BUT … I saw it on Facebook and it was posted by a famous author, or a politician, or Joe the fry cook over at Sally Sue’s Diner and Medicinal Pot Store, so it must be true, right?
Well, let’s pause here, just for a second, to address the trap of “I saw a famous author’s Facebook post so I know it’s true.”
You guys know I love all writers, I really do. You guys are my peeps and I’d do anything in the world to help you, all of you, which is the main reason I’m posting this article. However, not too many well-known authors, with the exceptions of former or current cop/writers such as Joseph Wambaugh, Robin Burcell, and James O. Born, to name a few—have inside knowledge of the police type operations and tactics it takes to properly assess a police action.
For example, a famous poet (this could also apply to plumbers, doctors, and lemonade stand owners) who’s lived deep in the forest for the past thirty years without seeing another living human, sharing a hut with an odd imaginary animated bird and a family of dainty butterflies, probably doesn’t know much about the use of deadly force by police.
Yet, when the quirky poet learns of an incident via carrier pigeon and then posts a heated diatribe about it on Facebook (he has internet service in the hut), based on not much more than emotion, well, suddenly he’s the expert on all things police and civil rights. Why is this so? Because he’s a famous writer with a cool website and we all look up to him. But he’s an expert on writing, not about deadly force and other cop issues.
The folks I mentioned earlier, the writers/cops who are truly “in-the-know,” typically do not spout off opinions publicly about current police situations the second the stories hit the media, if ever, and there are many excellent reasons why they don’t. Mainly because they weren’t there when those events occurred, and to second-guess/armchair quarterback would be reckless and foolish.
Also, those folks, the true experts, have “been there, done that,” so they know what it’s like to attempt to arrest someone who’s hellbent on not going to jail, or to have someone point a gun at them, or to fight for their lives when a bad guy goes for their service weapon. I know I’ve been in each of those situations and it’s not pleasant.
These are just some of the reasons that most former or current officers don’t instantly jump on the “cops murdered an innocent person” bandwagon. They wait for facts, not incomplete videos that typically do not show a scene in it’s entirety, or a view of the situation that could clearly and without doubt explain an officer’s actions, or the things he did wrong or were in violation of the law. However, videos such as the one we saw of the shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina, well, that’s about as complete and clearcut as they come and I did write about that incident, but only of the facts.
Anyway, let’s take a few minutes to address a few misconceptions regarding a couple of current events. Starting with …
- A concealed carry permit doesn’t grant immunity from crimes committed while carrying a gun in your pocket.
- Bullets can easily penetrate cloth. In other words, a gun in the pocket with a finger on the trigger is just as deadly as a gun held out in the open.
- Use of force during an arrest = the amount of force necessary to make the arrest. If a person complies then the arrest is no more than an officer applying handcuffs to the wrists. If a suspect resists, well, if it takes 20 officers to gain control of the violent offender, then that’s the amount of force necessary. If the 20 officers cannot gain control, then 21, 22, 23 … whatever it takes (yes, I’m exaggerating to make a point). Contrary to what some may believe, it’s not a boxing match where opponents are in similar weight classes and must face their fellow boxer in a one-on-one fight. Officers must always succeed in making the arrest, and they’re to use the amount of force necessary to overcome the resistance of the offender.
- In deadly force situations, officers are not trained to aim for arms, legs, fingers, toes, weapons, etc. That is a myth.
- It should be no surprise to anyone that the majority of arrests occur in areas of high crime. Therefore, the majority of people arrested are probably in or from those areas when the arrests occur. The key word here is CRIME. Commit a crime and it’s reasonable to conclude that you just might be arrested for it.
- Resisting arrest – the crime of physically preventing an officer from conducting an arrest. Acts that are considered as resisting – hiding, running away/fleeing during the arrest, struggling with an officer during the arrest, among others. Attempting to pull a weapon/gun from a pocket during an arrest = resisting and justifies an officer’s use of deadly force.
- Federal civil rights violations—use of excessive force, sexual assault, intentional false arrests, or the intentional fabrication of evidence resulting in a loss of liberty to another—do not require that any racial, religious, or other discriminatory motive exist. Civil rights violations occur when anyone acting under color of law willfully deprives or conspires to deprive another person of any right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. (“Color of law” means that the person doing/committing the act is using power given to him or her by a governmental agency.) The keyword to remember here is “willfully.”
Color of Law Violations (per FBI)
- Excessive force – In making arrests, maintaining order, and defending life, law enforcement officers are allowed to use whatever force is “reasonably” necessary. The breadth and scope of the use of force is vast—from just the physical presence of the officer…to the use of deadly force. Violations of federal law occur when it can be shown that the force used was willfully “unreasonable” or “excessive.”
- Sexual assaults – by officials acting under color of law can happen in jails, during traffic stops, or in other settings where officials might use their position of authority to coerce an individual into sexual compliance. The compliance is generally gained because of a threat of an official action against the person if he or she doesn’t comply.
- False arrest and fabrication of evidence: The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right against unreasonable searches or seizures. A law enforcement official using authority provided under the color of law is allowed to stop individuals and, under certain circumstances, to search them and retain their property. It is in the abuse of that discretionary power—such as an unlawful detention or illegal confiscation of property—that a violation of a person’s civil rights may occur.Fabricating evidence against or falsely arresting an individual also violates the color of law statute, taking away the person’s rights of due process and unreasonable seizure. In the case of deprivation of property, the color of law statute would be violated by unlawfully obtaining or maintaining a person’s property, which oversteps or misapplies the official’s authority.The Fourteenth Amendment secures the right to due process; the Eighth Amendment prohibits the use of cruel and unusual punishment. During an arrest or detention, these rights can be violated by the use of force amounting to punishment (summary judgment). The person accused of a crime must be allowed the opportunity to have a trial and should not be subjected to punishment without having been afforded the opportunity of the legal process.
- Failure to keep from harm – The public counts on its law enforcement officials to protect local communities. If it’s shown that an official willfully failed to keep an individual from harm, that official could be in violation of the color of law statute.
Absolutely no poets, odd birds, or butterflies were harmed during the writing of this article.
And, as always, please remember that this site is not the place for arguments about politics, gun control, race, religion, and cop-bashing. Let’s continue the rational, factual, and informative discussions as we have in the past.