The Watering Hole, Saturday, November 7, 2015: Adrenaline Rush To Judgment

There is a misunderstood problem in America that is not being talked about from the proper perspective. There are police officers, few in number to be sure, but there nonetheless, who have killed unarmed people who were absolutely posing no life or death danger to the police officer whatsoever. What has exacerbated the problem are the fruitless attempts to hold these police officers criminally liable for taking those lives. Time after time, a police officer caught on video killing an unarmed civilian has walked away free and clear of any punishment for his (or her) crimes. And they clearly were crimes from a moral standpoint. There shouldn’t be any way to defend these actions, should there? Well, if you don’t consider being human as part of the problem, there apparently is.

We are human beings, which means we are animals. I’ll give the more religious ones of you out there a moment to absorb that fact……….[looks at watch]………that’s enough time. And as animals, we have things called survival mechanisms. These are the natural, innate reactions we have to certain stimuli. When we suddenly smell a new aroma we hadn’t noticed before, our brains immediately kick in to identify it. Once we are confident we know its origin and have assessed any danger to ourselves, we unconsciously desensitize our nose to it (if it isn’t too pungent.) This makes our nose and brain better able to notice new smells, like smoke, which alerts the brain to the danger of fire (an association we learned as youths.) This is when our innate flight or fight response kicks in. The adrenal glands start producing adrenaline in case we have to move quickly or exert great strength. Fear can also stimulate the flight or fight response, which likewise produces extra adrenaline. You are now in an adrenaline rush, stimulated into believing, rightly or wrongly right now (but who has time to check?), that your life is in danger. And we humans in this situation do not think, we act. We do something. (Assuming we are not, literally, paralyzed with fear, which does happen, no shame in that.) But we have to do something, as they say in the movies, we can’t just sit here and wait to die. And what we often do is act without thinking things through thoroughly first. We are trying to resolve the situation in a way that puts us out of danger as quickly as possible. This is just part of the reality of being an animal prone to chemically reacting to stimuli in a certain way. If you were to inject yourself with adrenaline right now, you would be so hyped up you’d be looking for something you could call dangerous, just so you could react to it. Your brain would tell you that you are seeing danger where a less hyped-up mind, able to calmly think for a few moments, not subject to a reflex action that demands swift resolution of a crisis situation, would not. You’re not thinking clearly when your brain is telling you to react to anything you see as possibly being dangerous until you feel calm enough to decide that the danger has passed. Your brain is telling you to do whatever you have to to remove yourself from danger. Either you’re going to run as far away from the danger as you can (take flight), or prepare to battle against whatever you think is about to kill you (fight). Some refer to this as “standing your ground.”

Do you think at this point it would be wise to have a gun?

And that is the perspective from which we should be addressing these police shootings of unarmed people. Now, before we get sidetracked, yes, there has been in many of the cases that have come to the public forefront, an element of racism involved. And that is a serious problem in and of itself, and it often plays a significant role in these killings because it contributes to the sense of fear that the cop is feeling at that moment. That cop with a gun at his side. The one whose flight or fight response is about to kick in, but who knows he can’t resort to flight in this situation. (The cop can’t run away from the guy running away from the cop.) He must resort to fight. And what he is about to fight may very well not be an actual danger to him at all. But his brain is not perceiving it that way. His beliefs, formed in part by his experience, are leading him think a danger exists. Yes, that belief may be that all black men are armed and dangerous, but whatever the reason, however motivated, the belief is that a danger exists where none actually does. And that cop has a gun.

