America. You are in big trouble

America, you are in trouble. Big, big, trouble. You just don’t know it yet. Or maybe you do and you just don’t want to admit it.

No. It’s not your politics. This time.

No, I am not talking about Trump and Clinton. I could.

If anyone ran a poll for the worst Presidential candidates in history, those two would win in a landslide. I do feel for you, having to choose between such a pair of losers.

And it is too trite, too simple, too easy to say that firearm ownership is at the heart of all your troubles. No doubt it’s playing a part. You guys have crazy, crazy, crazy gun laws. When you give mad people guns, innocent people get killed. Everyone knows this except you.

Sadly, the kind of trouble I’m talking about this time is much, much worse. Part of you is a stinking, wretched, seething, cauldron of institutionalised hate. How big a part of you? Big enough to truly shock and amaze the rest of the world. And, yes hate. The worst kind of hatred there is.

Race hate.

It’s hard to imagine there could be a worse kind. But what could be worse than law enforcement driven hate? Your police force hates black people.

How can you possibly draw any other conclusion? In the words of your own black President, Blacks and Hispanics are 30 percent more likely to be pulled over by police, three times more likely to be searched and twice as likely to be shot by police as white people. These are not statistics to be proud of. The color of your skin can get you killed, mighty fast in the good old U.S.A. Of course, not every serving police officer in America hates black people. But enough rotten cops do and it’s happening enough times across America to now say it has to stop.

What happened in the past 48 hours, is quite unbelievable.

In the remaining few seconds of his life, Alton Sterling a 37-year-old Louisiana black man seemed completely immobile. How do we know this? The entire incident, happened to be recorded on a phone-video-camera, by a random bystander.

You see on the video, two Baton Rouge, Louisiana police officers pinning Alton to the ground. You see clearly on the video, he is unable to move. One of the police officers then yells: “He’s got a gun” Within seconds, another police officer shoots Alton Sterling in the chest, at point blank range, not once but multiple times confirmed later by the post mortem examination. So how did this all come to pass? It seems cops were called to a convenience store after receiving an anonymous tip that a Black man, in a red shirt, was selling CD’s and waving a gun around. They got part of it right. Alton Sterling was a black man, matching the description. He was selling CDs and wearing a red shirt. Both police officers involved in this tragedy are now on ‘administrative leave’ and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is leading the investigation.

If that police shooting wasn’t bad enough?

Try this for size.

Twenty-four hours later. Another police shooting of a black man. This time it happened many, many kilometres away in Minnesota. Thirty-two-year old Philander Castile is driving a car with a broken taillight. He’s stopped by police. He tells police he is legally carrying a firearm. Not a good idea. He reaches into his pants pocket for his driver’s license. Police interpret this as him reaching for his firearm. They shoot and Philander slumps back in his seat while his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, videos the entire incident and streams it live to Facebook. The police officer, still pointing his gun yells at her “keep your hands where they are.” Reynolds doesn’t scream. Doesn’t cry. Remains polite at all times. In the car, as Castile moans dying beside her, Reynolds keeps talking, repeating similar phrases:

“Please, Jesus, don’t tell me that he’s gone.”

“Please don’t tell me he’s gone.”

“Please, officer, don’t tell me that you just did this to him.”

Later, at a press conference, the Minnesota Governor said what everyone already knew. “Would this have happened if the driver and the passenger were white? I don’t think it would have.

“This kind of racism exists and it’s incumbent on all of us to vow and ensure that it doesn’t continue to happen.”

Time to draw a line in the sand. We need to call it for what it is. These are hate crimes. In my honest opinion, there is no other way to describe them. Institutionalised hate crimes perpetrated by police because they don’t like the colour of a person’s skin. Worse still. It could insight a race war. What happened in Dallas in the last couple of hours is very worrying. Very troubling. America.you are in trouble.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unarmed 12-year-0ld Child Shot Dead By Police. Call That Justice?

We’re about to herald in a new year. 2016. But clearly someone forgot to tell the good old US of A.

I say that because, this week, America stepped back in time.

By more than 150 years to be precise.

Stepped back to a time when black people were not considered good enough to be called second-class citizens. Not even ranked high enough in the food chain to be called second-class, nor were they citizens. They were slaves. At the whim of white people who could, and did ,literally decide if they should live or die.

Now, of course, slavery has been abolished but attitudes have not. White people are still deciding, very arbitrarily it seems, if Black Americans should live or die. Certainly as far as law enforcement is concerned.

