Tag: BLM

What matters

Problem is that the ‘all lives matter’ response encompasses both the rational assertion that, yeah, all lives matter and the unhinged belief that, systemically and institutionally, all people get the same treatment.
The best response I’ve heard to ‘all lives matter’ is ‘no one needed to be told that *your* life matters’. Spent some time contemplating that idea. Historically, lives have not been ascribed the same value — healers, religious leaders, kings had more value than peasants, criminals, mentally ill, physically ill. Romans enslaved defeated nations and demanded tribute. I’m sure the best hunters in prehistoric tribes got preferential treatment. Academic agreement that all lives matter is fairly modern. It takes time for people’s beliefs and default actions to change.
Strange comparison, but I had a maths professor who had started Uni when electronic calculators first went mainstream. You’d do the problem and, if you had time, use the calculator to check your work. It took years of conditioning to get a “the calculator is going to be right” mindset. By the time he finished his PhD, a lot of people would use the calculator and then check the calculator’s work. He mentioned the story because, by the time I was in Uni, encountering a long addition problem had any student grabbing their calculator instead of a sheet of paper. Default state, over 30 years, had changed. And it would never have occurred to any of us to *check the calculator’s work*. Sounds silly even saying it. Which gives me hope that people’s default actions will eventually actualize the idea that all lives matter.

Not a golf shot, but …

I should know better than to apply logical thought to Trump’s blathering, but … the scenario of a golfer choking is that they miss an easy shot under pressure, right? Like the ball is three foot away from the hole, the golfer has a putter in hand, a reasonable stance, and the club is aimed to hit the ball in the general direction of the hole. Aaaand then they hit it a little hard, or a little soft, or have a little spin that throws off the shot. The Kenosha cop? In golf terms, that’s trying the three foot shot with a 9mm instead of the putter.

Concerns About Defunding

A friend asked why phone bank organizers have been encountering liberal suburbanites who are concerned about the ‘defund the police’ movement. Why? Branding! Republicans are particularly good at it, and Democrats are stunningly bad at it. The de- prefix connotes removal and privation. They should use a re- prefix for the “again” connotation instead — reimagine, renovate, even restructure. It’s more difficult to come out against a positive-sounding slogan (think of the difficulty the BLM opponents have). I can explain why the death tax was a good thing, but I’d have to get someone to sit for ten minutes and listen to me. Someone advocating removing inheritance taxes just needs to yell “death tax” really loud. Saying ‘defund the police’ lets someone else say ‘save the police’.
And that encounters a problem of personal perception. There are a lot of people who are lucky enough to only encounter police as helpful public servants (or at least the pleasant/helpful experiences far outweigh the unpleasant one, creating the ‘few bad apples’ argument). Directing traffic when a tree fell across half of the road, cruising by when I was the only car in a park on Tuesday afternoon then letting me borrow a phone because I’d locked myself out of my car and my phone in it, coordinating the effort to return runaway cows to their field while the owner was on holiday, double-checking that my car seat was installed securely, getting in touch with the local business owner whose music was still blasting at 2AM because the employee cranked the outdoor sound system for closing tasks and forgot to shut it off when they left, providing road condition updates in the winter, letting me stop by and ask questions about the car-seat / booster seat regulations in a two-seater automobile, feeding and sheltering the dog someone found running down the street until the owner could stop by the station and pick it up, helping push the cars off to the closest car park after an accident, swinging by my house when a few motion detectors started going active while we were out of town for a weekend, alerting residents that a power line was down / truck in the ditch / multi-car accident on the main road, getting FexEx to stop delivery for an elderly neighbor who was rung up by Great-Nephew Timmy who needs bail money (cash of course) sent to this Nigerian prince (maybe I’m mixing my fraud, but you get the idea) thus returning the chap’s money. That last one? The Police Chief offered, for anyone rcv’ing such a call, that an officer would happily ring up the other police department, confirm the charges, and verify the appropriate way to send bail.
Those are all things I know about the Township police having done in the five years I’ve lived in my current house — many for me personally. No, you shouldn’t assume everyone else has your experience; but your personal experience will inform your beliefs. And I’m happy my tax money is used to offer these services within the community.
Now, if you tell me that you want to restructure the police so there’s not an armed response to pretty much any of those scenarios? That’s a perfectly reasonable idea. Or, from a fiscal conservative’s standpoint, that it would be more cost effective to have some less-credentialed response unit available for non-dangerous situations. Certainly some police action should be eliminated. I used to get stopped just for driving into the “bad neighborhood” in my “nice car” as part of the perpetual war on drugs, and that’s about the nicest race/class profiling interaction you’ll ever hear about. But I’m also fairly unique in my social circle in that I ever had bad interactions with police. I call this the ‘few good apples’ problem — even when someone is aware of systemic problems and abuse, they want to save the good apples that they’ve personally encountered.
There needs to be a pithy phrase that conveys “You will still have someone to ring up if the home automation system says there’s motion in your house while you’re all out at dinner. But you’ll also have someone with mental health experience to ring up when grandma has a manic episode and is brandishing a large butcher knife because she happened to be slicing up a watermelon. You’ll also have someone with social work experience to ring up if your teenage kid runs away from home.”
Because, fortunately or unfortunately, the general public aren’t going to take half an hour and read through a nuanced proposal to address the issue (nor are they apt to put more time into understanding the extent of the problem than the videos they’re encountering in their FB feed). They’re *going* to judge the situation and solutions based on slogans.