Many of these recent shootings involved either an emotionally unstable cop who shouldn’t have been allowed to become a cop in the first place, a veteran cop of some years with a history of valid excessive force complaints, or a very inexperienced cop not used to being in a situation where he thought his life was in danger. None of these are ideal situations, where you might feel comfortable about the cop involved having a loaded gun available. But that is what has been happening more and more lately. At least we are hearing about it more and more, and that is because of social media. But that begs the question of how many of these shootings are happening that are not caught on video? They are happening, and have been happening more often in the past, when there was less of a chance of the killing being recorded for later confirmation (or manipulation, as in the criminal case against the cops who tried to kill Rodney King for no valid reason.) We usually just took the word of the cop in question because there was no visual evidence to the contrary. Of course, this was usually after he had some time to formulate an explanation for his actions. We’re often never sure of what happened because we only heard one side of it, the other side being dead. And the fact that these cops are getting acquitted even after video of the events contradicts their story, as clearly evident in the case of Officer Lisa Mearkle, who shot and killed David Kassick in Pennsylvania after a foot pursuit, which began as a traffic stop over an expired inspection sticker, is an aspect of the problem that won’t go away without addressing the fact that we are giving cops deadly weapons and letting them use them in non-deadly situations, even though they think it is a deadly situation (or so they claim afterwards.) We can never be sure what happened because they can never be sure what happened. With or without the videos, a cop pumped up with adrenaline is not thinking clearly. (Were they calm and rationale, they would not be pumped up with adrenaline.) We are allowing them to defend their actions by claiming a perception of being in danger even absent a confirmation of a danger to them or the public existing. And we know that the very situation they are in can cause them to misperceive the truth of what is really happening. Is that a gun? I see no evidence it isn’t, so it must be. And we are not only allowing this defense to excuse their actions, we are even training our cops to shoot to kill, rather than shoot to wound. The problem is they are shooting to kill in situations where the person they are killing would never have faced the death penalty for whatever he is believed to have done. And this never seems to come up in the discussions I see on this topic. We are letting cops use deadly force in situations where the alleged crimes being committed would never have resulted in the death penalty.

Eric Garner wasn’t selling loose cigarettes without paying the taxes when cops strangled him to death. He was accused by someone and several cops confronted him to question him about the situation. He wasn’t in the act of selling those cigarettes when confronted. Whatever happened after that point, Eric Garner did nothing that would have brought him the death penalty if convicted in court. Selling loose cigarettes without paying the taxes is not a capital crime. Refusing to talk to cops harassing you for something you aren’t doing is not a capital crime. Failure to obey a cop is not a capital crime. Resisting arrest without any weapon is not a capital crime. Holding a toy gun, pointed down to the ground, is not a capital crime. Holding a toy gun in a non-threatening manner, in a store that sells that very toy gun, while talking on a cell phone is not a capital crime. Why are we letting cops get away with using deadly force at all in situations where the person they killed would not have faced the death penalty for anything he did?

Why are we giving deadly weapons to people we put in tense, but not deadly, situations, where the very natural instincts that are a part of being human, are going to make them think they perceive danger where none actually exists? Why are we letting the misperception of danger excuse the use of deadly force in those non-deadly situations? The human brain arrives at a conclusion in one of two ways – either by factoring in the details one perceives and arriving at a conclusion about what is happening, or presupposing what is happening and using the absence of contradictory evidence serve as proof that the theory is correct. In virtually all of the cases of cops killing unarmed civilians, this is how that cop arrived at the perception that his (or her) life was in danger. He assumed what he saw or heard was a gun, then took the fact that he could not see proof he was wrong as proof he was right. We can’t continue to do things this way. We have to change the rules and the training for use of deadly force. We have to train cops in non-lethal techniques to diffuse situations rather than escalate them. We have to drill it into their heads that the use of deadly force is a LAST resort, not the first reaction to the perception of danger, given that it’s more likely no actual danger exists. We have to do a better job of screening applicants to a police force, such as finding out why they were fired from their previous police force. We have to do all these things and more. But we have to do them now, before another unarmed person is murdered by a cop who had no business being issued a deadly weapon in the first place.

This is our daily open thread. Discuss whatever you wish. Just don’t shoot me.


66 thoughts on “The Watering Hole, Saturday, November 7, 2015: Adrenaline Rush To Judgment

  1. Taking the question just a little bit further.
    What about “off duty” police?

    Let’s say I’m a mechanic. When I’m not mechanicing, I’m not “off duty”.
    If someone asks what do I do, I don’t say “I’m an off duty mechanic”
    I’m a guy that walks his dog and goes fishing and if I see a vehicle that’s broken down, I don’t feel that it’s my duty to repair the vehicle.
    I leave that up to the tow truck or triple A.

    I mention this because so many cops can’t leave the job behind them.
    They still have the mindset and the weapons with the only difference being no uniform or patrol car.