Sounds a bit harsh? Well a Grand Jury has just decided that two cops who shot a 12-year-old black child dead should not have to face criminal charges.

Tamir Rice, was playing in a park with an imitation pistol in Cleveland, Ohio. But in the United States, in the 21st Century, that can get you killed. It certainly got Tamir killed. This incident would be laughably absurd if it wasn’t so tragic. It shows many things about American society and sadly none of them good.

Let’s just step through the events as they happened. A panicked citizen makes a 911 call about Tamir who was pulling a gun out of his pants and pointing it at people. You have to remember that this is a gun happy, no make that trigger-happy society. That call was the start of many, many mistakes. If the people involved had been level headed and shown more common sense this tragedy might have been avoided.

The audio of that 911 call was publicly released. On the tape you hear the caller say very clearly, in reference to the gun Tamir had, “ it’s probably a fake but it’s scaring the shit out of people.”

The 911 phone operator, then asks the caller, not once but twice, whether Tamir was black or white as if that is somehow relevant or makes a difference. Who am I kidding? Of course it made a difference. By how much, you are about to find out.

The caller tells the operator that the perpetrator is a child and finishes the conversation by restating that he does not know if the gun is real or a fake. However, NONE of this information is passed on to the police patrol car that responds to this situation. I use the term ‘respond’ very loosely. The patrol car has a rookie cop on board and his field-training officer. They arrive at the park to discover Tamir playing on a swing and in the space of just TWO seconds, that rookie cop Timothy Loehmann shoots Tamir Rice dead. That is how it happened.

A Grand Jury was given the responsibility of finding if the two police officers involved in this should be criminally prosecuted. Cuyahoga County Justice Centre Prosecutor, Tim McGinty, announced that rookie cop Loehmann and his field training officer, Frank Garmback, would not be indicted because of “indisputable” evidence that the officers believed Rice was reaching for a real gun. “Simply put, given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunications, by all involved, that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police,” McGinty said. “The outcome will not cheer anyone, nor should it.”

McGinty went on to say that Tamir Rice was trying to show the police the gun wasn’t real but the officers had no way of knowing that was what the young boy was trying to do. It was not until after the shooting, with the gun on the ground, that police learned the boy was playing with a replica firearm that shoots nonlethal plastic pellets.

Ok. Let’s take a moment to deconstruct this. The outcome of this seems to have been a foregone conclusion the minute the 911 dispatcher told the patrol car they were about to deal with a black kid armed with a gun in a park.

I was under the mistaken impression that Police in the United States, also carried nonlethal force in the form of pepper spray and Tasers. Both of which, and I’m sure Tamir Rice’s family would agree with me, should have been used instead of lethal force. But no consideration was given to either of those options.

Secondly, why was a rookie cop allowed to take control rather than his more experienced partner? I would think given the rookie’s level of experience, it was the kind of situation he was not qualified to deal with.

Thirdly, I thought Police were supposed to be measured, calm and take time to assess the situation. I can appreciate that sometimes this is simply not possible because of the fast moving nature of an incident.

But in this case it was the Police and not Tamir Rice who were moving at the speed of light. They arrive at the scene and in the space of just TWO seconds, a 12-year-old child is shot dead. That is not responsible policing. That is trigger happy, rogue cop behavior in my opinion.

In a statement, Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, said she was “devastated” by the decision and she urged federal officials to pursue civil rights charges.

“I don’t want my child to have died for nothing and I refuse to let his legacy or his name be ignored,” Samaria Rice said. “As the video shows, Officer Loehmann shot my son in less than a second. All I wanted was someone to be held accountable. “We mourn for Tamir, and for all of the black people who have been killed by the police without justice. In our view, this process demonstrates that race is still an extremely troubling and serious problem in our country and the criminal-justice system.”

Yep.

Has The Truth Been Told In Ferguson?

What is the truth? That’s a question they are asking in Ferguson Missouri. And it’s a question probably being asked across the continental United States.

What is the truth in the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown? Is the truth the finding of the Grand Jury that the policeman who shot him dead should not face criminal charges for his actions?

Or is the truth something else entirely?

An unarmed black man willfully shot dead by a white police officer. It was never disputed that the policeman killed Michael Brown. The question has always been was lethal force justified in this case?

As we search for that elusive commodity, the truth, here are the events, outlined by St Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch, played out on that fateful day in August this year.

It might be the best place to start our investigation.

