Friday, April 14, 2017

Police Beatings 101

     You know what the first rule of Police Fight Club is?  You don't want to join it.  Yes, even in this day and age of The Distributed Panopticon and multimillion-dollar lawsuits, there is no amount of money that will bring back the teeth you grew yourself, or make a broken bone heal any faster.  If you want to fight 'em, hold your tongue, hold your temper, bide your time and hire a lawyer.  You won't make as much money, but you'll still be alive to count it.  Remember the maxim popularized by Chris Rock, among others: "If the police have to come after you, they're bringing a beating."

     It would be nice if this weren't so.  It'd be nice if government and civil service jobs were entirely filled by cool, wise philosopher-kings,* too, and while we're at it, how about a cookie?  But that's not how it works.  In the real world, these jobs are filled by the same range of slobs you find in any other line of work.  Most are okay.  A few are jerks.  However -- and here's the critical distinction -- while most everyday encounters are on or very nearly the same level and a determined (or at least stubborn) person can expect to prevail much of the time, this does not hold when you interact with police.  One of you has "sovereign immunity;" one of you has a radio to summon lots of armed help, backed by the full force and might of city, county or state government.  It's not you.

     Does anyone "have a beating coming?"  Under our legal system, no; under the common custom and morality or our time and place, no.  Not ever.  If they do have "something coming," that's for the courts to decide, not the cops.  But alas, Johnny Law has a limited range of options, all of which he is allowed to use if circumstances merit, and only one of them is "gentle persuasion;" every one of the remainder involve some level of force.

     After the fact, it may not be justified; or it may be a lawful use of force that still rankles the popular perception.  Maybe it's an outrage to be followed up by a week of riots. But someone has, nevertheless, suffered a beating.  You don't want to be that guy.

     Want to stop this?  Get more cameras on more officers, in every sense of the phrase.  Write your legislators.  Boycott airlines that offend you.  Wave signs, raise hell!  --Just don't argue it out in the heat of the moment, because in that situation, there is no strategy that can result in you winning. Remember there is one human constant: Police will respond to force with force and it is inherently disproportionate.  You can whup 'em in the courts; you can beat 'em in the media; you can run 'em ragged in City Council or the legislature.  By the side of the road, in an airliner seat, on a sidewalk...?  Not so much.
* Based on experience, I'm starting to think these Platonic creatures are like unicorns and the Easter Bunny. Never met one.  Don't believe I ever will.

N.B.: I'm going to get some pushback in the form of people accusing me of saying folks ought to knuckle under to jackbooted thugs.  No.  Wrong.  What I'm saying is choose your ground; fight in venues where you've got a fair chance of winning.


Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Is it "sovereign immunity," or "qualified immunity"? When Glenn Reynolds riffs on this, he uses the latter term. The state itself has sovereign immunity, its agents qua agents do not. (And Reynolds says that "qualified immunity" is an invention of the judiciary that has no Constitutional basis.)

Carteach said...

Nothing is ever really simple, is it? In this case, as more info comes out, it appears the 'Officers' were not police at all, but slightly glorified unarmed security guards who liked to wear jackets saying 'police' on them.

There is also now a case being made that United's actions in forcing the paying passenger out of his seat so United could fly someone else may have been unlawful.

Should the elderly doctor have gotten off the plane? I think so. That said... I suspect he's going to soon be very wealthy indeed. I also think those security guards will be unemployed, and seeking their own attorneys to defend against assault charges and a civil lawsuit. The airline? Gold.... piles of it.... trickling away.

Just my thoughts. Not worth much, on the whole.

RandyGC said...

Or as my Dad used to say "On the side of the road it's "yes Officer, No Officer, Thank you Officer". if you're right and he's wrong, we'll let the Judge whup his ass in court".

JayNola said...

My drivers Ed instructor was a black guy in his mid twenties. He actually spent about 30 minutes with all of his students talking about police interaction. It boiled down to an echo of Randy. The only time you can fight a cop and win is in court. You might courteously disagree about the speed you were going and get away with it but it's yes sir, no ma'am, P's and Q's.

OldTexan said...

