One Punch Over The Line
June 20, 2012 6:37 AM   Subscribe

Brian Vander Lee remains on life support, after being hit in the head at a restaurant on Sunday, by Minneapoiis police sergeant David Clifford. Although Vander Lee is expected to live, many do not. One punch homicides are more common than you might think. "At 9 a.m. the next day, Tuomisto called police and turned himself in."When will I get to tell my story?" he asked from the back of the squad car. "Fucking one punch," he said. "I don't know how this happened."
posted by Xurando (126 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wait. Why isn't David Clifford being held in custody?
posted by schmod at 6:47 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's a rhetorical question, I assume.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:52 AM on June 20, 2012 [12 favorites]


You know, with most of these cases, I'd have to say that the charge of homicide is completely deserved. Sure, the men involved may not have intended to kill anybody, but why should other people suffer for their stupidity and wanton aggression? A rabid dog probably doesn't intend to do harm, but we still put them down, because they're a danger. Similarly, people who have self-control/anger issues are dangerous and need to be locked away from society. (Though I want to be clear that I am not supporting "putting them down" - the comparison was solely to emphasize how we traditionally handle societal threats.)
posted by wolfdreams01 at 6:52 AM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]




Why isn't David Clifford being held in custody?

He is in custody. Read the fucking article.
posted by pwally at 6:53 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Like the sky-diving joke (it's not the fall that kills you, it's the sudden stop), it's not the punch that does it, it's the head cracking on the curb/pavement/asphalt when they fall that does it.
posted by k5.user at 6:56 AM on June 20, 2012


One punch homicides are big in the news here, and have been for several years.
Is that because we have a much lower murder rate (very little gun crime for a start) that its more obvious in the statistics?

Because we make a big deal about these when they happen, usually every few months there's one.

Vander Lee's brother, Mike Vander Lee, was in the restroom at the time of the incident, but he said, "the guy never said anything ... there was no contact, no confrontation.

He was in the bathroom, but saw the assault?
That seems fair and worth reporting.
posted by Mezentian at 6:56 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, the narrative of this thread is "we are responsible for the consequences of our actions, even those we do not predict," not "the police are above the law." Please carry on.
posted by modernserf at 6:58 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]



He is in custody. Read the fucking article.

Go easy. The use of the name "Toumisto" from the second link could be confusing in light of the brief synopsis of the first.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:07 AM on June 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


He was in the bathroom, but saw the assault?
That seems fair and worth reporting.


That is not what is being said. Let me paraphrase for you:

Cop: "Victim was using offensive language. I asked him to stop. He did for a time, then started again. I then approached the table."

Victim's Brother: "This guy never asked us anything. We never heard from his table before I went to the john and came back to my unconscious brother."

There is no implication that he knows what happened between going to the john and returning, merely a statement about why he observed or didn't obseve beforehand.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:09 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know, with most of these cases, I'd have to say that the charge of homicide is completely deserved.
Possibly, but there are various levels of homicide. Is it murder? Is it manslaughter? If manslaughter, is it voluntary or involuntary?

One punch could be considered murder or manslaughter or just assault, depending on the circumstances.
Sure, the men involved may not have intended to kill anybody, but why should other people suffer for their stupidity and wanton aggression?
A single punch isn't always started by stupidity and wanton aggression. Sometimes, people punch to break up a fight, or to keep someone away. A hard shove can kill someone, if they fall back and hit their heads on hard ground, as well.
posted by xingcat at 7:12 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


we are responsible for the consequences of our actions, even those we do not predict

Damn right.
posted by gauche at 7:13 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Possibly, but there are various levels of homicide. Is it murder? Is it manslaughter? If manslaughter, is it voluntary or involuntary?

I once worked for a guy who had served time for manslaughter because he punched someone at a party who fell, hit their head, and died. I found this out when testing out a new tool called "Google" and putting in his name. Turns out he had never revealed this to our mutual employer. Oopsie.

My guess would be that manslaughter is a not-unusual charge for this.
posted by emjaybee at 7:16 AM on June 20, 2012


Clifford claims self-defense as he was pretty sure that he was about to be attacked.

The fact that he was more than likely drunk will not help his claim.
posted by snaparapans at 7:20 AM on June 20, 2012


One legal principle applied in these cases is known as the Eggshell Skull rule.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:23 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


SWAT team officer and twice Medal of Valor recipient got drunk in a bar and decided to beat on the annoying guy talking on the cell phone at the next table. The Blue Wall kicked in and managed to reduce his charge from first to third degree assault, and everyone is now hoping that the victim makes a complete recovery. If Vander Lee recovers, he will join the others who have sued Clifford and the department since 1995.

Clifford was released on "$40,000 or $15,000 bond with conditions" [he took the 15,000 option] and is now on "paid home assignment".
"Alcohol was a factor, let's leave it at that," [Anoka County prosecutor] Buccicone said.
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:26 AM on June 20, 2012


One legal principle applied in these cases is known as the Eggshell Skull rule.

Damn right.
posted by gauche at 7:26 AM on June 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


Clifford is one scary looking sumnabitch:
According to the criminal complaint, Clifford said he was with his wife and acquaintances when he heard Brian Vander Lee using offensive language at a nearby table. He said he asked Vander Lee to stop, which he reportedly did for a time, but when he started up again, Clifford approached his table. Fearing Vander Lee was going to strike him, Clifford said, he punched him.
I don't get this. This guy is moving towards someone else looking menacing as hell (just look at his photo), and he's "fearing Vander Lee was going to strike him"?

And then the article goes on to describe Cliffords awards for valor, and working for the U.N., as well as some other complaints filed against him

Why must news agencies forever in this day and age try and soften the brutality and abuses of power commited by cops.

This guy needs to be thrown off the force, have his pension revoked, and put into jail for a good long while, but we all know the worse that will happen is that he gets early retirement.
posted by Skygazer at 7:27 AM on June 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


The human body is a trippy combination of fragile and sturdy. Some people fall out of buildings and twist no more than an ankle, some people get punched once, fall to the ground, and die.

This shit is why I don't get into street fights. Ever. Yes, my sister is a whore, yes, my mother is an ugly pig, excuse me while I leave now keeping an eye on you.

-"Fighting" is legally defined almost everywhere in America as some version of "consensual combat"; two people willingly squaring off and battering each other. And it is illegal.

-Only a fool thinks he's going to walk into court and say "He started it, I was only defending myself". Because everyone says that. The cop who killed the guy with one punch is claiming self-defense.

That pool has been pissed in and there is no chlorine treatment coming.

If you win the fight, you'll most likely be arrested. The fight winner is usually the one who went farthest with the violence (like this cop). To quote Warren Ellis, You don’t win fights by being a strong man or a clever boxer. You win fights by being more willing to permanently fuck up the other guy.

At that point, It was self-defense will come off as weak-sauce when you're the bloody-knuckled victor on their feet. And if you lose the fight, you've taken a beating, maybe gone to the hospital, maybe into a hole in the ground.

Insult me and I'll walk away. Attack me, and I'll go for the throat, eyes, the weak part of the jaw that breaks easily, stomp the side of the knee where it's weakest, fishhook the inside of the cheek, rip and tear and crush all the soft parts that are illegal to attack in the ring. Fair fights are for losers and people getting paid, and punching someone to the head is a great way to break your hand.

Because I'm not going to either jail or the hospital over an insult, or a comment about the women in my life. But I AM going home to my wife and cats in one piece.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:28 AM on June 20, 2012 [38 favorites]


Oh, I see gauche already linked to the Eggshel rule. I can add that the reason I've heard this term is that a particular friend of mine is a kind of Mr. Magoo character, and she will fall into pretty much any hole or walk into any pole. And then sustain serious injuries like a detached retina and such. But you still have to rope off your holes, and light your construction scaffolding if you don't want to pay her medical bills.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:30 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't get this. This guy is moving towards someone else looking menacing as hell (just look at his photo), and he's "fearing Vander Lee was going to strike him"?

Protip: Cops are trained to invoke the "fear of attack" excuse, in order to defend their potentially lethal actions.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:31 AM on June 20, 2012 [22 favorites]


Xingcat, in response to your comment, I want to clarify that I said "with most of these cases". The emphasis was on two points - the word "most" (in other words, specifically not all but rather the majority) and the word "these" (indicating that my comment is directed solely at those cases discussed in the article).
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:35 AM on June 20, 2012


The Eggshell Skull rule, as taught through Vosburg is a principle of civil liability, in tort. (You take your plaintiff as you find them.) I'm not sure how directly it would apply to a criminal case.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:35 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


An LA-area homicide detective who is also a special forces guy once told me about a member of his special forces team killing an Afghani, whom he characterized as a child trafficker, with one punch.

Which has some sort of bearing on this although what precisely that may be remains murky to me.
posted by mwhybark at 7:36 AM on June 20, 2012


So....

An off duty cop almost kills a guy in a (possibly) drunken rage, we still don't know if the victim will live and if he lives what sort of ongoing medical problems he will have, and he's still employed in a job where he's expected to use judgement in using force levels?

That's the part I don't get. We keep seeing stories of cops committing crimes of violence and disregarding entirely the part where since they're cops they never (ever) get the sort of penalties that would apply to non-cops, the recurring theme is that they keep on being cops.

Shouldn't drunkenly assaulting a random strange be the sort of act that automatically disqualifies a person from ever holding a job where they go armed? Heck, shouldn't it automatically preclude their ownership of guns forever?

