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Book Review: The New Jim Crow

The New Jim Crow can be summarized as this: white people will always find a way to produce a racial caste system in which black people are inferior. It started with slavery, when slavery was abolished it morphed into racist Jim Crow laws, and when Jim Crow was abolished it morphed into Mass Incarceration (AKA The New Jim Crow) through the War on Drugs.

And while I think everyone agrees that Jim Crow and especially slavery were indeed horrific atrocities that singled out black people for discrimination, she fails to make her point that Mass Incarceration is also a system designed by white men to subjugate black men.

She will readily admit that our current laws, unlike Jim Crow laws, do not discriminate based on race and are “colorblind.” Having said that, since there are no actual concrete examples of racism within the law today, she must fabricate racism wherever she can find it. In this book, mass incarceration through the war on drugs is her prime example of the new racist system in place.

The reason the book fails is that her argument is ultimately unconvincing as far as racism goes. Yes, she provides a multitude of statistics and anecdotal examples of black men today ending up in prison, but the fault is never ever with them, it’s always the fault of white people, cops, employers, etc.

I think I may have read half a page where she spoke of personal responsibility, but when the other 99.9% of the book is blaming someone else for the plight of black men, the half a page of personal responsibility feels like tokenism thrown in make it appear as though she’s trying to be objective.

For example: she complains that even when incarcerated people are eventually freed, they are now subject to legal discrimination from employers. She’s not wrong actually, but she fails to make a case as to why this should not be so. Should private employers not have the right to know the criminal backgrounds of potential employees? Must they be kept in the dark about that in the name of fairness even if it could potentially hurt their business? I don’t think so. Imagine some of the other ramifications here.  Imagine a school or a church nursery being unable to discover that a convicted pedophile was applying for a job.  Of course she rarely mentions that white criminals are also subjected to this form of legal discrimination, yet naturally assumes this practice is a racist one all designed to make black people second class citizens.

Additionally, empirical evidence shows that background checks actually help unemployed blacks to obtain employment, as documented in the Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 49, No. 2, pp.451-480 (Oct 2006) as well as Jason L. Riley’s  Wallstreet Journal piece titled “Jobless Blacks Should Cheer Background Checks”
Hyperbole and melodrama runs rampant throughout the book. I quote, “What is completely missed in the rare public debates today about the plight of African Americans is that a huge percentage of them are not free to move up at all. It is not just that they lack opportunity, attend poor schools, or are plagued by poverty. They are barred by law from doing so.” No, they are not barred by law from doing so. Most employers are still free to hire convicted criminals if they choose to, it’s just that most would rather hire a less risky employee. Does everyone deserve a second chance? Sure, but employers are not obligated by law to provide that second chance, and why should they be? She never provides a potential solution for this complaint, other than to prevent employers from even being able to ask I suppose. She also fails to show how background checks are inherently racist since they apply to whites and all other ethnicities as well.

She treats the term “law and order” as a negative thing, as if it’s the new secret code phrase for being racist without being overtly racist. She quotes former President Nixon in a negative light when he said the increasing crime rate “can be traced directly to the spread of the corrosive doctrine that every citizen possesses an inherent right to decide for himself which laws to obey and when to disobey them.” President Nixon wasn’t wrong then, and he certainly wouldn’t be wrong to say it today either in a time when protests and riots are commonplace simply because people don’t want to obey the law.

I quote, “They developed instead the racially sanitized rhetoric of ‘cracking down on crime’–rhetoric that is now used freely by politicians of every stripe.” I’m sorry, what are you advocating for? Not caring about crime? Letting crime run rampant? What exactly is wrong with cracking down on crime, especially when a disproportionate amount of violent crime victims are black?

Her conspiracy theory is that the war on drugs was deliberately designed to imprison mass amounts of black people, taking away their right to vote and right to get a job so that they remain a second class citizen for life. She states that the crack epidemic of the mid to late 1980’s was the perfect opportunity to do just that, never mind that the “war on drugs” was started before crack cocaine became an epidemic in black communities. She ignores the fact that harsh sentencing for crack cocaine possession had a majority support from black congressmen.  She even hints that crack was introduced to black communities by the white government specifically so that they would have a reason to imprison them. No evidence of that of course, but the accusation is still made.

She blames the de-industrialization of America as being responsible for a large number of black people becoming unemployed, which may well be true, but she then uses that to justify when they start selling crack to make money. She complains that Bill Clinton put a 5 year limit on welfare, and that felons are barred from public housing, which is paid for by the government anyway. She says they are locked out of “their own homes.” No, public housing is not THEIR home, it’s ultimately tax payers’ home that the government allows them to borrow, and thus they should have the right to refuse that home to people who do not want to obey the law. Why should a felon, who didn’t play by the rules, be allowed housing over poor people that did play by the rules? It’s more victimization of criminals as if they had no choice in committing the crimes they committed. Of course she also bemoans the fact that private housing is allowed to keep felons from living there, as if a private landlord should be forced by law to accept a potentially dangerous criminal.

Here’s potentially the most melodramatic paragraph in the entire book, “Full-blown trials of guilt or innocence rarely occur; many people never even meet with an attorney; witnesses are routinely paid and coerced by the government; police regularly stop and search people for no reason whatsoever; penalties for many crimes are so severe that innocent people plead guilty, accepting plea bargains to avoid harsh mandatory sentences; and children, even as young as fourteen, are sent to adult prisons. Rules of law and procedure, such as ‘guilt beyond a reasonable doubt’ or ‘probable cause’ or ‘reasonable suspicion’ can easily be found in court cases and law-school textbooks but are much harder to find in real life.” Of course no evidence is provided of witnesses being paid by the government or police officers searching people for no reason whatsoever, at least on a widespread scale, but the melodramatic rhetoric is stated all the same. A perfect example of why the book was unconvincing.

She then further bashes police and shows her lack of understanding of the 4th amendment when she complains about police getting consent to search for drugs and subsequently finding some. She likes to put the word consent in scare quotes as if the arrestee truly had no say in the matter. Don’t want police to search you? Then don’t consent, especially if you know you have drugs on you. Can you really complain when police make an arrest in such a case?

She likes to be dramatic and complain that police find pretext reasons to stop cars such as for minor traffic violations and then from there further develop probable cause to search for drugs. There is nothing illegal about this method, as to effectually overturn it you would have to bar officers from making traffic stops altogether. She says, “police have received no training that enhances the likelihood they will spot drug criminals as they drive by and leave everyone else alone.” This statement here really shows her ignorance of police work, as police will often set up on known dope houses and stop cars after they leave them knowing that there’s a high probability that they just purchased drugs there. She doesn’t grasp this and thinks they just randomly stop black people to look for drugs.

Nevertheless, she fancies herself an expert on how police work SHOULD be done, despite never actually having been an officer. She says, “In countless situations in which police could easily have arrested someone or conducted a search without a military-style raid, police blast into people’s homes, typically in the middle of the night, throwing grenades, shouting and pointing guns and rifles at anyone inside, often including young children.” Easy for her to say what they could have “easily” done when it’s not her life on the line of course. I guess the thought never occurred to her that drug dealers sometimes shoot at officers or try to flush evidence if the police were to knock politely and announce their intentions in broad daylight.  And of course, once again, no culpability rests with the criminal here for putting their children in danger by knowingly possessing illegal drugs in the same home the children sleep at night.

She often makes remarks that people arrested for drugs are never provided legal representation, although it’s required by law that an attorney is provided for them if they cannot afford one. Of course she contradicts herself and in other places will admit that they are appointed a public defender, but will then complain that the public defender doesn’t have the skill or time to devote to their cases like a highly paid private attorney would. I suppose the taxpayer should also foot the bill to provide the very best legal representation for criminals?

Speaking of contradictions, on one page she complains about mass incarceration, and on the next she readily admits that “most people branded felons, in fact, are not sentenced to prison.” and then goes on to complain about how being branded a felon is actually worse than being behind bars. Apparently she isn’t pleased with anything short of NOT incarcerating these folks and also NOT allowing their criminal records to be made available to employers. Essentially she argues for no punishment at all.

