Air Date 07/06/2020
Jay Tomlinson - Host, Best of the Left: Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast in which we shall learn about the many, many problems with cops that aren't even explicitly about racism, whether individual, structural or historical. No, today we are looking at problems like the rules that help protect bad cops from accountabiliy, the police unions that insist on those rules and the total lack of state or national policies that would structurally disincentivize the hiring or continued employment of problem officers. Plus, more on the training that many officers go through that teaches them to be constantly in fear for their lives and to kill without thinking.
Clips today, come from Frontline, Behind the Bastards, Pod Save America. Planet Money. It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders and Throughline.
Race, Police, & The Pandemic - FRONTLINE - Air Date 6-2-20
Raney Aronson-Rath: I was looking at the record of the Minneapolis police department and also this officer, and of course their, their history really points to, you know, something should have been done earlier. So when you look at it through that prism, you know, what, what was at play here? How, how could that have continued to go on in that regard?
Jelani Cobb: Yeah, I think that this takes us directly from what happened at the end of that film, where we were in the country on the issue of policing, in 2016 and where we were the following year with a different administration. And what we had essentially been looking at were consent decrees, which were the primary mechanism that the Department of Justice was using to reform troubled police departments.
And, you know, they'd come out of the 1992 uprisings after Rodney King was beaten up by the Los Angeles police. And what happened in the legislation two years later in the '94 crime bill was that the DOJ was given these broadly expanded powers to implement reforms in police departments. And, you know, it had kind of a checkered history, some successes, some places where they were less successful, but we were interested in seeing what exactly is happening now on the ground with this.
Well, the following year, there's a different attorney general. It's safe to say that Eric Holder and Jeff Sessions saw these issues very differently. And so in a speech to a national police organization in 2018, Jeff Sessions reiterated a point that he'd made at various other times throughout the, his tenure as attorney general, but he really did not believe there was such a thing as a systemically troubled police department.
And he said there are occasionally police officers who do the wrong thing, but there's no real issue with departments themselves being rogue:
Audio of Jeff Sessions: "But in the last several years, law enforcement as a whole, has been unfairly maligned and blamed for the unacceptable actions of a few of their bad actors."
Jelani Cobb: And I mean, that just was empirically disprovable. I mean, we have seen, we've seen departments themselves say, we have problems that we were interested in having the Department of Justice come help us to create a different kind of rapport with the community that we're supposed to protect. And so that led to essentially curtailing the use of these consent decrees.
And now we've been at a period where the DOJ is very reluctant and in some ways, it doesn't have the backing institutionally to step in when a police department seems to be chronically problematic. And you know, there's a, a line that we can see between 2017 and where we are on 2020.
Raney Aronson-Rath: I am interested in you helping us understand a little bit more about this for people who don't know what a consent decree is. First of all, just talk to us about the concept of that.
Jelani Cobb: So in essence, you can call for a department to be investigated. Sometimes these things happen through bureaucratic mechanisms. Sometimes they happen through communities. you know, petitions, people will ask the DOJ to take a look at a police department.
The fact that the DOJ looks at the department doesn't necessarily mean that they will deem it as troubled. They've sometimes looked at the departments and said, well, there's certainly some things that are wrong here, but we're not going to say that the. that the department is so rotten that it needs to be reformed, it needs federal intervention to get their house in order. And sometimes they do, you know, sometimes they'll say, well, you have, these problems are a substantial enough, and chronic enough, that we really do need to step in here.
Montage of unnamed reporters: "The goal is to put, put structures in place and requirements in place for police supervisors and police managers to do their job." "It's a 227 page document all because of the Freddie Gray case. But to those who work in there was..." "...that decree resulted from the protests that followed the 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown..." "...decree. What they get along with federal judicial oversight is a mandated tightening of police supervision..." "...of officers who cause trouble and also address issues with excessive force unconstitutional stops in the African American community. These are all problems that were outlined..."
Jelani Cobb: They essentially prescribe a series of reforms. They'll look at what's going on in the department, what's wrong, what the biggest issues have been, and they come up with a list of things that the department has to do in order to come into compliance.
And that the reform process is then overseen by a federal monitor. And this is a person that is usually selected by the DOJ, but with input from the departments themselves. So the federal monitors are people who actually oversee the implementation of the reforms, you know; whatever it is the DOJ says it needs to happen, these are the people who were charged with looking at getting you from point A to point B as a department. And like any kind of program, you have some successes, you have some things that don't work out as well. The irony of this, maybe one of the most interesting footnotes in this, is that Los Angeles, which, you know, in the 1980s and 1990s was notorious as a troubled police department, was actually one of the best examples of the consent degree program working. And so over the ensuing decade, they rose much higher in the rankings of how community people saw them. And they actually started to do, to implement things that were innovative kinds of policing. So sending out social workers with police officers on calls, and in for instances, yeah, instances where law enforcement, isn't exactly what you need. If you have a person who has a mental health crisis, then maybe that's not the time that, you know, a law enforcement person is best equipped to handle it. And, and so all these things that were really, kind of out-of-the-box thinking for how policing could be done, and, you know, Los Angeles was a beneficiary of that.
Raney Aronson-Rath: So the Trump administration comes in and Jeff Sessions runs the Department of Justice. What was the first sign to you that the ideas of the Obama administration really trying to push forward on some of these consent decrees? What was your first, sort of big signal that things would be different?