We need some serious reevaluation of policing in America. Everything from hiring policy, treatment of police officers by the criminal justice system, retention policy, etc.
posted by sotonohito at 7:37 AM on June 20, 2012 [30 favorites]


<inappropriate levity>
I'm naming my next _________ One Punch Homicide!
Choose one:
a) band
b) mixed drink
c) martial-arts technique
</inappropriate levity>

Yes, I know "somebody else would have done it eventually" is not an excuse.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 7:39 AM on June 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


The Eggshell Skull rule, as taught through Vosburg is a principle of civil liability, in tort. (You take your plaintiff as you find them.) I'm not sure how directly it would apply to a criminal case.

I don't have my books or notes in front of me (and it was admittedly a while ago) but I have a recollection that the principle "you take your victim as you find them" was taught in my criminal law class.
posted by gauche at 7:43 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Protip: Cops are trained to invoke the "fear of attack" excuse, in order to defend their potentially lethal actions.

This wasn't a traffic stop.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:43 AM on June 20, 2012


Thin Bully Line
posted by symbioid at 7:46 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Eggshell Defense Wiki entry led me to the Smith v. Leech Brain entry, and while this whole topic is serious and depressing there is actually a company called Leech Brain and apparently they still exist.

If I were ever to work for a steel fabrication and erection company, I would want it to be Leech Brain.
posted by Shepherd at 7:48 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Protip: Cops are trained to invoke the "fear of attack" excuse, in order to defend their potentially lethal actions.

This wasn't a traffic stop.


The comment wasn't about how they were trained to react when on duty, but how they were trained, period.

A veteran of the Russian Spetznaz once said in an interview
Nobody rises to the occasion under stress. People sink to the lowest level of their training.
"It was self-defense, my fellow law-enforcement officer who has been called to the scene of me standing over a dead guy I just punched..."
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:48 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


The ironic thing about the made up "fear of attack" excuse is that if it were true, he only had to identify himself as a police, take the hit, and then arrest the guy for assaulting a police officer. He didn't, because the excuse is a complete fabrication.
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:48 AM on June 20, 2012 [14 favorites]


sotonohito: "Shouldn't drunkenly assaulting a random strange be the sort of act that automatically disqualifies a person from ever holding a job where they go armed? Heck, shouldn't it automatically preclude their ownership of guns forever?

We need some serious reevaluation of policing in America. Everything from hiring policy, treatment of police officers by the criminal justice system, retention policy, etc.
"

The party you don't get is that clearly we have to out-psychopath the psychopaths who are running rampant (i mean, talking on their cell phone) in the streets with their drugs and guns and Hollywood Bank Robbery and Mexican Drug Dealers and everybody we have to be armed to the teeth and be afraid at all times, especially you cops, be very very afraid and whatever you do, don't think rationally, if you do, you might end up dead. And we need each and every one of you alive to continue the fight against the scourge of the dread MARIHUANA.
posted by symbioid at 7:50 AM on June 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


I don't have my books or notes in front of me (and it was admittedly a while ago) but I have a recollection that the principle "you take your victim as you find them" was taught in my criminal law class.

My somewhat more recent recollection (but crowded out by a lot of intervening material since) is that the criminal analysis incorporates the idea that one takes one's victim as one finds them for the purposes of causation, but criminal intent may pose a problem. I'm having trouble finding an explicit discussion in the supplements on my shelf, though.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:51 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The comment wasn't about how they were trained to react when on duty, but how they were trained, period.

I get that, but I think it's a bit of a stretch in terms of a workable legal defense. The off duty officer was not required to confront this person.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:53 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


An off duty cop almost kills a guy in a (possibly) drunken rage, we still don't know if the victim will live and if he lives what sort of ongoing medical problems he will have, and he's still employed in a job where he's expected to use judgement in using force levels?

So you're generally opposed to due process of law then?
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 7:56 AM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


From the eggshell skull wikipedia entry, tortfeaser is my new favorite word, replacing psychopomp.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:57 AM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


This article by the Star Tribune, where Vander Lee works in advertising, is unsurprisingly much better, with actual statements from both Vander Lee's wife and brother, as well as, Clifford's attorney.
posted by Skygazer at 7:59 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


one takes one's victim as one finds them for the purposes of causation, but criminal intent may pose a problem

Isn't that equally true of the application of the eggshell skull rule in tort? If an eggshell-skull-having victim dies as a result of an ordinary, intentional, non-negligent act of an alleged tortfeasor in the exercise of all reasonable care, I don't think civil liability attaches.
posted by gauche at 8:01 AM on June 20, 2012


...and he's still employed in a job where he's expected to use judgement in using force levels?

He's been reassigned from executive officer of the Minneapolis Police SWAT Unit to paid home assignment (paid leave) until the investigation/trial is complete, which appears to be standard procedure when a police officer is charged with a felony. That seems like a reasonable enough policy.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:02 AM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


ThisIsNotMe Please don't strawman.

Due process is great. Letting a rampaging lunatic out on a $15,000 bond and giving him paid vacation not so much. Show me any other job where you drunkenly attack someone and get a paid vacation for doing it.

Besides, do you have any doubt at all as to the outcome of the trial (should it ever come to trial, which I doubt)?

We were lucky to get a (pathetic, slap on the wrist) conviciton of Johannes Mehserle even though we had actual video of him murdering Oscar Grant in cold blood. Here? With no video, nothing but testamony from the highly decorated cop doing his copspeak thing to the jury about how he feared for his life because Lee was threatening him?

Clifford will walk free and we all know it. Heck, he'll probably get another medal of valor out of it.
posted by sotonohito at 8:03 AM on June 20, 2012


For well-armed, muscular law enforcers, the police sure are scaredy-cats. As a petite woman I'd bet I've been way more frightened of attacks.
posted by desjardins at 8:06 AM on June 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


That's the part I don't get. We keep seeing stories of cops committing crimes of violence and disregarding entirely the part where since they're cops they never (ever) get the sort of penalties that would apply to non-cops, the recurring theme is that they keep on being cops.

It's particularly inane, in my not so humble opinion, because every bit of anecdotal evidence I have observed is that there's way more people looking to take the job of cop than there are openings. If we're really going to apply this modern concept of an elastic job market then we should just be mercenary about who we keep in the jobs. Other people want the gig and you apparently suck in some major way? *punt* Go find a new line of work.

Since we don't, I can only assume it's because (the collective) we are getting the police force we want.
posted by phearlez at 8:08 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


pwally: "He is in custody. Read the fucking article.
"

Agh. Fail. I skimmed the article and saw "paid home assignment," and read a bit too literally into the 'home' part. My bad.
posted by schmod at 8:09 AM on June 20, 2012


Due process is great. Letting a rampaging lunatic out on a $15,000 bond and giving him paid vacation not so much. Show me any other job where you drunkenly attack someone and get a paid vacation for doing it.

This is standard for all sorts of civil service jobs where these are hard-won protections to prevent political considerations from dominating employment. They're a) prohibitted from firing you at will and b) they're also prohibited from firing you based on unproven charges without due process (usually not as strict as the criminal standard, but there's usually some standard) because they also control the process of laying charges, because otherwise they could just circumvent (a) by charging you with a crime, firing you on that basis and then dropping the charges.

Besides, do you have any doubt at all as to the outcome of the trial (should it ever come to trial, which I doubt)?

Yeah, I have no idea what will happen at the trial. Mostly because I have little idea of what the facts are, whether the alleged victim will be able to testify and a ton of other things.
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 8:10 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sure, in the abstract. But by the time you're looking at Vosburg in a tort case you've probably decided that the plaintiff was at least negligent. People were trotting out open manhole covers and the like above in analogy to these one-punch cases. I was just trying to say that the way that it works in tort, as in those cases, it tends to provide a clearer path to the attachment of civil liability than the version of it I learned in crim.

Blergh. I'm not putting this very clearly. I'm not really in law school mode at the moment, and haven't gone back to work for the summer yet.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:12 AM on June 20, 2012


(that was in response to Gauche)
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:13 AM on June 20, 2012


I get that, but I think [self-defense is] a bit of a stretch in terms of a workable legal defense. The off duty officer was not required to confront this person.

But that's the thing, every single person, cop or no, who is ever arrested for fighting automatically cries "self-defense" (see my link on this above). A guy standing over a headless body with a bloody katana in his hands is gonna cry"self-defense".

Claims of self-defense are perfunctory, bordering on meaningless. Sell it to the jury.

The "threat of attack" angle is not about what he's legally required to do, it's training. It's what you fall back on under stress, not what you think will work on a jury once this all goes to court.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:14 AM on June 20, 2012


Clifford claims self-defense as he was pretty sure that he was about to be attacked.

The fact that he was more than likely drunk will not help his claim.
posted by snaparapans at 10:20 AM on June 20 [+] [!]


Being a police officer will.
posted by Fizz at 8:15 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Defendant was at least negligent. I need to go clean house and drink coffee!
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:16 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'd like to remind everyone to dial it down a bit on the "thin blue line" rhetoric in this case. MPD does definitely have a problem with use-of-force and rogue cops over the past few years, but arguing that the apparent undercharging of the incident is a case of the police closing ranks is really hyperbolic.

First, the police do not make charging decisions; that decision was made in this case by the county attorney's office, who stated that they charged based on the evidence they had on hand, and are awaiting further evidence (specifically, the victim's medical records) before making a decision on whether to change the charges to something more severe.

Second, the distinction betwee 3rd degree and 1st degree assault is the distinction between "substantial bodily harm" and "great bodily harm" (as explained in THIS story). So I'm thinking that maybe the Anoka County Atty decided to charge conservatively given the publicity the case had generated and the inevitability of scrutiny - it's easier to charge higher, later, than to overcharge and be forced to walk that decision back in highly publil environment. The vagueness of the legal language makes me think there's some specific standard of precedent that drives the distinction between degrees of felony assault, 'cause I know I could not sit there on a jury and decide what the hell "great" means versus "substantial" without some further guidance.

