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Fri Oct 31, 2014, 05:14 PM

How the law encourages police brutality

Had any of the men made any suspicious movements?” I asked.

“No,” said the cop.

“Did you have any reason to think the men were armed?”


“So why did you draw your gun?”

Trial lawyers are taught never to ask a question to which they don’t already know the answer, and I was breaking that rule when I asked the last question. But I figured no possible answer could hurt my client. Still, the cop’s answer stunned me:

“I was outnumbered.”

I looked around the courtroom, making a show of quietly counting on my fingers the other people there – the court reporter, opposing counsel, the clerk, the judge. Then I asked the officer, “Are you outnumbered right now?”

It is hard to imagine moving through the world and seeing every other human being around you, no matter how ordinary, as a threat. If I lived like that, I wouldn’t leave the house. But police are trained to see the world that way, and for at least fifty years, our courts have ratified their worldview."


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Reply How the law encourages police brutality (Original post)
damnedifIknow Oct 2014 OP
randys1 Oct 2014 #1
Maedhros Oct 2014 #2

Response to damnedifIknow (Original post)

Fri Oct 31, 2014, 05:20 PM

1. Are you outnumbered now, GENIUS...wow how quick on your feet was that, amazing

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Response to damnedifIknow (Original post)

Fri Oct 31, 2014, 06:15 PM

2. This article by Joshua Michtom effectively examines the history of Supreme Court decisions


that have resulted in the situation young black men face in America when confronted by police. One conclusion, with which I agree, is that our current problems with police violence are a result of deeply ingrained cultural racial attitudes being mirrored in faulty training doctrine.

In court decisions and training manuals, the term “officer safety” comes up again and again, a shorthand for the inoffensive notion that cops have an inviolable prerogative to use force to protect themselves. But “officer safety” exists as a concept because we believe in a complementary but more sinister concept: civilian dangerousness. In a highly segregated society with a 400-year history of white fear of black violence, where criminality and blackness are deeply intertwined in the imagination of the majority, civilian dangerousness means black dangerousness. Culture teaches the members of our disproportionately white police forces to view young men of color with fear and suspicion. Police training reinforces the idea that every interaction with a civilian is a tactical operation fraught with peril. This is a recipe for interactions that turn into violent confrontations. This is our policy, and we are seeing its logical results around the country.

We are taught to assume that police work is the most dangerous of all, but statistics put the lie to that assumption:

Here’s the problem: while police work often entails great courage, the assumption that police work is especially dangerous is not necessarily supported by the numbers. On-the-job police fatalities are statistically rare; the profession does not rank among the nation’s most dangerous in this regard. Despite the notion — often voiced by defenders of police accused of using excessive force — that cops must be eternally vigilant against assailants who will grab their weapons, that basically never happens.

Of the roughly 780,000 law enforcement officers in the United States, 105 died in the line of duty in 2013, and 30 of those were from hostile gunfire of any kind (including, presumably, incidents involving their own service weapons). A thorough analysis by Professor Stoughton revealed that police interactions with civilians are almost never “tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving,” as the Supreme Court described them in Graham v. Connor.

In the Tulane Law Review, Stoughton writes, “in 2008, officers used or threatened force in less than 2% of approximately forty million civilian interactions.” And even the Supreme Court’s theory that automobile stops are especially dangerous for cops crumbles under scrutiny: In Robinson and Mimms, the high court relied on a single study that indicated that 30% of incidents where cops were shot began with traffic stops (the NHTSA offers the even higher rate of “more than half”). As any student of basic statistics will tell you, that figure reveals almost nothing about how dangerous traffic stops are. (There could be three million traffic stops, only three of which resulted in officers’ being shot, and the statistic would still hold true as long as seven officers were shot in other types of encounters). A 2001 review of ten years of national traffic stop data in the Journal of Criminal Justice estimated the risk of a police fatality during a traffic stop at between 1 in 6.7 million and 1 in 20.1 million.

Why, in the face of these data, does police training continue to tell officers that they are targets? And why do courts continue blithely to ratify this view, holding cops blameless for conduct that would get most of us charged with a felony? The answer is in another set of data: Studies and polls routinely show that white Americans, and the American public in general, perceive black people to be more violent than other groups and more prone to drug abuse, although neither of those assertions is demonstrably true. Americans generally overestimate the percentage of violent crimes attributable to blacks.

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