CINCY COP CASE
Susanna Cornett has some interesting observations about the current mess in Cincinnati.
I’ve watched the video, and I’ve talked about it with half a dozen police officers, all with 20 or more years on the job and most men I respect who would neither beat down a suspect unnecessarily nor cover for a cop who would. Their opinions reinforced my initial impression: Some decisions could have been made along the path that would have caused it to end differently, but none of the individual decisions (known so far) that the cops made were wrong or outside of procedure. The man was huge. He was high. He attacked the cops. They used departmentally approved procedures to bring him down. The exertion of the fight resulted in cardiac dysrythmia, which he was already at high risk for because he was fat and he was high – similar to the way pepper spray would make a healthy man tear up and be easier to subdue, but could (and has) cause the death of a man with asthma (although different in that the asthma isn’t a condition resulting from personal choices). And also similar to situations where the exertion of intercourse can result in the death of a man with a heart problem.
You know that this will be reviewed intensely, precisely because of the context – black man, Cincy already suspect, widely distributed raw video. And there will be many who won’t believe there wasn’t some collusion when the final result is that the officers are reinstated with a ruling of justifiable force. From all I’ve seen, that ruling would be accurate, although the situation as a whole may lead to some needed changes in procedure – for example, if 10 officers instead of two had assembled before Jones was engaged, the fight would have been much briefer, thus putting his heart at less risk. He may still have died, but it’s less likely, and the cops would have seemed less culpable. As it is, the discussion keeps turning to the nightsticks even though the coroner clearly states that the beating itself did not cause Jones’ death, but rather the effect of the exertion on his heart.
To digress further, I’m really really tired of the constant drumbeat on racism in this society that flares up hot any time a person of color is prominently involved in a negative situation, criminal or otherwise. I’ve seen enough and talked to enough people of all races to know that racism still has a foothold in this society to a degree that should be worrisome to all good people. But it does not help the cause of alleviating racism when it’s used as a stick to beat society with at every turn, regardless of its validity. It shouldn’t be ignored, but someone in the black community needs to call a halt to the damage its overuse as an excuse has done, and someone in the white community needs to call a halt to the gross pandering to false claims. It damages the ability to get legitimate concerns addressed, and goodness knows there’s enough of them.
She also links Baldilocks, who has similar thoughts.
I agree with all of this, although I always wonder why minor events escalate out of control so often. Does some yahoo disturbing the peace at a fast food restaurant late at night really warrant a massive police intervention? It’s like the Waco situation a few years ago, where a massive show of force was used to arrest a religious nut for weapons possession. For reasons I somewhat understand, police officers seem to have adopted a paramilitary mindset over the last 20-25 years. Rather than being calm and polite, they now come onto any scene–whether dealing with street gangs or minor traffic incidents–with an “I’m a bad ass and you’d better not mess with me” attitude. This is not only unprofessional but counterproductive, in that it makes ordinary citizens reluctant to cooperate with police.
To use fictional examples, let’s compare old TV cop shows to the newer ones. In Dragnet, Adam-12, Hawaii Five-O and other shows from the 1970s or earlier, we saw cops as quiet professionals. Even when dealing with abusive and obnoxious citizens, the cops were unfailingly polite and calm. Jump to the 1980s and later, with shows like Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice, and NYPD Blue, we see cops who are only slightly more admirable than the criminals they’re arresting. Or the various “Cops” shows where real police officers–knowing they’re on camera even–are virtually all thugs.