She says “the clear majority of Americans of all races have violated drug laws in their lifetime.” Yet in an earlier poll she quoted it showed that only 6.4% of people will violate drug laws.

According to her, even mentioning crime is racist. She says, “There are certain code words that allow you never to have to say ‘race,’ but everybody knows that’s what you mean and ‘crime’ is one of those… So when we talk about locking up more and more people, what we’re really talking about is locking up more and more black men.”

Now, her book was written in 2010, the same year the Fair Sentencing Act was passed, but before it passed there was a mandatory 5 year minimum sentence if you were caught with more than 5 grams of crack cocaine. You’d have to get caught with 500 grams of powder cocaine to get the same sentence, so this is one of her arguments for racism in the criminal justice system. But again, the argument doesn’t work, because the tougher crack cocaine sentencing applied to all races equally, just as the more lenient powder cocaine sentencing applied to all races equally. The argument, of course, is that crack cocaine is the “black man’s drug” and powder cocaine is used more often by whites, thus racism is the only answer. But there are explanations for this that don’t point to racism. The first one is that crack cocaine provides a faster and more powerful high than powder and is also easier to consume.

The second one is that crack cocaine was devastating black communities so the mandatory minimum was a good faith effort to battle this tragedy. It should also be noted that the mandatory minimum sentence for crack cocaine had majority support from black Congressmen, so the idea that it was passed to target black people falls flat unless you’re calling those congressman racists towards their own race.

The third reason this argument fails is because methamphetamine, a “white man’s drug” carried the same 5 year mandatory minimum sentence for 5 grams just like crack cocaine did. The fourth reason it fails is because those mandatory minimums for crack cocaine have been reduced under the Fair Sentencing Act, while sentencing for meth has only gotten more severe.

And for being an obviously educated lady, she makes some embarrassing yet common errors when pointing to statistics. For example she believes it’s racist that black youth “account for 16% of all youth, yet 28% of all juvenile arrests, 35% of the youth waived to adult criminal court and 58% of youth admitted to adult prison.” If all races committed crimes at the same rate this argument would hold water, but we know that isn’t true, so the argument fails. It would be like saying the police hate men because the majority of their arrests are of males despite the fact that men only make up 48% of the country’s population.

The jury selection system is also racist apparently, because prosecutors are allowed to strike potential jurors for any reason they see fit, so long as the reason isn’t overtly because of race. Of course she never considered the other side of the coin and that defense attorneys are also allowed to strike potential jurors for any reason they see fit as well. The double edged sword of this policy was never more evident than in the O.J. Simpson trial when Simpson’s lawyers tried to get every black person they could as a juror because of the racially charged circumstances of that case. She didn’t complain about racism in that case however, even though it’s pretty evident that black jurors’ emotional loyalty to their race allowed for the acquittal of O.J. despite all the hard evidence pointing to his guilt.

You get to the half way point in the book before she even tries to prove racism with any kind of objective evidence at all. While she does concede that laws are colorblind, she charges police officers, prosecutors, judges and juries with enforcing those laws in an unfair manner. To do this, the foundation of her argument is a survey taken that supposedly shows whites and blacks use drugs at more or less the same rate.

And while the survey is taken every year, she cherry picks the one taken in 2000 that showed that 6.4% of whites and 6.4% of blacks surveyed admitted to illicit drug use. More recent surveys show that blacks admit more often to drug use than whites, although the difference is admittedly small.

The problems with using this survey as proof that police discriminate are numerous. The biggest reason is because it fails to account for how police departments spread their resources. If police were spread perfectly evenly throughout a city regardless of where overall crime is the argument may hold more water. But even she admits that blacks commit an overwhelmingly disproportionate amount of violent crimes including murder and robberies. Naturally police are going to focus their resources where most of the crime is occurring, especially since lowering crime statistics is usually the measuring stick that will be used to determine if a police department or Sheriff’s office is operating effectively. Given that police are going to saturate the areas that have the highest percentage of crime, you’re naturally going to have more drug arrests as a result. To prove that’s true, most larger cities now let a computer generated algorithm which factors in crime rates, number of 911 calls, and other variables to determine where their resources would best be spent. Given that the algorithm only takes into account colorblind statistics to produce it’s recommendation, it can’t be said that police leaders are saturating non-white areas out of racism or sub conscious bias.

There are other factors in play here as well, such as poverty. Since the median income of blacks is nearly half of that of whites, it stands to reason that blacks will be less likely to keep up with regular maintenance on their vehicles such as registration and inspection, fixing burned out headlights and tail lights, insurance, etc. All of those things can lead to more traffic stops which subsequently could lead to more arrests which could subsequently lead to finding more drugs.

Another aspect that she attempts to cover is that it would seem that poverty stricken blacks would be more likely to make drug transactions outdoors where police can observe them and then take action, whereas the more wealthy whites would be more likely to do their deals indoors where the privacy of 4 walls can keep police unaware of the activity. She attempts to debunk this idea using an experiment that was done in Seattle. The experiment concluded that Seattle’s police department chose to focus their efforts more on outdoor drug markets in downtown areas instead of indoor markets in predominantly white communities. Racism, is of course, at the root of this in her mind, but she fails to consider that observing outdoor drug transactions in plain view is a much easier fish to catch than trying to locate indoor drug transactions in wealthy white suburbs where the protections of the 4th amendment would make the job of an officer much more difficult because they’d already need probable cause in order to obtain a warrant to go inside.

She then contradicts herself to some extent by saying the downtown areas that WERE observed had just as many white drug dealers and drug buyers as black drug dealers and buyers, but that police chose to look the other way more often with white transactions. The only evidence she provided to prove her point was that the experiment was conducted by 3 former druggies who would know what a drug transaction looks like, and that they supposedly marked their observations in a completely objective manner. In short, there’s no way the experiment could possibly prove that more whites were dealing and selling drugs than blacks without some actual evidence besides their own hunches. Yet this is the shaky foundation upon which her entire “police enforce unfairly” argument rests.

According to her, drug transactions weren’t the only crimes that were enforced unfairly, she also accused traffic enforcement of targeting blacks disproportionately. Here she makes the same statistical error that she made earlier. She says “In New Jersey, the data showed that only 15 percent of all drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike were racial minorities, yet 42 percent of all stops and 73 percent of all arrests were of black motorists.” And yet a 2002 study done in the same state, performed by independent researchers, where a radar gun and a camera were set up that photographed each driver on a particular roadway, showed that blacks were caught speeding at a much higher rate than any other race. Might that explain the disparity in traffic stops? And could the higher arrest rates be a result of outstanding warrants, suspended licenses, the smell of marijuana coming from the vehicle, etc? The author never bothers to even consider these possibilities and simply says more stops = racism.

Making criminals into victims is a common theme throughout the book. She blames cops for a shooting where they ordered the man to stop but he ignored their orders, continued to his apartment building, opened the door, and pulled out an object. The object turned out to be a wallet, but can you blame the officers for being afraid when he ignored their orders?

She even accuses the government of being racist for mandating that driver’s license exams be written in English because it discriminates based on national origin. Never mind that traffic signs are also written in English and that it might behoove drivers be able to read them.

She continues to make false statements like “Those released from prison on parole can be stopped and searched by the police for any reason–or no reason at all.”  Not true.  There are some instances where a probation officer can perform searches to make sure they are in compliance with the terms of their probation, but that’s a condition they agree to in lieu of staying in prison.  Yet she makes it sound like if you’ve ever been convicted of a crime the police can stop you and search you without probable cause.  Completely false!

And while bemoaning mass incarceration, she also finds something to complain about when prisoners are given probation or parole so that they can avoid incarceration. She says “He will also be told little or nothing about the parallel universe he is about to enter, one that promises a form of punishment that is often more difficult to bear than prison time: a lifetime of shame, contempt, scorn, and exclusion. In this hidden world, discrimination is perfectly legal.” So what should be the alternative? Don’t incarcerate them and also don’t expect them to report to a probation officer, don’t allow businesses to even ask if they have a criminal record, etc? One might start to think that she is actually pro-crime.