This incident did not take place in Minneapolis, which means some other local PD made the arrest. I know there is strong solidarity among police departments, but I also know that other local PDs here in the Twin Cities have a certain awareness that MPD is not an ideal set of cops and thus there may be a certain reluctance to extend professional courtesies in, you know, FELONY cases.

Having observed police-related prosecutions locally, I am confident that this guy's career as a cop is totally over and that he will be convicted of felony assault.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 8:18 AM on June 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


Sotonohito, there's video of Clifford approaching and striking Vander Lee at Tanner's Saloon. It's in the article.
posted by Skygazer at 8:21 AM on June 20, 2012


Thanks for providing some local perspective, BigLankyBastard.
posted by gauche at 8:21 AM on June 20, 2012


Sell it to the jury.
A jury is composed of citizens who may not want to have their heads caved in for using profanity around off-duty officers, and might not take kindly to a defense that tries to treat an altercation that an officer provoked while off duty as an excessive force situation (where a citizen's sympathies are more likely to be allied with the civil servant and against the complainant/victim).

Also, juries are given instructions by the judge, which are fought over by the attorneys according to applicable law. They don't always follow them, but it isn't supposed to be a beauty contest.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:24 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm thinking that maybe the Anoka County Atty decided to charge conservatively given the publicity the case had generated and the inevitability of scrutiny - it's easier to charge higher, later, than to overcharge and be forced to walk that decision back in highly publil environment. The vagueness of the legal language makes me think there's some specific standard of precedent that drives the distinction between degrees of felony assault, 'cause I know I could not sit there on a jury and decide what the hell "great" means versus "substantial" without some further guidance...Having observed police-related prosecutions locally, I am confident that this guy's career as a cop is totally over and that he will be convicted of felony assault.


That makes good sense.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:25 AM on June 20, 2012


BigLankyBastard: First, the police do not make charging decisions; that decision was made in this case by the county attorney's office, who stated that they charged based on the evidence they had on hand, and are awaiting further evidence (specifically, the victim's medical records) before making a decision on whether to change the charges to something more severe.

I have to take issue with this, the DA's office, in any city or town in this country is always, always going to take the side of law enforcement, barring the most absolute locktight and egregious presence of damning evidence. That is a given.

Secondly, the prosecution for any regular citizen is going to stack the charges in the hopes of getting some conviction to stick on a lesser charge or to have plenty of leeway for a deal on a reduced charge.

Third-degree assault for what's clearly a first contact on the part of the cop here, leading to a critical touch and go, life and death situation here is grotesque. It's a joke.
posted by Skygazer at 8:29 AM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


This FOX Twin Cities article has some interesting details:
But in addition to the awards and recognition, FOX 9 also learned Sgt. Clifford was part of an excessive force lawsuit stemming from an arrest in April of 1995. According to court documents, Harry Lazover was waiting at a south Minneapolis bus stop at 4 a.m. when Officer Clifford stopped to question him. The two have very different descriptions of how or why the situation escalated.

Attorney Mick Spence represented Lazover during that lawsuit and was surprised to learn 15 years later the same officer is sitting in the Anoka County jail after being accused of throwing a single punch that caused a man to fall, hit his head on the concrete and require two brain surgeries.

"I was heart sick, I wish he would have learned that lesson the first time through," Spence said.

The city of Minneapolis and then-Officer Clifford won the lawsuit in the 90s, but Lazover appealed and won. A Court of Appeals judge determined the lawsuit needed a new trial because the judge gave inaccurate jury instruction.

On the first day of the second trial they settled and the city of Minneapolis paid Lazover $55,000.

"Mr. Clifford testified he indicated he knew hitting someone in the head was considered deadly force," Spence said.

Spence says he'll be watching Clifford's case closely.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:30 AM on June 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I have to take issue with this, the DA's office, in any city or town in this country is always, always going to take the side of law enforcement, barring the most absolute locktight and egregious presence of damning evidence. That is a given.

I can at least provide anecdata that this is not small. I have a very close friend who is an ADA in a hard-up northwestern jurisdiction, and he and his colleagues are not eager to go to bat on every shitty case the local LEOs drum up.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:31 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


"At 9 a.m. the next day, Tuomisto called police and turned himself in."When will I get to tell my story?" he asked from the back of the squad car. "Fucking one punch," he said. "I don't know how this happened."

Who the heck is Tuomisto?
posted by noaccident at 8:31 AM on June 20, 2012


Psst. Second link.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:33 AM on June 20, 2012


Also, didn't Clifford flee the scene of a crime and (most likely) tamper with evidence if he was legally drunk and fled so that he couldn't be tested before drying out a bit?
posted by Skygazer at 8:34 AM on June 20, 2012


Here? With no video, nothing but testamony from the highly decorated cop doing his copspeak thing to the jury about how he feared for his life because Lee was threatening him?

Clifford will walk free and we all know it. Heck, he'll probably get another medal of valor out of it.


The first link says,
Video surveillance shows Clifford approaching Vander Lee and punching him, said Cmdr. Paul Sommer, spokesman for the Anoka County sheriff's office.
posted by XMLicious at 8:41 AM on June 20, 2012


They do have locktight evidence in this case: A streetful of eyewitnesses and a videorecording of the entire evidence. This, combined with the fact the victim worked for the local paper, is the ONLY reason this case has this level of exposure at all. If it weren't for the video AND local media lining up behind THEIR guy, we would not have heard about this case except as a he-said, they-said kind of debate.

That said, the cop is screwed.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 8:43 AM on June 20, 2012


Snuffleapugus: I have a very close friend who is an ADA in a hard-up northwestern jurisdiction, and he and his colleagues are not eager to go to bat on every shitty case the local LEOs drum up.

I can understand this, I may have overstated the point, mostly because here in NYC everything having to do with the NYPD follows the famed Bratton Broken windows theory, where hyperbole, overacting, over-suspicion, over-beating, over-charging, over-frisking and the mayor's office and the DA's office generally encourage the police to act like a bunch of carte blanche carying immune to prosecution thugs...

Because, "HEY, IT WORKS!*" And also HURDURF 911 ALLCOPSAREHEROESFOREVER etc...

And to hell with civil rights or inadvertently brutalizing innocent bystanders.

*There are clear demographic trends that occured since Bratton that prove otherwise...
posted by Skygazer at 8:46 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Clifford's lawyer complained)... that Mike Vander Lee broke Clifford's ribs when he and another man chased Clifford down after the alleged assault.

In the "man bites dog category" at least we finally have a cop complaining about excessive force being used in the capture of a violent criminal trying to evade capture.
posted by Challahtronix at 8:59 AM on June 20, 2012 [14 favorites]


Secondly, the prosecution for any regular citizen is going to stack the charges in the hopes of getting some conviction to stick on a lesser charge or to have plenty of leeway for a deal on a reduced charge.

Third-degree assault for what's clearly a first contact on the part of the cop here, leading to a critical touch and go, life and death situation here is grotesque. It's a joke.


But you are dealing with a cop here. I could see the approach implied by BigLankyBastard's comment making sense in that context. Hopefully the prosecutor here will add or revise fairly quickly, after making sure their ducks are lined up, but I can imagine wanting to take time to do that to avoid a need to explain why charges were withdrawn, in a noteworthy case like this.

I can understand this, I may have overstated the point...

I can't speak to New York, but you might find it reassuring to consider that a prosecutor is also sworn to enforce the law (and the integrity of the courts) and is naturally going to take a dim view of police who think they have a license to flout it and expect unthinking support in doing so. Also just in terms of human nature, bureaucratic structures, and political turf and power a prosecutors office tends to react strongly against wag-the-dog expectations on the part of cops that prosecutors should just back up whatever cops say and do (b/c if anything the cops serve the prosecutors, not vice-versa).
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:04 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Third-degree assault for what's clearly a first contact on the part of the cop here, leading to a critical touch and go, life and death situation here is grotesque.

For what it's worth, here are the Minnesota definitions of "substantial bodily harm" versus "great bodily harm," which is what determines third vs. first degree assault. In order to be first-degree, you need either "high probability of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily harm."

I don't see any evidence from the article that the victim will be permanently disabled, and it's been less than two days of life support, so I doubt that would qualify as a "protracted" impairment. I can easily imagine wanting to talk to the medical personnel involved before deciding whether or not you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a high probability of death. You're right that prosecutors sometimes stack charges they cannot possibly prove to pressure defendants--but that doesn't mean it's something that is right or should be encouraged.
posted by dsfan at 9:07 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anthony Pierce was driving a car that matched the description of one used in a drug deal robbery. Officer Richards observed Pierce's car parked next to another. Pierce took off in the car and Richards followed, activating his blue lights. Pierce pulled over, then took off again. He reached speeds of 65 miles per hour in a residential neighborhood where the speed limit was 25 miles per hour. He threw some drugs out the window. Then he pulled over.

Meanwhile, Officer Matthews heard the call put out on his radio from a few miles away. He decided to come join the action. He drove 105 miles per hour on a road that had a speed limit of 50 miles per hour. He swerved to avoid a box in the road and wound up dying as his vehicle struck a tree.

Not only was Anthony Pierce convicted of second degree murder of Officer Matthews, but the conviction was upheld by the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
posted by flarbuse at 9:12 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


For well-armed, muscular law enforcers, the police sure are scaredy-cats. As a petite woman I'd bet I've been way more frightened of attacks.

This is something that puzzles me. The default narrative in mainstream and polite society is that cops are heroes, valiant and true, here to protect and serve.

