A Good Cop’s Perspective

Last night, I came across an Opinion piece in The Washington Post, written by a police officer that really impressed me.  Halfway through reading the article, I was saying, “Oh yeah … this guy really gets it!”  The officer is Patrick Skinner, working on the police force in his hometown of Savannah, Georgia.  Officer Skinner is a former CIA operations officer and served in the United States Coast Guard as well as the U.S. Capitol Police, so he has a broad base of experience in law enforcement.  The man knows of what he speaks …


I’m a cop. The Chauvin verdict is a message for me, and for my colleagues.

Police officers can’t be defensive. We owe it to those we serve to change policing — and slow down.

by Patrick Skinner

I was at work as a police officer when the judge announced the jurors’ verdict Tuesday in a Minneapolis courtroom. I am a violent-crimes detective in my hometown of Savannah, Ga., but like the rest of America, I was worried about the verdict. I was worried that once again, a jury would, despite clear video evidence of guilt, find that it was somehow reasonable for a minor criminal matter to end in the death of an unarmed suspect at the hands of a police officer.

But I was also worried that we would view the outcome as the conclusion of a trial and not the beginning of change. Because as powerful as the murder conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin is, what we do next — as a country in general and as police in particular — will go a long way in determining whether systemic positive police reform is possible. It is in this time immediately after the verdict that several things, which are entirely within my control as a police officer, have to happen.

The first thing is actually something that needs to not happen: Police must not be defensive. We must not circle the wagons. “Not all cops” is exactly the wrong reaction. Even though that is true — of course not all cops are bad — it is irrelevant. Systemic reform is inseparable from individual change. We need both, and they have to feed off each other. There will be a natural desire by police, myself included, to say that the system worked, that Chauvin was found guilty by a jury of his peers and that a bad apple was sent to jail, no longer around to rot the bunch. Again, this is true, but it is also irrelevant. A nation so tense about a single trial, so uncertain about what was going to happen, is a nation in desperate need of much more. And we all have to take a first step. For me, the first step is that I need to take this verdict personally if I am to change professionally: That means I need to empathize more with my neighbors, and if they’re outraged or sad or just weary from police interactions — theirs and others’ — I need to work from that space. It means these outrages aren’t just outrageous to my profession, they’re outrageous to me personally. It means to step out of comfortable anonymity and demand that we change it all.

Here’s the second thing that needs to happen: We police need to fight the destructive reaction we have resorted to before in places like New York, where members of the police union had an unofficial but announced slowdown in 2019 after the dismissal of an officer implicated in the killing of Eric Garner by police in 2014. We have to stop saying, in effect, that if we can’t do our job the way we have always done it, well then, we won’t do our job at all. We might still collect a paycheck, but we will stop a lot of work because of an exaggerated fear of running afoul of the “new rules.” Rules such as “Don’t treat your neighbors like robots of compliance,” “Don’t escalate trivial matters into life-or-death confrontations” and “Treat your neighbors as if they were your neighbors.” That anyone would consider these rules “new” is a problem in itself. Few police officers reading them aloud would take issue with such anodyne statements, but put accountability behind the statements and now they’re an attack, not just on all police but the very foundation of American policing. The truth is that we do not get to tell our neighbors — those whose communities we police — how we will do our job. They tell us.

Faced with criticism that perhaps police should not be turning a traffic stop over an unarmed person’s vehicle registration sticker into something to be resolved at gunpoint, some will say, “What are the police supposed to do, let all criminals just run away?” There is a lot wrong with that reaction. To begin with, let’s slow down on calling someone with registration issues a criminal. And then let’s slow down everything, because we police are rushing to make bad decisions when time is almost always our friend. Tamir Rice most likely would not have been killed for having a toy gun if the Cleveland police officers had not rushed right up to him and shot him. There was no violence going on; the 12-year-old was alone in the middle of a park. Slow down, I tell myself in almost every police encounter. The risk to my neighbors in my rushing to a final judgment in very uncertain and fluid situations far outweighs the risk to myself. I’m often wrong in the initial assessment of chaotic scenes, and so I try to be wrong silently, allowing my judgment to catch up to my reactions, to allow my perception to catch up with my vision. Slow down.

I don’t know the third thing that needs to happen to lay the foundation for sweeping positive change in American policing because I’m so focused on the first two. I’m worried. I’m even scared. Not of big changes but that they might not happen. There is nothing easy or comfortable about any of this. To change policing in America requires confronting issues of race, poverty, inequality, injustice — the very issues too many in America say aren’t even issues anymore, as if history and its terrible weight started today.

I believe I was wrong for some time about not taking this personally. I’ve often told myself to not take well-deserved criticism of police misconduct and crime personally, because while as a police officer I am responsible, I was not personally responsible. I even wrote about this very thing here last year after the murder of George Floyd. I meant that I must not get defensive and to accept responsibility even if I wasn’t to blame. But now I don’t think that’s enough, at least for me. I think I have to take it personally: I have to be offended, I have to be outraged, and I have to act. That means I need to understand the goal of every 911 call, and that the compliance of those I encounter is not a goal; it might be a path to a goal but it’s not the goal. It means putting my neighbors first at every instance. It means often to act slower, to give my neighbors the benefit of the doubt because they are the point of my job.

None of this is abstract, none of this is a metaphor. All of this is senseless death in needlessly life-or-death situations. And all of this is personal.

I was at work when the verdict came in; I’ll be at work tomorrow, taking this verdict personally because my neighbors demand it. And they have always deserved it.

As I said, Officer Skinner is one cop who truly gets it, who understands what his job is, understands who he really works for … We the People, and sincerely wants police officers across the nation to learn from the tragedy of the George Floyd murder.  I give two thumbs up 👍 👍 to Officer Skinner!  The rest of the police need to take their cues from him.

No Justice for Breonna Taylor

March 13th in Louisville, Kentucky.  Breonna Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were sound asleep when they woke to the sound of their door being broken down and in the dark, they saw three men with guns pointed at them.  Mr. Walker grabbed his own gun from the nightstand and fired a single shot, hitting one of the men in the leg.  The three men then proceeded to fire no less than 22 shots at Breonna and Kenneth, 8 of which found their target in Ms. Taylor’s body, killing her.

The three men were police officers, men hired to protect the public, but instead they killed a valuable member of the public.

Breonna Taylor was an EMT for the city of Louisville, and she also worked at two local hospitals. Taylor was a full-time ER technician for the University of Louisville Jewish Hospital and she worked as needed for Norton Healthcare.  On her Facebook page, Taylor described her love for helping others …

“Working in health care is so rewarding! It makes me so happy when I know I’ve made a difference in someone else’s life!”

So, why did police murder Ms. Taylor?  They were seeking a man they believed was selling drugs, and who, as it turns out, was already in police custody, who did not even live near Ms. Taylor, and they had no reason to believe they would find him in her apartment.  They had obtained what’s called a “no-knock warrant”, yet later they falsely claimed they had knocked several times, identifying themselves as police, and received no answer.  Breonna Taylor, by the way, was Black.  Take a look at the three officers involved …breonna-officersNotice anything?  Three lily-white officers.  None of the officers were wearing body cams, so there is no video footage to clarify.  Ms. Taylor lived for several minutes after the shooting, but the officers waited five minutes before calling an ambulance and in the interim offered no assistance.

Fast forward to yesterday, September 23rd, when only one of the three officers, Brett Hankison, was indicted on three counts of “wanton endangerment” for firing shots that went into another apartment near Ms. Taylor’s, where a pregnant woman, her husband and their five-year-old child were sleeping. Hankison’s bond was set at a measly $15,000, for which he will only need to cough up $1,500. Not a single one of the officers is to be held accountable for murdering an innocent young woman.  No charges were announced against the other two officers who fired shots, and no one was charged for causing Ms. Taylor’s death.  To add insult to injury, one of the officers, Jonathan Mattingly, stated …

“I know we did the legal, moral and ethical thing that night.”

Say WHAT???  How the Sam Hell does he figure it was “legal, moral and ethical” to murder an innocent young woman? This isn’t the wild west where the motto was “shoot first and ask questions later.”  How different do you think it might have gone if the officers had been Black and the victim a young, white woman?

We the People are sick and tired of this bullshit!  Last night in Louisville, some 100 miles south of my home, there were protests calling for justice for Breonna Taylor.  Unfortunately, two police officers were shot in the melee, and while I am sorry there was violence, sorry the officers were shot, I am not surprised.  Both officers are reported to be in stable condition.

We the People have had just about as much of racist police brutality as we’re going to take without fighting back.  We the People want to see these smug white arseholes held accountable for their actions.  We want to see justice; we want police to be trained in matters of racial tolerance.  Until we make genuine progress, until we can go a year without white cops murdering unarmed, innocent Black people, the protests are going to continue, and some will turn violent no matter how many armed goons Donald Trump sends into a city!

Yesterday, there was no justice for Breonna Taylor, there was only a mockery of justice.  Interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder says he fears for the safety of his officers.  If the three officers who murdered Breonna Taylor had been arrested and charged as they should have been, there would be no protests, no violence, and he would not need to fear for the safety of his officers.  Actions have consequences, as we all learned around the age of three when we put our hand on that hot stove.  But for officers Mattingly, Hankison and Cosgrove, the consequences for murder were nil.  Meanwhile, Breonna Taylor is still dead and the world lost a kind, caring human being.breonna-taylor

“Un-American Propaganda”??? Seriously???

Just a few short years ago, this nation seemed like a sane place.  Sure, we had problems … plenty of them.  But we always thought there were systems and safeguards in place to keep any single person or any branch of government from overstepping their bounds.  Never did we dream, say back in 2010, ten years ago, that one person could make such a power grab that the norms would all be shattered within a single administration.

Today, we realize what fools we were … or at least the majority of us realize it.  A madman was elected with a minority of the vote, and nothing has been right ever since.  The Constitution that every president and member of Congress takes an oath to uphold has been shredded by a president who knows no boundaries, who has been enabled by his sycophants in Congress, in his administration, and yes, even in the Courts.  Where are those ‘checks and balances’?  They are only as good as the people who are tasked with enforcing them.

The latest thing to send me into a fit of temper is Trump’s order to Russell Vought, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, to cease the government’s racial sensitivity training.  Trump calls such training “un-American propaganda”.  That’s right, folks … it is un-American to try to teach people not to discriminate, to try to remove the systemic racism that exists within our government and law enforcement community.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.  🤬

Does this man understand that Black people are citizens of this nation with the same rights accorded to white people???  Does he understand that we have a huge problem in this nation with racism running rampant throughout our police departments?  Does he realize that we are on the brink of a race war that he will have been responsible for starting?

Trump’s former attorney and ‘fixer’, the man who, for a price, made Trump’s problems such as sexual liaisons just disappear, testified under oath to Congress in February 2019 …

“I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience. I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat.”

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He is a racist.  Was there ever any doubt?  Cohen went on to cite some examples …

“He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘shithole.’ This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States. While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way. He told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.”

Four decades ago, Trump and his father were sued by the federal government, which accused the Trumps of discriminating against people of colour trying to rent the Trump company’s apartments. Donald Trump was also sued for his mistreatment of black workers in his casinos and, according to a former hotel executive, once said “laziness is a trait in blacks.”

Then there was the Central Park Five case.  A group of African American and Hispanic teens named Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Kharey Wise happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time back in 1989 when a white female jogger was attacked and raped.  The five teens were arrested, tried and convicted on false evidence and coerced confessions, and they served prison sentences until 2002 when the real assailant confessed to the crime.  Donald Trump spent $85,000 placing the ads in local papers calling for the five teens to be executed.  Even though the five young men were exonerated, Trump has since repeatedly reiterated the guilty verdict of the men and has refused to back down or admit his mistake.  What if the teens had been white and the victim Black?  I don’t think Trump would have had a word to say about it.

Yes, Donald Trump is a racist, but are we going to allow him to make this nation even more racist than it already is???  How many more George Floyds, Breonna Taylors, Botham Jeans, Atatiana Jeffersons, and Jacob Blakes do we want?  How many more will it take until the thus-far peaceful Black Lives Matter protests turn into an all-out race war?  We have a serious problem with all forms of bigotry in this nation, but particularly racism, and the very person who should be dealing with it, trying to find solutions for the problem and bring the people of this nation together,  is instead pouring fuel on the fire.  It should NOT be his decision to cancel the training that might … just might be a start toward a better understanding between the people of this nation.

Trump has assembled a long record of comment on issues involving African Americans as well as Mexicans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Muslims, Jews, immigrants, women, and people with disabilities.  He is not only a racist, but a misogynist, a homophobe, an Islamophobe, and more.  This is a diverse nation with people of every nationality, religion, and ethnicity.  That the nation is led by a person who cannot tolerate any who aren’t white, Christian and male is the ultimate hypocrisy.  Will the people of this nation give him another four years to further our global reputation as a racist nation?  Remember, my friends, we will all carry the stigma of that label, not just those who voted for Trump.  Is this really how we want to be viewed?  Is this really a nation we even want to live in?

The Week’s Best Cartoons: Black Lives Matter

I haven’t done a cartoon post for a couple of months. The political cartoons today are darker, more brooding … but then, so is our nation. Today, though, I am ready for a break from my usual fare … the snarky & angst need to rest for just a minute. So … today I am sharing TokyoSand’s weekly cartoon roundup. The ‘toons sometimes speak louder than words. Thank you, TS!

Political⚡Charge

By Steve Breen, San Diego Union Tribune

Here’s how some of the nation’s best editorial cartoonists covered the Black Lives Matter protests. I hope you’ll let me know which ones you found to be the most powerful.

Black Lives Matter

By Scott Stantis, Chicago Tribune

By Steve Breen, San Diego Union Tribune

By Kevin Necessary

By Michael de Adder

By Matt Davies, Newsday

The Protests

By Serge Birault

By Matt Davies

By Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

By Ann Telnaes, Washington Post

By Daryl Cagle

By Clay Jones

By Darrin Bell, King Features syndicate

By Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Trump Responds

By Lalo Alcaraz

By Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

By Clay Jones

By Monte Wolverton

By Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

By Ann Telnaes, Washington Post

By Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News

By Steve Breen, San Diego Union…

View original post 66 more words

A Child … Just A Child

It seems to me that this nation places too much value on rites and rituals and not enough on substantive issues.  When an eleven-year-old child is arrested … yes, arrested by police … for exercising his right to free speech by refusing to recite the pledge of allegiance, something has gone awry with our values as a nation.

It all began on the morning of February 4th, when a young boy at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Polk County, Florida, refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance.  The boy had refused to stand for the pledge for the entire school year, and had written permission from his mother to do so. But on this day there was a substitute teacher, Ana Alvarez.  When Ms. Alvarez asked the boy why he didn’t stand, he told her he believes the pledge represents racism.  Ms. Alvarez’ responded …

“Why if it was so bad here you do not go to another place to live.”

And when the boy replied, “They brought me here,” Alvarez said …

“Well you can always go back, because I came here from Cuba and the day I feel I’m not welcome here anymore I would find another place to live.”

Perhaps Ms. Alvarez forgot she was talking to an 11-year-old child who has neither the autonomy nor the means to choose his own place to live?

“Then I had to call the office because I did not want to continue dealing with him.”

A school resource officer with the Lakeland Police Department eventually responded to the classroom and arrested the boy.  Arrested a child.  An African-American child who did not break any law.  According to a statement by Polk County Public Schools, the child “became disruptive” and “refused to follow instructions.”  Excuse me, but the boy is eleven years old!  He was no doubt frightened and felt threatened!  He was not an adult who might have been able to understand and deal with the situation in a moderated voice!

This case, naturally, brings to mind that of Colin Kaepernick who was unduly ostracized and penalized for exercising his first amendment right to refuse to stand for the national anthem.  If Colin Kaepernick had been Caucasian, would the results have been different?  If this 11-year-old boy had been Caucasian, would the results have been different?  We will never know for sure, but my best guess is that yes, in both cases the refusal to stand would have been largely overlooked.

On Tuesday, Brian Haas, the state attorney for the 10th Judicial Circuit in Florida, said that his office would not prosecute the boy despite statements by the police that he had made threats after disrupting class. “The case is closed,” Mr. Haas said.

However, the boy’s mother, understandably, is not satisfied, nor is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  Dhakira Talbot, the lad’s mother, declined an offer from prosecutors on Monday to drop the case if the boy completed a so-called diversion program, which could include a fine and community service.  She has obtained an attorney who plans to file a civil-rights complaint with the federal Department of Education this week.

A personal note here.  Throughout my childhood I refused steadfastly to stand for the pledge or to engage in the morning prayer that was requisite in the Catholic schools I attended.  The nuns did not like it and more than a few times I was smacked on the hands and even the head with the metal edge of a ruler (Catholic schools in the 1950s were notorious for corporal punishment).  But, being the stubborn girl I was even back then, I did not give in.  AND … I did not get arrested.  I seriously doubt that calling the police ever crossed their minds!

According to the New York Times article from February 19th

Across the country, black students are disciplined more often and face harsher consequences than their white peers. At Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, black students made up 17 percent of the student body last school year but represented 39 percent of disciplinary actions, according to data from the Florida Department of Education.

Systemic racism.  Perhaps the biggest shame of this nation.  And an 11-year-old boy has suffered an experience he will never forget.  He has been shown, first-hand, that black people are treated with less respect, less dignity than those with pale skin.  What lasting effect will this incident have on a young child’s life?  There is no way to know, but we can rest assured that it will colour his views for the rest of his life.