It’s 11.45 am and white Police Officer Darren Wilson responds to a call about a two month old baby struggling to breathe. He clears the job, after paramedics arrive but hears on his police radio about a snatch and grab robbery.

Two young black men, one wearing a red hat, khaki shorts and yellow socks have robbed a local market of some cigarillo cigars. Wilson will tell the Grand Jury he had no intention of answering the radio call concerning the robbery, but he randomly encounters Michael Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson walking down the middle of a street.

Officer Wilson is driving a police SUV. As he reaches the pair, he tells them to move to the sidewalk. Words are exchanged but the pair continues to walk down the middle of the road. Wilson notices that one of the young men, Michael Brown, is wearing clothing that matches the earlier police description of one of the robbery suspects. He also sees that Brown has cigarellos in one of his hands.

Wilson radios for backup.

He immediately reverses his vehicle at an angle, blocking Brown and Johnson’s path as well as incoming traffic from both directions.

According to Prosecutor McCulloch, many witnesses reported seeing an altercation, a wrestling tug of war, going on between Brown who is standing next to the drivers side window of the police SUV and Officer Wilson seated inside.

What happened next, witnesses disagree on. Some said Brown punched Wilson, others said Brown was partially inside the police vehicle via the driver’s window, or that Officer Wilson fired at Brown from inside the police vehicle. We do know Officer Wilson had redness and swelling on one side of his face.

Three post mortems were conducted on the body of Michael Brown. All of the pathologists agreed on the location and number of gunshot wounds on the body. The autopsy results show that Michael Brown was definitely shot once during that altercation at the police SUV.

A total of two bullets were fired from inside the police SUV. One bullet struck the door armrest and the other was never found. One of the shots struck Michael Brown causing an injury to his right thumb. The autopsy confirmed gunshot soot in the wound so it was fired at close range during the altercation. Brown’s blood/DNA was found in the car, on the outside of the driver’s side door, on the left rear door and on Officer Wilson’s clothing and gun.

Almost all of the witnesses agree on one point. Brown hesitates, after the shots were fired inside the SUV, then flees from the scene, running in an easterly direction.

Officer Wilson, gets out of his police SUV with his weapon in hand and begins chasing Brown.

Some witnesses reported seeing Officer Wilson firing at Michael Brown as he ran. If he did, none of the bullets hit Brown from behind as a number of witnesses had claimed.

In any case it is not relevant to the case or what happened next.

Brown is running in an easterly direction and he stops at a street corner, turning towards Officer Wilson, facing west.

Brown begins moving in a westerly direction towards Wilson.

Again there are conflicting eyewitness reports. Some witnesses said Brown didn’t move towards Wilson at all but remained stationary with his hands raised. Other witnesses said he didn’t raise his hands, or raised them just briefly or held onto his stomach. Others said he stumbled towards Wilson or moved quickly or charged.

What is remarkable, even though a group of people will all look at the same thing, at the same time, they can come to completely different conclusions about what they saw.

Which brings us to the fatal shooting itself.

Some witnesses said Officer Wilson opened fire and only stopped shooting when Brown stopped moving towards him. He resumed firing when Brown began moving towards him again. The sounds of the shots were captured by someone video chatting in a nearby apartment. The sounds indicated two set of shots interrupted by a gap in the middle. Officer Wilson fired several more shots, one of which was fatal. Three bullets hit Michael Brown when he was either falling or bent at the waist. One of those bullets entered the top of his head, killing him.

Michael Brown’s blood was found 25 feet east of where his body lay which would indicate that he travelled that distance in Officer Wilson’s direction. Both he and Wilson ended up about 153 feet from the police SUV.

In testimony to the Grand Jury, Officer Wilson said he was carrying lethal force in the form of a Sig Sauer point four zero caliber pistol, with 13 rounds, 12 in the magazine and one round in the chamber. He was also carrying two extra bullet magazines on his belt. Officer Wilson did not have a Taser, but he was carrying non-lethal force in the form of a telescopic police baton and OC spray or Mace.

Ok.

Let’s just step back a little, take a deep breath and examine what has been said here.

Wilson encounters two young black men initially doing what amounts to civil disobedience, walking in the middle of the road. It is reckless and potentially dangerous. He has warned Brown and Johnson but they ignore his warning telling him that they are nearly at their destination. According to the Wilson Grand Jury testimony, Brown let’s fly with some expletives. It is disrespectful to Wilson but hardly a capital crime.