She falsely states that ex-convicts are unable to obtain a driver’s license. While this may true of some offenses, it certainly isn’t true of the vast majority of them, yet she makes no distinction and leaves the reader to believe that any imprisonment at all comes with a lifetime ban on driving. She also complains that public housing isn’t available to ex-felons, as if the law abiding taxpayers should be obligated by law to pay the rent of criminals upon their release.

Towards the end of the book she tries to examine the root causes of the higher crime rate of the black community. And while she hits the nail on the head that fatherlessness is one of the biggest culprits, she also blames racism for that. She criticizes Obama for giving a speech where he brought up fatherlessness and then says, “The media did not ask–and Obama did not tell–where the missing fathers might be found.” and of course she’s blaming mass incarceration for the epidemic of fatherlessness. Naturally she fails to mention that there are 17 million black men in America and less than 800,000 imprisoned, but of course mass incarceration is to blame for fatherlessness altogether in her eyes.

She even believes that the only reason any white people are arrested whatsoever is so that we can keep a false veneer that the law is colorblind. She says, “We, as a nation, seem comfortable with 90 percent of the people arrested and convicted of drug offenses in some states being African American, but if the figure were 100 percent, the veil of colorblindness would be lost.” Unbelievable.

And what marxist, leftist book would be complete without comparing our criminal justice system with Nazi Germany? She says, “Tragedies such as the Holocaust in Germany or ethnic cleansing in Bosnia are traceable to the extreme marginalization and stigmatization of racial and ethnic groups.” Her statement is true, but to continue to apply it to post-Jim Crow America is ludicrous.

If this book had been written about the discrimination or mistreatment of criminals in general she would have had a much stronger argument, although she still would have been short on solutions to change things without incentivizing crime. And legalizing some drugs is not entirely a bad idea and would certainly do much to reduce the prison population. But the book fails because she fails to be convincing that racism is the driving force behind our increase in prison population, and she offers no plausible solutions besides “Stop locking them up and if they do get locked up pretend it never happened once they’re out.”

The book is well written, I’ll give her that. And I’ll give her credit for actually considering the ramifications of vastly reducing our prison populations as that would result in many prison guards and other criminal justice employees becoming suddenly jobless.  But as a cop I’d be happy to have to find a new line of work if it meant the demand for my services became non-existent.  Ultimately the book is a marxist, racist book that strives for equal results (not equal opportunity) for all people, regardless of effort put forth and regardless of whether some people commit crime and some do not. In short the book victimizes criminals, demonizes police officers, judges and prosecutors, and offers no reasonable alternatives to her complaints.

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Regarding De-Escalation

Lately I’ve noticed ivory tower critics of police have latched onto the phrase “de-escalation” as a means to demonize officers every time they use force to subdue a resisting suspect.  This article will hopefully educate people as to what police are actually trained to do, as it’s clear that most of the people using this phrase as a rhetorical weapon haven’t the foggiest clue what they’re talking about.

To begin, the phrase itself is a problematic misnomer.  It implies that police have the ability to simply make angry people less angry or to make resisting suspects compliant, all through some kind of jedi mind trick or something.

As much as we would all love to have that ability, we don’t.  Here’s the reality about police work.  It’s almost entirely reactionary, especially as it pertains to making arrests.  The police don’t decide whether a suspect will resist arrest or not, the arrestee does.

For example, if you comply and put your hands behind your back, I put the handcuffs on and all is well.  If you refuse to do that and simply make your arms rigid or sit down on the ground, now I have to react to that and try to force your arm behind your back or pick you up off the ground.  If you then take a swing at me, I swing back, or I might use pepper spray or a taser.  If you pull a knife, I pull a gun.  If you pull a gun, I pull a gun and I shoot.  Everything I do is in response to your decisions to either comply or ignore lawful orders.  I can try to talk you into making different decisions and complying with lawful commands but the decision still rests with the arrestee, we can’t control their decisions.

The law allows officers to use enough force to effect an arrest.  So if the force required to effect that arrest includes taking you off your feet, striking you in the face, hitting you with a baton, using the Taser, etc. then that’s what we’ll do.  We love it when people simply comply and put their hands behind their back.  Makes our jobs so much easier, eliminates the possibility of either party being injured or killed, and saves us a bunch of extra paperwork.

As I mentioned, de-escalation is a misnomer.  All it really means is that we are trained not to make a bad situation worse by being unnecessarily antagonistic or immediately going “hands on” before giving someone the opportunity for compliance.

Look, I’m as big of a fan of verbal Judo as you’ll find.  I’d always rather talk a man into cuffs than have to fight him into cuffs.  But that decision isn’t up to us, it’s up to the arrestee. Make no mistake though, we will make that arrest and we will use whatever force is necessary to do so.  We are duty bound to do it with most offenses.

Here’s another misconception about de-escalation.  Ivory tower critics have this idea in their mind that officers are supposed to be passive, limp wristed counselors who never raise their voice, who allow the arrestee to dictate the terms of their arrest, who will only use force if force is first used on them, etc.  This is nonsense.  It’s not taught in police academies.

We are law enforcement officers.  We enforce law.  We are peace keepers.  We keep the peace, if that means using force to make a situation peaceful then we do it.  Are there situations where officers should take a little more time to talk someone into cuffs instead of fighting them into cuffs?  Sure, but we are not obligated by law to do so, and the fact remains that a resisting suspect’s decision to resist arrest is still on them.  We are not required to sit and chat for hours on end in the hopes that someone will comply.

In fact at times the lack of decisive action can make a situation worse.  Watch this video and note that the first officers that show up are attempting what ivory tower critics would praise as a good attempt at de-escalation.  They aren’t really using much if any force other than the poor female officer who was powerless to control a group of women fighting. They aren’t raising their voices, they aren’t giving orders, they’re basically passive observers.  They can’t even get the people to stop talking and getting in each other’s faces long enough to try to figure out what happened. And the situation is still chaotic.  The situation is escalated, if you will.  People are still on the verge of fighting, people are still in danger, weapons could be pulled at a moment’s notice and people could be killed.

Then watch what happens when the supervisor arrives does the opposite of what critics suggest.  He has a commanding presence, he has loud, clear commands, and he demonstrates that he is ready to use force if necessary by brandishing a Taser.   And look at the result.  The situation is de-escalated.  All of the chaos and fighting stops.  People are no longer in danger of being punched, stabbed or shot.  Yes, they are on the ground when they might prefer not to be, but they are safe and so are the officers.  De-escalation doesn’t always mean being soft and trying to be understanding, sometimes it’s letting people know you mean business. (language warning)

 

Now that one had a peaceful ending, but this next video has a much more tragic ending.  I never want to bring disrespect to a fallen officer, but I do want to use his situation as a learning experience.  (language warning)

Deputy Dinkheller did what most ivory tower critics would praise today as good attempts at de-escalation.  He’s dealing with a Vietnam veteran who has PTSD. Critics would say he’s not a hardened criminal but someone who has mental illness and just needs some help.

Dinkheller asked and pleaded with the man to obey lawful commands.  When the man went back to his truck and began loading a rifle Dinkheller still did not shoot. He continued to try to de-escalate and told the man multiple times to drop the gun even after the man said “No!” and continued to get the rifle ready.  The noises you hear in the final seconds of the video are Deputy Dinkheller’s final breaths as he tries to breathe through lungs filling with blood.  Situations like this are the inevitable result of the push to de-escalate that which cannot be de-escalated.

Please, if you have no experience as an officer, refrain from using phrases like “he should have de-escalated.” I understand that you don’t want to see force used against citizens, and as I said I don’t know of an officer yet who would rather fight a guy or shoot a guy than talk him into handcuffs, but you speak from a place of ignorance and your naive assumptions don’t do anything but make officers second guess themselves which puts everyone in more danger.

An apology to Saiko Woods

This is an open and public apology to Saiko Woods, whom I previously wrote an article about.  In short, I was wrong to downplay the significance of the Confederate flag and how wearing it may cause some brothers to stumble.  I was wrong to defend those such as JD Hall who said things like “Bruh” to Saiko, which were only said as a means to mock and disrespect him.  I still have a ton of respect for Saiko, in truth I never stopped having respect for him, but I allowed my judgment to be clouded out of allegiance to JD and out of a spirit of being uncharitable.  I pray and humbly ask for Saiko to forgive me, and part of making things right is to publicly acknowledge when one was wrong.  And I was wrong, point blank.  Saiko, will you forgive me?

A response to Chris Hernandez about Philando Castile

Saw this article pop up today, where a police officer named Chris Hernandez stated there is “no way” the shooting of Philando Castile was justified.  Of course I wrote my own piece explaining why I think officer Yanez was not unreasonable in his actions which can be read here, but I want to respond to this article from Chris Hernandez.  Please read both of those articles before reading this one.

I was surprised to see him write it, because his article on the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO is probably the best and most thorough article I’ve seen on the topic.  Likewise, his article on Tamir Rice is almost a word for word match of mine.  And his article on Alton Sterling made many of the same points that mine did.

So why the difference here?  Well, as I’ll attempt to demonstrate, his reasoning in the Castile shooting is actually in direct contradiction to his reasoning in some of his other articles.

Hernandez says…

Castile had no history of violence or criminal history worse than traffic offenses, and no connection to the robbery Yanez thought he might have been involved in. He was on his way back home from a grocery store when he was stopped, and wasn’t committing any crime save two: his license was suspended, and he had a small bag of marijuana in the car. The marijuana is significant, for reasons I’ll explain later.

It is true that Castile had no violent criminal history, but I’d like to know how he knows that Castile had no connection to the robbery Yanez thought he might have been involved in.  Did detectives finally discover who did commit the robbery?  If not, how can one be sure it wasn’t Castile?  It is true that no warrant had been issued for Castile’s arrest regarding the robbery, but that doesn’t mean officer Yanez was out of bounds to see a guy who resembled the guy he had seen on surveillance video just days prior and make a traffic stop to get more information.  And regardless of whether it was Castile or not who committed that robbery, officer Yanez was operating under the idea that it COULD POSSIBLY be Castile, so he found a reason for contact (burned out brake light) and made the stop.

He also says he wasn’t committing any crime save two: his license was suspended, and he had a small bag of marijuana in the car.  Driving on a suspended license is an arrestable offense in Minnesota, as is possession of marijuana, even a personal amount.  But Mr. Hernandez failed to mention that the toxicology report showed that Castile had high levels of THC (marijuana) in his system.  So he was actually driving while intoxicated.  Not only was he driving while intoxicated, but he was driving while intoxicated with a minor in the car.  In many states that’s a felony, in Minnesota it’s a gross misdemeanor which is like a more serious version of a misdemeanor but falls just short of being a felony.  Either way, driving while intoxicated with a child in the car is a pretty serious crime, ask anyone who’s worked a fatality accident where a child died or was severely injured because their parent was driving drunk or high.  For Mr. Hernandez to blow this off like it’s nothing is shocking, especially for a police officer.

Hernandez further blows Castile’s crimes off by saying…

Some people will undoubtedly argue that point by saying “He was driving on a suspended license and had drugs in the car.” My response is, “So what?” Plenty of people who aren’t criminals have suspended licenses. Anyone down on their luck can let their insurance lapse, which can then lead to a ticket they can’t pay, which then leads to a suspended license. A suspension can mean a drunk driving or drug arrest, but not always. And he had a personal use amount of marijuana in the car, not a kilo. If smoking marijuana makes people criminals, a lot of service members, regular working people and even cops are or were criminals.

Another shocking thing for a police officer to say.  “So what?”  Look, I’m not saying that driving on a suspended license or possessing marijuana or even driving while high with a kid in the car makes one deserving of death, but to blow these things off as if they’re akin to jaywalking is absurd and I’m shocked that an officer of the law is treating them as such.

Hernandez then makes some odd assumptions…

As far as I can tell, there is no indication whatsoever that Castile was actually drawing on Yanez;

There’s no indication that Castile was drawing his weapon because there’s no video that shows what the officer was seeing or what Castile’s hands were actually doing.  Ultimately it’s what the officer is seeing that determines whether his fear was reasonable, not what armchair quarterbacks see (or don’t see) from a dash cam video.  The situation was not altogether different from the Alton Sterling situation in which Mr. Hernandez defended the officers decision to shoot.  Both suspects had a gun in their pocket (though Yanez did not know where Castile’s gun was), both were reaching in the area of the gun when told not to, and both had plenty of motive to try to get away.  The only difference is that Sterling had physically resisted arrest at this point whereas Castile had not, as no arrest was being attempted on him yet.

Castile’s background, character, and dozens of previous stops without resistance don’t suggest he would have.

This complacency is what gets officers killed.  How many people that end up shooting and killing police have also had multiple encounters with police where they didn’t shoot them?  Wish I had time to run the numbers, but my guess is that it’s almost all of them. Just because they haven’t done it before doesn’t mean it’s out of the question that they could do it now.  And ultimately, his character or history has very VERY little relevance to whether this shooting was justified or not.  If a squeaky clean Baptist pastor with no criminal history at all reaches in an area where a gun could be after being told not to reach, an officer is reasonable in feeling afraid in that moment as well.  It also stands in direct opposition to what Mr. Hernandez wrote in his article about Sterling where he said…

Sterling was a convicted felon; while many will say this is irrelevant because the officers didn’t know Sterling’s history, it’s actually tremendously important because it shows why Sterling did what he did. He was a registered sex offender, living in a halfway house, with a gun in his pocket. He knew he’d go back to prison if he was arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

So in the Sterling article Mr. Hernandez rightly points out the significance of the motive that Sterling would have to do anything necessary to escape.  Yet here, he completely dismisses the idea that Castile would have any reason to escape even though he’s committing 3 crimes, one of which is fairly serious.  And while it’s unlikely that Castile would have done the kind of hard prison time that Sterling would have if arrested, it’s still worth taking note of because Castile had plenty of motive to try to keep these officers from arresting him.  In fact, Mr. Hernandez has already stated that people do irrational things all the time, here’s what he said in his Michael Brown article…

Tell me it’s rational to commit robbery and risk going to prison for $50 worth of drug paraphernalia. It’s not, but that’s exactly what Michael Brown did. Tell me it’s rational to assault a cop in his patrol car right after you’ve committed a robbery. It’s not, but that’s exactly what Michael Brown did. Every time a prisoner who had done something remarkably stupid, like the guy who threw a cup of gasoline into his two-year old daughter’s eyes during a family disturbance and then ran away instead of helping her, said, “I didn’t do that! Why would I do that?”, my answer was always the same. “Don’t ask me to explain why you did something stupid. I don’t know why you did it. It doesn’t make sense. But you did it, not me. You explain it.”

Yet here he is saying that Yanez had absolutely no reason to believe that Castile would do something irrational like try to shoot him to get out of going to jail for having a bag of weed in the car.

When Yanez walked up to Castile’s car and began the stop, he encountered a polite, cooperative, noncriminal driver with what appeared to be his wife and daughter during daylight hours.

Noncriminal?  That’s just a very bad adjective to describe someone who’s driving while high with a child in the car.  Sorry.  Polite?  I’ll give you that.  Cooperative?  Cooperative would have been not reaching after being told multiple times to stop reaching.  We’ll get into that more later.  And I’m not sure what his wife and daughter being in the car or the daylight hours has to do with anything.  Plenty of people have shot police with their family in the car and during the daytime.  It’s irrelevant to whether or not Yanez had reason to fear for his life.  Having a child in the car does not grant one “harmless” status by default.  I’m surprised an officer with as much experience as Mr. Hernandez is even trying to make this point.

