Use of force discussion thread

Folks who know me will attest that I try to avoid posting anything here that may touch on my 9-5 work. It’s not that I am ashamed of what I do, but it’s more about trying to avoid any appearance of impropriety or a breach of integrity on my part. I cannot do my job if my integrity is questionable.

However, I’m going to do this one because I feel there is a vast need for a public discussion on police use of force policy and training. I feel it is a great disservice to all of America that use of force isn’t better explained or even discussed in detail for high profile cases.

This post began as an attempt to explain why I thought the officers in the Rayshard Brooks case were not brought up on charges, but I could not find a pathway to finish that post without going into detail over use of force policy and decision making. I try to avoid writing long posts because I think many people lose interest in a subject after a while, and a long post is akin to sitting through 8 hours of a PowerPoint presentation.

So, after several failed attempts, I decided to change direction and just open a discussion on use of force itself. I found a helpful list of court cases that have shaped use of force policy at Police1, a website that’s designed to give officers the information and resources to do their jobs effectively.

A list of some important cases that involve officer use of force.

Of the cases listed above, there are two which are most often applicable to the cases that make the news, and that’s likely why they are the first two listed in that article. The article doesn’t go into great detail on the cases, but Graham v Connor and Tennessee v Garner are very important cases.

Graham v Connor established that force used by an officer must be both reasonable and necessary at the moment force is applied.

Tennessee v Garner set a limit on using deadly force on a fleeing suspect. The fleeing suspect has to be an immediate threat to the officer or the surrounding public in order for deadly force to be authorized.

Officers are equipped with “less lethal” equipment for use of force purposes. Those items will sometimes include oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray, collapsible straight baton (CSB), or an electronic control weapon (ECW)/taser.

For the record, I have been exposed to OC which required me to be sprayed in the face and complete training exercises. Prior to working in law enforcement, I was an unwilling recipient of OC spray because of some idiots trying to crash a party which led to officers on scene spraying the entire crowd. It is not a pleasant experience no matter what, and it’s something you never forget. I have also been tased, and while it’s a very unpleasant experience, I will take a taser shot over OC spray anytime.

The label “less lethal” is somewhat misleading in that it gives the appearance that those forms of force, when applied, are not deadly. Any one of the equipment described above can indeed be applied in lethal form if the circumstances line up. OC spraying someone with breathing or allergy problems could have deadly consequences. A baton shot to the head is defined as deadly force. Tasers can cause heart problems with people with medical issues as well.

In addition, a combative suspect who somehow gets his hands on any less lethal equipment can be considered a threat. If that suspect can manage to incapacitate the officer with a less lethal item, then that allows the suspect to access anything else the officer has on him including the officer’s gun. This is why I believe the officers involved in the death of Brooks were not going to be prosecuted.

At no point in time did the Atlanta police chief, the mayor, or even the Fulton County DA attempt to explain use of force to the general public in an easy to understand form. Transparency should require a clear explanation of policy and law to the public so we all can understand the situation. Elected leaders owe that much to the people who they represent to be able to explain things when they happen. It’s just my opinion, but I believe we don’t see many explanations for two reasons. They either don’t understand use of force policy and law, or they’re afraid of facing people who disagree with what occurred.

There will always be disagreement because use of force is very subjective. It’s based on human perception, and we all perceive things differently based on our experiences and knowledge. This fact makes it difficult, but not impossible, to prosecute officers for excessive force. There will always be people who will justify excessive force as well as there will be people who will see appropriate force as excessive.

This will be a kind of ask me anything thread too. As I’ve found out over the years, you can ask “what if” questions until you’re blue in the face, and you will still not over every situation an officer can face. I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have, so don’t feel that a question is dumb and not ask it.

Presidential search warrants

Before we get into the meat and potatoes of the happenings this week, here’s a bit of a primer. The information contained within this thread will help you understand the gravity and significance of the actions taken by the DoJ. It also shows the carelessness of the GOP when they instinctively jump to Trump’s personal defense instead of defending the Constitution.

I’ve started this post numerous times only to get sidewiped by a new revelation or speculation hitting the airwaves. Instead of trying to distill all that information, I’m going to stick with my initial thoughts on why I felt the DoJ did what they did on Monday. I’ve tried to avoid speculation on what Trump held, but he obviously had some very sensitive documents at Mar A Lago.

