Monday, December 8, 2014

What about the cops' side of the story?


     So when does somebody speak up for the police? 
 Believe me, I have no interest in being that person. It’s a lose-lose proposition. 
 The public—in one long howl of outrage, based on two fatal encounters between young black men and police officers, in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City—won’t appreciate having the perspective of the bad guys of the moment defended, even a little. 
 The cops — a closed-rank echo chamber if ever there were—sure don’t want the support of the media, whom they universally despise, and particularly not from me. 
 And, to complete the circle—making it, then, a lose-lose-lose situation —  I don’t want to do it. Not to say the issue is unimportant — it is important, particularly if you are one of the African-Americans killed by excessive police force. But if I were to start listing the huge, festering issues facing black America: lack of capital, lack of jobs, bad schools, bad health care — it would be a while before we even got to the legal system skewed against them, incarcerating black men unfairly en masse, and we’d have to list a few more pressing judicial wrongs before we even got around to cops killing folk.
 But hey, I understand, public attention is not parceled out coolly by the Jedi Council based on objective analysis of our most pressing problems. Debate flashes and strobes, echoing off rare emotional episodes, and one video is worth a thousand studies.
 Back to the cops.
  When I set out to write today's column, I figured it was high time I joined in the clamor. You can only blather on so long about obits and Santa letters while the nation is going through Racial Catharsis No. 342 without feeling a little superfluous.
     Not that I was eager to swan dive into Ferguson, with my white-guy naivete. Pundit comments on the situation have tended toward the painfully obvious (one New York Times star began a column "We Americans are a nation divided," and ended, "There are no easy solutions. But let's talk.") Well, duh.
     But I thought I had an interesting twist. I'd begin the column, "You don't need me to tell you that cops are angry and racist; they'll tell you so themselves," then hopped onto that mighty online river of anonymous police anger and bile, Second City Cop. I figured I would pluck out a few of the more bitter blasts of thin blue line contempt, vastly familiar to anyone who has ever visited the site, probably the most public face of the Chicago Police Department, given the reactive, we'll-be-under-this-rock-if-you-can-find-us stance that the administration takes.
     I started reading Friday' post, headlined, "Protests Over What Exactly?"

     "Then there's the fact of the deceased weighing 350 pounds, his extensive heart disease, his asthma, the fact that he was able to yell not once, not twice, but TEN times that he couldn't breathe - if you can yell, you can breathe, you're just wasting the breath fighting. Oh, and he didn't die of 'choking,' he died of a heart attack an hour later. But those facts don't get reported on in the mainstream media."
  Hmm. I paused. SSC is correct, sort of. The cops sitting on Eric Garner's chest didn't help, but it isn't as if he was strangled.
     He quotes a reader:
     ". . . we actually pay them [the police] to use force when a law-breaking suspect (even one breaking a trivial law) resists arrest. That is the job we've given them."
     That also makes sense.
    "To say this guy is guilty of murder or manslaughter seems to me to be a case of scapegoating the people we've tasked with implementing a policy that we have imposed ourselves . . . If trivial laws should not provide grounds for arrest, We should change the laws to say so."
     To which Second City Cop says: "The bottom line—if you don't want cops enforcing the law, then stop passing laws and telling the police to enforce them. When arrested, you don't get to resist arrest. Period. The law says so. You resist, there are rules in place to overcome your resistance. You are not a 'jury of one' deciding what laws apply to you. Cops are authorized by the duly elected authority to overcome resistance."
     You can debate whether that is true, but it struck me as an opinion worth airing. We are a nation of laws, and we call on police to enforce those laws. They don't always do it in a pretty fashion, but to judge all police by these public incidents is to make the same mistake as those cops who treat every black person as a thug who hasn't yet reached for his weapon. So to echo my betters at The New York Times, yes, we need a dialogue about all this. But you can't have a conversation if only one side is doing all the talking.


  1. I can quibble a bit but I generally agree with Mr. Steinberg.

    I saw New York City Mayor Blasio on the Sunday ABC talk show. He described the “talk” he had with
    his African American son. He told his son to be submissive when confronted by the cops. Well that is the common sense I followed my entire life and all people should follow.

    If you have a gripe then the next day:

    • go to the police station to complain;
    • go to your congress man or women to complain;
    • go to a lawyer
    • etc.

    The cops confront situations every day that would be once in a lifetime dangerous for the most of us.

    That said – I believe the NYC cops should have used more “art” to attempt to talk the situation down rather than quickly use a takedown.

    Second – traffic ticketing should not be used as a revenue generating activity. That creates unnecessary ill-will toward the cops.

    Recent media coverage has been dominated by the race hucksters and victimhood charlatans.
    Mainstream media coverage has been bizarre. Rather than simply reporting the facts, all the facts, and nothing but the facts – they seemed determined to weave this into some sort of “narrative.” That is the media subtracting – not adding – value. And consumers do not pay for stuff that does not add value.

  2. This might be slightly off tangent,but Radley Baklo wrote this 5 myths piece about police. He also writes this blog The Watch which also on the Post. you should find the piece he wrote about St Louis County.

  3. Garner was 43 at the time of his death, so he wasn't "young," at least by my standards.

  4. I'm afraid the time has not yet arrived when we can talk rationally about these incidents and the apparent injustices of the justice system against black people. One can say that the deaths of 2 not-quite-innocent men have been exploited both left and right -- , but what's new with that? I would hope that at least a few policemen concerned about being demonized would take the opportunity to imagine what it feels like to be automatically classified as a thug.

  5. I will use the rough heuristic of “your (our) side” and “your (our) side of the aisle.”

    Tate raises an interesting point. Current events are dominated by the extreme players. Current mainstream media encourage this for what they believe are enhanced ratings. For example just watch the mainstream Sunday morning talk shows with two or more folk talking at the same time.

    President Clinton was able to muzzle the left of his side. Thus international and world trade became his positive legacy. It appears that mainstream Republicans are now able to muzzle the flame throwers on their side. I note how quickly that one Republican congressional aide was fired for making comments about the Obama children.

    We shall see if Boehner and McConnell will continue to manage with an iron fist. I believe success will come to the party that “looks like the adults in the room.”

    But it is an interesting question of why or why not moderates are able to quell the extremists on their side of the aisle.

    There is one easy way for moderates to quell the extremists on their side. It is to debate them on ideas, on facts, on logic, and on anticipated and unanticipated consequences.

  6. Looking at both groups, the police and blacks share many of the same outlooks. They are in some ways also perceived the same by a portion of the general population. Both groups feel set upon or misunderstood, all being judged by the actions of a few. Both feel their version of right or wrong is the only thing that matters. There is also a very prevalent feeling among people I know that it seems everything is fine if you speak to both one on one , when there are groups, everything changes. However, the largest similarity is one both protest the most. The code of silence in both groups is unmatched. The CIA, KGB, M10, etc. have nothing on these groups. I really don't see either side changing, so this is how it will stay. The news media will find something else to obsess over soon and all will be forgotten in our short attention span lifestyle.

  7. I'm off topic here, and I know that Neil cannot comment, but was anyone else disgusted by the pious hypocracy of today's S-T editorial lecturing how a rich patron must not make decisions for the U of I, just five weeks or so after the paper suddenly and without notice abandoned its no-endorsements policy, to endorse Bruce Rauner, who is (surprise) buddies with a rich S-T owner?

  8. Mr. Steinberg, you belittle yourself by calling the New York Times your "betters". The HYT is no longer the paper of record, it is tarnished and living in faded glory. The Onion is more credible. Chicago reporters are head and shoulders above the NYT's roster of propaganda and prevarication.


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