I hope you have a box of tissues ready. FBI Director James Comey, speaking to an audience of law enforcement personnel and their various hangers-on, explains that violent crime is higher in 2015 than in 2014 (except in all the cities where it isn't) because of the "Ferguson Effect." Is that the way that the increased militarization and use of force by police contributes to the overall tenor of violence in areas with existing crime problems? Because I agree, that certainly is something that should concern the FBI.

Oh. It turns out that The Ferguson Effect is police being too hesitant to do their job for fear of being caught on video and becoming the next YouTube sensation.

Americans of all stripes love playing the victim, be it in their personal lives or relative to their place in society. It is just heartbreaking, though, to think of all of our heroes behind the badge being unable to operate with impunity. Isn't this the same reactionary segment of society that falls back on "If you're not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about" when police behavior is put to scrutiny?

That one of the nation's top law enforcement officials doesn't see a problem with police complaining about being video recorded speaks to the systemic nature of the problem. They keep telling us it's "a few bad apples" when it's clear that the problem is systemic, part of both organizational thinking and behavior. I can't get enough of people making videos of cops, because without that we'd never hear of incidents like this or we would hear about them solely from the Official Version of events.

52 thoughts on “CUE VIOLINS”

  • The few bad apples are the "good cops", the police hierarchy, and the district attorney's that cover up the crimes the "bad apples" commit. It's a suck job and the best and brightest are not about to do it. It's probably worse in rural areas where the pay and hours are even shittier.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    When I was in high school, I was thrown out of class a handful of times for mouthing off, being disruptive, and the like. When the teacher asked me to leave, I left. Anything else would have been unthinkable. And I was genuinely sorry later and made a sincere apology. Of course, we didn't have cops in our school, and I'm white, so the situation was entirely different. But I suspect a teacher never would have called the cops for a disruptive student. The peer pressure from the other students to leave the classroom and stop being an asshole would have been sufficient.

    The video never shows the cop telling the student she's under arrest, but perhaps that happened beforehand. If it did, what would be the correct behavior for the cop if she refuses to go quietly? Back down, say, "Okay, never mind" and leave? How long do you think he'd be a cop if he did that?

    I don't have enough information here to judge the cop's actions egregious, but they certainly weren't pleasant. She didn't appear to be actively resisting arrest, and she certainly wasn't violent toward anyone, but she didn't stand up on her own and submit to arrest.

    If a cop wants to arrest you, he will arrest you, and if he can't, he'll kill you, and he'll get away with it. That's why you go along quietly. It's not fair, it's not just, and it's not okay, but if you want to keep breathing, you do what the cop says. A lot of cops are bullies, but unlike other bullies who might back down is you beat the shit out of them, try that with a cop and you will die. Even if you kill the cop, his buddies will swarm on you and kill you within minutes, if not seconds. I guarantee it.

    Whatever he's arresting you for can be sorted out in court. That system isn't fair either, but it's a lot calmer.

  • It's funny how the first "victims" of the ubiquity of digital recording devices would be the cops and other law enforcement who have been used to having a lot more leeway up until recently. I guess the rest of us are so used to being watched that it hadn't bothered us as much.

  • I think the biggest problem with the "If you aren't doing something wrong, you have nothing to worry about" argument is thus:
    Even if you are in the right and not doing something wrong, the cops don't care. They WILL insist upon total 100% compliance, and the act of enforcing compliance then makes it so YOU are the one doing something wrong.

    The most annoying thing I have heard lately is that damned charge "Resisting arrest".

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    I think that if the rest of the charges are dropped, resisting should be dropped too. After all, if a prosecutor has determined that the cop had no reason to arrest you, what was there to resist?

    Still, if you want to wake up tomorrow, go along peacefully and hire a good lawyer.

  • As long as the "good apples" are mute on the subject no cop deserves the benefit of the doubt. Nothing would change the culture sooner than a majority of cops sounding off about the assholes. But they don't.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    At my job we're not supposed to run down our colleagues in front of the customer either, but we are supposed to tell management if someone does something particularly egregious. Not sure what in healthcare IT would be the equivalent of police brutality, but if I see it, I'm reporting it, and I would expect no less from my colleagues.