Handling classified documents is a very serious thing within the government. It’s so serious that not everyone qualifies to or holds a job where seeing even sensitive documents occurs on a regular basis. For example, my job requires that I have to pass and maintain background investigation standards which apply to people holding a secret clearance even though I do not have a secret clearance. There’s mandatory training on how to handle classified or sensitive documents for all federal employees.

The requirements to pass a background investigation are so detailed that it limits who can access those documents. If you remember, Jared Kushner failed his background investigation and only got his clearance through nepotism. Trump never had any type of security clearance himself. He had access to classified info because of the powers associated with the Office of the President.

When Trump left the White House, we found out that he took about 27 boxes worth of stuff with him that was of a sensitive nature. He left DC and went straight to Florida. Mar A Lago is where he’s already discussed sensitive information in the open with visitors sitting within earshot and eyesight of the conversation.

Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discuss North Korean missile launch on the terrace at Mar A Lago. Image via Business Insider

Trump’s entire administration was a counterintelligence nightmare as witnessed by the image above. There was zero control of information with Trump being the one who was dishing out classified info to foreign adversaries like when he gave Russia Intel in the Oval Office.

Remember Robert Mueller? Americans were angry that his investigation didn’t result in any charges. Mueller’s investigation wasn’t a criminal investigation though. It was a continuing of a counterintelligence investigation started by the FBI. The same FBI had to get a warrant to retrieve sensitive information from a person who has shown no ability to control that information.

Knowing the strict protocol placed on classified documents, the search warrant to retrieve those documents makes sense. I won’t speculate about what Trump had possession of because we’ll likely never know. I do know that Trump is a serious security risk, and there was no way in hell Trump would have spent the money necessary to properly house classified documents at MAL.

We’ve found out that there was a subpoena for the docs, and the DoJ paid a visit to Florida in an attempt to get them back. Trump had ample time and opportunity to do the right thing, but he is virtually incapable of doing the right thing. Fortunately, a judge and the FBI were up to the task.

The road ahead requires an investigation to determine who had access to them and if anyone accessed them without authorization. At this point, I don’t see them charging the former president. At this time last week, I wouldn’t have predicted a search warrant being executed on a former president either. We may be in for the show of our lives thanks to Trump and his band of merry syncopants.

Update:

Just as soon as I hit publish, I see this thread from my Legal Twitter crush. She explains what I saw to include the US Code that applies.

Cruelty is the weapon of choice

Been kinda busy, so I’m working hard on getting caught up with the latest news. If you haven’t listened to this passionate speech from Jon Stewart, then take the time to listen to it. I have to caution there’s very NSFW language dispersed throughout, but I am glad that C-SPAN has posted it in its entirety unedited.

I don’t know what else to assume about the GOP other than the cruelty is the point. The party and their base has survived politically over the past decade by being absolute cruel assholes. The cruelty has always been there if you’re a minority or member of any group targeted by conservatives, but they are now openly shitting on American veterans.

While reading a story about this from The Hill, I read this passage:

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) said on the Senate floor that he didn’t support the bill because it would create $400 billion in unrelated spending, which he called a “budgetary gimmick.”

“My concern about this bill has nothing to do with the purpose of the bill,” Toomey said. “This budgetary gimmick is so unrelated to the actual veterans issue that has to do with burn pits, that it’s not even in the House version of this bill.”

There’s no follow-up questions asking for an explanation of this $400 billion gimmick he claims is now there. There’s also no explanation of how the House GOP overwhelmingly voted for this unrelated spending in a 342-88 vote that is now a problem for Senate Republicans.

Democrats need to pounce on this issue with everything they have. If we’re going to ask for volunteers to fight our wars, then we should take care of the people who step forward to defend democracy. That’s the very least we could do as a functional society.

It’s just my opinion that Senate Republicans are pissed off about Schumer and Manchin pulling a Mitch McConnell on McConnell and the GOP with the computer chip vote and the climate agenda. That story can be found here. How else can you explain the Senate GOP torpedoing a bill that passed both houses with huge bipartisan support?

