Friday, June 8, 2012

Mistakes were made

Tam is surprisingly (to me, at least) gentle on the Colorado Po Po who, when chasing a bank robber of no description, went all Papieren, bitte on the good burghers of the fair town.  A bunch of the comments over there are shading towards the cut 'em some slack, policing is a hard job side of the argument.  Sorry, I don't buy it.  It's as easy as 1-2-3.

1. If only modern technology might advance to the point where a tracking device hidden in a stack of 20s could be slipped into the robber's swag bag.  Then - hypothetically speaking, of course - the Po Po could just sort of track him from afar until they move in for the photogenic arrest (suitable for viewing on the local News at 10).  It's a crying shame that we live in such a technologically benighted age where instead a bunch of innocent citizens have to get all handcuffed until Officer Fife can figure out which end of the bag is open. And y'know, this same Po Po might even - illegally even - use that same technology to track "persons of interest".  [/sarcasm]

2. Of course the bank should want the fact known that the stack of cold hard cash might be bugged.  This is called a "deterrent".  The wider this news is spread, the more powerful will be the deterrent effect.  Sure, Joe Robber might comb through each of the stacks of 20s, looking for the bug, this this will slow him down - rather a lot, actually - and that itself is its own risk. The Police not just violated everyone's rights, but they've made their own jobs harder in the future.

3. Policing isn't supposed to be easy, but nobody is making Officer Fife take the job.  If he's not up to doing his duty without clearly and massively stepping on the citizens plainly written 4th Amendment rights, then Officer Fife has no business pulling down a paycheck from those taxpayers.  We ourselves are constantly told that "ignorance of the law is no excuse", and we are vigorously prosecuted for selling rabbits without a license and that sort of thing.  Well, if that's how the game is played, then play the game that way.  If that's too hard for the Police force then there's an easy solution: quit the Police force.

At the risk of going all Wookie-suit, I'm afraid that the only solution to this toxic mix of incompetence and mistakes were made excusifying is ruinous lawsuits that would ruin the town.  JayG once asked what people would do if they won the Megabucks Lottery.  Me, I'd establish a foundation to bring those suits to bankrupt town after town.  After about the fifth, the local Police Chiefs would probably be called in for a chat with the local Town Legal Beagle about not being That Guy.

This sort of nonsense is getting out of control.  Either the cops are dumb (which I don't think) or they're lazy (which I don't think), or they're run by Class A examples of the Peter Principle.  That's sadly the most likely reason, and also the most dangerous to us.  Heads need to roll.  An long suffering Republic waits expectantly.


Tam said...

You miss the point of my post, which is not "Go easy on the cops" but rather "So, on the spot, what would you have done?"

And yes, if you're heavy in Aurora muni bonds, sell. But, hey, I'm not arrogant enough to say that my solution wouldn't have gotten the $#!+ sued out of the city, too.

Go read MattG's comments on how those tracking devices work. You're not following a magic homing screen on your dashboard like in Goldfinger; you've got some cubicle farm drone at SecuriCo, Inc. relaying position info to your dispatcher, who then relays it to you.

1 Adam 12, the car is stopped at 5th and Elm right now!

Holy crap, you're right there at 5th and Elm. Everybody else is a couple blocks off and closing fast.

The cross light is turning yellow. Tick tock. It could be any one of those cars.

Yeah, me too.

The problem with Tamara's Idealized Libertarian Solutions is that the word problems too often start "Assuming a frictionless surface..."

Borepatch said...

Policing isn't Pokemon, Tam. Sometimes you don't catch 'em all. There's a reason for jury trial and "beyond a reasonable doubt". Does that mean that some guilty go free? Sure.

Are there situations where it might make sense to round up everyone in the area? Maybe, but it would have to be for something a lot more serious than a bank getting robbed of a couple grand. Not trying to be harsh to the bank, but the business model is deter what you can, then prevent what you can, and then insure against the remaining risk.