  • The expectation that the consequence of "resisting arrest"* is, and should be expected to be, extrajudicial murder is one that I am not comfortable with. I know that there have been, and are, societies in which that is normative behavior. To the extent that the society in which I live is moving towards that, I will resist that movement with the power of my (relative) privilege. I will not supinely resign myself to the sacrifice of my sons to Moloch, the Second Amendment or the Thin Blue Line..

    *As defined by the arresting officer in the heat of the moment.

  • “It turns out that The Ferguson Effect is police being too hesitant to do their job for fear of being caught on video and becoming the next YouTube sensation.”

    In the minds of quite a number of Americans, the job of the police is to intimidate the people who make them nervous and keep them in their place. For that value of “their job” this assessment is quite likely correct.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    I am aware that too many cops regard any kind of verbal response, particularly the impolite variety, as "resisting arrest," and I'm definitely not okay with that, but what would you have them do in the face of _actual_ violent resistance from a person they're attempting to place under arrest? Back down and go away? In the cop's mind, the arrest is legitimate, or s/he wouldn't be putting his/her safety at risk to make it happen. If a prosecutor or court later disagrees, so be it.

    I'm white, 50ish, upper middle class, male, heterosexual, married, and a property owner, so the police mainly leave me alone unless I blow pot smoke in their faces or exceed the speed limit by 50%. If by chance they want to arrest me, I'm either guilty and will take my punishment, or innocent and will take my chances in the system, but resisting arrest is unlikely to improve the situation for me, so I won't do it.

    I understand the hostility many people very unlike me feel for the police, because I was bullied as a child, and I'm convinced we need very, very different sorts of people as police officers than most of the ones we have now. If the cashier at Burger King can tolerate verbal abuse because she forgot your fries, a cop should be able to tolerate verbal abuse because he's about to ruin your whole day. It's part of the job. I don't blame a person who is hassled by the police, stopped and frisked daily, called racial epithets and threatened, for fighting back, but I fear it can't end well.

  • H.M.S. Blankenship says:

    Completely agree that the ubiquity of cell phone cameras to record police actions, & the ability of anyone to put them up on the net, is a good thing. Maybe not from the point of view of the police, but I am another reasonably privileged person who is uncomfortable with formulations like "If you have nothing to hide, you won't mind if we illegally search your car." Being left with a charge of resisting arrest even after it is proved that there was no reason for the arrest in the first place–that sounds like the same judicial myopia which afflicted the SCOTUS when it ruled that a guilty verdict could not be set aside simply because the defendant was subsequently vindicated by new evidence.

  • When an abuse becomes intolerable, even the United States will attempt a correction, when it comes the law enforcement of that day will have bitter feelings towards their predecessors. Cue more sad violins.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    @Mark: True, except the kidnaper knows that what s/he is doing is not justified. A police officer may have a good-faith belief that arresting you is necessary or proper. They can't be sure you've done the crime, but if you're suspected of doing so, they can take you in and have a court sort it out. In fact, that is exactly what they're supposed to do. This bothers me less than the cops deciding to dole out punishment on the street.

  • If the police aren't doing anything wrong, they have nothing to fear. If they are doing their jobs in a legal and competent manner, you would think they would be proud to have that documented on video.

    OTOH, it came out in a court case the other day that the local Target has 118 security cameras. Did you realize that you can't even scratch your ass in Target without it being recorded?

  • This 'bad apples' argument fails for me. Almost perfection is required.

    When your agents are given the power of life and death over the people they daily interact with, there is an obligation to root out the 'bad apples' with ferocity.

    Tolerance of them is absolutely unacceptable.

    I guess morally, there is no difference with regard to the profession, but a corrupt librarian is unlikely to end my day with a trip to the coroner.


  • Being a 69 year old gray haired white guy is mostly a good thing when it comes to dealing with our over-armed boys in blue. You'd think being a ten year old anything should have the same effect when being dealt with in a school. The idea of saying "you're under arrest" to a kid isn't the first thing she should hear.

    It ain't right.

