Merry Christmas

We’re one week away from relegating 2022 to the history books. I just want to wish any and every person reading this a Merry Christmas (if you celebrate Christmas) or Happy Holidays.

We’ve all been through a lot over the past few years, so make sure you take time to pamper yourself. Don’t think that it’s selfish to take care of yourself because you deserve to be well mentally, physically, and spirituality just like anyone else. If you’re like me and always looking out for others, you can’t help people of you’re not well yourself.

This is a working holiday for me this year. Someone has to protect democracy. 😁 Enjoy your day today, and love on your loved ones.

Merry Christmas to all.

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.

Why voting matters

I know you’re wondering how the title ties in with the above tweet,  so I’ll take you on a little drive through my thoughts on this case and the sentences that were just handed down. And yes, my first thought after hearing the sentences was “Voting Matters!”

Ahmaud Arbery was murdered in Brunswick, Georgia on February 23, 2020. At the time of the murder, the Brunswick District Attorney’s Office, then led by DA Jackie Johnson, allegedly told the Glynn County Police Department not to make any arrests in this case. She recused  herself from the case because of her close ties to the suspects and asked the Waycross District Attorney to take the case.

The Waycross District Attorney George Barnhill also advised the GCPD to not make any arrests on two separate occasions. In addition Barnhill wrote a letter explaining why he didn’t believe that the Brunswick Three should face prosecution.

We only found out about the case when a third DA, Atlantic District Attorney Tom Durden, had the case handed to him after Barnhill recused himself because of close ties to the McMichael family. A video of the incident was released at the request of the suspects because they felt it would exonerate them, and we all know how that turned out.

Now, let’s get to the meat of this. In the state of Georgia, District Attorney positions are filled via elections. In 2020, there were 5 GOP DAs who got ousted from office by voters. Unfortunately, George Barnhill wasn’t one of them. This is why voting matters.

When office holders refuse to do their jobs as required without bias or discrimination, elections are the way to remove those useless public servants and replace them with someone who will do the job. They work for us, and not the other way around.

In addition, the sitting governor has the power to commute sentences or grant pardons for state level charges. If there should ever be any need for motivation to vote in Georgia, remember that one fact. As hard as the fight was to get justice for Ahmaud and his family, we’re always one election away from having a governor who could/would issue that get out of jail card to the Brunswick Three.

Voting Matters!

Just as I was getting ready to publish this, I came across this pile of excrement on Twitter.

Voting Matters!

The power of money

Lots of news lately involving money and politics dropping this week. First, there was the whistleblower story about Facebook and algorithm manipulation which was followed up by a complete network outage for most of the next day. Then, there was the story about the Pandora Papers which exposed how the wealthy have been hiding money all over the world. Finally, there’s the AT&T story about how they pretty much funded OAN Network and keep it afloat with user fees.

The common theme in all these stories is massive wealth accumulation and that wealth being used to manipulate society in harmful ways. I’ve never been jealous or envious of wealthy people, and I’m not about to change my views halfway through life. That doesn’t mean that I will turn a blind eye to the damage being done by the wealthy because of their greed.

What does it say about the world in which we reside when the so-called beacon of freedom, the home of democracy, is basically a 2nd to 3rd world keptocracy with a thin veneer of democracy being used to try to hide the ugly truth? The moment the Citizen’s United decision came down, money became power in the US, and by proxy, the entire world.

The majority of laws passed in this country only happen when Congress gets it’s pockets greased enough to do something. More often than not, the laws being passed don’t benefit the country as a whole as much as they benefit the special interests who have bought and paid for Congress. The sad thing about this is voters continue to re-elect the same people who keep screwing us over in favor of their sponsors. None of this would happen without the voters going into the booth to keep putting these bastards into office.

It’s a damn good setup too, when you realize how it works. A wealthy person creates a company (or a shell company). That company uses some form of media to manipulate the minds of voters into whatever the wealthy person wants them to believe. The wealthy person then directs money to people they want in office to enact their agenda. The citizens buy into the propaganda of the wealthy person’s agenda and the idea the chosen official will deliver that agenda. When it’s all done, it’s wealthy person 1 – America 0.

A perfect example of the power of money is Sens. Manchin and Sinema. Prior to January 20th, Manchin was talking about the need to pass an infrastructure package of up to $4 trillion dollars to get America back on track. Nine months later, his “top” amount is $1.5 trillion. I can only imagine the amount of campaign contributions he received to change his mind on the size of the infrastructure needs of this country. Never mind the flooding and destruction we’re seeing on a daily basis now. Don’t think about the potholes on your drive to work or to the store. We’re in the middle of a pandemic and many school kids don’t have access to the internet. However, that infrastructure need dropped significantly over nine months.

