POLICE SHOOTINGS: OP-ED IN FLORIDA TODAY

POLICE SHOOTINGS: OP-ED IN FLORIDA TODAY

This Op-Ed article appears in the Sunday, April 12th edition of Florida today newspaper.  The editor is responsible for the title, though I’d have written something more specific like:  “Answering Questions About Police Shootings”

 

Frank: Most cops always do their jobs right

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From 1960, when I became a young Dade County officer, to the present time, the police profession has evolved across the nation. I witnessed the evolution in real time, from a segregated force, to one that employed all races, nationalities and gender.

In 1960, racial profiling was commonplace. That changed, not recently, but in the 1970s and ’80s. In today’s departments, the ban on profiling is powerful edict, addressed in all training, which prohibits anything that resembles profiling,

The labor pool of cops today has grown up in an integrated/assimilated world where most young people don’t see color. These youngsters are the police officers of 2015.

Police officers are thoroughly screened, tested, investigated and to the best of all abilities, psychologically evaluated for fitness to wear the badge and carry a deadly weapon. But not every test is foolproof.

Not every lawyer is honest, but they still practice. Not every doctor is competent, yet they remain licensed. Not every journalist is fair and impartial, though they are taught to be. And every so often, a bad cop slips through the cracks and abuses his power. But the cops generate headlines.

Because cops are routinely sent into volatile situations, they are more likely than average people to find themselves in crisis situations where they must react in split seconds to surprise attacks or employ critical measures that will be micro-analyzed by armchair judges later on. The average person doesn’t know that feeling. We should be praising our 800,000 police officers in America for getting it right 98 percent of the time, for they are the ones who risk not coming home at the end of work days — for you and me.

According to an amateur video, the recent shooting in North Charleston, South Carolina, was an abomination. People are right to feel outrage. But we can’t declare every white cop/black victim incident as an act of racism. Plenty of white cops have shot white suspects. Two days after the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting on Aug. 9, a black cop in Salt Lake City shot an unarmed white man. It barely received media notice.

Here’s some questions often asked, with the short answers:

•1. Why aren’t there more black police officers in places like Ferguson?

Answer: Because they are hard to recruit. The job is not that attractive to many young blacks because of social stigma and a desire to enter other professions. And, because an inordinate percentage of young blacks have backgrounds involving criminal behavior that automatically eliminate.

•2. Why don’t cops aim for legs or arms rather than shooting the body?

Answer: Because such practices usually causes a miss, or a wounding shot that does not incapacitate. All training, military and police, emphasize aiming for mass.

•3. Why don’t police agencies provide more sensitivity training?

Answer: Because they are already awash in sensitivity training.

•4. Why not have cameras on all police officers?

Answer: That’s probably going to happen soon. The upside: Cameras will provide evidence of good or bad policing. But it will also negate discretion for cops. I knew kids that don’t have arrest records today because a thoughtful cop kicked their butts for possessing a marijuana joint, instead of arresting them.

•5. Why are so many cops racists?

Answer: They’re not. Blacks are subject to a disproportionate number of police calls and/or attention, because they commit a disproportionate number of serious crimes. Police attention is more often directed to the black community by default. Consider, plenty of black officers have had their share of questionable incidents with white suspects, but get no national attention.

Each incident has its own unique dynamics. We must be careful not to feed into false narratives hammered into our psyche by race-baiters and sensation-seeking media.

Without police, the law would become meaningless, and the nation would collapse from anarchy.

 

 

11 comments

Richard

Well said Marshall; it is good to be retired.

rhp (retired Police Captain, Miami/Dade)

David Lee Valdina

I will predict that a smaller percentage of children will be saying they want to be a policeman when they grow up than said that fifty years ago. And maybe that is a good thing. The notion of “law enforcement” as a primary function runs into the reality that most of the job is public service. Hopefully there will be well qualified young people wanting to do the job. Prior military service helps vet the applicants.

Paul Webb

Good piece, Marshall, a couple of things in response. First, the case of Mr. Scott does not appear to be racist, just bad police work. A second officer, Mr. Habersham arrived on the scene shortly after the shooting and also lied about the timeline of events and what happened. Mr. Habersham is black. http://www.eaglecurrent.com/world/critics-want-second-officer-prosecuted-h12800.html Also, there is no Ferguson type outrage because the authorities acted quickly upon seeing the video and immediately arrested and charged Officer Slager. Also, the victim’s family went on the record telling the race hustlers, specifically Rev. Al Sharpton, to not to bother coming to the funeral of Mr. Scott, and to keep his racist ranting away from South Carolina.
Second, it is inevitable that body cams will be required by all police officers at some point. This will take time because of the expense, but town by town, city by city, this will happen. They are already in use in Daytona Beach and the instances of police abusing their power and subsequent lawsuits against the town have more than paid for the cameras. Fort Meyers and Miami Beach are also equipping their officers with body cams. As communities realize they will actually save money in the long run due to fewer expensive lawsuits against their police departments, they will equip their officers with the cameras.
Third, the case you reference in Salt Lake City is an interesting one. In this case the white kid, Taylor Dillon, was shot without provocation by a black officer wearing a body cam. The video is available to anyone to watch on Youtube. I have watched it several times, for the life of me I can’t see how this was a justified shooting, yet the black officer was exonerated because of the body cam video by white prosecutors and the officers actual testimony. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/01/dillon-taylor-shooting-justified_n_5912976.html
Sometimes things are not as black and white as we would like them to be. As a society we need to always be defining that line between allowing police the benefit of the doubt for their actions, and when they step over the line and abuse their power. Both the police officer and a citizen who intends no violence towards an officer or the public have a right to go home to their family at the end of the day. This did not happen in the Walter Scott case, and the officer should pay the price for his severe lack of judgement.