Then Officer Wilson notices what Brown is wearing. It matches a description he has just heard on the police radio. But again we are talking about a petty crime. There is no suggestion in the police radio dispatch that Brown was armed when he stole the cigarellos or that he threatened anyone. It was a crime of opportunity. Brown grabbed the cigarellos from the store and ran away without paying for them.

Then Officer Wilson does something I find totally inexplicable. He radios for backup.

Why?

Backup is something a policeman does if he is going into a dangerous situation where he is outnumbered and he might need extra police resources to bring the situation under control.

But where is the threat?

I can’t see it.

Unfortunately Officer Wilson, was never asked why he called for backup when he appeared before the Grand Jury.

Backup suggests that Officer Wilson is expecting a confrontation.

But why would he?

Brown and Johnson are shoplifters. Petty thieves. They need to be apprehended but they are not dangerous. No violence was used in their crime. No threats were made.

Clearly if Officer Wilson thought the situation needed backup, he doesn’t wait for it to arrive. He decides to confront Brown and Johnson directly.

The forensic evidence discloses that a fight ensues between Wilson in the driver’s seat, inside the vehicle and Brown outside positioned next to the driver’s side window.

Wilson tells the Grand Jury that  during the fight he draws his weapon and points it at Brown who responds by trying to grab it. Another struggle ensues and two shots are fired one of them hitting Brown in the right thumb. Brown responds by fleeing from the scene.

Ok. Let’s pause again.

Wilson says Brown was physically bigger than him, threatening and intimidating. He said the nature of the fight meant he did not have the opportunity to use his police baton or his mace.

Even if what he is saying is true, and let’s accept that it is, what happens next is not so easily explained.

Brown flees with Wilson in pursuit. Armed with his police issue pistol.

I can understand that Officer Wilson would be pretty shaken up at this point.

The evidence shows he has been punched in the side of the face, there has been a struggle over his gun. Two bullets have been fired and the 18-year-old Brown has been shot in the thumb.

But I would have thought Officer Wilson’s training would kick in here. Being cool and calm, not confronting aggression with aggression.

At this point, he has already called for backup, which is only minutes away from arriving. He doesn’t need to pursue Brown. He can wait for more police to arrive and they can pretty easily arrest the young man.

But Officer Wilson doesn’t do any of those things.

He doesn’t arm himself with the non-lethal options he is carrying.

Clearly, his weapon of choice, the only weapon he is intent on using, is his police issue firearm. He has lethal force. He is the man with all of the power here.

Brown only has his fists. But only one fist is working properly to be perfectly accurate. Let’s not forget he has been shot in the thumb, which would have been both painful and incapacitating. Even if Michael Brown had two fists working perfectly he would be no match for someone armed with a gun.

Michael Brown is shot again and again and again. Officer Wilson says Brown kept coming at him giving him little choice but to keep shooting. The fatal shot being delivered when Brown is bent at the waist almost certainly as a result of being shot multiple times.

By the time the fatal shot was delivered, Officer Wilson’s intentions were very clearly to kill Michael Brown.

So of course that brings us back to the original question: was lethal force justified?

This is my take on the answer.

Officer Wilson had a confrontational mindset from the very start. His intention was to deal aggressively with Michael Brown from the very moment he confirmed that he was the suspect in the market robbery.

The problem with aggression is that it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Aggression only leads to more aggression.

But i would like to know what has happened to the concept of using lethal force only as an absolute last resort and only when you you have no other choice and you feel your life has been threatened? Officer Wilson had choices other than using lethal force. He did not need to chase Michael Brown while armed with his police issue pistol.

Sometimes the safest and best option is to withdraw from a dangerous situation in the same way police cars pull away from some high speed pursuits.

If police training says the appropriate response, in cases like this, is to use a gun to resolve the confrontation, then they need to have a good look at their training in my view.

Michael Brown committed a crime, and did something really, really stupid in trying to grab Officer Wilson’s gun.

But I think one incredibly stupid action, shouldn’t be followed, fairly closely, by another in my opinion. Especially when it involves a police officer and a gun.

There can only be one outcome. Someone, will end up dead.

I believe Officer Wilson could have waited, should have waited for the backup he had called for.

Did Michael Brown need to die? I’ll be true to myself and say no I don’t think so.

How Can Police Justify Shooting A 12 Year Old Child?

I don’t want this to sound like I’m some kind of armchair critic of the police because they have a tough job to do at the best of times. But something happened in Cleveland that left me dumbfounded, shocked and appalled.

Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy, was shot dead by police.

He was a child but he was waving what looked like a black handgun. It turned out to be a BB gun.

Police weren’t to know that or were not prepared to take the risk.

They confronted him and now Tamir is dead.

Let’s just pause for a minute.

A lot of questions need to be asked here. How did this happen? How could it have happened? Why did it happen? How could it be allowed to happen?

Let’s firstly deal with the how and the why.

According to the police account of what happened: A caller tells police “a guy with a gun is pointing it at people” on the swing set at a children’s playground at a local recreation center. The caller says on two occasions that he thinks the gun is “probably fake,” but the person pointing it is scaring people.

Police dispatchers send a radio message to officers that there is “a male with a gun threatening people” outside the recreation center. Officers respond and see the boy pick up what they assume is a black gun, tuck it in his waistband and take a few steps.

Police Officers draw their weapons, telling him to raise his hands. Instead, he lifts his shirt and reaches for the handle of the gun sticking out of his waistband. As he pulls out the gun, one of the officers shoots twice, hitting him at least once in the abdomen.

Tamir is taken to an emergency medical center but dies of his injuries. Police later determine the gun was actually a BB gun, with the orange safety cap removed.

Police later release a statement to further clarify what happened, which said: “Upon arrival on scene, officers located the suspect and advised him to raise his hands. The suspect did not comply with the officers’ orders and reached to his waistband for the gun.

“Shots were fired and the suspect was struck in the torso.”

It added: “Further information reveals that the weapon which the 12-year-old suspect was in possession of is an ‘airsoft’ type replica gun resembling a semi-automatic pistol, with the orange safety indicator removed.”

Now if you break all of this down you get a pretty good idea on what went wrong here. For a start everyone involved gives a completely wrong description of who Tamir Rice really is.

He is not a “guy with a gun” or “a male with a gun threatening people” or a “suspect” and that is a big part of why this went so dreadfully pear shaped.

Tamir Rice is a 12-year-old boy.

He is a child.

Too young and immature to really know what he was doing or what kind of trouble he was causing. If all of those involved in this had simply remembered that simple point, right at the very beginning, the outcome might have been very different and Tamir Rice would be a little wiser but alive.

I know we live in a violent and unpredictable world but since when did it become the police first response to open fire and ask questions later because clearly that is what they did in this case. Asking a 12-year-old to put his hands in the air does not constitute a meaningful question in these circumstances, in my view.

And in any case whatever happened to the simple art of talking to people? Negotiating with them? Couldn’t they have talked to Tamir and found out what the problem was instead of drawing their weapons and responding with lethal force?

That’s what parents do. That’s what teachers do. That’s what any sane or sensible person would do. But it’s what Cleveland police didn’t do. And shame on them.

Cleveland Deputy Chief of Field Operations Ed Tomba said the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice was “very very tragic.”

“We don’t come to work every day and want to use force on anybody,” he said. “That’s not what our job is. We’re part of this community.”

It’s a bit late now to be making those kinds of statements particularly when the circumstances point to the exact opposite being the case.

Deputy Chief Tomba said the boy did not threaten the officer verbally or physically. So I ask why was it necessary to shoot him?

Tamir’s father told reporters that he couldn’t understand why police had failed to use non-lethal force like a taser to subdue Tamir? I guess that is certain to be one of the questions asked at the Grand Jury investigation into this tragedy.

Tamir’s Dad said his son was “respectful” and “minded his elders.” He said he could not understand why Tamir would have ignored what police told him to do.

Which brings me back to the question why was this allowed to happen?

This might be part of the reason. One of the police officers involved in this incident was in his first year in the job. We can only hope that this tragedy will prompt a serious and rigorous review of police procedures in Cleveland.

The police department’s Use of Deadly Force Investigation Team is investigating the shooting and has security camera footage from the recreation center. The officers, directly involved in the shooting, have been placed on administrative leave during the investigation, which is standard procedure for police.

The evidence will eventually be handed over to a grand jury, which will decide whether the officer was justified in using force.

I don’t need a Grand Jury to answer that question. Children are not adults capable of making rational decisions. It is stupid and wrong to think they can. Tamir Rice clearly had no idea what he was getting himself into. He was relying on adults to make the kinds of rational decisions he was incapable of making. Unfortunately for him the adults let him down. There is simply no justification for lethal force to be used to kill a child under any circumstances.

And if I happen to be living in a world that says there is then quite frankly it’s one I don’t ever want to be a part of.