  • I used to see things differently than I do now. I know a lot of cops, and my feeling before was more or less what was expressed above. Do what the officer says, even if he/she is in the wrong, and sort it out later in court. Cops are doing a shitty job and at the end of the day if they have to choose between your comfort and potentially ending up dead or in the hospital, they're going to choose to stay alive and healthy. That can mean taking drastic action. I had no sympathy for the "don't tase me bro" guy because he was warned what would happen and he didn't comply.

    But now it seems we're seeing more and more evidence that a lot of cops are smouldering powder kegs just itching for any excuse to "let go". They don't have any speeds except "slow" and "balls to the wall". They're going to ask you, and then they're going to fuck you up. Nothing in between. There's no escalation path. That, to me, is wrong. You can say what you want to defend cops. They have a hard job. They deal with the worst of society on the worst day of their lives, etc. But that's the job. When you take that job, you know that's the job. They are not unarmed, untrained, nor innocent. They need to be held to a higher standard.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    They do need to be held to a higher standard, but I can't do that when they're pointing their guns at me or wrestling me to the ground.

  • " but what would you have them do in the face of _actual_ violent resistance from a person they're attempting to place under arrest.."

    Wait, why is having them arrest the person, just like they do right now somehow off the table in this situation? "Unless resisting arrest is a separate crime we can't arrest people who don't want to be arrested"?

    Also assault is a separate crime all on its own, so if they actually do get genuinely violent then there's your punishment right there.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    So you're suggesting that we just repeal the law against resisting arrest since other laws already cover actual violent behavior? That works for me.

  • Yeah, the "Ferguson Effect" is in full force. If the cop in the video hadn't been being filmed, he could have just shot the kid and dropped a throwdown.

  • I think it might be a good idea at this point, on the "if you can't use it responsibly I'm going to take it away" principle. I mean, it's not like people violently resisting arrest don't end up charged with assault as well.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    A cop once threatened my 80-year-old grandfather with resisting arrest for not pulling his car to the side of the road fast enough. Nothing came of it, but that's definitely not violent resistance. Still, resisting arrest is a stupid charge.

  • @Andrew Laurence. I think we all have enough information to find this officer's behavior egregious. I don't know what information would make this level of violence reasonable.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    I could not understand any words spoken in the video, but the girl clearly did not cooperate. What should the officer have done differently?

  • @bb

    Way to go! Welcome to the side of morality and light. :)

    Your friends on the left are glad that you had this 'come to Jesus'

    The next step is to vote for Bernie

  • He should not have attacked her. Just because the wisest course of action is to comply does not give him a license to attack her. Lack of cooperation – passive resistance is what it looked like – doesn't allow an officer to do whatever he wants. A cop doesn't get to batter a child because she won't do as he orders.

  • So we're just supposed to accept this thuggery as part of doing business in the modern world. Those motivated to don uniforms, badges and guns so they can exercise petty tyranny against the powerless, especially if the powerless have to audacity to challenge authority–which at least one commentator here seems to consider sacrosanct–anyway, those people are not motivated by the desire to serve and protect. (That Norman Rockwell world never existed.) This talk about bad apples, and just shut up and bend over or you'll get reamed is so much bullshit. You wear the wrong color skin and defer and you'll still get reamed. White people telling the black folk how to behave for their own good exhibit privileged hubris and deep ignorance. Just shut up and let the officer arrest you and the justice (sic) system will sort it out. Better that than a bullet, so it's all good. We've gone too far down the rabbit hole to expect recovery from this sickness in one lifetime.

  • @Andrew Laurence – That is why I called it a false arrest, not a judgement call by the cop. If a cop arrests a civilian that he knows has not committed an arrestable offence it is simply a kidnapping.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    @Mark: That is certainly hard to argue with. But like a kidnaping, resisting is likely to get you killed. The key difference is that the kidnaper doesn't have the power of the state behind her/him.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    @el mago: I'm not telling anyone, black, white or other, how to behave. People can behave however they like. If you want to be killed by a cop and have your death change absolutely nothing, go ahead. I'll miss you.

    We can't fix racist policing unless we fix racism, and since racism is the core of our society, good luck with that.

