Police Misconduct: Shouldn’t personal responsibility be applied to police officers?

Police Misconduct: Shouldn’t personal responsibility be applied to police officers?

I am a little frightened.  I haven’t been to this page in months.  So I’m taking out the duster and the Pledge, and cleaning the cobwebs that sadly has become Your Doubting Thomas.  This place is a mess!  The last poll question is “Who do you like for President:  Gore or Bush?”

I have to clean this place up and get back to writing.  I wish I could say I have been sipping daiquiris in Miami for the last five months, living the dream, but that is only partially true.

I’m a lawyer running my own firm, which involves a lot of work.  Ironically, much of that work is not practicing law.  At the two year mark, the firm has done well with steady growth and has kept me busy.  It has been a lot of work and sleepless nights, but overall, that great challenge has been a lot of fun.  I’ve had to balance that challenge with my wife and two children– now six and three– along with the move from the city to the suburbs at the same time I opened my firm.  Prior to opening the firm, I wrote two-three times a week.  Now, maybe twice a quarter.

So, although I am “living the dream,” it’s just a lot of freaking work.

But I want to spend more time here.  I need to spend more time here.  I had lunch with a friend and complained that I didn’t have time to write.  I was promptly scolded and not so gently reminded that I have to make the time. So I’ll spend some time today cleaning up YDT and resetting it up for business.  Hopefully, you’ll see posts more often.

So while my life was marching ahead, a lot has happened in our country.  Springfield is a mess.  I’ve unfortunately just thrown my hands in the air and want to move.  I think of Springfield, smile and think of Colonel Frank Slade’s line about what he’d do to the Baird School if he was five years younger.  I look forward to seeing if Governor Rauner is able to right the ship, although I question how some of his “reforms” will cut into the deficit versus save money for people who already have it.

The biggest thing I watched is the number of police involved shootings and the reaction to them.  The reaction on both sides troubles me.  Rioting.  Looting.  But almost equally abhorrent was the reaction to these shootings by some in the media.  Like these victims deserved to die.

Many media members did not see the irony with their argument.  Some argue that Black men should not put themselves in a position to be running away from the police and by so doing, provoking the response.  In other words: they deserved to get shot.  As the collective finger wagged at young Black men, those wagging said: you need to be responsible for what you do.

The irony with the personal responsibility narrative was that it wasn’t applied to the police officers firing bullets into people’s backs.  Police officers must be held equally responsible for their actions.  If a police officer chokes the life out of a man without a weapon after says he can’t breathe, a jury should get to decide that officer’s fate.  Far too often, the “personal responsibility” standard that is applied to dead Black men is not applied to police officers who kill them.  Watching that happen, over and over and over again, is frustrating.

I believe that everyone– Black and white alike– need to treat police officers with respect.  Years ago, I wrote a post about a woman who was tased by a  Chicago police officer.  In that post, I argued her actions merited the officer’s response.

But when a police officer uses lethal force on an unarmed person that officer should be held accountable for his or her actions.  Unfortunately, there are few examples of that accountability.

But, I spent the last few months watching it from afar.  Rather than writing about it, I found myself spending more time with my children, being a parent.  I’m not worried that they’ll end up on the wrong side of a police officer’s gun because my job as a parent is to make certain that never happens.  I’m not saying that they’ll never have interactions with police.  Everyone does.  But my job as a parent is to teach and stress respect to the officer, so the interaction doesn’t get to the point of confrontation.

Recently, I found myself walking down Lake Street.  I was stopped waiting for my signal to turn green so I could cross State Street.  Someone next to me bolted into the street just as the light for traffic on State turned red.  I shook my head and mumbled “stupid” to myself.  Technically, that guy had the right of way.  The light was red for traffic on State Street.   However, I’ve seen cars, CTA buses, and taxi cabs regularly blow through lights.  Had that happen at that moment, that guy would have been struck by car and severely injured or killed.

Technically, he would have been right; that car should have stopped.  But that technicality is not terribly important to the pedestrian as someone gives his eulogy.

I apply the same logic to the police.  Technically, a victim may be right.  But, we need to teach our children not to put themselves in as situation that escalates into a confrontation with police.  (There are notable exceptions to this– Tamir Rice is the one that comes to mind, a Black child who was gunned down by police for being Black; there was no opportunity to de-escalate that situation).

My children are too young to be told that.  They need to learn by example.  I have not gone out of my way to get a speeding ticket with my children in the car so they could see how to treat a police officer.  But my wife and I try to instill in our children to treat everyone with respect.  That’s what all of us need to be better about.

So that’s where I’ve been.  Working hard; parenting hard; sleeping hard.  It’s busy, but when I take a moment, step back and evaluate, I am living my dream.  Now, there are other components about that dream that have gone ignored– writing is only one.  There is only one opportunity to live this life, so now is the time to work a bit harder to ensure that the dream continues and doesn’t turn into something else.


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  • Speaking on the level of lawyers, it is not clear what kind of personal responsibility it involved. Personally, I couldn't figure out the recent local decision that it wasn't manslaughter because the off duty cop intentionally rather than recklessly shot, in which case I thought he should have been charged with murder,but the judge probably would have found some other reason to let him off.

    Somewhat similar, they were willing to indict in Baltimore, but apparently nowhere else. On the other hand, if the justification for the use of force is imminent fear of injury or death, selling untaxed cigarettes might be a capital offense in New York, but certainly not elsewhere (Eric Garner case) or a burned out taillight might provide probable cause for a stop, but again is not a capital offense (Walter Scott).

    Also, while no indictments in Ferguson and Cleveland, the Justice Department found enough to go against both police departments. The answer might be civil rights suits, but there isn't personal responsibility, because the city pays.

  • My brother-in-law is a Chicago cop. He is personally responsible for his actions, because, as you must know, he can be sued personally. Every day he has to go out on the streets and balance his restraint and his responsibility to serve and protect.

    As far as the media thinking that the most notable victims in recent months deserved to die...Really? What of the less notable victims, those white rednecks or "white trash" plugged by a cop, or beat down? Nobody hears about them, right? Whether the beat down is by a black or a white cop? Why? Because some black lives matter only for political expediency.

    Which brings me to black lives in general. I don't know where you live, counselor, but it can't be on the south or the west side. There are shootings and killings blocks from my house south, and I can guarantee you that it ain't white cops in black face killing little kids caught in the crossfire. Yet, there is no outrage. Nobody gives a crap about a little black girl killed on her porch, but a convenience store strong-armed robber, those you care about-- to a odd and strange fault.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    As I noted above the "sued personally" is somewhat meaningless, because while he can be named as a defendant, the city has to defend and indemnify him, unless it it totally outside the scope of employment, which it usually is not, because a cop is on duty 24/7. Just consider all the money Chicago paid out on Burge, and the only personal accountability he faced was for lying at a deposition. Daley, the State's Attorney who prosecuted the cases after Burge and crew tortured the suspects, has proprietorial immunity and thus was not accountable for anything.

    I'm not going to get into whose lives matter (and I think you didn't express what you tried to do in the first sentence of the second paragraph), but as I also noted that the Justice Department found enough to go after Ferguson and Cleveland, and documented what patterns it found. Of course, given your expressed political orientation, I suppose you are going to reply that the Justice Department is racist.

  • In reply to jack:

    And I don't know how "prosecutorial" became "proprietorial." I must have hit the wrong mouse button on spell check.

  • Good to read/see you both again.

    Richard, you and I got into this a little while ago. Just because "black on black" crime exists doesn't mean we should not condemn any police officer shooting an unarmed black man in the back. That's apples and oranges. You know that.

    Look forward to future debate.

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