Harold Swift

Well done Marshall. Not much room to quibble about anything here. The last item covers a major part of the problem. “You do the crime, YOU do the time”.

Murray levine

Another home run by Marshall

Dick Calvert

Hi Marshall,
As you probably know , I must agree with your remarks 100%, but before the day ends someone will do just the opposite and disagree by offering liberal ideas that suck now and sucked from the time we worked and probably before that. Have a nice day, said the officer as he handed the traffic violator the citation, commonly known as the ticket.

Ray Renfro

More articles like this need to be written. The way the liberal press writes about police officers is shameful. The only thing that stands between the American people and anarchy are the police. If all police officers are judged by the actions of a few bad cops and the press continue to demonize the police with little or no evidence, there will be fewer and fewer qualified people applying for this very necessary job.

If this happens, standards will have to be lowered in order hire new police officers. This could turn into a downward spiral of less qualified people as policemen. Don’t think this can’t happen because it has already happened many other lines of work.

Sara Ann

You’re right, Marshall, the vast majority are trying to do a good job every day, and that doesn’t get press. And I also think we’re going to find more departments like Ferguson where the discrimination is systemic. Unfortunately. Brevard County was “good ole boy” for a long time. Black people didn’t get a fair shake in the criminal justice system, or in business, or in a lot of other parts of life. My dad was the only attorney in Titusville who would represent them, and our family received death threats. This was the 1960’s, in Titusville. The people we are dealing with now in law enforcement in Brevard County are, to some extent, the offspring and grandkids of the good ole boys. Hopefully time and education erodes discrimination.

Larry G. Tate MD

Excellent summation but what we need is more wheels squeaking loudly as you have so beautifully squeaked with “THE FACTS NOTHING BUT THE FACTS” of where we are today. We allow the race baiters and sensationalist media to squeak louder and they drown out the truth so they can keep their agendas going because it pays them to do so.
The left is virtually immune to the hypocrisy they spew and spout. Why do we tolerate this agenda of mis-information? I would rather call it LYING to the public. Why is the left immune to being called out on these lies? I have an answer to that question: IGNORANCE. THERE ARE ONE HELL OF A LOT OF FOLKS THAT ARE JUST IGNORANT AND IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THE YOUNGER YOU ARE THE MORE LIKELY YOU MAY SUFFER FROM THIS INTELLECTUALLY CHALLENGED STATE{ just to be politically correct}. The present day educational system which to a large extent is the defacto lame stream media, is a very big part of the reason so many are ignorant Listen to present day pop/hiphop music. Watch a little television on the main networks. If this programing is intellectually uplifting well just shoot me in the head cause if you believe that…….. they already have you drinking the cool-aid. The advertizing commercials along should insult most everyone’s intellect, but do they?
Marshall, Please do not stop squeaking about these important issues. Just maybe those that hear you and read your words of wisdom will join in and start to squeak and maybe the wheel will at last start getting some much needed lubrication. The truth will always win but may in point of fact have to triverse the minefield of ignorance before it does so. I leave you and your followers with some stout words of Arthur Schoppenhauer:

Every truth passes through three stages before it came be recognized.
In the first, it is ridiculed.
In the second, it is opposed.
In the third, it is regarded as self evident.

Arthur Schoppenhauer

The TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS THAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF POLICE OFFICERS ARE GOOD PEOPLE DOING A GREAT JOB IN SERVING AND PROTECTING US FROM OUTRIGHT CHAOS AND TYRANNY. WE MUST SUPPORT THEM.

Bob James

Marshall,

Thank you for your informative and timely article. A big “Well Done” on the five often asked questions about policemen and the answers to the questions, which were right on the money.

With respect to the idea that youngsters who have grown up in a forcibly integrated America and therefore don’t see any color or racial differences; this is not true. The fact is that race is a significant biological characteristic of the human species. A person’s race certainly does matter a great deal and is impossible not to notice.

Unfortunately, the promises of racial harmony that was predicted during the often violent civil rights protests of the 1960’s and 70’s has not occurred. In fact, race relations in America are worse today then they have ever been.

Racial identification (e.g.,profiling), whether it is a new police officer recruit, someone waiting to get onto a downtown building elevator, walking down the street in an unfamiliar part of town or a housewife returning to her car after a trip to a shopping mall is an instinctive part of human nature that cannot be blunted. Nor should it. You can say you didn’t notice the race of that noisy gang of thugs coming down the street towards you, but you know you did.

Racial profiling is an inevitable part of human nature that we should recognize, not deny. It cannot be untaught or legislated out of existence. Especially with respect to our police officers, the vast majority of whom see a bad guy before they see what color he/she is. If an officer is patrolling in an area that is 90% of one race and 90% of his stops/arrests are of that same race, he is just doing his job. That is the merest common sense.

Tom

As always Marshall, you are so correct. We never hear of the black killing the white because that would not further the cause this country is moving toward….