  • At the end of the day, I don't give a shiny shit what the girl in that video said or did, there is zero justification for the way Officer Pornstache assaulted her. That miserable piece of crap has a racist and violent history and had he not gotten away with his past abuses he wouldn't have had the badge and authority to batter a child. The people that are victim blaming the girl are as much the problem as Officer Unfriendly.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    @Scout: Look, if you just blindly hate all cops, go ahead and say so. No one on this list but possibly bb will blame you for it. It would make your position a lot easier to understand.

    Still no one has answered my question: If the cop in the video had a good-faith belief that it was his duty to arrest the girl, and she didn't come along when he ordered her to, what was he supposed to do that was different from what he did. He didn't shoot her, he didn't punch or kick her, he didn't beat her with his nightstick. He just attempted to pull her out of her seat, and the seat came with her.

    I'd need more context to see who was really in the wrong here. But if you believe the video stands alone as incontrovertible evidence that the cop was in the wrong, that's fine. Just please explain what specific alternative behavior would have been appropriate.

  • If the cop in the video had a good-faith belief that it was his duty to arrest the girl, and she didn't come along when he ordered her to, what was he supposed to do that was different from what he did.

    I'd ask A) why has he even been brought in to deal with her? I attended high school in the 1980s and even terrific fights with weapons and broken noses were broken up by teachers and punished by vice principles. I can't imagine what a girl sitting at a desk did that warranted calling the police. So my suspicion is that it was a disciplinary mistake to develop things along the lines of bringing in a cop, which is a fairly startling escalation of any conflict. And B) is his "good-faith belief" warranted? It seems to me the police playbook too often consists of 1: Make demand, 2: If demand not met, then escalate to arrest. My belief is that the whole BLM movement highlights that we need a new playbook, one less primed for creating and escalating conflict; as is, it is quite possible his good-faith belief grew out of his own actions as much as or more than hers.

    As to specific alternate behavior in this case, based on my experience of sullen teens, seems they could have let her sit there for 20 more minutes till the bell rang and then she would have moped off to her next class.

    (So far all we know is that the teacher asked her to leave class and when she refused, the cop entered. We don't know, afaik, why she was asked to leave class.)

  • Andrew, one of the problems is your premise. Why should we assume the officer had a good faith belief he had to arrest her? Why do we have to race towards arrest, when a simpler option is to persuade her to leave the room? I don't know any good cops who would make arrest their first choice.

    What was he supposed to do? How about persuasion? How about the least force necessary, if he didn't want to persuade her? How about calling the school counselor? There are all sorts of choices. Just because he's a hammer in a world full of nails doesn't mean you have to think that way too.

  • Calling out the bad seed who abused a child does not make me a cop hater any more than calling George W Bush out for war crimes makes me a President hater.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    SunilR: You make a number of good points. I too attended high school in the 1980s, and disciplinary matters were handled by educators. I'm not sure why this seems to have changed. We don't know what transpired before the video, though, so I think we need to withhold judgment.

    Cops are not social workers or counselors. Their job is to arrest people and, failing that, use physical force, including lethal force if that's called for, to subdue them. If you don't want someone arrested, roughed up, or killed, don't call the cops. I speculate, without knowing the true story, that whoever summoned the officer here (or the officer himself if he responded without having been summoned) is probably most to blame here.

    People need to understand that the US is only a peaceful democracy is you are white or Asian and at least moderately well to do. For black and brown people and for poor whites, it is a police state not much better than apartheid South Africa minus the Group Areas Act. Nothing other than a total change of government will ever change that, and in a country where the vast majority are more afraid of criminals or minorities (and many equate them) than they are of the police, that will never change.

    South Africa was 1/8 white during apartheid times. The US is still mainly white and Asian, and with a few exceptions, whites and Asians like the existing system just fine. It's a sad state of affairs, that's for sure.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    @Scout: Agreed, but doing so on the basis of a 15-second video without knowing the full story does point out a possible anti-cop bias much like mine.

  • Andrew, I don't agree that their job is to arrest people. It's to solve problems, decide if a law is broken, and if so, then decide whether a citation is sufficient before moving on to arrest. I've been a prosecutor and a criminal defense lawyer, and I rarely saw good cops in the middle of this kind of shit show.