Nothing in the context of the stop indicated Castile was a threat.

Except that he was armed and was reaching when told not to, but you know, details.

If you counter with “But Yanez thought Castile was a robbery suspect,” Yanez’s own actions disprove that. He didn’t conduct a felony stop like we would if we were stopping a dangerous felony suspect, he conducted a regular stop and approached in a casual manner. Yanez said he thought Castile was drawing on him, and I don’t see anything in the context of the stop to make that a reasonable assumption.

Felony stops are not always the best course of action unless you’re CERTAIN you have a dangerous felon.  Doing a traffic stop so that you can identify a guy who MIGHT be a robbery suspect doesn’t always mandate a felony stop.  I would not have faulted officer Yanez for doing a felony stop, but neither do I fault him for performing a standard stop and trying not to tip Castile off as to why he’s really looking into him.  Officer Yanez’ fairly casual demeanor on this stop was to keep Castile calm and not make him feel cornered, as evidenced in Yanez’ own statement wherein he said, “I told them the reason for the traffic stop and I then I wasn’t going to say anything about the marijuana yet because I didn’t want to scare him or have him react in a defensive manner.”  I’m guessing that’s also why he didn’t tell him that he resembled a robbery suspect or perform a felony stop.

And again, the pistol was carried with an empty chamber. Seriously, should we think this calm, cooperative, noncriminal driver with no history of violence and his girlfriend and a little girl in the car was going to pull his empty-chamber pistol from his pocket, load a round and shoot the officer?

This statement is absurd.  As if officer Yanez had any way of knowing there wasn’t a round in the chamber at the time.  He also had no way of knowing where the gun was, whether it was in Castile’s pocket or in his center console or under the seat.  Easy to Monday morning QB the situation with all of that knowledge in hindsight.  And again, it stands in direct opposition to Mr. Hernandez’ previous articles where he rightly pointed out that the officers who shot Tamir Rice had no way of knowing that his gun was a toy gun or that Rice was only 12 years old.  Yet here, he expects Yanez to have some kind of psychic knowledge as to the gun’s whereabouts and that the gun didn’t have a round in the chamber.

Castile had a reason to reach for something: Yanez asked him for his license and insurance, he had only given Yanez his insurance and still had to give Yanez his license.

Except that Castile’s license was suspended, so he would not have had a license to give to officer Yanez.  Which begs the question, what exactly WAS he reaching for?  Perhaps he had some other form of identification he was reaching for or perhaps he was reaching for his weapon permit since he had already notified him of the gun at this point.  Regardless, if we are going to pick apart every little thing that the officer said, let’s pick this apart too.  Wouldn’t the correct response be, “Here is my insurance, and I don’t have my license on me to give you”?  Officer Yanez didn’t ask to see his gun permit or any other form of ID, he asked for his insurance and his license.  If I ask you to pass me the remote, do you hand me a loaf of bread? Now Mr. Hernandez’ defense of Castile is that Castile’s just a citizen who didn’t know any better and that officer Yanez should have given more clear, precise instructions.  But I call foul on that precisely because Castile had a permit to carry his gun, and you cannot obtain those permits without attending a class where they make it very clear what you’re supposed to do and NOT do when you encounter law enforcement and you have a gun on you.  You can blame Castile’s lack of clear thinking on the marijuana if you want, but regardless, he didn’t follow a pretty simple instruction to stop reaching.

After Castile told Yanez he was armed, Yanez told him “Don’t reach for it.” He didn’t say “Hands up,” “Hands on the steering wheel,” or “Freeze.” He simply told Castile not to reach for his gun, and a reasonable person who’s just been ordered to hand over his license but not touch his gun would think it was okay to grab his wallet. I can almost guarantee when Castile said “I’m not reaching for it,” he really wasn’t and was simply reaching for his license.

Yes, it would have been better for officer Yanez to have said “Hands up” or “Freeze” but if you’ve just notified an officer you have a gun and you start reaching for something and the officer says “Don’t reach for it” it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that the best course of action would be to just stop reaching for WHATEVER it was that you were reaching for.  It’s common sense.  And again, perhaps the high levels of THC in Castile’s system prevented him from thinking clearly, but that’s not the fault of the officer.

On any stop, it is not the driver’s job to figure out what we mean, it’s our job to give clear, easily-understandable instructions. Yanez didn’t do that.

Yanez DID do that when he said “Don’t reach for it.”  This isn’t like the child’s game Simon Says where it doesn’t count if you don’t say “Simon Says” before you give your instruction.  Any reasonable person would have stopped reaching for whatever they were reaching for if the officer said, “Don’t reach for it.” especially if they’re drawing their own gun and the pitch in their voice is getting louder and higher.

Yanez said Castile reached between his right leg and the console. That’s not where the gun was.

Again, irrelevant.  Yanez doesn’t have to know exactly where the gun is to still believe Castile could be reaching for it.  If Yanez knew the gun was in his pocket and Castile reached somewhere else, that would be different, but Yanez didn’t have that knowledge in hindsight like everyone else does.

I’ve pocket carried quite a bit. One of the drawbacks of pocket carry is that it’s hard as hell to draw when seated. Maybe it’s easier if you’re wearing really baggy shorts, and maybe Castile was wearing baggy shorts. But in my experience, drawing from your right pocket while seated in a car requires you to lift your hips and rotate them left to get your pocket clear of the seat belt. Nothing on the video or in anyone’s testimony suggests Castile raised or rotated his hips to get access to his weapon.

Irrelevant.  Again, Yanez had no way to know if the gun was in his pocket or in the area Castile was reaching for.

Marijuana doesn’t make people homicidally violent, and tends to produce the exact opposite effect. If Yanez had walked up and seen the dark glass vials associated with PCP or smelled the strong chemical scent of meth, yes I can see why he’d tense up. I would too. A smell of marijuana might mean you’re about to have a fight on your hands because the driver doesn’t want to go to jail, but it doesn’t mean someone high on marijuana is somehow more dangerous.

This is one of the more baffling things about the article.  As if people high on marijuana are somehow incapable of shooting a gun.  In fact, wasn’t Michael Brown high on marijuana when he assaulted officer Wilson, tried to take his gun, and then charged at him like an angry bull?  See?  Mr. Hernandez is just wildly inconsistent here!

A calm peaceful driver legally carrying a pistol who didn’t do anything violent or dangerous politely told an officer he was armed and followed the officer’s instructions to get his wallet but was then shot because the officer thought he was reaching for a gun in a place where the gun actually wasn’t because the officer smelled marijuana and thought it meant the driver was homicidally dangerous. Does that make sense to anyone?

If we’re going to pick apart officer Yanez’ words with hindsight and all the time in the world whereas he only had seconds in a high stress situation then I’m going to pick yours apart Mr. Hernandez.  Yanez never told him to get his wallet, he asked him for his insurance and license.  Castile had no license to give and had already given his insurance, so what need would there be to reach for something else?  And again, to fault Yanez for being afraid of Castile reaching near his thigh and between the seats, when Yanez had no idea where the gun might be, is ridiculous.  Finally, Yanez never said marijuana makes people homicidal, he simply said that if Castile didn’t care enough about his own “daughter” that he would expose her to second hand marijuana smoke (not to mention drive her around in a 3,000 pound vehicle while high), then perhaps Castile wouldn’t think twice about shooting him.  There’s logic in it, even if Castile was just a nice guy who just made an honest, tragic mistake.

Does it make sense that Yanez would fire seven times at almost contact range and miss twice, putting one round sixteen inches away from the little girl he thought he had to protect from secondhand pot smoke?

