“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ferguson, MO

I don't have anything magical to add in analysis of the situation or the following events, so move on if that's your concern.

However, as a law enforcement officer, I do have two observations which have resurfaced from the whole thing:

- #1 - yet again, this is why I see the need for cameras in every patrol vehicle (if not body mounted). While they will never be 100%, it certainly provides an irrefutable and open image of events such as this. Having been involved in a false excessive force allegation myself, I can certainly say I WISHED that I had video of the event - it would have solved things much more quickly. Yes, video is subject to interpretation, but much less so than the current "he said/he said" situation.

Furthermore, as police in this nation we SHOULD be open and accountable. I cannot think of a single police use of force (particularly lethal force) situation where I wouldn't be willing to have the event exposed and explained and subject to public scrutiny - we are charged by society with the trust to do such acts, so we owe it to the same society to openly display when such force is used. Now, before anyone gets on the "tactics and officer safety" bandwagon - I've done enough entries and other things in my time to feel confident in saying that we can certainly provide the community and the government oversight with video, audio, etc of lethal force events without displaying any sensitive tactics or procedures that got us there.

And, quite frankly, call me jaded - but any officer arguing against such is probably one who I have questions about anyway.

#2 - the other observation has to stem from my experiences, and thus being able to relate to what the officer involved is dealing with now. Things like this hit the press and take on a life of their own. And, due to department policies, and more importantly sound legal advice, we have to stay quiet. Should you be involved in an incident as an officer (or a civilian in a deadly force situation) any competent lawyer will immediately tell you to keep your mouth shut. Not saying you don't cooperate with the investigation, or deal with any internal affairs or other issues - but you DO NOT make press statements as to what happened, why you did/did not do certain things or in any way respond to the allegations. If anything is done regarding that it is through media statements by the department, or by a private attorney who will use a lot of words but say very little. Because they realize that anything said will be pre-interpreted prior to any court case which adjudicates based on facts.

Meanwhile, the other side has no such burden - they will freely impugn your character, the events in question, your motivations, and everything else. And, emboldened by your silence, the accusations become then that "they must know it's true" or "they're hiding something."  Every press conference tailor-made to highlight the "suffering" of the other side, and the lack of a response viewed as "the thin blue line standing firm to protect their own."

It sucks. There's no other way to put it.

And, that's not even counting the civil risk - even if everything is clear criminally, you can bet on a lawsuit. Meaning once again you and your family are under the pressure. You can't apply for a house or other loan with any success. You have even more attorney and court appearances, and they are FAR more hostile and accusatory. Facing the risk of your employer choosing not to fight it, leaving you potentially liable to lose everything you own based on a jury's sympathies. Not that I'm saying you shouldn't be responsible if you use force wrongly (I advocate harsh and permanent sanctions for such) - but even if you are in the right and cleared you will get sued, I can say from personal experience.

And no matter what, it changes you, and your relationship with the community and your profession and your peers. Because, no matter what happens in court, no matter how you may be vindicated, how your actions are shown as appropriate and just and reasonable, it doesn't change things. There isn't a press conference to say "Ooops, we jumped to conclusions."  If anything, it is a news release implying that someone "got off" on the allegations, or the system was rigged - because that all fits the narrative. But 99% of the time it isn't even that - the media storm blows over, court comes and goes, and you're left with knowing that you were in the right, but you can never reclaim that little bit of your dignity from the public circus. Knowing that forever after some attorney can bring up the "weren't you accused of XYZ before officer????"

I honestly don't know what happened in Missouri. I don't know which side is "more" right in the case, because I wasn't there and right now the media monster on either side is spinning like a top.

But, I do know that two lives will never ever be the same because of it - one is dead, and one has effectively ended any chance of living in that community again. And that we, as a society and a profession, can figure out a better way to manage the aftermath of such events. We owe it to ourselves as professionals to be accountable and open and fair in our dealings. We owe it to our citizens to show we are worthy of the trust placed in us, and exercising it appropriately. And, most importantly, we owe it to the people involved, so that lives and reputations are not destroyed on hearsay and allegations, and instead face only the light of truth as to what occurred.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A thought...

If you're teaching banjo and the student has trouble with tempo, would you then use a rural gnome???

The jokes are free - you get what you pay for!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Are we unable to learn?

I would have thought that after 12 years of counter-insurgency warfare against the same general foe, that at least ONE person at the Pentagon would have learned how to conduct such operations.

Instead, regarding the recent round of airstrikes in Iraq, I read that the admitted view is "Well, this won't affect their capabilities much, but it will show them we're serious and how!"

Which does not work in the real world.

Effective military force boils down to one of two options:

#1 - a show of force/decisive strike or other limited action; the proverbial "shot across the bow" which informs a foe as to precisely where a line is drawn, and demonstrates the ability and will to enforce said limitation.


#2 - the complete and total use of said force, either as a follow-on to the first option, or when no other alternative is available, and conducted until one of the two sides capitulates or is unable to proceed further (or no longer exists).

Anything outside of one of these two options is mere theater, and will accomplish nothing.

In fact, given the Arab world and mindset, it will actually make things worse. That's in no way a racial or prejudiced statement, it's an understanding of the culture based on over two decades of dealing with it. Don't think I'm right? Look at events since 1947 as demonstrations - those nations and times when "limited actions," "retaliatory strikes," or other euphemisms have been used have universally failed; whereas on the occasions warfare has been treated as the serious business it is, and resources committed fully, have resulted in not only military victories but changes in the status quo. In fact, we've reinforced this cultural ideal through these very actions, showing time and again that "the infidel" will never stay around for the long haul, that we are shallow and weak and too concerned with what the latest trend is to fight the long fight.

All we are doing right now with "limited air strikes" is setting the scene for failure again. It is Lebanon. Iran. Somalia. Libya. Syria. All repeated as examples of "America has no stomach for the fight, see what happens? Their bombs are ineffective and we are still here!" Our foes know it, and more importantly, the masses know it (and are afraid).

Because right now it is abundantly clear that we aren't able or willing to get back in the fight. That, once things get messy enough, or prolonged enough, or the ratings go south, we will be gone in the night, and they will be left to deal with the consequences.

And it sickens me right now, more than I can possibly describe. It bothers me that I have friends who died for apparently nothing, that thousands of us left parts of our lives, our bodies, and our souls in those hells, never to be reclaimed - and that the powers-that-be could care less for such sacrifice. It kills me to see innocent children, women, and men tortured, killed, and living in terror of what may come next, all for the fault of being born into the wrong tribe or sect or belief system. To see pictures, to hear stories, to understand what is happening and realizing it's only the merest surface image of true events. Knowing that there is no hope for a peaceful resolution, for simple coexistence to occur - that instead, things will continue to spiral into darkness until the region fragments even more than it already has; and that worst case, it will spread into a greater conflict in other nations.

We could solve this. I don't mean just the United States, I mean the world community as a whole. But we won't. It's not politically expedient. It's not socially correct to enforce our norms upon others. Most importantly, the average person in the world has lost the concept that there are some evils worth fighting til the last breath, worth sacrificing for, worth joining together to conquer and eliminate.

Instead, we'll keep at this pretense of action - just like we did in Rwanda, in Bosnia and Kosovo, and in countless other places. They'll shake their heads and "tsk tsk, such a shame, but at least we tried." at all the right gatherings.

Because they never see the faces, or realize it's actual people dying - it's not a news story done in 30 seconds.

I fear this is the start of the scream that civilizations make as they die....


The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

- W. B. Yeats