Michael Brown was 18 years old, black and unarmed when a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri shot him to death after a scuffle in the street. The incident has provoked ongoing mass protests, vandalism, and national calls for an independent investigation and higher standards of police accountability.

The police, citing death threats, have refused to release the name of the police officer who shot Brown. The hacker collective Anonymous has promised to discover and make public the officer's identity anyway. I suspect they will succeed (if they haven't already).

General questions for those who have followed this story:

Do you think the shooting was reasonable under the circumstances?
How do you feel about the police?
Do you trust the police? Why or why not?
Who do the police answer to? Who ought the police answer to?
Are police held too accountable, properly accountable or not accountable enough for their actions?

Tags: Brown, Michael, Police

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If they did anything wrong, they let him get so close that they almost had no choice but to put a bunch of bullets into him, which was pretty much unsurvivable. Had they shot him once when he was 20 feet away, he might have survived.

Yes, we pay cops to go into risky situations, but by what logic does one require them to maximize that risk to themselves? And their duty to protect is much greater toward innocent citizens than toward ones who seem hell bent on creating conflict.

"Once again, we PAY cops to take risks to PROTECT society..."

Not in America, the Supreme Court answered that claim a while back, the Police are paid to enforce the law not risk their own lives in defense of the public.

+1

They have a dangerous job to start with. We don't pay them to make it even more dangerous unnecessarily. Saving idiots, miscreants, and suicidals from themselves shouldn't have to be part of it.

They have a dangerous job to start with.

Yeah, yeah. I hear that one a lot.

Slaughterhouse workers, mechanics, commercial fishermen, transportation workers, sanitation workers, metal workers, miners and lumberjacks all have more dangerous jobs than police.

We don't pay them to make it even more dangerous unnecessarily.

Exactly. It's not necessary for the police to protect anyone.

Saving idiots, miscreants, and suicidals from themselves shouldn't have to be part of it.

The courts have ruled time and again that the police have no responsibility to save anyone from anything. When courts, laws and the Constitution say police don't have to give a shit about anyone, why would they? 

I've been saying right along, I think it's this lack of responsibility (and accountability) that causes some police to act irresponsibly or dishonestly. They can get away with it.

Gregg is right. Police have no duty to protect the public, criminals or crime victims. They don't even have to enforce laws or court orders when evidence of violations are observed or reported. Read the case law below. The police protect themselves and that's all.

---------------------------------------------------------

Castle Rock v. Gonzales: Police have “qualified immunity” from personal responsibility and cannot be sued. This was the result after three kids were murdered by the husband of a woman who’d gotten a restraining order against him. The woman called police four times-- once informing them of the location of the husband and their children.

Warren v. District of Columbia: Police owe no duty to victims of criminal acts and are not liable for failing to provide adequate protection. This happened after two women called the police several times to report a home invasion and a third roommate who was screaming. They were assured that officers were on the way. The three women were taken captive, raped, robbed, and beaten for the next 14-hours. The police did not come.

Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Department: Police have no constitutional duty to protect people from crime. This was the result after a woman got a restraining order but was still continually harassed and had her property vandalized despite repeated calls to the police.

DeShaney v. Winnebago County: Police are not culpable for releasing a boy into his father’s custody despite evidence of ongoing abuse, including one incident that left him “profoundly retarded”.

Let's assume for a moment that everything you say is true. A knife in the hands of a man charging at a full sprint is a deadly threat from 21 feet. The police were justified in shooting Powell to death.

Looking at other posts you (and others) have made, it seems there's some agreement or at least no denial that;
1. Powell did not "charge" the officers. (The police say he did.)
2. Powell was not within "3 or 4 feet" of the officers. (The police say he was.)
3. The police got out of the car with guns drawn. (The police report omits this detail.)

I had asked: Does anyone think the police lied, exaggerated or left out important details about what happened? If so, why would they do that?

Let's also assume the shooting is justified. Why didn't the police say a man within 21 feet with a knife is a deadly threat? Why halve the distance at which the shooting took place? Why claim (essentially) he was the same distance from both officers? Why claim he was "charging" (which is what the man in the Mythbusters video is doing)? Why omit that the police aimed their weapons at Powell the instant they arrived?

What I'm getting at is: if the police were in the right then why the misinformation? If this is simply the randomness of faulty memory, why does every misremembered or omitted detail favor the police but work against the man they killed?

What does everyone else think?

1. Perception and reality often don't coincide. Look at all the incompatible accounts of the Michael Brown shooting from people who were actually there!

2.Same answer.

3. We don't need the account. We have the video. The video shows a justifiable shooting.

Misinformation? Back to 1. They didn't have the video to refer to. If they had, their account could be as accurate as you'd like it to be.