But, man, they are allowed to just start blasting and tazing and stomping if you so much as twitch during an encounter with them. Your dog barks at them? Dead dog. Wrong house during a raid and they kill an innocent person? Tough shit.

It's just so weird that they're allowed to escalate events and claim that they feared for their safety and also talk about how brave and tough they are. I don't get to just start stomping people because they looked at me funny or weren't sufficiently respectful of my authorita. On the other hand, I've read that female officers are significantly less likely to escalate things, so I wonder just what the heck is going on here?

And for the record, every encounter I've had with a cop who was professional and courteous reinforces my faith in the ideas of civilization and the system of laws -- even on those occasions where I was clearly in the wrong. But I've also had encounters with police that left my dignity in shreds and had me fearing for my personal safety.

Fortunately, the good encounters outnumber the bad encounters for me, but all it takes is one bad encounter with the putative "lone bad apple in the bunch" officer for people to be lighting candles outside the house containing my weeping wife and children while the cop gets only the lightest of touches from the justice system.
posted by lord_wolf at 9:12 AM on June 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


One legal principle applied in these cases is known as the Eggshell Skull rule.

Damn right.


Looks like people beat me to it, but yeah, Eggshell Skull is a tort liability concept, and not really applicable to criminal law in any consistent way. Criminal law tends to be all about the mens rea, which obviously tort law could give a damn about.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:16 AM on June 20, 2012


dsfan: In order to be first-degree, you need either "high probability of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily harm."

Someone with Clifford's training and background who attacks another should be considered an individual capable of "deadly force" with a "high probability of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily harm."

You're right that prosecutors sometimes stack charges they cannot possibly prove to pressure defendants--but that doesn't mean it's something that is right or should be encouraged.

Yeah, that's true, I meant it in a what's good for the goose is good for the... sort of way.
posted by Skygazer at 9:16 AM on June 20, 2012


I would think that charge-stacking or overcharging is a strategy primarily aimed at un-represented defendants, or those with crappy legal representation. I am certain the MPD union has some good defense lawyers in thier rolodex, and few defendants are better equipped to see though simple legal manuevers than a veteran cop. Thus the conservative approach by the Anoka County DA.

I agree that DA's offices are inclined to be biased towards cops, but be advised that Anoka County covers several municipalities, including a small part of Minneapolis and (obviously) Ramsey, where the incident took place. So which cops will they side with? The well-known problematic MPD cop who clearly is in the wrong, or the Ramsey PD (or Anoka County Sherriffs, if they made the arrest) for whome this dink caused a major headache? I'm betting they'll side with the arresting officers and the community in which the offense was committed. Like I noted earlier, MPD has a certain reputation around here, even in LEO circles.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 9:16 AM on June 20, 2012


It's just so weird that they're allowed to escalate events and claim that they feared for their safety and also talk about how brave and tough they are. I don't get to just start stomping people because they looked at me funny or weren't sufficiently respectful of my authorita. On the other hand, I've read that female officers are significantly less likely to escalate things, so I wonder just what the heck is going on here?

You don't get it? Two simple numbers...Nine Eleven.
Ever since that day, law enforcement in the US has used and abused the hero/first-responder crown for all it's worth, and the public has dutifully nodded and bowed. 9/11 empowered law enforcement in a very grotesque way.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:22 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


but you might find it reassuring to consider that a prosecutor is also sworn to enforce the law (and the integrity of the courts) and is naturally going to take a dim view of police who think they have a license to flout it

If I'm not reassured by cops' oaths to enforce the law and not just beat the shit out of people they don't like or who disrespect them, why on earth would prosecutors' oaths put me at ease?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:26 AM on June 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Back when I was a hotheaded teenager who was pretty comfortable using his firsts, I read a similar story about a one-punch fight that ended when the punchee tripped and fell through a shop window, resulting in his death when the glass cut open his jugular. The puncher was charged with homicide/manslaughter of one variety or another.

That spooked me pretty good. I changed my attitude towards fisticuffs after that and resolved to stop fighting. Even when I have found myself in physical altercations since then, I tend to focus on grabbing and restraining the other fellow until he feels silly enough to stop trying to hit me. I don't think I've thrown a real punch at a live target since I was 15 years old.
posted by snottydick at 9:30 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Anoka County covers several municipalities, including a small part of Minneapolis

They do share a border, but I believe all of Minneapolis is within Hennepin county.
posted by soelo at 9:34 AM on June 20, 2012


"It's just so weird that they're allowed to escalate events and claim that they feared for their safety..."

I went through an incident simulator used for police use-of-force training and testing. You may have seen this kind of thing on TV - it's a big projection screen on which scenarios are played out, under the control of a test administrator, and the person being tested interacts with the persons in the scenario by issuing verbal commands, and, when needed, "firing" a laser-equipped plastic pistol. The point of these training devices is to test and improve an officer's response to rapidly changing situations and ensure his/her decisions comply with standards.

The thing I learned from going through this small sample of training was that, whenever an officer interacts with any other person while he's in uniform, that person poses a potential danger. Cops are reasonably afraid for their lives when they show up to a situation with someone behaving erratically because it takes far less than a second for someone to draw and fire a weapon. Cops escalate situations rapidly because if you are not complying with instructions, you are making the situation dangerous. Show your hands, get on the ground, get out of the car, don't struggle. These are not commands given out of a love of power, they are given to ensure that the situation is stable and that nobody gets hurt. Cops escalate not because they are brutes, but because they go out night after night and everyone they deal with is having the worst night of their lives. Cops don't show up to parties that are going well, to deals that went smoothly, or to scenes where people made a successfull left turn across the busy street. Everywhere they go, it's people behaving irrationally and undergoing intense emotions. They escalate because they literally cannot afford to lose a single encounter, if they wish to go home ever again.

There is well-established law and huge amounts of regulations and training that go into use of force. Obviously sometimes these standards are not adhered to, and sometimes the authority to use force is abused, but that is because cops are people and are flawed. But cops insist on retaining control of every situation because the consequences of ever, ever losing control are death or life-altering injury. It's simplistic to fail to recognize that.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 9:44 AM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


If I'm not reassured by cops' oaths to enforce the law and not just beat the shit out of people they don't like or who disrespect them, why on earth would prosecutors' oaths put me at ease?
Checks and balances? Plus there was the whole cynical appeal to Weberian bureaucratic power dynamics.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:44 AM on June 20, 2012




[Folks, please let this thread be a discussion about the phenomenon of one-punch homicides or maybe the specific details of Clifford/Vander Lee situation rather than just deteriorating it into yet another generic Cops Suck / The Government Sucks / You Suck throwdown. Don't turn this into another example of a police-violence-related thread being terrible.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:02 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's the entire defense from the assailant's perspective "This guy used a naughty word so I told him to stop. He didn't respond with instantaneous respect and fealty like I was his father or some kind of feudal lord, so I tried to beat him so he would stop. It worked (he stopped cursing) but maybe I over-beat him a little, so I ran away from a public assault and told my wife to come pick me up where witnesses wouldn't be able to see."

This guy? He should go to jail. That's what you do with people whose second-string theory of problem solving involves hitting people in the face until they're "good". What you don't do is keep them on the police force, where you are asking them DAILY to approach difficult, multi-person and heated problems as their career, while armed with a dozen items that make a face-punch seem like a kiss on the forehead.
posted by jarvitron at 10:04 AM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


BLB: Cops escalate situations rapidly because if you are not complying with instructions, you are making the situation dangerous. Show your hands, get on the ground, get out of the car, don't struggle. These are not commands given out of a love of power, they are given to ensure that the situation is stable and that nobody gets hurt. Cops escalate not because they are brutes,

I think this is understood, and it points to huge systemic failing, because the rights of policemen shouldn't automatically supercede the rights of innocent and harmless civilians, in most situations. There are serious protections that get kicked to the curb.

It leads to egregious abuses and not only that it leads to this idea that a cop should never be in a dangerous situation that may not be entirely under their control, which makes no sense, it is the nature of the job.

The systemic institutionalization of those zero tolerance techniques and the deification of Law Enforcement into this de facto "hero class" is what leads to the deadly behavior of cops like Clifford, who are already on the borderline with rage and violence issues.

It seriously needs to change. But with the militarization of law enforcement via DHS since 911, I don't see that happening soon. What I do see, is a Clifford-type causing a civilian massacre out of some combination of all those elements above. And then the question will be "why did it have to happen"?
posted by Skygazer at 10:16 AM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Jesus. That poor guy - it's a nightmare: go out for a nice meal with your family and end up at the end of the evening fighting for your life. It may be a vain hope, but hopefully he will recover.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:23 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everywhere they go, it's people behaving irrationally and undergoing intense emotions

in this case, is it not the police officer who displayed this behavior?

That said, one would expect people who have to work in that kind of environment to develop reactive and reflective behaviors that seek to anticipate this in their day to day interactions. It's predictable, relates to PTSD, is a damn shame, and in my opinion a basis to characterize the way that police training promotes this as an abusive work environment. Police culture hurts cops as well as a free society.
posted by mwhybark at 10:41 AM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Skygazer, in one breath you spouted a typical anti-cop platitude, and in the next you claim to understand that police use of force procedures are not inherently brutal. All the while you miss the point of this case, which was that the perp was not acting under any kind of color of authority: off duty, out of uniform, out of his jurisdiction, never identified as a cop until after the fact. This case has nothing to do with the legitimacy of police use-of-force policies and is only tangentially related to what is generally called "police brutality."

This case is about a guy with an apparent anger management problem apparently cold-cocking an office worker in a bar. The fact he's a cop has no legal or moral bearing on the discussion (though it will regrettably politicize what should be a straightforward open-and-shut assault case.)