Sinema is just as bad. She was elected based on her pledges to work for the people of Arizona to help different groups that supported her and got her elected. I guess the support from those groups paled in comparison to the newfound support that has pushed her wealth high enough to make her a millionaire in three years. Her new supporters have obviously gotten her ear because she won’t hold town halls or even take questions from the very people who got her elected. She will, however, skip out of DC with the quickness to attend a fundraiser. That’s the power of money.

How do we counter the power of money? For starters, we need transparency and sunshine to find out all the sources of this money and the requests that accompany the donations. Voters, that means ALL voters, need to step out of their confirmation biases and look at the laws being suggested and where the push for them originates. I would also go as far as to suggest people band together to form a new and neutral news outlet that focuses on investigative journalism to vet information as it’s spread to try to kill disinformation before it infects society.

By far, the biggest antidote to money influence is the power of our vote itself. We need to eschew ourselves of the party apparatus. I know that’s harder than what it sounds, but party politics enables corruption and kleptocracy.

In addition, we need to address the ethical standards for holding office in this country. As a federal worker, I undergo a background investigation every 5 years as a condition of employment. Bad credit, financial issues, or anything else that would make me susceptible to blackmail or coercion could get me dismissed from employment. I can’t accept gifts from people I do business with, and the maximum value of gifts that I can accept is less than a triple digit amount. I don’t make policy or law. I simply enforce it. So, why am I held to a vastly higher standard than the people who actually craft policy and determine the direction of the country?

Just something to think about…

America is broken

I started thinking about this last night after realizing that I’m about to go through another furlough period for choices that my fellow Americans keep making. It’s apparent that this country continues to make the same choices while expecting different outcomes. The choices we’re making has broken America, and I am not convinced that the damage can be repaired.

Now I’ll say this and cause some people to flip the hell out. I’m of the opinion that America has always been broken. It has never lived up to the symbol of democracy that it’s been advertised to be. Pick any day in our history, and there will be a group or groups of people who are actively being denied the freedom advertised by our founding and the protections enshrined within the Constitution. This country has always been broken for someone, but it has also always been functional.

Being broken isn’t inherently a bad thing though. America, while being broken, has also has the promise of a better day or, shall we say, a more perfect union just around the corner. That promise showed up time and time again as we corrected mistakes to move society forward for all. The corrections were not always easy, nor were they always painless. However, we pushed America forward towards mending the breaks.

Now, America is so broken that I don’t think we can repair the breaks. As the story goes, America was founded because the founders wanted to break away from the monarchy in England and have freedom to choose their own paths. This quest for freedom runs through all the founding documents and is the basis by which America proclaims itself to be the leader of the free world. Now, we have almost half of the country ready to surrender itself to an aristocracy intent on installing an authoritarian government if necessary just to get their way.

Don’t just take my word that America is broken. Look at the evidence yourself and see what conclusions you come to. We witnessed a failed coup attempt by a sitting president and his party to remain in power. It started with the lie about voter fraud, led to the January 6th insurrection, and is being furthered by GOP state legislation designed to overturn elections they disagree with no matter how secure they are? That’s not government of the people, by the people, and for the people. That’s government how WE want it regardless of what you vote for, and that isn’t any type of democracy at all.

Moving past the election fraud going on, we’re looking at another government shutdown. How in the hell does a free and democratic society ever have a government shutdown? There should be legislation dictating that funding automatically freezes and remains the same when Congress abdicates its duty to properly pass appropriation legislation to set funding levels for our government to operate. An even better suggestion would be to make appropriation bills valid for 2 years so each House session only has to pass one set of bills and be done with the process.

Another symbol of a broken democracy is the debt limit. What country has to actually legislate paying its obligations? Imagine the chaos if a person or business operated that way. We would be the United States of Bankruptcy and Bad Credit. It should be automatic that we will pay our bills, yet a political party has made it a tactic to hold the country hostage and threaten worldwide economic destruction just to gain control of the government.

While all this is going on, what do we hear from the media? Crickets. Yes, there are individual journalists and others sounding the warning bells like Paul Revere riding a horse like his life depends on it. However, our media papers over things like this is all normal and proper action for a democracy. However when you look beyond our borders, other countries hit the streets in protest for far less egregious things that we allow to happen here as though that’s how things should go.

America is severely broken whether we are honest enough with ourselves to admit it. The question is will we admit it before there is no longer an America to fix?