I don't think it ever entered the Doctor's mind that he was in danger while he was explaining to the security goons the he had a legal right to stay in his seat because that is the law, once you are on the plane and seated they are breaking the law when they request that you leave the plane. Most all of us have had to stand up for ourselves at times explaining our side of the story and this does not equate in anyway with police interaction, there was no inference the Doctor was breaking the law and in fact United was breaking the law. I watched the beating, felonious assault which occurred in a couple of seconds when the doc was give a concussion, broken nose and two broken teeth with blood spurting out of his face because he was in the middle of verbally explaining his position and rights.

The Fake News Media missed the whole story spending days explaining over booking which did not occur, talking about the fine print on the ticket which allowed them to deplane the passenger which was not the case. it’s clear that what they did was illegal– they gave preference to their employees over people who had reserved confirmed seats, in violation of 14 CFR 250.2a. United had no right at all to removed a seated passenger from his assigned seat once he was on board and seated. The passenger was within his rights to protest verbally that he should be left alone so he could go home.

I would like to see charges filed on every person involved in the un lawful decision that led to the assault beginning with the goons in blue jeans who were not police, the people at the gate who made the decision and the pilot and flight attendant who should have know the law, ignorance is no excuse, and allowed or encourage the goons to come on the plane and assault a passenger who was under their protection.

Perhaps there should now be warning labels on the tickets that say any disagreement or attempt to stand up for your rights on United will result in being beaten around the head and shoulders while we knock your teeth out, break you nose and send you to the hospital with a concussion and just because you are 69 years old that does not mean we won't use excessive force.

I am sorry for ranting so much but as the week has progressed and I discovered more of the facts this really bothers me, maybe because I am three years older than the doc and I can see myself refusing to get off if I had to be someplace the next day and I would think upon my refusal they would be willing to up the amount for a volunteer and everything would work out but that's just me.

Roberta X said...

Fuzzy Curmudgeon writes: "Is it 'sovereign immunity,' or 'qualified immunity'?"

I don;t know. I am not a lawyer.

FC: "When Glenn Reynolds riffs on this, he uses the latter term. ... (And Reynolds says that 'qualified immunity' is an invention of the judiciary that has no Constitutional basis.)"

And when Mr. Reynolds has a seat on the Supreme Court, his opinion on this will be something other than the entertaining speech of a media commentator. Until then, that's all it is.

Cops acting in good faith as cops (which in the Uninted Airlines situation, may not be what they guys in blue with "POLICE" on their shirts or jackets actually were) are generally deemed blameless in the 3eys of the law for their actions. (Though they may not be blameless in the eyes of their boss, but that hardly ever makes the news -- Officer Clueless and/or Overly Violent gets reamed out and either resolves to do better or fumes over it and bashes in the next hapless lawbreaker to cross his path, and maybe that hits the headlines but don't count on it unless someone has video.)

Anonymous said...

Glenn Reynolds is a law professor, so his opinion is probably just a wee bit informed.

I think you are right about your post. When the cops or security guards deliver their ultimatum, I'm not mobilizing, just call me Complyin' Brian.

And it's early days yet, but I agree with Carteach and Old Texan; the planets seem to be aligning for Dr. Dao. If you throw out the split lip, busted nose, missing teeth, and concussion, of course. United Continental is no doubt eager to make this go away.

Monty James

pigpen51 said...

Late to the party, but still have to add my two cents. I read the novel The Blue Knight by Joseph Wambaugh back in high school or just after, I think. In it, I recall a passage where our hero, Bumper Morgan, I think, was mad because another cop hit a drunk and hurt him. Wambaugh wrote that if someone hit a cop, the cop beat the crap out of the guy, just because the court system would not intervene enough, and it kept the police safer in the future. If I am remembering correctly, the line was " it wasn't tit for tat. If the guy gave you tit, you tatted his teeth down his throat." It always stuck with me that I never wanted to be the guy who was being made an example of.

Roberta X said...

Anon 4:09 p.m. writes, "Glenn Reynolds is a law professor, so his opinion is probably just a wee bit informed."

Informed, yes. Definitive, no; when "Reynolds says that 'qualified immunity' is an invention of the judiciary that has no Constitutional basis," he is expressing an opinion, not stating a fact. There are sitting judges with different opinions -- and, unlike him, they've got the full machinery of the state behind 'em. Are they right? I don't know, but if you get cross-threaded with the law, you'd better approach them as if they were.