2/28/2014 11:00:30 AM
I’m sure that most everyone by now has seen the video / read the story about the off duty officer who shot & killed a drunk firefighter during an arrest gone bad. If not, Colin Noir has the video on his blog.
What is depressing about this incident (besides someone losing their life over such a trifling thing as over-inebriation) is the responses I’m reading online. The comments at Mr. Noir’s blog are a good microcosm of what I’m talking about, as are some of the ones here. I’ve seen several other blogs & forums discussing it, and it’s all the same types of comments.
They fall into the following categories
All Cops Are Pigs – No matter what, these people believe that all cops are abusive mini tyrants and no matter what they do, be it getting rough with a suspect in order to put cuffs on them or saving a kitten from a burning tree, they can do no right.
I realize there is a growing issue with the police becoming more and more “us vs. them”, but I’m still loathe to claim all cops are thugs with badges. If you believe this, I’ll set up a public blogcast and you can, using your real name, tell my father that to his face in front of the world.
The Badgelickers – Almost the polar opposite of the above, these people seem to believe cops do no wrong. If you have to get a knee to the head, then you probably deserved it and besides, cops have a rough job so your life threatening concussion over jay-walking is just a small price to pay for their safety.
There’s also the views on the people videoing the incident. The Cops Are Pigs people tended to view them as some sort of heroes who should be given a ticker-tape parade for exposing the brutality of THE MAN while the Badgelickers seemed to want them executed for the crime of not helping the cop apply a knee to the other side of the firefighter’s neck.
I see that people’s preconceptions color their views regardless of the data presented. Lord knows I’m guilty of it too, but I do try to be aware of it. But this particular instance seems to bring out the worst.
The backstory is that the firefighter was drunk and had assaulted a cab driver already. The cop was working security and went to apprehend the guy who then resisted arrest. A guy decided to video the incident because he wanted to capture the cop being all brutal and whatnot, but in the end his video was proof enough to a grand jury that the cop’s shoot was justified.
Regardless of right or wrong, legal or illegal, it is never, never, never, never a good idea to punch someone who has a gun in the face while bouncing his noggin off the sidewalk. At that precise moment in time, no matter if you are totally in the moral & legal right to be doing so, the punch-ee is going to do what is completely and utterly natural and defend his or her life. Gunshots at that distance are more likely to hit an important part of your life support system.
So, rule #1 – don’t punch people in the face while they’re on their back, especially if they have a gun or you could get Treyvonned.
Two, the counter point to this is that a cop who decides to be overly brutal with you to get you to comply puts you at risk of bodily harm, so it’s just as natural for you to defend your life as well. In this particular instance, it would have been better for the firefighter to simply submit and accept the arrest, however we have a lot of stories about cops continuing to use excessive force even when you comply. I hate that, because I’m not exactly of the belief that the court system is working well enough to ensure justice is actually served, but we’re talking ‘carried by 6’ here and sadly, that’s the worst option to have to deal with.
I do NOT like off duty cops performing security in uniform. The uniform indicates that they are acting in the capacity of the State. There’s gray areas where you can pay for a cop’s overtime to have them continue to work in the capacity of the state (e.g. doing traffic or crowd control for a sports event), but I don’t think hiring a cop to work at a private business like a hotel is the same thing.
That’s a side note, and not directly germane to the discussion at hand, but it does bring up some interesting points for later conversations.
Anyway, the cop saw the incident with the cabbie and decided to pursue. I can’t fault him for that, off duty or not that’s his daily job and I’d no more expect an off duty EMT to just let someone bleed out on the street than for a cop not to arrest someone he just saw punch someone else without apparent cause.
Now, was the cop overly rough with the firefighter? I don’t see that in the video outside of the knee to the neck thing, but when that is deployed, there’s already a struggle going on. When a cop says you are under arrest, he or she is planning on cuffing you. Your decision to resist or not is up to you, but be aware that violence will be employed to gain your compliance. There are times that resistance called for but I didn’t see it here being that the firefighter was clearly intoxicated and (according to all known data) had already committed assault.
Other side of the argument – we see cops often employ violence even after compliance has been granted, but I don’t think that was in play here. I’m not sure Bruno (the firefighter) was sober enough to make those kinds of calculations. However it should be noted to police officers that they are not as trusted as they used to be due to so many stories of people being shot & killed over being told to simultaneously freeze AND raise their hands or being tasered / shot while cuffed. That alone is a huge problem that needs to be addressed, but again due to Bruno’s intoxication, I don’t see that in play here.
I also agree with the videographer’s decision to stay uninvolved. The sheer number of possible bad outcomes trying to get in the middle of an adrenaline fueled armed man and a drunk are too high to count. Plus, cops are marinated in ‘Qualified Immunity’ where we plebes are not. I won’t help a cop arrest someone even if they are resisting. Sorry that’s not my job and if you want the respect a badge is supposed to offer, you have to be the one willing to take the lumps. Now, had the cop not been able to draw his gun once he was getting the Zimmerman Special, intervention would have been a possibility although it may have been too late.
Add in the absolute, incontrovertible fact that cops have no duty to protect individuals and I can’t see why it’s any worse for someone to stay uninvolved when the cop has the exact same option open to him or her without repercussions.
A cops’ job is dangerous. That’s what makes the job honorable. It’s highly dishonorable to require other people put themselves into harms’ way to make your job safer. Now, is it assholish to film instead of calling for assistance? Hindsight says yes, but at that precise moment in time this guy saw a cop doing a cop’s job. Plus, as said at the Photography is not a Crime blog
But the real blame lies within the officers themselves for creating such an “us vs them” mentality against citizens where people are not only reluctant to get involved, but they are sure to record everything to ensure police do not twist the truth in their arrest reports.
Before the emergence of Youtube, many of us wouldn’t have hesitated to help the officer in a situation like this. But because we’ve seen countless videos of police abusing their power, stretching the truth and unjustifiably beating or killing citizens, we are now jaded, cynical and distrusting of police officers.
This is the point I made above. We’re less likely to want to help because many fear cops more than they trust them. And that’s a shitty place to be as a society.
Regardless, the commenters on this issue are disheartening. This was a bad situation, fueled by alcohol and testosterone that ended up with someone dead. Had the cop not shot the fireman, it may have been the cops’ death we read about instead. But to see so many people simply stick with their preconceptions and refuse to allow any facts to cloud their pre-ordained judgment makes this situation even worse, as well as more likely to happen again and again in the future.
Make sure you always check your premises when thinking about these kinds of things. Realize that, as a human, you are automatically going to view things through your own personal experiences and prejudices and that you need to sometimes take a step back and gauge stories by data that might conflict with what you know to be generally true.