I guess that the strict answer to your question is "watch him drive away". Could something bad happen after? I guess. But there's a difference between mistakes of action and mistakes of inaction by the police, and that is a difference of kind, not of degree.

I still think those cops shouldn't be drawing a paycheck from the taxpayers.

Tam said...

You are still resolutely missing my point.

Yes: "Let him drive away" is the correct answer, and heads should roll.

However I am humble enough to admit that, were I there in the heat of the moment, my head would in all likelihood be rolling too.

Tam said...

(Incidentally, if they'd done more-or-less the same thing, only without the shotguns and ballistic shields and handcuffs and all that tactical folderol, we likely never would have even heard of this.)

Borepatch said...

You are still resolutely missing my point.

I am nothing if not determined ... ;-)

I really think that I would have let them drive off. Easy to say because I wasn't there, but that really is my starting point.

While my line of security work isn't really related at all to what the police do, I've lived through so many self-inflicted wounds (technologically speaking) that it has to be a serious emergency to make that spur of the moment call.

For me, a bank robbery just isn't in that category. A child abduction, yeah that would be different.

Net/net, there are situations where I'd be OK with pulling everyone from their cars and cuffing them, but this isn't one.

And I agree that if this had just been a glorified roadblock, nobody would be talking about this.

Goober said...

I posted over there, too, and my analysis is as follows:

1.) The decision was a stupid one, based, if nothing else, on a public safety standard. You have an armed guy in a car, and you put citizens at risk by stopping him and them all together and bunching everyone up. if bad guy had started shooting under these circumstances, you get very, very bad results.

2.) When I responded over there, I didn't realize that they had detained and handcuffed everyone. I was sort of under the impression that it was a checkpoint type deal - cop shines his flashlight into the car, asks for license and registration, looks around inside the car, that sort of thing. I said that the cops had made the decison at the last minute and it was a bad one, but at least they made a decision. So at least there's that. But handcuffing everyone? Cmon!

3.) If you have a tracking device that lets you track the bad guys, then track them until they are in a spot where there are fewer innocents and then nail their arse. I'd rather a high-speed pursuit had been the result than the shooting gallery the cops eventually set up.

BenC said...

One of the comments I have heard people in law enforcement say that has always ticked me off is "My number one priority is to go home to my family at the end of my shift" If that is your priority then find another job!
Your priority should be protect the public and enforce the laws.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

To supplement Goober's first point:

The bad guy here was obviously trying to avoid notice and escape by stealth. He was not an immediate threat - no reckless driving, ramming other vehicles to get them out of the way, etc. He was so low key that the police apparently couldn't even tell which car he was even in. If they had let him go and continued using the (assumed) tracking device, maybe supplemented with a helicopter, to keep up with him, he wasn't going to be a threat unless he got spooked.

On the other hand, they had zero knowledge on whether cornering him in a crowd like that would make him simply start shooting or not.

The police created a shooting gallery of innocent bystanders, and it's only pure dumb luck that the robber wasn't someone willing to kill everybody in sight in an effort to get a way.

On another point, while it's possible that they may not have tanked the criminal case entirely, they have definitely put a serious challenge in the prosecutor's way. It would be a poor defense attorney indeed who didn't try to get everything found in that stop excluded from the trial.

Goober said...

Jake - no doubt the prosecutor is going to have a hard time admitting any evidence found in a "stop and search EVERYTHING!" situation. That hadn't occured to me, but IANAL so maybe it won't be a big deal - I'm not sure how these things work.

What I DO know for almost certain is that if they'd found any of the OTHER folks involved to have drugs or whatever in their random, warrantless searches, they will almost certainly walk, even IF the police are stupid enough to try and press charges.

I suspect that I'd be more than pissed right off if I'd been one of those who were cuffed and illegally detained simple for having the tenacity to be driving down the street at the same time as a bank robber, and my lawyer would probably working on ramming a lawsuit right up their butts as we speak.

