Die, Robot


The other day, when the shootings happened in Dallas, the police found the alleged shooter and cornered him. He was trapped, with no way out. They brought in a negotiator to talk with him. Hours ticked by.

Then they straight-up murdered him with a bomb attached to a robot.

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The robots were created by man. They rebelled. There are many copies. And they have a plan.

I’m deeply uncomfortable with this. From what I can tell, the shooter was still occasionally firing off shots at the police. But they had the guy cornered, which means there was plenty of time to get cover so he couldn’t hit anyone. It sounds like all they needed to do was wait until he got very thirsty or ran out of ammo. Or possibly ate his gun.

Either way, it seems very odd and inappropriate that they made the choice to kill the guy.

I mean, it seems like if you have a robot you can attach a bomb to, then surely you can attach other things, right? Like maybe a tear gas canister, or similar? Or possibly a tear gas canister in conjunction with a stun grenade?

Of course the guy had just killed five police officers. There was no way he was likely to survive the night. Even if he hadn’t died then, he would have died “resisting arrest” or would have “accidentally” fallen down some stairs. This is not a good thing, but it’s likely what would have happened.

I’m not entirely sure what other options the police had here, but I’m not at all happy with the idea that they can just kill someone who is cornered and poses no immediate threat. This bothers me greatly, and I dislike the precedent set here.

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#blacklivesmatter


So the other day, a black man selling CDs was wrestled to the ground by a pair of cops. They had him basically prone, and shot and killed him. The governor of Louisiana, where this took place, has sensibly realized that the fed need to handle the investigation, and has turned it over to the Justice Department.

Meantime, in Minnesota, which one hardly thinks of as a hotbed of racism, police pulled over an armed black man. He told them he had a gun, asked if it was ok to get his ID, and was shot as he tried to do so. He died, though not before his girlfriend live-streamed the aftermath of the shooting.

Does it need to be said-wait, yes, of course it needs to be said. The police have way too much power and discretion in this country. They’re allowed to kill pretty much anyone with very few consequences. Police departments in general have an “us vs them” mentality that’s made worse by militant images and military styles of law enforcement (though to be fair, the military usually has more stringent rules of engagement).

Yes, #notallcops, but also, yes, #adisturbinglylargenumberofcops. This shit needs to stop, and it needs to stop now.

I think the best way is to go back to what I’ve said before; disarm the police. The vast majority do not need their guns. The few situations where they do can, in general, be resolved by special armed response units, similar to what other countries have. Yes, this will likely result in more cops being shot and killed. That sucks. But the safety of the public, including the safety of suspects, must take priority over the safety of the police.

Oh, and on a final note to the #alllivesmatter crowd: grow the fuck up. Black people face special circumstances in this country that make it more likely they’ll be killed by a police office than a white person would be.

Several months ago, I was watching a TV show where someone offered the following example, which I think is informative. He basically said that suppose you to go a doctor’s office with a broken leg. You tell the doctor it hurts, and that you need your leg; your leg matters. The doctor says, “Well, yes, your leg matters. All bones matter.” That’s technically accurate, but the one bone that’s having the issue is the one that needs to be addressed.

And so it is with this.

#blacklivesmatter

Can We Not Start Doing This?


Two police officers were shot and killed yesterday by someone who apparently went out looking for cops to shoot, in some sort of apparent revenge for the recent shootings of unarmed black men by police officers. I have a couple of thoughts here.

First off, the shooter, who then killed himself, was pretty clearly around the bend. He also shot his girlfriend before heading out the door. I’m inclined to suspect he was just in a murdery mood, for lack of a better phrase.

Second, let’s not start blaming the (largely peaceful) protesters or people like New York City’s mayor. Rather, let’s blame the guy who did the shooting. Remember, Fox News crowd, if Sarah Palin, whose PAC had a graphic of various congressional districts with crosshairs over certain Congresspeople, wasn’t responsible at all for Gabrielle Giffords being shot, which she wasn’t, then the protesters and the like aren’t responsible for these two police officers being shot. So let’s not blame them, and instead blame the guy who did the shooting.

Just Start Counting Them


I’m basically over the Ferguson, MO, shooting case. It was bad and sad, but it does sound like the police officer in question was justified in shooting the victim who was, in fact, reaching for the officer’s gun. You do that, and something bad will happen. That said, he was justified in shooting once. Why he felt the need to send five more bullets in to keep the first one company is something beyond me and certainly smacks of excessive force.

The Garner case in New York still pisses me off, however. That was an incident rapidly got out of control and shouldn’t have. The officers, who were interacting with someone who was committing a misdemeanor, should have simply ticketed him and walked off. There was never any need at all for any physical interaction.

These are two of the most recent cases where the police have killed someone, but that’s two out of…how many? We don’t know for sure. Turns out that, hilariously, the government doesn’t keep any real records about this.

I think it’s a fairly simple thing to say that we should keep those records. Whether you think these killings were completely justified or terrible wrongs, you should still want to know the basic information of “how many of these killings have there been?”

Once we have that data, maybe then we can start changing things.

A Little Something on Ferguson and Police


Yeah, I haven’t written anything about this yet. The whole thing seems to be winding down now, and frankly the best analysis I’ve read about the situation comes from Cracked. But I figured I should chime in with my thoughts.

We really do need to de-militarize the cops in this country. I’d go so far as to say that for normal, day-to-day police work, officers shouldn’t carry guns. I’ve thought about this before, and now I’ve decided that, yeah, they shouldn’t. They have many other non-lethal options when dealing with suspects (more about this later), and the risks to the general public from an officer who, say, shoot someone six times, including at least once when they’re already on the ground, are just too large. Yes, it does mean a potential increase in the number of attacks on police, but frankly if you’re determined to kill a police officer, the fact that they have a gun isn’t likely to be a deterrent as long as you can shoot first.