The idea that a political party would stop programs to help veterans because of hurt feelings should piss anyone off. Time and time again, the GOP has inflicted unnecessary suffering on America just because they cannot get their way on things.

Shutdowns… credit default… denying health care to 9/11 first responders… denying health care to veterans.

The pattern is there and visible to all who stop long enough to pay attention. Why are they still holding office and winning elections? Why?

As Jon said, “If this is America first, then America is fucked.”

7/28/2021 7:22pm update:

And to make the point of cruelty as a weapon even clearer, we have Sen. Susan Collins here:

Nine year WordPress Anniversary today

I got a reminder today that this is my 9 year anniversary at WordPress. I initially signed up here just to write out my frustrations never realizing that I could potentially reach people far beyond what I considered my circle of influence.

Thank you sincerely from the depths of my heart to all who have chosen to follow this blog and read what I have to say from time to time. I appreciate those who are moved enough about my personal perspectives that you reblog, tweet, and/or share my words with others.

It’s humbling to know mu words matter to others. I never thought what I had to say would go any further than Georgia or my friends from the old AJC blogs, but I was wrong. Just to give you an idea, here’s some stats from the start of this blog.

Blog visits by year

Top posts by number of visits

Country location of visitors

As always, I welcome anyone who wants to comment here, even if you disagree with my perspective. Conversations with people we disagree with is how we all grow as people. Just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean that I don’t understand your view.

Thanks for 9 great years, and here’s to many more together!!

~ Brosephus

Judiciary Act of 202?

The chart above shows the current structure of the US federal court system. This may be subject to change based on decisions handed down by the SCOTUS during this current session. This post isn’t a knee jerk reaction to the current SCOTUS overturning Roe v Wade (which I place on the same level as the decision in Plessy). This idea is based in part by our advancement as a society, advancement in technology, and our increase in population since the court system was last overhauled.

If agencies, like the EPA, lose their ability to make administrative decisions and rulings, then those issues will undoubtedly end up in the court system. Consider the ramifications if the DoJ loses the ability to administer the immigration courts within their own department. This would flood the federal judiciary with cases and trample people’s right to a speedy trial.

Therefore, I came up with this idea of expanding and modernizing the federal court system. This is just my idea, and it would result in a much larger federal judicial system than we currently have. It’s been a thought exercise for a few years, and I tweak it from time to time to adjust to our current reality.

First, the US should be divided into 12 equal circuits bases on population with an emphasis on geographical continuity. This includes all 50 states plus the territories. Two states currently have population totals that would exceed this benchmark, California and Texas. They could either be made a circuit alone or split geographically between two circuits. This would give everyone equal access to the courts.

There are currently 94 district courts in the system. Using 330 million as the total population, that would place 27 million in each circuit. Increasing the number of district courts to 108 places a district court for every 255 thousand residents for the 12 equal circuits.

The 13th circuit would be the DC Circuit. This circuit would hear cases in all the 108 district court buildings, but these cases would be the former administrative type cases like tax cases, EPA, or immigration cases. Their appeals would all be heard in this district..

Each appellate court would consist of 9 judges where a random rotation of 3 justices would hear the case. This would cut back on court shopping for cases since nobody would know in advance which justices would hear the appeals. Having three sets of justices would also speed up the process instead of waiting years for an appeal to be heard.

Each of the 13 circuits would have a SCOTUS justice assigned to it for emergency review. The assignments would switch yearly by random draw. Once again, this is to cut back on court shopping.

The SCOTUS would be expanded to 13 seats to match the number of circuits in the system. The SCOTUS justices along with all other judicial branch employees would be subject to the same ethics rules that govern federal employees of the other branches. The ethics rules must have some enforceable punishment to ensure unethical behavior isn’t a problem. For example, lying under oath during a confirmation hearing, should result in impeachment. If a justice lies under oath, how can they be trusted to judge cases?

In addition to adding justices, technology should be updated to allow us to witness the actions of the court. If we don’t know what’s going on, how can we trust the decisions they make? This includes cameras in courts and access to opinions when handed down.

My thoughts on overturning Roe may eventually make it to the blog if I can find a way to not write something that may jeopardize my employment.