I agree that the first priority of a police officer should not be going home safe at the end of the shift. That isn't the job description, and as a police officer, if you aren't willing to risk your neck to serve and protect the citzenry within your jurisdiction, you're in the wrong line of work. That discussion goes a loooong way off the fairway, though, because then we'll start talking about lobbing less-than-lethal hand grenades at 7 year old girls and violently raiding houses with fully automatic weapons over baggies of pot, and I don't think Borepatch wants us veering that far off topic...

Goober said...

To answer Tam's question, what would I have done?

I don't really know. That's why I'm not a cop. I'd sure like to think that I'd have just followed him until he wasn't clustered up in the middle of 20 cars worth of innocents before I dropped the hammer on him, though, but that's also why I'm not a cop - I have said for years it is far better to let a bad guy walk than it is to punish a good innocent or risk the lives of good innocents trying to catch him. The bank has insurance. It isn't worth anyone's life.

I think a lot if times that cops, being human, start to de-humanize the people within their jurisdiction, seeing them as subjects and sheep to be herded (and slaughtered if necessary) to meet their needs. Part of that springs from constantly dealing with teh dregs of society and forgetting that not everyone is like that. It is an unfortunate part of human nature that results from giving people power over others. Likely unavoidable to a certain extent, but I know good police agencies are constantly drumming into their officer's heads that THEY serve the community, not vice versa. Bad police agencies have essentially gottent hemselves into a mindset that they are in a state of perpetual war with the people that they are supposed to be serving, and act accordingly - thus, this story and the bad things associated with it.

Fred said...

I commented at Tam's asking why anyone would allow the gestapo to order them out of their car and handcuff them. I still hold to that.

"Officer, what's your probable cause for arresting me? Because ordering me out of my car and handcuffing me constitutes an arrest." I carry my attorney's business card in my wallet, and that's the first call I'd make once I had at least one hand free. And, yes, Officer Unfriendly would probably fabricate some sort of probable cause to justify his actions. That might be a challenge, however, for all 20 involuntary participants, including the children who were forced to participate.

I sincerely hope that all 20 victims hire attorneys and sue the city of Aurora back to the stone age, and every taxpayer in Aurora - who will be footing the bill - receives a mailing identifying who and why their taxes suddenly increased by 5X. I'm confident some suits will be filed, and won, but unless the settlement terms include the immediate firing of the police chief, all agency management and all the officers involved in this, and lifetime revocation of their law enforcement certification, it will be meaningless. This sort of thing absolutely has to stop and police need to be very firmly reminded their authority has limits. Money damages won't be enough because their qualified immunity protects them from financial punishment, and unless the cops involved and their bosses directly share in the pain, nothing will change.

I heard someplace, can't remember where, someone semi-prominent saying that police in America have become the standing army the founders warned us about. We - Joe and Jane Citizen - ignore that at our peril. Between the dead dogs and all the SWAT raids on wrong addresses, police have become government's storm troopers.

To those who will protest that remark: Yes, there are some cops out there who are Good Guys, and they're being painted with the same brush as the very few bad one. Boo-hoo, blah, blah, blah. I worked with some of the good guys. Unfortunately, there are a number of cops who aren't Good Guys, and you can't tell them apart. If the Good Guys don't purge the Bad Cops, they deserve to get painted with the same brush. Guilt by association.

In the meantime, I doubt Bad Bart and his buddies cruise the conservative side of the internet much, but once word of this gets around a piece of aluminum foil or a foil-coated mylar potato chip bag will quickly become part of the "bank robber's kit."

Anonymous said...

I have long said that if I were to win the lottery, I would start a non-profit, hire a team of the best attorneys I could find, and just start suing governments and public officials. I would wage hardcore lawfare. Cause turnabout is fair play.

Anonymous said...

Did everybody here miss the fact that all of this was done at gun point? That's called lethal force for a reason! Those officers were literally threatening everyone's life including the children. Now how much is your life worth in court.

Good luck getting your attorney to go for anything except a settlement or monetary judgment! That's not the way it works!