You shoot until the threat is neutralized.  Most officers, after being involved in a shooting, can’t even correctly tell you how many rounds they fired.  If I really, truly feel I’m about to die, yeah, I might just shoot 7 times, I might shoot more than that, even at point blank range.  I’m going to stop the threat to my life as quickly and efficiently as possible, and firing several rounds should help me achieve that goal.  If you shoot one round and then stop and try to admire your work you might just catch a bullet in the face still if your one shot didn’t stop the threat.  And again, I’m surprised to see Mr. Hernandez questioning the number of rounds fired when he himself listed example after example of how multiple rounds do not always stop a threat immediately.  And the last part of Mr. Hernandez’ statement is possibly the most absurd yet, to imply that officer Yanez shot Castile to protect his daughter from second hand smoke.  That’s the most dishonest thing about the article so far.  It’s dishonest, inflammatory rhetoric on par with something Black Lives Matter might say.  Shame on you Mr. Hernandez.  He shot Castile because he truly believed he was about to be shot if he didn’t, so leave that crap out, it has no place coming from a fellow officer.  Even if you disagree with the shooting, to try to imply that Yanez shot Castile merely to protect the little girl from second hand smoke is simply absurd.

Yanez’s acquittal wasn’t a victory for law enforcement, it was a defeat. It was a message that cops can be expected to panic over nothing, to shoot upon the slightest provocation, and get a pass if they make the most ridiculous, flimsiest excuses for being “in fear.”

Panic over nothing?  So an armed man reaching into a dark area of his car when you know he has a gun somewhere and has been told to stop reaching is “panic over nothing?”  Especially when you believe he may be a suspect in an armed robbery or that he may be about to shoot you to escape the consequences of driving while high and possessing marijuana?  This is what pisses me off about fellow officers sometimes.  They like to Monday morning quarterback situations that they weren’t even in and say that they could have done everything better.  Yes, being an officer does give you more credibility to speak on such matters than the average Joe who’s never faced daily danger, but I’m always very careful to second guess an officer’s decisions unless I was there with them.  Even watching the dash cam video does not really give us a full and complete perspective.  Only that officer actually in that situation has that perspective, so to sit back and unequivocally say that the officer was utterly unreasonable to be afraid is the height of arrogance, even coming from another officer (but especially coming from your average Joe).

Also, officer Yanez hardly “got a pass.”  He was arrested and charged with manslaughter.  He was taken from his family.  Put in handcuffs.  Forced to defend himself against the charges and face many years behind bars if he lost.  Just because a jury of his peers heard arguments from both sides and decided there wasn’t enough there to convict him hardly means he “got a pass” especially since he’s now jobless and will probably have to find a new line of work since no department will touch him given the societal repercussions that would come from that.  Let’s not forget that he likely had to move his family from their home and into hiding as there were undoubtedly death threats sent his way (as there are in every shooting now).  But yeah, he got a pass.  Okay.  I’m sure he feels real great about everything.

As far as I can tell Castile did literally nothing wrong, but Yanez panicked over nothing and killed an innocent man.

Castile did nothing wrong?  Nothing?  Driving while high with the kid in the car?  Driving on a suspended license?  Possessing an illegal drug?  Reaching when told not to?  I mean, really?  I’m not saying Castile is some hardened criminal who definitely had intentions of killing officer Yanez.  I think the most likely explanation is that he was too high to make sense of officer Yanez’ instructions not to reach and continued reaching anyway.  What he was reaching for, I guess none of us will ever know, but the officer was under no obligation to wait until he had a gun barrel in his face to take action, a fact you yourself brought up in your Alton Sterling article where you said,

Anyone who reasonably perceives a threat from an armed suspect but waits until the gun is in the suspect’s hand is asking to get shot.

Hernandez also said in that same article…

“BUT HE DIDN’T HAVE THE GUN IN HIS HAND! THAT MAKES IT MURDER!”

No, it doesn’t. Do people actually think police can’t shoot a suspect until he actually draws and points a gun at them?

Hernandez continues about Castile…

If you’re a cop you may want to take a hard look at this shooting, understand why so many people are understandably angry about it, and work at both the policy and personal levels to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

And you, Mr. Hernandez, may want to take a hard look at this shooting and question your own complacency.  And I mean that with all seriousness as someone who doesn’t want to see another brother in blue killed on the streets, because I’ve seen far too much of that in my career as it is.   I have been involved in two situations where I have no doubt I could have shot and killed the suspects and the grand jury would have no-billed me.  Thankfully it didn’t come to that and I was able to take them in alive, but I often think about those arrests and I wonder if I wasn’t a little too trusting that things would work out OK.  Maybe next time that I give that suspect a few more seconds to do the right thing is the time he does just the opposite and I catch one in the head and my wife gets that phone call that all police wives dread.  Is that the point we are at now?  Instead of demanding compliance with lawful orders we simply offer up our throats and hope that the suspect doesn’t slash them?  Should you really encourage more officers to take on unnecessary risks to appease an angry public that doesn’t have the first clue as to what it takes to be a cop or face danger every single day, especially given the skyrocketing number of shootings of police officers that are fueled by the very kind of rhetoric you’re spouting in your article about “understandable anger?”  I’m not one to defend cops no matter what.  I said Michael Slager was wrong in shooting Walter Scott, I’ve questioned the Laquan McDonald shooting even though that one’s a little more of a gray area, and although there’s no video to see, it certainly seems at a glance like the shooting of Jonathan Edwards was a bad one.  But this one isn’t too different from Tamir Rice or Alton Sterling.  Also, what policies would you like to change?  Should officers be required to start taking rounds before they’re allowed to fire?  I just don’t get it, this Castile article is such a stark contrast from your other articles it’s almost like someone else wrote it.  Your time in the military and time as an officer most definitely commands respect, and your prior articles are police shootings were spot on, so I implore you to ask yourself why this one is so starkly different.

Be safe.

Regarding Philando Castile

Dash cam video has been released of the shooting of Philando Castile after the jury returned a not guilty verdict for Officer Yanez.  Let’s go over some basic facts first.

Yanez stopped Castile because he matched the physical description of an armed robber (black male with long hair and very wide set nose) who had recently robbed the gas station very close to where the traffic stop occurs.  Yanez used the burned out brake light as as a reason for contact.  This doesn’t mean Yanez assumed Castile was the robber or that he was guilty of the robbery, it’s simply a reason for contact to stop and talk to him, get his identification, etc.  It’s good police work.  A positive identification could then potentially be sent to the robbery detective where he could follow up with that information.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the toxicology report showed marijuana in Castile’s system and Yanez stated he could smell marijuana inside the vehicle.  The fact that Castile was high during this stop is important as I’ll explain later.

Here’s the video…

Warning, it’s graphic and profanity is used.

The first thing to take note of is that both Yanez and Castile appear to be calm and respectful to each other as Yanez is explaining the reason for the traffic stop.

The second thing to take note of is that Castile hands his insurance to Yanez.  This contradicts the initial Facebook Live video from passenger Diamond Reynolds where she stated the officer shot him while he was reaching for his license after he was asked for it.  Castile did not have a license to reach for as his was suspended.  So if he already handed over his insurance card, and didn’t have a license to reach for, what else could he have been reaching for?

Castile then also tells Yanez that he has a gun, which he is required to do as part of having a permit to carry the gun.  That is also important, as you cannot obtain a permit to carry a gun without attending a class where they go over the procedures of a citizen’s obligations any time they come into contact with law enforcement.  What this proves is that Castile knew the weighty implications of carrying a gun including what he is supposed to do and NOT do if an officer has come into contact with him.  Unless his class was a very poor one, they would have explained to him his obligation to notify the officer of his gun and to not reach for it unless instructed to do so.

After Castile notifies Yanez of his gun, you can see Yanez’ sense of danger go up a little as he puts his hand on his own firearm.  Yanez’ sense of danger went up SOME, but he still was not afraid for his life at this point because he merely puts his hand on his gun but does not unholster it.  This is a visual indicator that Yanez was preparing himself should something go bad, but that he was not yet fearing for his life.

Yanez says, “Ok, don’t reach for it then.” and then says “Don’t pull it out.”  At this time Yanez starts to slowly remove his gun from it’s holster recognizing that the potential threat to his life is growing larger by the second.  You can see Yanez then reach deep into the vehicle with his left arm, and from his initial statement to investigators he said he did this in order to try to block Castile from reaching for whatever it was he was reaching for.