Ignoring Distal Factors

I’m glad to see that all of the officers involved in Mr. Floyd’s death last week have been charged, but there are proximal and distal factors prompting the protests. While this might address the proximal factor, what does it do for the distal ones? How many instances of police brutality have still been ignored? How much police brutality have we seen during the protests? There was a clip on the ABC news a few nights ago where two cops were arresting someone. The one cop threw his leg over the individual and dropped a knee on his neck. Now the other cop quickly shoved the first cop’s leg away, but how in the world could a cop think “hey, knee on the neck is a good idea”?

In the mid-90’s, I worked on a project to bring local law enforcement data together and use rudimentary AI to identify offenders who spanned jurisdictions. Why wouldn’t we demand a similar database for police offenses? Identify behavioral patterns that might be addressed through training, identify practices that frequently endanger civilian lives, avoid a violent officer moving around to maintain employment, and incorporate individual’s information in performance reviews.

I’ve been wondering about changes to the internal affairs processes — intentionally including people from civil rights organizations and community groups in a review board. Police tase some guy that was running at them brandishing a knife? IA clears it as justified. Tase some dude who wanted to hand off his baby before getting on his knees with his hands behind her head? There are disciplinary actions and possible criminal charges.
Also having IA boards from larger areas provide review for jurisdictions that are so small that “immediate supervisor” serves as a review board. I live in a small town with a handful of officers. They have an agreement with a neighboring town to roll their phone number to that station after-hours. Why couldn’t the larger town provide review services too? I mean, I get not wanting someone else second-guessing your actions, but my tax money is paying to keep the community safe. And if taxpayers consider having some non-partisan external entity review use of force to be an essential part of “keep the community safe” … it is.
I also get that a non-trivial portion of the country doesn’t see top-level legislation as the answer to, well, anything beyond military spending. But I don’t see any way to enact this kind of reform from the bottom up. I could probably talk my community into an external review board instead of using the Chief of Police, but use of force is quite rare here (thus my change is basically feel-good theater). Could the Cleveland City Council force such a change? It seems like a state law or some federal requirement where funding is withheld for non-compliance (think the 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act — we cannot tell you to make your drinking age 21, but we can withhold federal highway funding if it’s not 21) would be needed to effect change.
ETA — I love Bernie Sanders: