Tuesday, December 29, 2015

No Justice For Tamir Rice?

To say the very least, it's very difficult for me to understand this decision. Same for Robby Soave.
I have nothing else to say about this right now that can be said in a civil manner.


Blogger The Mystic said...

So, after I saw the security footage of this shooting, I was pretty amazed at how incompetently the police acted. Driving up on the kid Dukes of Hazzard style and then leaping from the car into such a compromised position that the officer basically forced himself to react to a merely potential threat by immediately shooting him dead is insane.

However, it has since come to my attention that the legal proceedings here aren't permitted to scrutinize the manner in which the officer approached the boy.

If that's prohibited from consideration, then what about this strikes you as outrageous? Now, it seems, the discussion is merely about whether or not the police officer was justified in firing on the kid based on his behavior and possession of a toy gun whose distinguishing feature as a toy was removed, making it more or less indistinguishable from a real gun.

I'm interested in your thoughts on this. I think the officers should have approached the boy in a reasonable manner and given themselves the ability to take cover if under threat rather than immediately retaliate with lethal force, particularly because the suspect is a 12 year old boy, but if that's not something the jury was permitted to consider, then I'm not sure how they erred in their judgment.

Soave doesn't mention any of that in the article to which you linked. He complains about the speed with which the officer shot Rice after his car arrived (which, as stated, isn't in any way necessarily problematic) and that the officers for some reason intercepted and arrested Rice's sister and failed to render any first aid to the boy. I'm not sure if the latter elements were up for consideration by the grand jury either, or what legal obligations police officers have to render first aid. Again, this may be outside of the scope of the proceedings, and if it is, these articles are missing the mark and failing to help at all by simply expressing impotent, unfocused anger.

Seems to me the course of action in response to this incident is to pursue some sort of legal action which requires that officers not approach suspects in a brazenly reckless manner such as that employed by the officers here, or that they be required to administer first aid (in some way, perhaps, that absolves them of being forced to try to save obvious violent criminals, maybe?).

But the fact that it appears virtually none of this is being discussed makes me think I'm missing something. I agree that the situation seems outrageous, but to complain about the failure to indict the police officer without making any attempt to understand why that happened just seems like useless bellyaching on behalf of reason.com, to me.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

All fair points, of course.

My incredulity is partially based on an incredulity about the constraints on what can be considered and what can't. It's astonishing to me that the method of approach can't be considered by the grand jury. Of course *we* can consider it--and it's absolutely insane. Who could possibly be stupid enough to drive right up on someone who is thought to possibly be dangerous?

Second, there's my general anger about paramilitary police tactics, and the idea that officers need not accept any additional risk under such circumstances. It's a little kid. You can't accept, say, a 5% risk that he might manage to kill you through your cruiser door?

So there's no obligation to enter the scene in a reasonable way, no obligation to accept *any* elevated risk in order to give the person *some* benefit of the doubt...

...*and* the guy was fired before for misuse of his firearm. WTF? And then rehired???

Add to this a refusal to allow his sister to render aid...

What kind of incompetent psychopaths *are* these people??????

I mean...I do understand that I'm a layperson, and there are undoubtedly things here that people smarter than me have worked out over long periods of time after thinking hard about all this...

So, I stick by my avowal: it's very difficult for me to understand this decision.

1:27 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

I'm with you on all of that except for the "hard to understand" part. It seems like we need to avoid stopping there and describing the decision so opaquely. Article after article eats that up and takes the opportunity to proclaim the only explanation for something so hard to understand to be a racism so pervasive that it has gripped not only the police officers involved, but the prosecutor and the grand jury. In fact, the whole country hates black people and wants to destroy their bodies, it has been written. It's inevitable that black children will be slain in this manner, it has been written. Tamir was killed simply for being black, it has been written.

But if we actually seek to understand the problem here, the incredulity vanishes significantly.

Problem #1: Tamir Rice was a kid with a toy that looked indistinguishably like a gun, and he was aiming it at people in a public park.

Problem #2: The inappropriate actions on behalf of the officers in addressing problem #1 and the troubling details about the officers are outside of the scope of that which can be considered by the grand jury.

And it seems #2 is a known disaster in severe need of correction, but we're just wrecking our chance at making that correction by failing to find the explanation whose absence gives a nice big silver platter over to those who just want to go nuts about racism, basically ensuring that the result of this tragedy will be an unproductive, angry dispute over potentially unrelated matters.

There just doesn't seem to me to be that much mystery here, and it doesn't seem like there's much evidence that this happened because of an unstoppable, all-encompassing racism. Is racism involved in this case? Maybe? Probably? I'm not sure, but what does seem pretty certain is that there are obvious and compelling reasons for these failures which neither require nor suggest racism. We've got an officer in whose history it was declared that his incompetence is beyond that which training can rectify, and he was hired into the police department. We've got a horrible strategy in which Tamir Rice was approached recklessly and violently. And we've got a kid who actually did have a gun-like toy which he seemed to be drawing from his belt when he was killed.

We need to stop being a country full of impotent anger and actually figure out wtf to do about this shit. Right now, it seems actual attempts at solving the problem are massively outweighed by idle hand-wringing and broad, sweeping proclamations of racism.

I'm just kinda tired of it. This probably isn't the best way to air such grievances, but there it is.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, I see your point--or think I do. Is it roughly: "I don't understand this" is basically ambiguous as between something like "I doubt that this is a justifiable/smart/reasonable collection of policies and actions" and "I can't explain what caused all this"? If the latter, then the explanation that's waiting in the wings is racism...

Something like that?

And the other part is: oh yes we *can* explain this. Goes like this: bad tactics + bizarre policy + crappy cop...etc. etc..

(I think I just conflated "I can't explain the shooting" with "I can't explain the verdict"...)

2:48 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Yeah, that's my point. I think we need to try extra hard to precisely address these issues because, in the current climate, society cannot afford to have those capable of such precision fail to make use of it. In its absence, we'll get only the carpet bombing campaign of the modern every-white-person-is-racist movement.

This issue seems to me to be a HUGE "oh yes we *can* explain this" - and it starts with recognizing that little kids shouldn't play with toy guns in public and grown men who have been kicked out of the police for failures not thought to be correctable by any amount of training shouldn't handle actual guns in public.

In the short while we've been discussing this, the following major issues have made a seemingly unavoidable appearance:

1) The lack of legal accountability for terrible police tactics, even when directly responsible for the death of a little boy.
2) The lack of a legal obligation for police to render first aid to dying children.
3) The lack of adequate safeguards in our police officers' hiring practices such that an officer is employed after being fired on the basis that those responsible for his training concluded that he is fundamentally incapable of performing police work and that his incapacities are not correctable by training.

And yet, on the Interwebs, it's "Tamir was killed for being young and black."

That will only make people hate each other. Real, obvious problems will go unsolved and the insistence that racism is the cause will ramp up.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I think those are really good points. I should think about it a bit more, but I think I concede the point.

I think that's an argument that'd really be worth getting out there.

I guess it goes without saying that there's still room for racism as a partial explanation...but it isn't required in order to explain this event.

3:47 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Yeah, and that's probably the best way to convey the point, rhetorically, too. It should be clear that this is not a refutation of racism as a cause. It's just that the evidence doesn't point to it, and that what evidence we have seems to explain the incident independently of explanations based on racism. Even if racism is involved, our best interest is in addressing the relatively narrow issues listed above. It will curtail the ability of racists to exploit our legal system's inadequacies.

Focusing on the problems at hand is easy. Focusing on racism in general is hard. It should probably be a general rule that one should begin with the former when possible, and end with the latter when necessary.

9:43 PM  

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