OK

I'm not sure if anyone remembers the police incident a few months back. For the New Yorkers who read this blog, I know it's hard to keep track. "Police incidents" are a dime a dozen around these parts. But here are the basics: Glenn Broadnax, a mentally disturbed man, was weaving in and out of traffic in Times Square, apparently thinking that he was conversing with his dead relatives. Again, for the New Yorkers who read this blog, this may be hard to differentiate from some of the performance art we're assaulted with on a daily basis, particularly in Times Square, but I digress. In any case, this being midtown and the crazy person being a big black man, the police were on the scene in minutes. I'll let the New York Times describe what happened next:

The police arrived and the crowd grew. The hulking man continued on, ignoring the officers’ commands while eluding capture. Then the man reached into his pants pocket, withdrawing his hand as if it were a gun, the police said, and pretended to shoot at some of the officers.
The New York Daily News adds a bit more context however. Emphasis all mine.
They let fly after Broadnax pretended to shoot at them, making believe that his hand was a weapon, cops said. He was pointing a Metro Card at the officers when they took aim, a witness said.

The cops felt they had no choice, said a second police source.

That's reasonable. I'm usually can't wait to start blazing away whenever I see people raise their Metro Cards in my direction -- oh, wait, nobody has that reaction. People tripping balls on LSD who may believe that metro card is an actual gun shooting lava-filled octopi might have some understandable reason to freak out, but on-duty law enforcement professionals? Not so much.

So we have a crazy person being crazy and the NYPD reacting with almost comically predictable itchy trigger fingers. And of course the police officers don't actually hit the person they're aiming for. They hit two innocent bystanders, one of whom was leaning on her walker at the time of the shooting. As I've detailed in a previous post, Once More Unto the Breach with Guns, the hit rate this exact situation (police vs. unarmed assailant) is a paltry 30%. So somebody thought it was a good idea to take those odds and fire guns into the single most crowded pocket of the by-far most populous city in the USA? Good grief!

There's so much wrong here I really don't know where to begin. Let's start with the two officers who decided to shoot at this clearly troubled and obviously unarmed person. Y'all are some punk bitches!

First of all, eyewitness accounts differ dramatically from the "had no choice" narrative coming from NYPD officials.

“From what I saw, he had nothing in his arms that was a weapon,” said Kerri-Ann Nesbeth, who was standing on the northeast corner of 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue by a subway entrance when the episode unfolded. “My reaction was like, ‘Wait, why are they shooting at him?’”
Secondly, there is video of the incident. And according to the New York Times "In a video of the episode, a single shot is heard first, followed about seven seconds later by two more shots." So even if you wanted to be extraordinarily charitable and say that the crazy person made some sort of aggressive move that made the officers think that he had a gun, why was there so much time between the initial shot from Officer #1 and then second and third shot from Officer #2? No choice indeed. Right. But on to the rest of this situation.
I count 14 uniform officers in the photo above. How did the "hulking man" avoid capture initially? As for the two officers who fired, did I mention y'all are some punk bitches? There's more than a dozen of you at the scene complete with batons, mace, and depending on your rank, stun guns. This apparently wasn't enough for you. So you decide to open fire into the single most-traversed intersection in America. Brilliant! And finally, does no one on the NYPD understand the order of operations? Only in the Bizarro World can you shoot at a suspect, then Taser him, and then go for the gang tackle? I'm pretty sure you should have done that in reverse.

I really don't understand these people.  There's all of this physical and agility training required to be a police officer. Plus hand to hand combat because deadly force is only supposed to be used as a last resort. Yet any time there is the hint of a threat, (particularly when there's a brown person involved) the immediate response is draw gun and shoot many times with predictable results. I'm not sure if they've seen too many movies or just suffer from some sort of siege mentality. Again we're talking about them shooting an unarmed person. But even assuming the Hulk was armed, how does it make sense to open fire at 42nd street and 8th Avenue? Something like 1 million people pass through Times Square every day. As noted above, the math is hardly on their side here.

Unfortunately, this prissy need for law enforcement to get their guns off isn't just confined to New York.

In Charlotte North Carolina back in September, Jonathan Farrell was killed by police after crawling from the wreckage of a car accident and then knocking on a stranger's door to seek help. And of course seeing a black man knocking on your door signifies some sort of home invasion to the homeowner. Cue frantic call to the police and the ultimate deadly result. Take it away, CNN:

Officers responded to a "breaking and entering" 911 call at a home in Charlotte. The homeowner told dispatchers that a man had been knocking on her door repeatedly. Police say that when they got to the scene, a man matching the caller's description ran toward them. One of the officers fired his stun gun, but it was "unsuccessful." Another officer then opened fire, police said Jonathan Ferrell died at the scene. He was shot several times.

He was unarmed.

I guess the "silver lining" of this incident that resulted in the death of an unarmed 24-year-old is that at least the police tried to use his stun gun rather than beginning the festivities with deadly force. Of course even satirically calling that a silver lining shows how low the NYPD has set the bar. But again why was a stun gun even necessary? We have two well-trained officers and their impulse always seem to be grab a weapon and fire rather than risking a physical altercation with an injured man who was looking for help and in no way wanted to fight them. If the police are unwilling to use their brains to try to diffuse potentially violent confrontations (or even ask pertinent questions about whether or not violence is likely to occur), and are unwilling to actually engage in melee combat, what's the point of all of that training? They might as well skip the academy and stick to the gun ranges. Then at least, maybe, just maybe, when shooting unarmed suspects, they'd be less likely to hit civilians.

Circling back to the New York incident, Mr. Broadnax was initially charged with a bevy of crimes including menacing, obstructing governmental administration, rioting, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and cocaine possession when he was finally apprehended. All par for the course. However, the Assistant Distract Attorney recently added the cherry on top of this Fail Sundae.

But the Manhattan district attorney’s office persuaded a grand jury to charge Mr. Broadnax with assault, a felony carrying a maximum sentence of 25 years. Specifically, the nine-count indictment unsealed on Wednesday said Mr. Broadnax “recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death.”

“The defendant is the one that created the situation that injured innocent bystanders,” said an assistant district attorney, Shannon Lucey.

So the officers who opened fire on an unarmed man who thinks his hand can shoot bullets get administrative duty for hitting two civilians. And the mentally disabled person they fired at gets charged with felony assault. Awesome! Yes, yes why look into training practices and workplace socialization factors that apparently contribute to officers thinking it's altogether fine to fire at an unarmed person in a crowded intersection when you can just blame the crazy black guy. Aren't you glad we're living in post-racial America?
The list goes on, and on, and on. Just a few more examples of this kind of work on behalf of our public protectors:
   
  • Exhibit C: Police officers in New Mexico who opened fire on an unarmed woman and children in a minivan. Not to worry, though, the officer said he was aiming for the tires. 'Cause you know, that's normal.
       
  • Exhibit D: A few days ago the  LAPD gunned down an unarmed mentally ill man after a high-speed car chase. His hands were up and he had his back to the officers when they killed him.

    That's hardly all, but I've got to stop there, because eventually even the Internet runs out of space. The moral of the story, if there is one to be found in this depressing morass: We really need to take a serious look at training and what's considered "common" police procedure in practice -- not just what's in the handbooks. These shootings are a failure of both the police at an organizational level and our legal system. If officers aren't being properly taught how to move through their jobs without resorting to deadly force at the drop of a hat, then the police are in need serious re-training. And it's not just the training, it's the distribution of consequences and incentives -- which means the legal system is equally culpable. Why not solve every problem with deadly force when your reckless actions can be so casually shifted to mentally ill man wandering through traffic? That's the message the Assistant District Attorney is sending by charging Mr. Broadnax with felony assault as opposed to the officers. Is it any wonder these incidents are happening with alarming frequency?

Squeeze first, ask questions last is a song lyric from the Notorious B.I.G. It's not supposed to be standard operating procedure for the police.
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