouTube video includes some useful information:

““Now you see my fists?” Fullerton police officer Manny Ramos asked Thomas while slipping on a pair of latex gloves.

““Yeah, what about them?” Thomas responded.

““They are getting ready to fuck you up,” said Ramos, a burly cop who appears to outweigh Thomas by 100 pounds.”

You can hear him screaming for help and apologizing as the beat continues for about 10 minutes, culminating in his motionless body lying on the sidewalk under a pile of about a half dozen officers. When he was finally taken to the hospital, he looked like he’d been run over by several trucks (Friends For Fullerton's Future) (brace yourself; it’s pretty horrific).

The officers charged for this beating/murder were acquitted by a jury of their peers. As Greenfield put it:

“There is nothing more to say about the Kelly Thomas verdict but that your fellow citizens have spoken.”

This should be the end of the matter. The cops were tried and found not guilty. That’s all we can do in America because of a little thing called the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. However, “the Thomas family has called for a federal prosecution for the denial of Kelly Thomas’ civil rights”. They can do this under something called “dual sovereignty”, which (sometimes) allows a person to be tried at both the state and the federal level for the same crime. Greenfield provides a lucid, logical and well-written summary:

“The visceral reaction is that this should be the next step, as the acquittal of these cops is such an outrage as to demand redress.


“Dual sovereignty is an insidious legal construct designed to circumvent the double jeopardy clause. […] When they fail to get you the first time, they get a chance to nail you again. This is what double jeopardy should prohibit, but for the tricks of law.

“It’s wrong to circumvent double jeopardy when it comes to a non-cop, and that makes it just as wrong when the target is a cop. […] Maintaining intellectual consistency is key to the viability of the law, even when it pains us to do so.


“Sometimes the guilty beat the rap. It happens. The integrity of the system must go on, and we must be vigilant not to sacrifice a system just to get some particularly despicable defendants. This is one of those times to be vigilant, as hard as it may be.”