    You're right, we don't know what happened before the camera started recording. If we're to withhold judgment, that also means not assuming that whatever she may have done was an arrestable offense, right?

    While I generally agree with your last two paragraphs, as an Asian I think you're talking about middle- and upper-class Asians.

  • @sluggo

    NEWSFLASH: blind squirrel finds acorn (that'd be bb)

    Actually, the set of Liberal beliefs and causes occasionally intersects the set of Libertarian-Conservative b and c.

    For the Record: I admire Bernie Sanders because unlike most politicians he is up front with his positions and has been pretty consistent. I would expect his Vermont gun freedom beliefs would make Liberals unhappy.

    That's as far as I am prepared to go at this point :-)


  • Andrew Laurence says:

    @SunilR: I was cited once (in 1983 or 1984) for a misdemeanor (not an infraction) in California, and I was told that I was under arrest. I didn't make a fuss about it and was not handcuffed. I accepted the citation and appeared in court on the appointed date. So citing someone is, apparently, placing them under arrest and then releasing them on their own recognizance. I was never photographed or fingerprinted or transported to the police station, but unless they were lying, which is a distinct possibility, I was under arrest.

    I'm sorry if it seems like I said that whatever the girl did before the cameras started rolling was something for which she should (or even legally could) be arrested. I have no evidence to support that, so yes, I should withhold judgment.

    The cop here definitely acted like an asshole. Of this there can be no doubt. The two relevant questions are: Was his behavior lawful, and if so, should the relevant law be changed so that it is not? These are the answers of which I'm not sure.

    And yes, I was talking about middle- and upper-class Asians, because poor people of any color are basically, to a racist authority figure, black or brown in all but skin color.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    @bb: The only pro-gun thing I've heard from Bernie (I admit I'm not paying attention) is that gun manufacturers should not be held liable when their products are used in crimes. That I agree with. No other dangerous products' manufacturers can, AFAIK and IANAL, be held liable in that way. Responsibility for misuse of a gun (and murder by gunshot is definitely misuse of a gun) lies with the person who misused it, unless the gun misfired due to a manufacturing defect.

  • I echo what Robert and bb said above.

    Let's look at this from a teaching perspective.

    There was a time that if a parent, adult, teacher, principal, cop, or someone officially delegated in the situation—eg a shop clerk or barman—gave a "reasonable" directive to either do some thing or cease doing something we did it. Yeah we may have grumbled, but we did it. Otherwise we suffered the consequences: being sent to the principal, serve detention, etc, but the consequence was in-line with the offence.

    Hierarchies and power structures and obedience to them are a building block for a functioning society. What we call civility, is just a thin veneer of mutually agreed upon social conventions. Think about that the next time you come to an intersection, people agree that they will follow the socially accepted directive of the stop sign. Other than "agreement" to obey that sign, there's really dick to keep they guy in the monster truck from bumping over your Prius.

    The basic social convention that a teacher gets a base level social authority, merely for the place they hold within society, is gone. Probably the hardest thing for any teacher to grasp is "riot control"—as a friend jokingly called it. After that it becomes about the ability of the teacher to build a relationship with the kids and develop mutual respect. However, if one kid is allowed to "flaunt authority", then the whole house of cards comes crashing down. Your kid is in that classroom, you want him/her to learn something, why should some little shit be allowed to disrupt that?

    At some point everything became open to "negotiation". So a simple and *reasonable*, teacher tells a student to either quit talking and get to work or go to the principal, turns into teacher being told to go f-themselves. So should a kid be allowed to continue to disrupt the teaching time? What lesson does that tell the other kids?

    Again most of what we call "civility" is a mutually agreed upon convention to curtail our behaviour for the benefit of society. Whether it's not talking so other kids can learn, or not stealing a car. Most of this should be done with a polite but stern "Please be quiet". Arrest and jail time should be for more egregious events. Unfortunately, something broke somewhere along the line and "authority" has to resort to more extreme methods to get a result.

  • Are you people a pack of retards? When a troll like Andrew Lawrence asks what the cop should have done you just ignore him because he is an obvious troll and a retard.