    There are a lot of aspects of this deed that don’t line up.
    This incident is not a singular case, it is prevalent in our society.

    When you’re off work, leave it behind you.

    • Something that has always bothered me about off-duty cops is when they are employed by a private business and wear their uniforms and use their police vehicles in performance of that job. A specific example would be a uniformed officer directing traffic at a fast food restaurant during the lunch time rush, with their vehicle parked nearby with its lights flashing.

      I disagree with your mechanic scenario because there are things I think you could and would do, like changing a flat tire for a senior citizen or disable veteran.

      If you, Mr. Beekeeper were shopping somewhere and overheard a customer asking an employee about what they needed to start raising bees might you offer advice if the employee wasn’t knowledgeable on the subject?

      • Yeah, you’re right but, I wouldn’t use deadly force.
        I prefer to take the “educate and inform first” approach.
        On more than several occasions, I have handed a fishing rod to a kid saying
        “hey this this thing is stuck on the bottom, see what you can do”
        I go to the cooler and get a frosty one and watch the kid have the time of his life.

        • Here’s a question, does a person with an expertise in something, upon observing a fellow human and seeing something that threatens the health or welfare of that other person have an obligation to warn that person?

          • Before that person has been sued for doing so, or after?
            I was a witness to an airplane crash.
            I was interviewed by the NTSB and the FAA.
            Having a list of flying credentials as long as your arm kept my butt out of the fire but the owner of the airplane still tried to drag me into the lawsuit and discredit me as a witness.
            My testimony was not favorable towards the pilot.
            Generally, my moral compass usually leads me to do the right thing regardless of the blow back.

    • I’m not sure the analogy really works here. It is my impression (though this might vary with state &/or municipality) that off-duty cops are, in fact, still law enforcement officials, which means they must have their badge and at least one registered service weapon with them at all times. Unlike the mechanic who gets to walk away from the broken down car, when an off-duty cop encounters a crime in progress, they are expected to intervene. And that expectation is not a matter of social pressure, but a legal requirement of the job.

      Again, this is my impression, and I might be completely mistaken.

      • I am not certain of the rules, either, but my sense tells me an off-duty cop working as a civilian security guard cannot use his authority as an actual law enforcement officer in the performance of his duties as a security guard. Security guards do not carry the same weight of government authority that a cop does, nor should they have the same legal protections an on-duty cop enjoys when they’re working off-duty in a civilian job. You can legally disobey a private security officer without fear of going to jail. So the cop working as a private security officer should not be treated or viewed as an on-duty cop. If I slug a private security officer on my way past him because I really want to get upstairs, they shouldn’t be able to turn around and say I punched an on-duty cop. There have to be lines drawn, and the only way to do that is to disallow cops the opportunity to moonlight in civilian jobs. One or the other, but not both. Too many lines get blurred when they allow that.

        • ” You can legally disobey a private security officer without fear of going to jail.” I am pretty sure that’s *not* true. When guards are on the property they’ve been assigned to protect, they get to enforce their order that you do not get to trespass. Qua security guard, they are proxy for the property owner.

          ” If I slug a private security officer” — then you have committed an *assault*. It does not matter whether the person was an off-duty cop or not. But if s/he is/was an off-duty cop, then qua cop they are now legally entitled to respond to the commission of a crime that they were immediately witness to.

          • A security guard has no more authority to protect the property than I do to protect my own. If people want to disregard my instructions to leave, I have to call the cops. An off-duty cop should have to do the same instead of changing hats and deciding to be an on-duty cop. He can detain the person, like any security guard with a weapon could, but he shouldn’t be able to make a legal, enforceable arrest when he was just getting paid to be a private security guard. This has nothing to do with being undercover, where they would be getting paid to be on-duty cops. This is about taking off the uniform and doing a job the public isn’t paying you to do.

            Also, it should not be the case (though it probably is) that hitting someone you had no idea was a real cop gets you charged with hitting a cop. Assault and/or battery, yes, but if you had no idea the person you hit was a cop, you should not be charged as if you did. It’s bullshit that they can charge you with a more serious crime because your victim was someone you didn’t know was a cop. Not saying you shouldn’t get charged, but hitting a cop carries a stiffer penalty than hitting a civilian. If you had no idea the person you hit was a cop, they should not be allowed to charge you as if you did, and make you face stiffer penalties than you have otherwise.