This sort of firsthand or eyewitness testimony is notoriously questionable and not because anyone is trying to dissemble.

BTW, is that the actual police report? It doesn't look like one. I would expect a police report to be on some sort of form. I don't see any signatures, either. In fact, read the first line and you'll see it's written by some third person, not the officers. Let's read an actual police report.

1. Perception and reality often don't coincide.

Yes, we've established that. The question is why. If these are random errors of perception, why do the errors invariably favor the police (who are supposed to be trained observers)? Is it deliberate, unconscious or are you denying it?

Look at all the incompatible accounts of the Michael Brown shooting from people who were actually there!

In this case, it's the police account which is incompatible with an unbiased video recording of a shooting incident.

3. We don't need the account. We have the video.

We need both, since the reason I posted the discussion is for comparing the unbiased reality of video with inaccurate statements made by the police.

The video shows a justifiable shooting.

That's the general consensus of law enforcement experts (who are typically current or former LEOs) in several newspapers: the shooting was justified. Then again, that's also the standard response from police even for egregious shooting incidents: the shooting was justified. The surprise would be one police officer not sympathizing or identifying with another.

In our legal system, a jury decides what is justice. But police-- who get to report the incident on their own terms, decide which cases get referred to prosecutors, and always have the benefit of the doubt-- rarely end up in front of jury. 

Misinformation? Back to 1. They didn't have the video to refer to. If they had, their account could be as accurate as you'd like it to be.

As I've been saying: if it's a simple matter of poor recollection, why do the inaccuracies of the account always work in favor of the police? Or are you saying the police (but not the video) are accurate and thus aren't misinforming anyone?

As for watching the video, let me get this straight. You're actually claiming the Chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department had no access to the video and never watched it before releasing it to the press?

Mayor: We need a Police Chief for this city.
Crackpot: See that cop? He doesn't review evidence, especially video evidence in high profile cases, even before press conferences with the international media. You'll never find a cop with his head any further up his ass.
Mayor: I smell promotion.

You and Gregg should seriously consider dating.

This sort of firsthand or eyewitness testimony is notoriously questionable and not because anyone is trying to dissemble.

You know the intentions of "anyone" in the Saint Louis Police? Amazing. No wonder you were moaning at Belle and Mike about their mind reading skills. You're the real deal. But they're a couple of frauds.

Even if the police weren't trying to be biased or misleading, how does that mean they're not unintentionally biased or misleading (even in a case where the shooting is conceivably justified)?

Since when is duplicity a requisite for bias and inaccuracy?

BTW, is that the actual police report? It doesn't look like one.

You'll have to take that up with New York Magazine. As a source of journalism their credibility is sound and light years ahead of yours. I'm satisfied.

The whining you and Gregg are doing doesn't impress me. Get credible evidence that the police report is false.

I would expect a police report to be on some sort of form. I don't see any signatures, either. In fact, read the first line and you'll see it's written by some third person, not the officers. Let's read an actual police report.

I suggest you give Gregg a rose on your first date, go for third base, then discuss conspiracy theories and hoaxed police reports in the afterglow.

...why do the errors invariably favor the police (who are supposed to be trained observers)? Is it deliberate, unconscious or are you denying it?

I don't know, but until it's clear they were consciously shaving, bending, or fracturing the truth, I'll assume innocent until proven guilty. Thus, I'll simply say that the idea it was unconscious is certainly not off the table by a long shot.

Also, given that the account you posted speaks in the third person, it's hardly clear that that is the account the officers. Furthermore, unless I totally misunderstand how these things work, each officer would be expected to write up his own report. There should be two.

I didn't know police are trained observers, but I doubt if such training could make them much more than marginally better than Joe Shmoe.

In our legal system, a jury decides what is justice. But police-- who get to report the incident on their own terms, decide which cases get referred to prosecutors, and always have the benefit of the doubt-- rarely end up in front of jury.

In the American system, justice is proper procedure, it's not arriving at the truth or "doing justice" in the sense of righting a wrong or punishing a bad guy. We know guilty people go free if the prosecution fails to prove its case within the procedural guidelines (the acquittal of the police who beat Rodney King to a pulp comes to mind).

The trial jury verdict is simply a stage in the procedure, and not even always the last one, what with appeals and the fact that judges can even set verdicts aside when he feels a jury has woefully ignored the evidence. The jury trial may never even happen if the procedure doesn't indicate one is called for.

What the heck does this mean?: "(police) get to report the incident on their own terms, (and) decide which cases get referred to prosecutors"? That's not how it works at all. Prosecutors are often the ones running investigations, and especially, I would think, when police misconduct is alleged and even more especially in a case that's become headline news.