The fact that it's not about police use-of-force has not stopped you and others from making a number of thoughtless remarks about police in general. Your most thoughtful remark, "the rights of policemen shouldn't automatically supercede the rights of innocent and harmless civilians" betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of the role of police in civil society.

When Police issue lawful orders, they speak with the voice of the State itself, and are empowered by law to enforce compliance within certain well-established parameters. So, yeah, their rights as law officers DO supercede the rights of civilians, often. Though this system is open to abuse and those abuses do happen, in recent years there has been a sea change and offenders are being penalized more heavily than before (though there still is a definite benefit to being a cop, when dealing with such charges).

The alternative you seem to advocate is that the entire body of use-of-force law (which has evolved in the US over decades) be overhauled to some new standard. I'd rather we just continue to work for more severe and more consistently applied penalties for those who abuse their authority, which in the grand scheme is a really small portion of the whole.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 10:44 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cops escalate not because they are brutes, but because they go out night after night and everyone they deal with is having the worst night of their lives. Cops don't show up to parties that are going well, to deals that went smoothly, or to scenes where people made a successfull left turn across the busy street. Everywhere they go, it's people behaving irrationally and undergoing intense emotions. They escalate because they literally cannot afford to lose a single encounter, if they wish to go home ever again.

I don't disagree with this except for one thing it overlooks: the circumstances caused by an officer choosing to insert him or herself into a situation.

Yes, at the point when an officer is interacting with someone they have pulled over they need to be careful for their safety. But they made a decision to pull someone over and once you start the ball rolling you are, in my not so humble opinion, complicit in the direction it goes.

That doesn't mean that you never do your job. But it means that when you opt to participate in a high-speed chase that you're perpetuating the encounter and bear responsibility for how it goes... even if you're not the one driving the car that hits the bus full of nuns.

When you insist on subduing the loud street person you may cause them injuries that end their tragic mentally ill life. Or your no-knock raid causes you to shoot dogs. Or your poor research means you don't pick up the whacko while jogging and instead end up in an extended armed confrontation that turns into fire deaths. Or a family ends up dead.

All this talk about 'stand your ground' fails to really work me up too much because we've been pretty steadily supporting law enforcement in this never-back-down attitude for my entire life. I remember video of half a dozen South Florida cops opening fire into a car because the person in it, herded into a parking space in front of a building and surrounded on the other 3 sides with stopped cars, started trying to ram his way out.

He wasn't going to move a police cruiser sideways. He'd shown no signs of having weapons. They could have backed off and waited. But he was behaving in a threatening manner (to cars) so he ends up swiss cheese.

The assertion that escalation happens out of safety is fine except that ONLY escalation happens in defense of safety and when it happens it's never the cops who get injured.
posted by phearlez at 10:49 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The issue is not the legitimate use of force by police officers, it's about assault. I agree with Biglankybastard completely on that point.

Speculation, however, is whether this off-duty police officer committed an act of attempted homicide: see mens rea. (He knew that a blow to the head constituted deadly force.) The other worry is that the officer will be treated by the state attorneys differently than a civilian might be treated, that is, with deference. In the first place, guys with guns are scary. The (realistic) need to dominate and control a situation sometimes brings it to a violent head, when it might, with patience, resolve itself without violence. The mandate to protect the public struggles constantly with the power to use deadly force, and individuals succeed or fail. In the second place, prosecutors are not always competent or even ethical in their decisions. These notions resonate, and cause our nameless fears to quiver--police brutality, prosecutorial complicity. The only generality that makes sense is the one observing that people are fallible. But all this belongs in a different discussion. The issue here is a bar fight.

I'm going with the "man assaults man" version, not the "police brutality" version. I'll wait for the DA to act before I deal with the "cop gets a pass on violence" idea.
posted by mule98J at 11:29 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am a terrible person because this immediately makes me think of the Batman VS Guy Gardner "ONE PUNCH" fight. In truth, Guy actually died and the Green Lantern ring brought him back.

(Bonus, how many Bat-punched henchmen have immediately fallen onto concrete? Lots of them.

[/TERRIBLE PERSON]
posted by nicebookrack at 11:35 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


BigLankyBastard The fact he's a cop has no legal or moral bearing on the discussion

That, I think, is one of the main points where the people here are disagreeing.

We are all, I would think, in agreement that the fact that he was a cop *should* have no legal or moral bearing on the discussion.

Regrettably it does. The police are treated as a privileged class by the courts. Actions that would, and should, result in prison terms, loss of job, etc when taken by non-cops are disregarded and often rewarded when taken by cops.

As you said, absent the video (which somehow I failed to notice existed) this would be a he said/he said situation and in those situations we have come as a society to expect that the police will automatically be believed and non-police will automatically be disbelieved. This is one of the many reasons why there is such a fight between police and non-police on the subject of taking video record of the actions of police. They hate the accountability that produces, the fact that their ability to simply lie and count on the courts deference to police testimony is declining as video becomes more and more common.

So, much as you might not want the fact that Clifford's occupation is a factor in the discussion, I think that's unavoidable.

Due to past police protection of criminal police we non-police now have the expectation that virtually anything a cop does, up to and including cold blooded murder, will be justified as necessary and proper in pursuit of officer safety. If, as they should have been doing, the police had not closed ranks and protected criminal police but rather prosecuted them aggressively then we wouldn't have this problem.

And, finally, while I'm not cold blooded enough to say that police have no real expectation of safety, part their job is going into unsafe situations. We cannot and must not make officer safety paramount. Its a valid concern and up to a point I'm in favor of making the job of being police safer. But only up to a point, and that point is the rights of the people in general.

If you believe that escalating every situation is a good solution to the problem of officer safety, then I would suggest you are going about things exactly backwards.
posted by sotonohito at 11:38 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


BLB: Skygazer, in one breath you spouted a typical anti-cop platitude, and in the next you claim to understand that police use of force procedures are not inherently brutal.

I agreed that cops weren't "inherent brutes," as you stated. But I said there is a "systemic and institutionalized failure" in the zero-tolerance techniques being used to train policemen. And that combined with the idea of an entitled 911 "hero-class," combined with those like Clifford with serious anger management problems or a predilection for violence is a very dangerous mixture.

All the while you miss the point of this case, which was that the perp was not acting under any kind of color of authority: off duty, out of uniform, out of his jurisdiction, never identified as a cop until after the fact.

Clifford didn't get that memo then did he because, for him it doesn't matter if he's in uniform or not, he clearly in his mind is first and always a COP, and feels this gives him a certain status and privilege, so now alcohol has been added to this potent sense of entitlement and the results are apparent for all to see.

The fact that it's not about police use-of-force has not stopped you and others from making a number of thoughtless remarks about police in general.


Well, I guess I'm sorry if I hurt their feelings??

Your most thoughtful remark, "the rights of policemen shouldn't automatically supercede the rights of innocent and harmless civilians" betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of the role of police in civil society.

I don't think so, and in fact think it is you who fails to understand that the police serve the public and not the other way around. I'm afraid you're own sense of 911 "hero-class" attitude is blinding you to that fact and the very real danger that facile and unthinking authoritarian attitude leads to...


When Police issue lawful orders, they speak with the voice of the State itself, and are empowered by law to enforce compliance within certain well-established parameters. So, yeah, their rights as law officers DO supercede the rights of civilians, often.


Isn't that a line from Robocop?

The voice of the State,? Wow, what part of the Bill of Rights talks about this country being about the "voice of the State"?

The police are not above the law, and their rights are never supposed to supersede the rights of civilians. Their remit and responsibilities towards upholding the law and perhaps allows certain actions but even that is highly conditional. You state it yourself, they don't operate in a vacuum, yet the training happening now in highly paramilitary police departments is one of a constant state of supreme and unquestioned control at all times and it's backed up by a whole governmental and corporate complex allowing extra-constitutional activities and tools (Patriot act).

The alternative you seem to advocate is that the entire body of use-of-force law (which has evolved in the US over decades) be overhauled to some new standard.

Not necessarily an overhaul, but the hopelessly obsolete idea of a "hero-class" needs to be quashed totally, and other than that the police need to be very careful about militarization and new evolved techniques need to be adopted.
posted by Skygazer at 11:55 AM on June 20, 2012


For well-armed, muscular law enforcers, the police sure are scaredy-cats.

This is partly true. On the one hand, look at the rational reasons to be scared: there is a non-zero probability that any person you confront as a cop is a psychopath or on drugs, and a non-zero probability that they are armed with a knife or a gun. And let's face it, there are a lot of irrational criminals out there - look at all the people who get into high-speed car chases even though the chances of a successful escape are close to zero. So it's not surprising that police are on their guard as a matter of course; it's naive to assume that that one's uniform will keep one safe.

On the other hand, there are several policy reasons that make the situation worse. First, police seem to get very little training in physical combat (anecdata, but collected from a wide variety of different PDs over a long period). They're given the most training on how to use the most dangerous weapons such as guns and tazers, in the name of safety. They're trained to neutralize a criminal - and anyone who pulls a weapon on a uniformed cop is committing a criminal act - rather than increase their own risk by getting into a wrestling match. And their refresher/ongoing training tends to be in legal/investigative procedure and safety, with a little dash of community relations. So when in doubt, they go for what they literally know best.