  2. What underlies each and every gun death in this country are the unfortunate facts that (a) guns exist, and (b) guns are so pervasive that anyone who wants one can get one. Or two. Or ten. Or -?-. Actually, even people who don’t want one can get one. The fact is, America has reached the point where the word ‘guns’ has essentially come to define her essence (or lack thereof). This is a country where NO person is presumed the ‘right’ to have adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, even education, anything that enables/enhances life. People who believe that stuff are nothin’ but lazy bums or commies. But EVERYBODY has the ‘right to keep and bear’ as many of those instruments — WHOSE SOLE PURPOSE IS TO KILL — as they wish to ‘keep and bear.’ It says so in the Constitution, dontcha know; means God said it.

    America may have a small handful of good points that drive her, but all of them combined cannot overcome the one thing that has come to DEFINE her: the insane ‘right to keep and bear’ the means to shoot at — with intent to kill — anything that moves (or doesn’t move, for that matter). Guns define what will one day be seen as the substance of America’s dismal epitaph, all because of two simple rules:

    Rule 1: When everyone has a gun, thousands of people will be needlessly killed every day.
    Rule 2: There is nothing anyone can do to change rule number one.

    • I blogged a little while ago about gun ownership as “Identity Politics.” For a great many people, guns are not a tool owned for a purpose, but the “gravitational mass” around which their self as a person “orbits” — take it away, and they’ve lost any connection to their self-identity.

      • If what drives their identity is that thing whose only earthly purpose is to kill something, then that “self-identity” is basically worthless anyway. They could accomplish the exact same thing by registering as a Republican.

        • Well, the two do seem to go together (guns and Republicans.) But there is such an “existential hysteria” evinced by even the suggestion of mild regulations, I can’t help but wonder of the poor little puddin’s simply have no sense of self absent their infantile pop-guns.

          • Back in my college days, we who cared less about owning guns figured it had something to do with dick size — the smaller the dick the more guns in the garage. And double down for gun owners who drove pickups. We had no interest in data gathering, though — some falsifiable theories are more worth spreading (and laughing over) without data backup. (See also religion). 😉

    • The headline on the C&L post reads “Bill O’Reilly Calls George Will A ‘Hack,’ Will Calls Bill A ‘Liar'”

      Talk about nailing it! “Hack” and “Liar” — perfect descriptors for Will and O”Reilly, resp. (or v.v., for that matter)

    • To be fair to Bill-O, if Will wants to unload on someone it should be the actual author of the book.

  3. Oh geez! One of the signs on ESPN’s College Gameday, live from Tuscaloosa:


    Time for the picture of the now famous Picard Facepalm.

  4. Tide fans everywhere just went apoplectic! Arkansas 53 Ole Miss 52 1st OT! Woooooo piiiiig sooooiiie!

    Alabama can beat LSU, move up in the poll, and win out to be in the playoff!

    • LSU running back Leonard Fournette was averaging 193 yards a game. He starts the 4th quarter with 15 carries for 13 yards. Alabama 30 – LSU 10 with 12:45 to play.

      • Fournette finished with 19 carries for 31 yards and 1 TD. Bama’s Derek Henry had 38 carries for 210 yards and 3 TDs. Final score was Alabama 30 – LSU 16.

          • That’s really nice. I wish I could wind down now and get to bed. I stuck to coke through the game and now I’m wired.

            In the early 70s, Bear Bryant had a defense that the sportswriters called ‘The Redwood Forest’ because the line was so tall and deflected so many passes. I think this year’s Tide is the first one since that time that really deserves the same nickname. They are dominating opposing teams’ running games, and preventing four or five passes a game from leaving the backfield. I thought we’d have trouble stopping Fournette tonight, but they made him a non-factor.

  5. Meet the Press has Bernie Sanders and Rachel Maddow today, if anyone’s awake and interested.

    I looked several places on the internet and they all say Alabama beat LSU last night, and Ole Miss lost to Arkansas, so I guess I didn’t dream it.