Police (and CO's) are taught how to word their reports so that they are never caught under scrutiny if at all possible. They are coached about how to word things in a way that never causes any red flags.

Trust me.

There's a lot of shit they get away with.

GM: ...why do the errors invariably favor the police (who are supposed to be trained observers)? Is it deliberate, unconscious or are you denying it?

Unseen: I don't know, but...

You have no idea? Sincerely?

If it's accidental, why wouldn't some of the details they got wrong or left out favor the man they shot? (How far away was he, officer? Well, let me see, um, about 15 feet.)

You can think of no reasonable explanation for a series of skewed truths that favor the police account every time?

Doesn't evidence of a conscious pattern indicate intent? Wouldn't the evidence for honest mistakes in recollection be a random distribution of misinformation? 

...until it's clear they were consciously shaving, bending, or fracturing the truth...

You're not denying that the truth in this case was shaved, bent or fractured by the police, so that leaves the question of whether it's accidental or deliberate.

Then there's the issue of how much it matters. Would you take comfort in knowing the police were incompetent instead of dishonest when they distorted the truth in wrongly accusing you?

...I'll assume innocent until proven guilty. Thus, I'll simply say that the idea it was unconscious is certainly not off the table by a long shot.

Your unfortunate choice of words not withstanding, I agree. It could be unconscious. Likewise, I could flip a coin four or five times and guess right every time. But probably not.

The idea that it's conscious is not only on the table, it's on a silver platter. That is, unless you can come up with a reasonable explanation for the recurring pattern of misinformation that always favors police.

Also, given that the account you posted speaks in the third person, it's hardly clear that that is the account the officers. Furthermore, unless I totally misunderstand how these things work, each officer would be expected to write up his own report. There should be two.

Produce evidence that the New York magazine article is wrong and the police report is a hoax. Until then, give it a rest.

I didn't know police are trained observers, but I doubt if such training could make them much more than marginally better than Joe Shmoe.

I hope the police training on justifiable use of force took hold a little better (not that it matters much).

We know guilty people go free if the prosecution fails to prove its case within the procedural guidelines... The jury trial may never even happen if the procedure doesn't indicate one is called for.

I don't doubt that. I'm simply questioning the procedural guidelines insofar as police accountability, especially at how rarely police actions are ever called into question (even when there's evidence).

Imagine you filled out a police report saying someone "charged" within 3 or 4 feet, then you shot him dead. Then a video shows a dubious "charge" at twice that distance after you'd pointed a gun at him. Prepare to find yourself held to a higher standard of truth than the police.

...(the acquittal of the police who beat Rodney King to a pulp comes to mind).

The federal jury found Officer Powell and Sergeant Koon guilty of violating King's civil rights. They got 32 months in federal prison. Another jury awarded King $3.8 million and his lawyers another $1.7 million in a lawsuit against LA.

I like civil cases, federal juries and federal 'procedural guidelines' better.

What the heck does this mean?: "(police) get to report the incident on their own terms...

It means the police fill out the police report and thus have the opportunity to distort the truth (either intentionally or through a series of honest mistakes that always work in their favor).

...(and) decide which cases get referred to prosecutors"? That's not how it works at all.

Right. It doesn't work that way at all. Except when it does.

Prosecutors are often the ones running investigations, and especially, I would think, when police misconduct is alleged and even more especially in a case that's become headline news.

It may vary by state (or even county) but in Massachusetts, New York, California and some other states, when the police make an arrest they refer the case to a district attorney, which is usually their first involvement.

I find it interesting that it's even less clear to you (and me) how the police would ever end up being charged with a crime, unless all hell breaks loose in the news media first.

All either one of us can do is speculate and bring suspicions to bear. I haven't decided one way or the other. I'm not proclaiming their innocence or their guilt. I think I'm doing what a good citizen should do.

People's minds filter events, block out details, and especially in extreme high adrenaline situations. That's according to Wikipedia, which adds that sometimes stress hormones can enhance memory. So that may be neither here nor there.

These effects, the Wikipedia article makes clear, are unconscious.

You continue to base your comments on a document that doesn't appear to be the testimony of the officers. It appears to be written by a third person, who perhaps has the department's PR position in mind.

If the department were to allow the two officers to get together and write the report together, that would be an extremely bad and suspicious procedure, and I would doubt it's the normal procedure.

Your document is probably official in some regard, as I said in a prior paragraph, but I seriously doubt if it's the officers' official write up of the incident. There should be two reports, one written by each officer and with a signature indicating that that's their story and that they're sticking to it.

I don't see any signatures, do you?

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