I first heard this from a detective who I met in a martial arts class. I asked him why he was training privately rather than at the police academy and he explained that police training starts and ends with how to put cuffs on someone. This guy was an undercover cop who did drug investigations and had to go without or show his willingness to hand over his weapon to be accepted by the people he was investigating. Naturally he didn't wish to be wholly defenseless, but the police don't want the liability of training their own members in inferior kinds of defense, as they'll be sued by injured cops or the families of dead cops for negligently teaching police officers how to behave in a fistfight rather than to shoot first or GTFO. So for the sake of both personal safety and inner confidence, this narcotics detective was studying how to fight without weapons on his own dime. That was some ~10 years ago and every cop I've met since I have asked about training in respect to this issue. according to them, it basically doesn't happen. Sorry, no stats: that would require gathering information from so many different police departments and attempting to extract meaningful answers about the degree and effectiveness of non-weapon combat training that it would be a major undertaking.

Related to this problem are the facts that the percentage of police officers who walk a beat rather than driving around is nowadays quite low; that likewise, the percentage of police officers who live in the neighborhoods they patrol is at an all time low; and that legislatures and electorates have fairly consistently voted for maximalist sentencing policies on a deterrent theory ever since the 1970s, partly as a response to a massive increase in violent crime which began in the 1960s and saw murders rates double within a decade. A full discussion of these issues is well beyond the scope of this thread, but interested readers should get hold of the late Christopher Stuntz' The Collapse of American Criminal Justice.

The assertion that escalation happens out of safety is fine except that ONLY escalation happens in defense of safety and when it happens it's never the cops who get injured.

You're sort of cherry-picking your examples. Around 160 LEOs a year (on average) die in the line of duty, and about half of those do so as a result of being attacked (vs. being involved in an accident, having a heart attack, failed rescue attempts etc.). A larger number of police are injured. Meanwhile, LEOs kill about 350 people a year (most recent stats are for 2005) and the long-term trend is downwards. So excluding accidents, a police officer is about 4 times more likely to kill than to be killed, but we have assume that some of those killings are factually justified as opposed to legally justified - that is, the criminal was in fact attacking the police officer(s). What percentage? I don't know, but given that there were just under 13,000 murders in 2010 you're about 40 times more likely to be killed by a criminal than by a cop. That's in the context of over 13 million non-traffic arrests per year, of which about 580,000 are for violent crime. So the odds of being killed by a police officer while being arrested for a violent act are at most 1 in 1700. You can also finds all sorts of non-homicide data in the links above; if you like crunching numbers, US crime statistics are a goldmine. Not arguing for or against law enforcement here; it just strikes me that discussions like this are usually long on anecdote and woefully short of statistical data.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:19 PM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


BTW there's a lot of overlap in the statistical sources above. The FBI ones are the most comprehensive but I included others where the data is presented particularly clearly for quick reading.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:22 PM on June 20, 2012


If he didn't like the way someone else was acting in an establishment he had no authority in then he should have asked any of the following people to ask the person to curb their actions:
1) the waiter/waitress
2) bartender
3) bouncer
4) host
5) manager
6) owner

He had no right to insert himself into the situation, but that is what a Jury is for: to determine if his actions were those that are fine to exist in society. With the knowledge I have of the case right now I would say "nope"
posted by zombieApoc at 12:41 PM on June 20, 2012


And, finally, while I'm not cold blooded enough to say that police have no real expectation of safety, part their job is going into unsafe situations. We cannot and must not make officer safety paramount. Its a valid concern and up to a point I'm in favor of making the job of being police safer. But only up to a point, and that point is the rights of the people in general.

This is something I've always thought about as well, ever since an incident about 20 years ago in North Vancouver. The cops were serving a no-knock warrant on a house where they thought a dealer might be living. When they burst in, the 16 year old younger brother was sitting on a couch in the downstairs rec room and had a pellet gun that looked like a shotgun in his possession because he was doing some tinkering with it. The instant one of the cops saw that in his hands, the cop shot him dead. No warning, no chance to surrender, just bang bang bang, dead.

The police spokesperson said that it was "a snap judgment call" and when there's a threat like a shotgun the police have to act immediately or their lives might be in danger. This seems wrong to me. The police get paid to take risks, the kid didn't. It seems to me one of the burdens of the uniform should be to assume that kind of risk to afford civilians that second or two of action leeway so they might not get shot dead by a cop acting in proactive defense.
posted by barc0001 at 1:33 PM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh and I totally forgot to mention that the outcome of the "dealer" aspect of the bust was, bad information. Their "dealer" was a college kid who had a couple of joints in a baggie. Totally worth sending a SWAT team out to wreck a house and a family over.
posted by barc0001 at 1:36 PM on June 20, 2012


BigLankyBastard, I don't totally disagree with your response to my previous post.

By the way, with a name like that, is it cool if I picture you as a tall, skinny cowboy leaning against a fence rail, tilting your hat back and rolling a smoke while tumbleweeds roll past you as you read and post here? :-D

I understand the potential for violence that our police officers face. But my experience with, of all people, the New Orleans Police Department leads me to wonder if there is not a tendency to jump to escalation unnecessarily on the part of many of our officers.

1) When I was in my 20's, I went to Mardi Gras six years straight. I saw some of the most erratically behaving people in my life, crowds that vastly outnumbered police officers, with pretty every tick on the clock between approx. 6 PM and 4 AM seeing the potential for an outburst of extreme madness. Yet I never saw the cops go all "WE OWN THE NIGHT GET THE FUCK DOWN AND SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!!!" on anyone. I saw drunk ass, stupid ass people resisting arrest violently, and what I pretty much always saw was cops with bored expressions restraining -- not beating or tasering or brandishing guns at -- the dumbasses until the wagon rolled up.

2) At one Madi Gras, I got separated from my friends while attempting to find a public restroom. I was wearing a mask and carrying a back pack, and I was dodging and weaving my way through the crowd. Suddenly, I was lifted off my feet by two large gentlemen...whom I was happy to see were cops, actually, since there were many worse alternatives. One of them maintained a firm grip on my arm while the other took my backpack off my back and said, "Mind if I look through this?"

Naturally, I consented to the search and I asked why they'd stopped me. "It looks like you have a gun in your backpack," the officer rifling through it said.

At no point did they go all SWAT team "HANDS ON THE GROUND NOW HANDS BEHIND YOUR HEAD SHUT UP STOP STRUGGLING". I wasn't cuffed, I wasn't spreadeagled, they didn't search my body. They simply calmly held me and looked through the backpack.

To this day, I don't know how Officer Friendly missed the weed that was in there.

Anyway, they found no gun or weapon of any kind and sent me on my way. I was scared at that moment. Not of the NOPD although I'd heard many stories about how corrupt and brutal they could be. I was scared because I wouldn't have had any way to reach my friends had I been taken to central booking since none of us had cellphones at that time.

If everyone is a potential threat and if I was in fact stopped because they suspected I had a weapon in a public area, why is it that those two cops treated me better than cops have been known to treat soccer moms during traffic stops? As a (drunk) young black male suspected of carrying a weapon, I should have ticked off every box on the "I and my fellow officers felt threatened" spreadsheet if we are to believe that fear of violence from the average citizen justifies massive displays of violence from our officers.
posted by lord_wolf at 1:55 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


The human head is a lot heavier than a lot of people realize. There are all these neck and back muscles that work so that we don't think about it at all. But when someone falls straight down from a standing position--from one punch--and their head hits hard concrete, it can absolutely be fatal. Imagine dropping a bowling ball from six feet up, onto concrete, and these deaths aren't that hard to imagine.
posted by zardoz at 2:31 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're sort of cherry-picking your examples.

Oh I won't even call them examples; they're anecdotes. They inform my opinion by virtue of being worst-case scenarios. I don't assert they are typical.

And yet, how typical do they have to be? I have a "better 100 guilty men go free than 1 innocent is punished" sort of attitude about crime, though it's on somewhat of a sliding scale based on the nature of the crime and who is a victim. It's part of why I question how significant to my position those statistics about how many officer-involved killings there are.

First, how many of those circumstances were precipitated or escalated as a result of an officer's choice of actions? In NYC the officers can stop-and-frisk and do so over half a million times... even though they have a 2% success rate at finding weapons that way. That's a decision to engage in a course of action based on suspicion but not predicated on an illegal act. It inclines me to believe that officers, presented with a choice to step up their action/intervention or the choice to do nothing, will opt to take an action.

If an officer decides to stop some random dude and ask for ID and the citizen gets mouthy before jamming his hand in his pocket abruptly - maybe for his ID, maybe for a gun - how in the right is the officer? BigLankyBastard says the officer is rightly afraid for his or her safety. Okay. But how do we assess the part the officer played in this?

What about circumstances when there was more heated interchange first? Racial disparity? How about the number where someone gets simply arrested and later set free without charge, or charged dropped, or just some bruising and not a coma or death?

My belief is that officers effectively do not back down or choose not to escalate pursuit/arrest. It's unprovable and I won't pretend its not.

What is not in dispute is that in an encounter with a citizen most of the power - both actual and perceived - is in the hands of an officer. The officer is legally free to make requests that a citizen may or may not be free to refuse and may well be unaware or uncertain that they can refuse. The officer has many circumstances where s/he has the law on their side when it comes to physical aggression against the citizen. The citizen almost never has any legal right to resist and the penalties when they do resist (assuming the penalty isn't death) are non-trivial.

Given all of that isn't it reasonable to apply a standard to those officers that says inaction should be considered at every opportunity?
posted by phearlez at 3:21 PM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Show me any other job where you drunkenly attack someone and get a paid vacation for doing it."

"This is standard for all sorts of civil service jobs where these are hard-won protections to prevent political considerations from dominating employment."


