Politics and Force

Don’t become a victim to the political winds that blow.

Item: The new chief of a large metro agency which has recently been forced to respond to a major terrorist attack blocks patrol officers from having 5.56 carbines.

Item: A police officer who is involved in an on-duty shooting is charged with a voluntary manslaughter within hours of the shooting.  When a partial grand jury recently refused to indict the officer, the prosecutor resubmits the case for a full jury hearing.

Item: The USDOJ, the same folks who brought us ATF Operation Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious and the subsequent cover-ups, invent a term “segmentation” or a “decision point” approach in an investigative report of the Portland Police Bureau and use of force which clearly uses 20/20 hindsight despite that the Graham v. Connor decision clearly indicates force is to be judged “at the moment.”

Item: The USDOJ investigates the Seattle Police Department and forces a ten page politically correct use of force policy on that agency which includes: “Officers should take reasonable care that their actions do not precipitate an unnecessary, unreasonable, or disproportionate use of force, by placing themselves or others in jeopardy, or by not following policy or training.  An officer shall use only the force reasonable, necessary, and proportionate to effectively bring an incident or person under control.”

Item: Recently two California lawmen are acquitted in the death of a suspect who actively resisted arrest.  The prosecution’s subject control “expert” is a former federal agent who admitted under oath that his only experience with attempting to control resisting subjects is “a handful, less than 10…”

Item: An agency routinely uses the internal affairs system as a supervisory machine of retaliation and vendetta

Item: An agency charges a patrol officer with two counts of assault in a use of force incident in which he was injured when his patrol vehicle was T-boned by suspects fleeing “a large fight with possible gunshots.”  The occupants refuse to show their hands or exit their vehicle and he has to use force to remove them.  Agency supervision fails to follow their policy and fails to interview the officer post incident for one year pretrial.  He is acquitted of the charges.


The Ripple Effect

What are the effects to an agency and law enforcement in general when these miscarriages of justice go forward?

  • Adverse impact on morale
  • Mistrust by line officers that they will not supported post-incident
  • Reduced activity or “de-policing” by officers for fear of being second guessed
  • Increased union grievances and poor relations between labor and management
  • Officers leave the agency because of the poor morale, negative climate and lack of support
  • Recruitment suffers because the best recruiting tool, officers already working there, warn potential candidates away
  • Agency performance and reputation suffers

Sadly the list goes on and on and the ripples move ever outward, adversely impacting the officers throughout the agency.  And all are, sadly, fairly easy to prevent.

The Law

It bears repeating –

“All claims that law enforcement officials have used excessive force – deadly or not ‘in the course of an arrest, investigatory stop, or other “seizure” of a free citizen are properly analyzed under the Fourth Amendment’s “objective reasonableness” standard.

“The Fourth Amendment “reasonableness” inquiry is whether the officers’ actions are “objectively reasonable” in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation.  The “reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation.

“The “reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. 

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