Now let’s stop and use some common sense here.  If Castile had simply complied with the officer’s lawful order of “Don’t reach for it then” I find it EXTREMELY unlikely that Yanez would have even unholstered his weapon much less fired shots.  Castile says, “I’m not pulling it out.”

Now, this statement of “I’m not pulling it out” makes everyone think that Castile couldn’t possibly still be a threat to Yanez.  After all, he’s telling him that he’s not pulling it out.  Here’s the problem.  People lie to police all the time.  For all Yanez knew Castile was telling him that to lull him into a false sense of security so that he could shoot him.  I don’t know if that’s the case or not.  I think it’s more likely that Castile, being high, just couldn’t make sense of Yanez’ order “Don’t reach for it, then” in a timely manner.  Perhaps given a few more seconds and several more loud verbal orders to stop reaching for it would have done the trick.  But whatever the case was, it’s pretty clear that Castile was still reaching for SOMETHING after being told not to reach for it.

Now put yourself in the officer’s shoes.  You’ve just pulled someone over who you think may be a suspect in an armed robbery.  That alone is going to cause your sense of danger to already be elevated a little more than normal.  You smell marijuana when he rolls the window down so now you’ve got someone who may believe they are going to jail and may not want to go to jail (especially since there was a child in the car which escalates the charge to a more severe one than simple DWI or DUI).  So that is going to make your sense of danger a little more elevated. Now you have the man informing you that he most definitely DOES have a gun SOMEWHERE.  Now your sense of danger is rising even more.  Then the man starts reaching for something.  Now your sense of danger is rising even more.  You tell the man 3 times to stop reaching for it but he ignores what you say and continues to reach.  Now your sense of danger is at an extremely high level.  Taking all of that into consideration, who WOULDN’T be afraid?

Can you really say, taking all of that into account, that the officer was completely and utterly unreasonable to believe his life may be in danger, beyond a reasonable doubt?

Here’s the most relevant portion of the transcript where Yanez was interviewed by investigators just 15 hours after the shooting…

Yanez: “I smelled burnt marijuana.  And then I see a female child in the back.  And then I see a front seat passenger, adult female uh in the front seat.  And then I see the suspect up driving, seatbelt on leaned back in his seat.  he had his, left arm over the steering wheel and then he had both hands in view.  And then…”

Investigator: “Initially?”

Yanez: “Initially.  And then I told them the reason for the traffic stop and then I wasn’t going to say anything about the marijuana yet because I didn’t want to scare him or have him react in a defensive manner.  Um, he didn’t make direct eye contact with me and it was very hard to hear him.  Uh he was almost mumbling when he was talking to me.  And he was directing his voice away from me as he was speaking as I was asking questions.   Uh he kept his, hands in view and then I uh I believe I asked for, his license and insurance.  And then I believe they told me, they asked me the reason for my traffic stop.  And I told ’em the reason was the only, I think I told ’em the only rea, the reason I pulled you over is because the only active brake light working was the rear passenger side brake light.”

Investigator: “Okay.”

Yanez: “And then I received the insurance and then I can’t remember if I asked for his ID or not but I, I know I asked for his ID or his driver’s license.  And then he goes I have a gun.  And as I’m telling him or as he’s telling me that he’s reaching down between his right leg, his right thigh area and the center console.”

Investigator: “Okay.”

Yanez: “And he’s reaching down and I believe I’m telling him something along the lines of don’t reach for it, don’t do it.  Referring to the, uh the firearm.”

Investigator: “Yep.”

Yanez: “Because usually people that carry firearms carry ’em on their waistband.  Um and or in between the seats and being that the vehicle smelled the inside of the vehicle smelled like marijuana um I didn’t know if he was keeping it on him for protection, for, from a, a drug dealer or anything like that or any other people trying to rip him.  Rip him meaning steal from him.”

Investigator: “Rob him.”

Yanez: “Um rob him.  Um and I couldn’t see uh the area wi, where he was reaching his hand down towards.”

Investigator: “Okay.”

Yanez: “And I, believe I continued to tell him don’t do it or don’t reach for it and he still continued to move.  And, it appeared to me that he had no regard to what I was saying.  He didn’t care what I was saying.  He still reached down.”

Investigator: “He didn’t stop moving his hand?”

Yanez: “He didn’t stop reaching, for his hand, he he didn’t stop moving his hand and it still went down.”

Investigator: “Okay.”

Yanez: “As he was reaching down um he, turned his shoulder kept his left hand on the steering wheel and then canted his upper body and blocked my view of his right hand.”

Investigator: “Okay.”

Yanez: “And, at that point I, was scared and I was, in fear for my life and my partner’s life.  And for the little girl in the back and the front seat passenger and he dropped his hand down and, can’t remember what I was telling him but I was telling something as his hand went down I think.  And, he put his hand around something.  And his hand made like a C shape type um type shape and it appeared to me that he was wrapping something around his fingers and almost like if I were to put my uh hand around my gun like putting my hand up to the butt of the gun.”

Investigator: “Okay.”

Yanez: “That’s what it appeared to me.”

Investigator: “Okay.”

Yanez: “And then I lost view of it.  Cuz he kept canting his shoulder and then I believe I told him again I can’t remember don’t do it.  And then he still kept moving his hand and at this point I looked and saw something in his hand.  It was dark inside the vehicle.  I was trying to fumble my way through under stress to look and see what it was to make sure uh what I was seeing.  But I wasn’t given enough time and like I said he had no regard for what I was saying.  Didn’t follow my direction.  And uh, he started reaching out and then pulling uh away from his uh his right thigh.  I don’t know if it was in his pocket or in between the seats or the center console.  But I, I know he had an object and it was dark.  And he was pulling it out with his right hand.  And as he was pulling it out, a million things started going through my head.  And I thought I was gonna die.  And, I was scared because, I didn’t know if he was gonna, I didn’t know what he was gonna do.  he just had somethin’ uh his hands and he, the first words that he said to me were, some of the first words he said is that he had a gun.  And I thought he was reaching for the gun.  I thought he had the gun in his hand, in his right hand.  And I thought he had it enough to where all he had to do is just pull it out, point it at me, move his trigger finger down on the trigger and let off rounds.  And I had no other option than, to take out my firearm and, I shot.  Um I shot him.”

The full transcript can be read here

Now, if you still disagree with the jury’s verdict here that’s your right.  But in light of all of the evidence, I don’t see how anyone, much less a Christian, can say with certainty that officer Yanez had absolutely no reason to be afraid for his life.  The jury of 12 people, who had access to all of the evidence and heard arguments from both sides decided that the officer was reasonable in believing his life was in danger, including two black jurors.  So if you’re wanting to call him a murderer and judge the intentions of his heart when you have ABSOLUTELY NO WAY to know what the intentions of his heart were, then you need to stop and repent.  Because you’re slandering this officer.  Want to say officer Yanez should have given Castile more time to comply?  You can say that, just remember it wasn’t your life on the line out there.  It wasn’t your wife that could potentially be widowed or your child that could potentially be fatherless.  So really even to sit and armchair quarterback whether or not he should have felt threatened is the height of arrogance, especially if you’ve never donned the uniform and faced those dangers yourself.

The Myth of Systemic Injustice

“Systemic Injustice” or “Systemic Racism” are a couple of catch phrases that are being ubiquitously used to describe our country’s criminal justice system, including our police departments, our laws, our courts and our judges.

This article aims to debunk those myths.  Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t deny that racism and injustices do occur, but when people add an adjective like “systemic” along with it they’ve painted with a brush much too broad.

Let’s start with the police.  I’ve covered the myth of police brutality here, but I’ll once again re-hash the main points.