ThisIsNotMe you are so wrong, wrong, wrong! Civil service is guilty until proven innocent. My DH (civil service) accidentally stepped into a big political pile of crap and was slated for termination on bullshit charges. We filed before the Merit Service Protection Board. He was over a year waiting for the case to be adjudicated with NO PAY, and the law, as written, says the filer cannot work another job or they are considered automatically terminated. The assholes at JAG dragged their feet for over a year, but even with us not having a clue and working it pro se, it was tossed at the regional level. The judge even said that it was a bunch of nonsense and wondered why he had been singled out. We wound up taking money out of his retirement in order to keep up with the bills, and thanks to a bunch of assholes and a shitty system, he's going to be screwed royally on his retirement.

Apparently refusing to go along with the good ol' boys greasing their pockets deserves far worse punishment then police aggression.

It will be interesting to see where the chips fall on this one. I imagine he'll slide.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:19 PM on June 20, 2012


The human head is a lot heavier than a lot of people realize.

Did you know the human head weighs eight pounds?

sorry

posted by desjardins at 5:19 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


And yet, how typical do they have to be? I have a "better 100 guilty men go free than 1 innocent is punished" sort of attitude about crime, though it's on somewhat of a sliding scale based on the nature of the crime and who is a victim. It's part of why I question how significant to my position those statistics about how many officer-involved killings there are.

I do too, but when there's a lot of crime in an area people want the police to do something about it. As I mentioned above, violent crime rocketed upward during the 60s. At a time when protections for arrestees was substantially broadened (eg cops being required to read people their rights) and the there was a moratorium on the death penalty, US murder rates almost doubled. And (surprise) most people are no more welcoming of violence dished out by private actors - ie, criminals - than they are of violence dished out by the state. In theory, the greater protections for the rights of defendants and individuals in general should have seen a reduction in crime, but the opposite proved to be the case. Hence the popularity (at the time) of Reagan's aggressive prosecution of the war on drugs.

Given all of that isn't it reasonable to apply a standard to those officers that says inaction should be considered at every opportunity?

Of course it is, but situations can spiral out of control terribly quickly as well. Nobody reports on the cases where everyone behaves reasonably and the outcome is accepted as fair enough, even though such interactions make up the vast bulk of public-police encounters. That's why I included statistics for other kinds of homicides; there's a lot of murder that takes place without any cops involved at all. The ~3% of homicides committed by police officers, justifiable or not, are a genuine problem; but so are the remaining 97% of homicides. It's hardly surprising that people in the aggregate are more concerned about the latter.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:21 PM on June 20, 2012


At a time when protections for arrestees was substantially broadened (eg cops being required to read people their rights) and the there was a moratorium on the death penalty, US murder rates almost doubled.

oh for god's sake. go away, troll.
posted by mwhybark at 6:06 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am not trolling and have flagged your comment. Not only have I provided links to historical statistical data upthread that verify these claims, but here is is a review of the book I mentioned above. Here is another, by former Supreme court justice Stevens. William Stuntz was a widely recognized authority on American criminal justice and taught Criminal law at Harvard for over a decade. Finally, take a look at the wikipedia page on crime in the US. The fact that crime went way up in the 60s and kept going up until the 1990s is not in any way controversial among people who study criminal justice.

What is your problem with me pointing this out? I think it provides a pretty good explanation for why politicians and the public kept supporting more money for law enforcement and harsher treatment for criminals. You should apologize.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:17 PM on June 20, 2012


In other words, "Your guilty consciences may force you to vote Democratic, but secretly you yearn for a cold-hearted Republican who’ll cut taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a king!"
posted by modernserf at 7:34 PM on June 20, 2012


"violent crime rocketed upward during the 60s. At a time when protections for arrestees was substantially broadened (eg cops being required to read people their rights) and the there was a moratorium on the death penalty, US murder rates almost doubled"

I don't find it convincing that these things are related in the manner your implying. Correlation isn't causation, to repeat a cliche. Especially when it comes to the death penalty.

Just one paper to look at, with copious citations including a Supreme Court Justice if you find that convincing...
http://www.dartmouth.edu/~chance/teaching_aids/books_articles/JLpaper.pdf

Not only that but if the death penalty deters violent crime, then the international data points to it being a purely American phenomenon.
posted by PJLandis at 8:03 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's another review of that book which notes,
Stuntz doesn’t have much of an answer for why crime rates have plummeted in the last 20 years — he discusses it at length, and concludes it is a real puzzle — which to my mind reflects a skepticism that could be equally well applied to the causes of crime rates in the past.
If the idea that there was a skyrocketing increase in violent crime beginning in the 1960s is really completely uncontroversial among historians of criminal justice I would be quite curious to know how they calculate the rate of unreported rapes or lynchings and beatings of blacks in the first half of the twentieth century and incorporate that into the analysis. Or for example the rate of unreported torture of prison inmates.

The field of academic criminal justice research being able to arrive at this sort of consensus about the history of violent crime without any controversy makes me wonder if maybe there's something wrong with it as none of the academic fields I'm more familiar with would be so placidly harmonious.
posted by XMLicious at 8:04 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, I realize people are more concerned about violent criminals than a relatively small number of corrupt or abusive police but they've committed two crimes, first the violence and then the abuse of their authority. For that reason I think they do deserve more attention, and more severe punishments, than similar civilian offenders.
posted by PJLandis at 8:09 PM on June 20, 2012


"The Collapse of American Criminal Justice asks what went wrong and how it can be put to rights. Stuntz covers much ground and floats many reforms, but his answer is two-pronged. The first part of it is structural: “local democracy” must be restored to the criminal justice system by reducing plea bargaining and holding more jury trials—and the jurors must live in the same communities as the victims and the accused. The second part of Stuntz’s answer is technical: he argues that we must turn away from the law of criminal procedure—broadly speaking, the guarantees of the Bill of Rights like the right to counsel and the freedom from unlawful search and seizure—and toward the substantive law of equal protection, which the Supreme Court left for dead during Reconstruction."Crime and Punishment: On William Stuntz...The Nation

As a kneejerk reaction to this Stuntz character, that first point sounds reasonable but the second sounds like a recipe for disaster, at least the part about abandoning basic procedural rights.

Either way, it doesn't look like Stuntz is in any way attributing the rise in crime since 1960 to criminal procedural protections, otherwise known as the Bill of Rights, rather he's arguing that the current criminal justice system has handled that rise poorly.
posted by PJLandis at 8:21 PM on June 20, 2012


The review by Stevens that anigbrowl links to above is interesting; it's far more critical and less crowing about how pivotal and historic the book is, and less playing upon sympathy over the author's death, than many of the others I've come across via Googling.
posted by XMLicious at 8:34 PM on June 20, 2012


I don't find it convincing that these things are related in the manner your implying. Correlation isn't causation, to repeat a cliche. Especially when it comes to the death penalty.

I'm not implying anything other than that they shape voters' behavior. The whole paragraph was about the general public's perception of criminal justice issues. I don't have a working theory about what caused crime to take off in the 1960s.

I would be quite curious to know how they calculate the rate of unreported rapes or lynchings and beatings of blacks in the first half of the twentieth century and incorporate that into the analysis. Or for example the rate of unreported torture of prison inmates.

You could try the bibliography in Stuntz's book (which does not begin with the 60s, but looks back to the 19th century, when law enforcement became professionalized) and also Lawrence Friedman's History of American Law.

The field of academic criminal justice research being able to arrive at this sort of consensus about the history of violent crime without any controversy makes me wonder if maybe there's something wrong with it as none of the academic fields I'm more familiar with would be so placidly harmonious.

It's uncontroversial because there's abundant historical data. One go-to work in this field which is famous for its statistical depth is Eric Monkkonen's Murder in New York City. See also here for a summary of the long-term national trend.

As a kneejerk reaction to this Stuntz character, that first point sounds reasonable but the second sounds like a recipe for disaster, at least the part about abandoning basic procedural rights.

That's not his argument, and you seem to be overlooking the bit about substantive rights. I have a copy of the book right here but I can't easily summarize it in a couple of sentences. However, maybe you should give a well-regarded analysis of the criminal justice system something better than your kneejerk reaction. His basic point is that is that procedural protections do not in fact work very well while substantive protections have narrowed in scope and have left the 14th amendment rather toothless in matters of criminal justice.

Either way, it doesn't look like Stuntz is in any way attributing the rise in crime since 1960 to criminal procedural protections, otherwise known as the Bill of Rights, rather he's arguing that the current criminal justice system has handled that rise poorly.

1. Nobody is attributing the rise in crime to criminal procedural protections.
2. They are not otherwise known as the Bill of rights. You didn't have the right to a Miranda warning until 1966, which is a well-known procedural protection. Conversely, the first and second amendments are part of the Bill of Rights and confer no procedural protections.
3. He is, but he's saying that an excessive focus on procedure has actually made the situation worse for criminal defendants.

Another book which explores these problems from a more general angle is Robert Kagan's Adversarial Legalism.

Re. Stevens' review of the Stuntz' book, it also points out that the book gives extensive consideration to problems of racial discrimination, as does the Friedman book mentioned above. Trust me, the legal academy is acutely aware of the historical and contemporary problems arising out of this issue.
posted by anigbrowl at 9:13 PM on June 20, 2012


It's uncontroversial because there's abundant historical data.

There's abundant historical data on unreported violent crime? That's quite a trick.

Although the blog post you link to echoes your assertion, the graph portrayed in it actually shows a temporary dip in homicides in the middle of the 20th century with the 19th century rates being much higher. And it links to this 1995 article by a sociologist "Estimates of Early Twentieth-Century U.S. Homicide Rates: an Econometric Forecasting Approach" in which the author claims that the calculations of other scholars concerning the first third of the century are all wrong.

I would need more than your assurances and a couple of handwavey links about reported homicide rates to be persuaded that there is such a synoptic view about the total underlying rates of all violent crime that supports your opinion. I would especially be interested in evidence that estimates on the rates of torture of prison inmates is included in the statistics you're talking about, as you imply with the response to me above.
posted by XMLicious at 10:07 PM on June 20, 2012


There's abundant historical data on unreported violent crime? That's quite a trick.