        • I’ve always found this odd, but where MTP is shown live in some parts of the country, in New York, it’s delayed until 10:30 AM. And they have some local Today-show type programming on before it. So you’ve already seen it and it hasn’t even aired yet in the largest TV market in the country.

          • I get Meet the Press, This Week, and Fox News Sunday at 8am central. Face the Nation runs at 9:30am. I pick one show to watch at 8, based on guests, record another, then go to CNN for Fareed Zakaria at 9. I pause Zakaria at 9:30, switch tuners to CBS at 9:30, and watch Face the Nation. After it’s over, I go back to CNN and watch until the race comes on. If I have time before the race, I’ll catch up with the show I recorded. It’s usually all over by noon.

            • Wow, that’s quite involved. I take significantly less interest in the Sunday talk shows. I just stopped getting the sense that their intent was to be informative and instead manipulative, and usually for Conservatives and the Republican Party. When Dems controlled the WH and both House of Congress, there will STILL more Republicans on as guests than Democrats. And when the GOP controlled all three, there were even fewer Liberals and Democrats on as guests. I also reject the idea that “you have to hear both sides” since they often have extremists from both sides, and usually in a 2-1 Con-Lib ratio.

              But if you’re willing to watch and report back all the interesting tidbits, I’m fine with that. 🙂

  6. I question the media’s take on the fifty Special Forces deployed to Syria. They aren’t there to directly affect ISIS, they are there to evaluate and report back to US intelligence as to whether we want any part of that quagmire.

  7. Fareed Zakaria (Not having his best day today) “I believe that Obama will keep the American intervention in Syria small and limited, but he will leave his successor with a terrible dilemma, in just the way that the Kennedy Administration left one for Lyndon Johnson.”

    Would that JFK had finished out his term, been re-elected in 1964, and handed over to Johnson in 1968, who can say what things would have been like for LBJ?

    • That’s true. Had he not been assassinated, there’s very good reason to believe JFK would have been re-elected. Didn’t LBJ campaign on a theme of continuing JFK’s agenda? To be honest, it’s hard to know how successful JFK would have been in passing the CRA and VRA, given LBJ’s unique style of intimidating politicians into giving him what he wanted. (LBJ did things like have someone stand at the bathroom door while he (LBJ) sat on a toilet shitting.)

    • Kennedy had already initiated an American withdrawal from the Nam before he was assassinated, one that would bring 1000 home by Dec 1963 and the rest, iirc, by Dec. 1964. LBJ apparently rescinded that whole process before JFK was in the ground. Google NSAM 263 and NSAM 273 for a closer look.

      I don’t think JFK left a mess for LBJ — seems LBJ created the mess himself. Why’d he do that is a compelling question.

    • He’s a creepy phony bastard. Why people feel the need to give him money is beyond me.
      The man lives in a $10 million dollar home.

      (I rant every time that mug is shown)

      Great quote for those not into the bible!

  8. Bernie Sanders’ dream job: President of CNN

    But asked here Friday what his non-political dream job would be, the Democratic presidential candidate told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow during the First in the South Presidential Candidates Forum that he would like to be “president of CNN.”

    After laughs — both inside the room and in the media filing center — Sanders added, “If I was president of CNN, trust me, the way media deals with politics would radically change.”


    Later Friday, Jeff Zucker, the current president of CNN, responded to Sanders.

    “Can he start Monday?” Zucker quipped.

    • The unofficial results would suggest that voters favored democratic candidates for Secretary of State (democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes) and Attorney General (democrat Andy Bashir), but then decided that they wanted a full blown right-wing nut-job like Matt Bevin for governor

      That’s what I said Wednesday morning. The totals strain credibility. It looks like an amateur did the hack.

  9. Scott Pelley has reached a new low on 60 Minutes. He’s reporting on security clearances and he opened by lumping Snowden and Manning in with Aaron Alexis, the Washington Navy Yard shooter.

  10. oh, to live where there is no ambient light…

    US Dept of Interior ‏@Interior 13h13 hours ago
    The #MilkyWay shimmers over Wheeler Peak @GreatBasinNPS in #Nevada. Pic by Derek Demeter

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