  • In 2008 there were only 2,060 credible complaints of police brutality in over 53 million police/citizen encounters.  That’s 0.0039%. (source link)
  • In 2012 police arrested 12,196,959 people.  By the most anti-cop standards they killed around 1,200.  That’s 0.0098% and even the overwhelming majority of those were clearly justified as the suspects were either attacking the police or someone else with a weapon or were trying to wrestle an officer’s gun from them.
  • Police do not over-arrest blacks.  Their arrest numbers square with what CRIME VICTIMS have reported.  Blacks commit around 28% of all crimes and are around 28% of all arrests.  (source link)
  • Around 50% of people shot by the police are white.  (source link)
  • Around 26% of people shot by the police are black, which once again squares with the crime and arrest rates of blacks, and could be considered lower than expected given that blacks commit much higher rates of violent crimes than whites. (source link)
  • Black officers kill black suspects about 3.3 times more often than white officers do (source link)
  • The 36 unarmed black males killed by police in 2015 measured against the total black male population (nearly 19 million in mid-2014 per the Census Bureau) amounts to a per capita rate of 0.0000018 unarmed fatalities by police.  (source link)

But black people are only 13% of the population you say?  That’s true, but police go to where the crime is, and crime is disproportionately committed by blacks.

  • Black people commit around 52% of all murders, around 40% of all violent crimes including 56% of robberies, 35% of aggravated assaults and 29% of property crimes. (source link)

You can’t say “blacks are only 13% of the population but are 28% of people arrested and 26% of people shot by police, therefore there must be systemic racism.”  If blacks committed only 5% of all crimes and yet were 28% of all arrests you might have a leg to stand on, but that is not the case.

By the same logic you would have to say that police have an anti-men bias because the overwhelming number of people arrested or killed by the police are male instead of female despite the fact that females are 52% of our nation’s population.

The Washington Post, convinced that officers were killing black people with reckless abandon, set out to prove it.  By the end of their study even they had to admit that black people were actually shot LESS OFTEN than their white counter parts.  (source link)

The Washington Post wasn’t the only one to conduct such a study, however.  Washington State University did an experiment of their own and discovered that black suspects were around 25 times less likely to be shot than white suspects were in similar situations (source link)

So now that “systemic injustice” in brutality complaints, shootings and arrests has been debunked, what about more benign enforcement such as traffic tickets?

A 2002 study in New Jersey set up a radar gun and took photographs of tens of thousands of drivers on the same roadway and found that blacks were caught speeding at a much higher frequency than any other race.  (source link)

There hasn’t been any official studies that I know of that sought to determine whether blacks are targeted more often on traffic stops, but it stands to reason that blacks, whose median income is nearly half of that of whites, would be less likely to buy car insurance, register and inspect their vehicles and keep up with regular maintenance, all of which could lead to more traffic stops and thus more traffic tickets.  Those stops can often lead to more arrests as well if the driver has outstanding warrants, etc.  (source link)

So that covers the police, what about prisons and courts?

In Heather MacDonald’s book “The War on Cops” she states that in 1997, criminologists Robert Sampson and Janet Lauritsen reviewed the massive literature on charging and sentencing and concluded that “large racial differences in criminal offending”, not racism,  explained why more blacks were in prison proportionately than whites and for longer terms.  A 1987 analysis of Georgia felony convictions found that blacks frequently got disproportionately lenient punishment.  A 1990 study of 11,000 California cases found that slight racial disparities in sentence length resulted from blacks’ prior records and other legally relevant variables.  A 1994 Justice Department survey of felony cases from the country’s 75 largest urban areas found that blacks actually had a lower chance of prosecution following a felony than whites did and that they were less likely to be found guilty at trial.  Following convictions blacks were more likely to go to prison, but that was an outcome that reflected the gravity of their offenses as well as their criminal records.  In 1993 criminologist Alfred Blumstein found that blacks were significantly underrepresented in prison for homicide compared with their presence in the arrest data.  (source link)

The truth is that it’s nigh impossible to compare racial sentencing on a large scale because there are too many variables like the heinousness of the crimes, the defendant’s criminal history, etc.

Many who claim systemic racism exists will point to the difference in sentencing for crack cocaine and powder cocaine.  In 1986 the federal Anti Drug Abuse Act made it so that getting caught with 5 grams of crack cocaine resulted in a mandatory minimum 5 year sentence.  You’d have to get caught with 500 grams of powder cocaine to get a similar sentence.  Since crack cocaine was known as “the black man’s drug” many believe that this is evidence of systemic racial injustice.

First of all, the mandatory minimum sentence for crack cocaine applied to whites as well, and the more lenient sentencing for powder cocaine applied to blacks as well.  It should also be mentioned that these sentencing guidelines applied only to federal offenses which account for just 12.3% of all people imprisoned when you include state prisons.  On the state level, only 13 states distinguished a difference between crack and powder cocaine and their sentencing disparities were much less severe than the federal sentencing.

But going back to the harsher crack sentences, there were reasons that crack was more harshly punished and none of those reasons point to the idea that blacks were targeted just for being black.  For one, crack is smokable, highly concentrated and addictive.  It provides a faster and stronger high than powder does and is easier to use.  A better comparison to crack cocaine might be methamphetamine, which could be considered “the white man’s drug” (over 50% of meth arrests were of white people, only 2% of meth arrests were of black people) and meth carried the same mandatory 5 year sentence for 5 grams that crack did, yet you don’t hear anyone complaining about whites being targeted with harsher punishment.

The second reason that we can’t look to harsher crack sentences as an example of systemic racism is the fact that the bill that contained the crack/powder distinction won majority support among black congressmen, none of whom objected to it as a racist bill.  Crack was devastating black communities in the 80’s and this bill was a good faith effort to do something about it.  In short, just like with the police, they were targeting the crime, not the skin color.

Furthermore, in 2010 they passed the Fair Sentencing Act which upped the amount of grams of crack from 5 grams to 28 grams to trigger certain federal penalties and they eliminated mandatory minimum sentences.  Meth, on the other hand, has only gotten more severe sentencing since 2010.

I also just have to add, it seems like common sense, but if you don’t want a stricter punishment for possessing or selling crack, there’s always the option of just NOT possessing or selling crack.  No one put a gun to anyone’s head and made them commit these crimes.  They made that choice.

It should also be mentioned that violent and property crimes still make up the vast majority of black prisoners.  If you removed all black prisoners who were in for drug charges from the state prison populations in 2006, it would only reduce the total population of black prisoners from 37.5% to 37%.  So this idea that the “war on drugs” was started to target black people is simply indefensible.

Even on a federal level, where the crack/powder sentencing disparity is and was the strongest, blacks only make up 27% of the federal prison population.

In closing, I think it’s pretty clear that the higher number of black arrests, the higher black prison population and the higher number of blacks being shot by police is a direct reflection of a higher rate of criminal activity.  Sure, there may be rare instances here and there of racial bias among police officers or judges, but it certainly isn’t systemic.

 

 

 

 

 

Quick thoughts on Philando Castile

Quick thought on the Castile shooting.

As a cop I had to learn how to re-phrase certain questions.  For example when I would ask someone where their ID is, instead of answering “it’s in my pocket” or “it’s in the glovebox” they would reach for it wherever it was.  Of course then I would be alarmed and say “keep your hands up!  I asked you where it was I didn’t ask you to reach for it!”

So I began rephrasing the question like this.  “Without reaching for it, just tell me verbally where your ID is.”

The video of the Castile shooting doesn’t show anything prior to the shooting.  But we can glean a couple of things from what were said.  His girlfriend said he was just reaching for his ID like he was asked.  I’d like to know if the officer actually said “Get your ID” or if he said “Where is your ID?”

The officer also said “I told him not to reach for it, I told him to get his hand out!”

Regardless of how exactly the officer phrased his question, if he told Castile not to reach for it and to get his hands up, and Castile didn’t comply with that lawful order, then I can understand why the officer felt threatened.

This one isn’t as cut and dry as some of the others, and this one definitely seems to just be a tragic misunderstanding, but again, I urge you to wait for the facts before rushing to judgement.  The officer is innocent until proven guilty and deserves to be treated as such.