    Can no one see that if a cop wants to arrest a 50 pound pubescent girl all he has to do is grab her arm and lift? It is pretty easy. You can with little effort grab a weak arm and twist it so as to motivate an individual to move.

    I think racists like Andrew see a video of a 190 pound man drag a 50 pound girl ten feet and then lay a punch as acceptable because they don't see black people as human beings. Or they are trolling (but what is the difference?).

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    That is most definitely not OK regardless of whether the original arrest was justified. Police officers have zero expectation of privacy when performing their duties.

  • The officer in question is a School Resource Office (SRO), meaning he is more or less permanently assigned to the school. He isn't driving around in a squad car.

    This should tell you a lot. One common complaint about the SRO concept is that, once a school adopts it, the teachers at that school are encouraged (or required) to turn to the SRO for disciplinary support. This is supposed to protect the school and the teachers from discipline-related lawsuits. But another result is that it disables the old, traditional methods of maintaining discipline in school: the mechanism of teacher-vice principal-detention-suspension that a couple folks mentioned above. This leads to the other common complaint about the SRO concept: at first, they are only called upon to handle the worst situations, but eventually, only the SRO is capable of handling ANY situation.

    To me, this speaks to the larger problem we have with police in general. For a society to function, all of its institutions must participate in maintaining order. In other words, the police should only get involved when the maintenance of order requires the participation of the institution with the ability to inflict violence if necessary. But we have spent the last half century deciding that no one gets to tell anybody else what to do, and that no one has any authority. This has not resulted in more freedom. Instead, the result has been the investment of all authority for the maintenance of order in the hands of one institution. And we can see the result: that institution has become warped by the excess of power we have granted it.

  • The SPLC noted that SC has criminal code requiring arrest of anyone who disrupts a class at a school in the state. SROs who are cops are common things across the country- not all necessarily as corollary to the statutory "zero tolerance" requirement. But not, shall we say, entirely disconnected from it. This cop appears to be well-documented as a racist bully, but he had the authority to arrest her on the basis of her "disturbance". Arrest for cops means to forcibly take custody if you won't submit. So this video of awful, the law is awful, and the school administration of awful because they have all been built on the notion that forceful application of authority is the most effective way to maintain order and that order is paramount. It's legal. It's disgusting and shitty and deserves fulminating rage, but I guarantee you the cop will be found to have acted appropriately. This particular incident is an example of how cops become scapegoats and distract from the real culprits if you only blame cops. This incident is about authoritarian-worshipping legislators enabling terrible outcomes while insulating themselves from consequence. Fire this Fields guy, make him a pariah for being a betrayal of all aspirations of decency, but for gods sake put the heat on legislators too. And vote. I know, I know, but don't let cops be the distraction that lets the teabagging continue.

  • What else should the cop have done? Seriously? He was dealing with a fucking child! He violently assaulted a fucking tiny, female child!

    Everything. Anything. He should have exhausted every single fucking option available to him, then sat down and tried to think of a few more, before physically attacking a fucking child in front of a room of fucking children. Does that really need to be explained?

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    You're absolutely right. It has come to light since I wrote my comments that he did not follow procedure. The fact that she is female should not enter into it if you believe in gender equality as I do. Also, she seemed normal size for a biological if not legal adult, though smaller than the cop.

    News articles that appeared since I commented noted that the proper procedure is to verbally request compliance several times and, if that does not work, apply pain points such as arm twisting. The level of violence he used is appropriate only if she posed a physical threat to the officer or others, which she did not.

    I just assumed that the level of violence in the video was what would happen to anyone who disobeyed a cop's order, particularly if the person is black, brown, or poor white. I've never done that because I fear armed bullies, especially those who have the power of the state behind them, and I'm affluent and white. So I really just don't know. But part of my core belief system is "obey cops or suffer the consequences, which could be very painful and/or fatal."

    I also don't think disrupting a classroom should be a misdemeanor for which one can be arrested, but given that it is, schools should make every effort to inform students what will happen if they do so.

    This cop is clearly a dick and deserved to be fired, which he was, but backing down and not arresting her was never an option for him.

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