That wasn't what I said and you know it.

Although the blog post you link to echoes your assertion, the graph portrayed in it actually shows a temporary dip in homicides in the middle of the 20th century with the 19th century rates being much higher. And it links to this 1995 article by a sociologist "Estimates of Early Twentieth-Century U.S. Homicide Rates: an Econometric Forecasting Approach" in which the author claims that the calculations of other scholars concerning the first third of the century are all wrong.

Ah...I'm referring you to that page precisely because it provides an excellent overview of the statistical data. That 1995 paper you mention: has it occurred to you that the books I'm referring to were all written or updated after that date, and take such research into account? There's 82 pages of source citations in the Stuntz book alone. Estimates of unreported violent crime against blacks are in chapter 3 and there's some 20 or or source citations on pages 351-355.

Also, what do I see on page 1 of Eckberg's article? 'since the 1960s, violent crime has increased somewhat.'

I would need more than your assurances and a couple of handwavey links about reported homicide rates to be persuaded that there is such a synoptic view about the total underlying rates of all violent crime that supports your opinion. I would especially be interested in evidence that estimates on the rates of torture of prison inmates is included in the statistics you're talking about, as you imply with the response to me above.

You know what? I don't really care what you would need. I've provided a huge number of links to support my claim that crime rates shot upward in the 1960s and that this resulted with a significant toughening of criminal justice policies in response to the concerns of voters. You're nitpicking about topics that are irrelevant (because prison torture is unlikely to have any effect whatsoever on public perceptions of the danger from crime) and as if I was somehow obliged to give you page citations for every possible thing you imagine might have been overlooked. Perhaps you should try reading one of the books I mentioned instead of grumping about them.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:24 AM on June 21, 2012


It's really hitting home from this thread just how much of a fantasy world most people live in, in regards to law enforcement and the criminal justice system, until they, unfortunately, perhaps through no fault of their own get inadvertently caught up in it's unnecessarily humiliating soul-killing, nakedly abusive, life-threatening, potentially career destroying and utterly fucked machinations...

Really. Anyone who still sees law enforcement through rose colored, good guy/bad guy, bad people-bring-bad things-upon-themselves-so-fuck-em-anyway-they-deserve-it, lenses count yourself lucky.

Ignorant, but lucky...because things can change in a heartbeat. Like they did for this Vander Lee fellow who basically is fighting for his life because he didn't give a violent sociopath his full attention quickly enough...

If this Clifford guy'd been on duty this sort of thing would've all be swept under the rug. As it is everyday somewhere in this country, because the police are always de facto heros.
posted by Skygazer at 8:21 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


"heros," that is...
posted by Skygazer at 8:23 AM on June 21, 2012


Anyone who still sees law enforcement through rose colored, good guy/bad guy, bad people-bring-bad things-upon-themselves-so-fuck-em-anyway-they-deserve-it, lenses count yourself lucky.


I live in the First Precinct in NYC, and after 30 years on both sides of their services, my glasses are still slightly rose-tinted. But this precinct, like most of Manhattan proper, is a choice assignment for the best officers.

The cowboy recruits who opt for rough and tumble outer boroughs, hoping for more "action" quickly find themselves embattled and embittered, or maybe they were that way to begin with. They snap sometimes, and misbehave, or feel generally entitled to compensate for the bad situations they themselves sought out. Situations that politics and budgets and just the realities of society allowed to happen.

Not all police should be painted with the same brush.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:22 AM on June 21, 2012


anigbrowl, certainly you don't have to do anything for me. But thank you for demonstrating that my skepticism is justified by acknowledging that at the very least violent crime in the form of the torture of prison inmates, which in your first response to me you implied was addressed by Stuntz's book, is not actually treated in the statistics used to construct these trends.

I can certainly believe that if we're talking about reported violent crime and public perceptions of crime rates there are myriad reasons why those would have changed dramatically in the sixties. I don't think you're trolling as mwhybark accused you of, and I think that accusation is unreasonable, I just think you're playing fast and loose with descriptions of fact and academic consensus and that you're directing me off on a wild goose chase to confirm things in a book I have to track down IRL before I can tell whether or not it's really as straightforward as you portray it to be.

As much as you don't need to concern yourself with my opinion about the integrity of your assumptions, I'm also going to decide for myself whether it's relevant whether we're talking about changes in actual violent crime rates or public reporting and perception of crime. I ran into too many cases in high school and college where someone would tell me, "the sixties meant x" only to find out later how subjective and one-sided their claims and evidence were.
posted by XMLicious at 1:38 PM on June 21, 2012


Xmlicious, your skepticism is not justified. Or relevant. I hace neither the time nor the inclination to go breakung down entire books for you, and I already disavowed having any theory about the causes of changing crime rates.
posted by anigbrowl at 8:07 PM on June 21, 2012


Clifford will walk free and we all know it. Heck, he'll probably get another medal of valor out of it.

"First, let’s keep in mind that this is the same Minneapolis Police Department that gave its SWAT team 'medals of valor' for raiding the wrong house..."
posted by homunculus at 8:29 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would appreciate it even more if you refrained even from "helping" us understand these issues by glossing over or eliding the fact that this analysis that determines that a drastic increase in violent crime followed the granting of greater protections for the rights of defendants and individuals in general in the 20th century at least partly stems from not counting the violence dished out by the state that you talk about at the same time. Sorry to waste your time by being concerned with irrelevant little details like that but they aren't so irrelevant to some of us.
posted by XMLicious at 9:13 PM on June 21, 2012


I would be quite curious to know how they calculate the rate of unreported rapes or lynchings and beatings of blacks in the first half of the twentieth century and incorporate that into the analysis. Or for example the rate of unreported torture of prison inmates.

You could try the bibliography in Stuntz's book (which does not begin with the 60s, but looks back to the 19th century, when law enforcement became professionalized) and also Lawrence Friedman's History of American Law.



I've read Friedman's history cover to cover a few times and don't think it would not be a particularly useful source for this. You'd probably do better with cross-referencing law review article citations, with what's on SSRN if no WL/LN access.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:22 AM on June 22, 2012


at least partly stems from not counting the violence dished out by the state that you talk about at the same time

This is so much BS. Nobody ever denied the existence of violence in prisons, but you're trying to insinuate that undercounting it would explain away the rise in crime in the 1960s. you have no point, and your arguments about this have been nothing more than a massive derail.

I've read Friedman's history cover to cover a few times and don't think it would not be a particularly useful source for this. You'd probably do better with cross-referencing law review article citations, with what's on SSRN if no WL/LN access.

I would, but why bother with people who are not arguing in good faith?
posted by anigbrowl at 7:27 PM on June 25, 2012


But with the militarization of law enforcement via DHS since 911

Speaking of which: Scenes From Militarized America

Small-Town Cops Pile Up on Useless Military Gear
posted by homunculus at 11:24 AM on June 26, 2012


And all the training and hazard pay for using said gear bumps up pension obligations. It's fun until reality takes the plastic away. turns out you can equip a police department on the proceeds of asset forfeiture, but not pay for the subsequent retirement obligations.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:45 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is so much BS. Nobody ever denied the existence of violence in prisons, but you're trying to insinuate that undercounting it would explain away the rise in crime in the 1960s. you have no point, and your arguments about this have been nothing more than a massive derail.

You are asserting that a "hockey stick" change in the graph of violent crime rates occurred in the 60s. Reacting to me proposing off the top of my head a handful of uncounted sources that might point to a different underlying reality by pretending that they're actually counted in the analysis when at least one of them isn't, trying to send me off on a wild goose chase rather than addressing specifics, appealing to some supposed consensus of authority that makes your claim unquestionable, and trying to insinuate that it's relevant for you to make this assertion but an irrelevant derail for anyone to question it - those are the things that are BS and arguing in bad faith.

To further illustrate my skepticism about your certainty over change in the rates of violent crimes - that would include rape. My understanding is that it's pretty difficult and controversial to ascertain what the true frequency of rape is now and rape is an extremely charged issue; so I have a great difficulty imagining how it must work when you appear to gloss over an objection mentioning rape specifically and convey or imply that the historical estimates are uncontroversial. Or for example, taking a cursory look at the history of it, a 1942 California court decision that appears to be frequently cited says,
In order to constitute “rape”, there need not be resistance to the utmost, and a woman who is assaulted need not resist to the point of risking being beaten into insensibility, and, if she resists to the point where further resistance would be useless or until her resistance is overcome by force or violence, submission thereafter is not “consent”.
So at least in this case, with the greater protection granted to the individual being "you don't have to resist forced sex to the point of being beaten into insensibility for it to be a crime," I can easily imagine an apparent increase in the rape numbers following such a change in law actually being due to a greater willingness to report the crime and a reduced tendency to dismiss reports out of hand rather than a change in the underlying rate of rape. Hence my instinct to push back on the glib juxtaposition of a supposed massive violent crime wave following an increase in the rights and protections of individuals, even when you are apparently just portraying correlation without any causation.

Look - I noticed that most of the sources you've linked to seem to primarily discuss or focus on homicide. I could much more easily believe that the rate of homicides increased, and I could see this having the effect you describe on public perceptions, whether it was due to an actual drastic increase in all violent crime as you suggest or something like an increased rate of lethality within a more stable overall violent crime rate, or due to some other mechanism. Of course, an increase in criminals' lethality or homicides is still a very significant reason for police officers to worry about their own safety in any case.
posted by XMLicious at 12:01 PM on June 28, 2012






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