But at the very least, all their military-grade toys need to be taken away. All of them. Including SWAT teams for various cities. Maybe individual regions or counties should be able to have a SWAT team, but overall, cities don’t need them. And, yes, police don’t need APCs or the like, and they frankly don’t really need riot gear, either. It might make them feel better and safer, but their job is to make us feel better and safer, not themselves.

Second, the police need to go back to being a part of the community. Yes, this means getting them out of their cars and on foot. This means giving them classes on how to interact with the general public (I think this is already done, but clearly it needs to be done better). They need to earn back our trust, or in the case of the black community, gain a trust they never had in the first place. Being out among us is a great way to do that.

Next, the laws need to be more equalized. Let’s say someone punched me in the face and broke my eye-socket. Ow. Let’s say as well that I have self-defense training, a taser, a club, pepper spray, handcuffs, and a gun. Let’s further say that I used the gun and shot the other person several times. At the very least I’d be charged with manslaughter, if not some degree of murder. This is because I used more force than is required to get myself safely out of a bad situation.

The police officer in Ferguson almost certainly had a club, pepper spray, and handcuffs. He may have had a taser. He certainly had self-defense training, because police officers usually do. With all those options, including an option to just get into his car and call for backup, he instead chose to shoot someone six times. Someone who was unarmed, and someone who, under the law, was innocent of any crime. Someone who he was also sworn to protect.

Now I’ll wager that he’ll be investigated, but no charges will be filed, or if they are, they won’t be much, and on the off chance he’s found guilty, he’ll serve “only” a year or two in prison (I say “only” because no matter how long it is, or how nice, prison sucks). That’s because police officers are held to a lesser standard of behavior than the general public, when in fact it should be the very opposite.

Lastly, one thing I think might actually come about because of this…all police officers should be required to, at all times, wear video and audio recording devices. This will solve a huge number of problems. It certainly would clear things up in this case.

So…yeah. Those are my basic thoughts here. I really hope some positive change comes about because of this incident, but I doubt that it will. Still, we shall see.

Do Police Need Guns?


“Of course they do,” you might say. “Don’t be stupid.”

But do they really?

“Yes.”

Ok, but maybe they don’t.

“No, they do.”

Unless they don’t.

“…”

There are, in this country, large groups of people who don’t trust the police. These people are generally known as “the parts of the country’s population that aren’t the police”. That’s a sad situation, isn’t it? Police officers do a hard, thankless job, and the public generally views them with suspicion, scorn and fear. That isn’t how it should be. Part of this is the ever-expanding police powers that have been granted due to the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. But I think part of this is also due to the fact that the police carry, and too often use, guns.

This year in Phoenix alone, there have been fifteen officer-involved shootings, including one recently. That’s about one per week this year. Now these shootings may or may not be justified. Certainly the most recent one sounds like it is, but while many police shootings, if not most, do likely reach the legal level of justification, what about the moral level? What about, for lack of a better phrase, the “public relations” level?

I’m not suggesting we don’t let cops carry weapons; we absolutely should. Every police officer out in public should be allowed to carry pepper spray, a Taser and a police baton. And if any of you don’t think those count as formidable weapons, then may I suggest you remember things like the Rodney King beating, where a man was nearly beat to death, but wasn’t shot. In general, though, these are less-than-lethal weapons. They make it much harder for a police officer to kill someone, either by accident or intentionally.

I’m also not suggesting that cops should never be allowed access to firearms. There are clearly a very small number of very bad situations during which officers need to have access to guns. But those are very rare times, and when they need someone with a gun, cops should have to call in armed officers, which is much like what the situation is with armed cops in the United Kingdom.

Now, would having most cops not carrying guns most of the time put more police lives at risk? Absolutely. That’s a sad and unfortunate fact and there’s not really any getting around it. But what it might also do is make it easier for people to trust the police, or at least lower their fear of them. It would almost completely eliminate situations where officers shoot and kill an innocent person, because if they had to make extra effort to get a gun, you can be sure they’d be certain about its necessity.

Bottom line, this would, yes probably result in a few more police officers being shot each year and possibly dying. But it would also result in far, far fewer civilians, innocent and otherwise, dying at the hands of the police. Not constantly having the power to kill at the slightest provocation might also remind the police that they are public servants, and here to protect us. Not to kill us. Not to intimidate us. But to protect and, dare I say, serve. That would help generate more trust and respect for law enforcement in communities where it is lacking, and that’s no bad thing.

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?


We’ve all seen the Russian dash-cam vids of that meteor hitting earlier this year. We’ve also all seen various videos of Google Glass, showing how that would work for recording daily events in our lives. Now that we have wearable cameras, Reason magazine is offering an interesting suggestion: make them mandatory for police.

I must say that there is nothing about this idea that I dislike. Too often in various instances of police misconduct, it comes down to a suspect’s claim against that of an officer, and if that suspect has been charged with something serious, well, no one is likely to listen to their claim that, say, a cop roughed them up. But if there’s video showing the event in question, then there’s no problem at all with an investigation into the officer’s conduct.

Likewise, it provides protection for the officers as they do their jobs. If someone claims they were roughed-up, but weren’t, the video camera can show that. If someone admits to a crime while an officer is wearing a camera, but later denies doing so, the camera can reveal the truth.

Really, if properly implemented with various safeguards to protect privacy, I see no down side here. Just imagine all the issues this could help resolve, like questions centering on police shootings and the like. Yeah, the more I think about this, the more I like it. Hopefully, it will happen, because there is no good reason it should not.