Jelani Cobb: So here was a real sign that, you know, there was the, the winds were blowing in a different direction, and that involved a case, which is become fairly infamous in its own right. And that was the death of a 17 year old boy in Chicago by the name of Laquan McDonald.
Unnamed Reporter: "The video of Chicago police officer Jason van Dyke shooting, Laquan McDonald 16 times, it was enough for prosecutors to charge him with first degree murder. But tonight newly released documents detailed a very different story Chicago police officers told right after McDonald was killed."
Jelani Cobb: He was shot by a police officer and the report of what happened in the course of the shooting differed substantially from what video later showed, but the police department and, and many regards to the administration of the mayor, Rahm Emanuel, succeeded in suppressing that video for over a year. And when the video comes out, you know, there are huge consequences, politically, socially, you find out about other things that were going on with the Chicago PD operating a, a black site where, essentially torture was happening to people who they suspected of crimes, all sorts of things would just qualify as grossly unconstitutional. And one of the things that was kind of slam dunk, it was a given that this was a police department that needed to be reformed, that there needed to be a consent decree. This was exactly the kind of scenario that this program was created for.
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch: "I'm here to announce that the Department of Justice has opened an investigation into whether the Chicago police department has engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the Constitution or federal law. Specifically, we will examine a number of issues related to the Chicago police department's use of force, including its use of deadly force, racial, ethnic, and other disparities and its use of force and its accountability mechanisms."
Jelani Cobb: But then there became questions about whether or not this consent decree actually would happen once the new administration came in.
And so you saw Chicago and Baltimore, which also had had issues because of the Freddie Gray incident there were. And so, those cities were racing to get their consent decrees completed before Jeff Sessions stepped in as Attorney General. And so there was a sign from the top that there was going to be a kind of a different dispensation as it came to those issues almost from day one.
Raney Aronson-Rath: So considering the fact that the Department of Justice may not be pushing forward on these consent decrees. I mean, it's always also up to the local police department to be looking at the systemic issues inside their own department or an officer in the case of Minneapolis. So what also could be going on in addition to the Department of Justice's actions?
Jelani Cobb: So here's where it gets interesting: in more than one circumstance, I've seen departments where there were issues of problems and you have a police chief who is aware that there are problems there. And the issue is often-- you think that the issue is with the police chief and it actually is not. The problem lies more with the police union. And so, you know, you have sometimes conflict between chiefs who want to reform the departments and police unions that are much kind of staunch, much more staunchly, inclined to defend whatever it is that's happening, with police officers there.
And so in that instance, the ability to create things like police civilian review boards is really significant, and you know, that kind of gets fought out on a local basis, you know, with city councils and whomever is empowered to make those kinds of decisions. Certainly not everything lies in the hands of the federal government, but you know, the mechanisms for creating accountability within your own communities, it can be done to the extent that you can navigate around the kind of institutional pushback that you get from groups like the Fraternal Order of Police very often.
The Man Who Teaches Our Cops To Kill Part 1 - Behind the Bastards - Air Date 6-1-20
Robert Evans - Host, Behind the Bastards: There is a reason that American cops are particularly aggressive. And a big part of this reason is the special training courses offered by Lieutenant Colonel David Grossman, the Bulletproof Mindset courses. So officer Yanez, who we talked about earlier, is the guy who killed Philando Castile. He had attended a Bulletproof Mindset course in 2014, two years before he murdered Castile. More than a hundred police departments in the U S and a thousands of officers, perhaps tens of thousands have taken Grossman's courses over more than 20 years.
His teachings have made their way into mainstream Hollywood blockbusters. He is probably, it is said that he probably trained more American cops than any other single person. He is, he is the most influential single police trainer in the United States. So that's who we're talking about today. The murder of Mr. Castile did not spell the end of Grossman's business, but it did impact it. The sheriff of Santa Clara County, California canceled an upcoming training session, after Mr. Castile's murder, and she said that her officers were peacemakers first and warriors second.
There was an avalanche of criticism against Grossman. He lost a decent amount of business. And this is what kind of inspired Mother Jones to take that class and to write that article about him. And they wrote, they interviewed a number of other, like, experts on law enforcement and even law enforcement trainers who are critical of Grossman. I'm going to read that paragraph now.
"Grossman's trainings are fear porn, says Craig Atkinson, a filmmaker who attended one for his documentary on police militarization, Do Not Resist. He wonders how the Castile incident may have played out if officer Yanez hadn't heard Dave Grossman tell him that every single traffic stop could, might be the last stop you ever make in your life. Grossman is more of a motivational speaker than a trainer, says Seth Stoughton, a former cop and law professor at the University of South Carolina, who studies the regulation of police. In Grossman's worldview, Stoughton says, the officer is the hero, the warrior, the noble figure, who steps into dark situations where others fear to tread and brings order to chaotic world, and who does so by imposing their will on the civilians they deal with. This approach to policing is outdated and ineffective, says Stoughton, and some of it is dangerously wrong. Samuel Walker, a criminal justice professor and expert on police accountability, says the Bulletproof Warrior approach is OK for Green Berets, but unacceptable for domestic policing, the best police chiefs in the country don't want anything to do with this. Grossman and his business partner deny that what they provide is anything like military training or that it treats cops as warriors, even though it repeatedly refers to them as frontline troops and shows them training materials that are also used by military trainers, to prep soldiers...."
Yeah, it is really impossible to overemphasize how much Bulletproof Mindset training focuses on building an image of the world is irredeemably aggressive towards random cops. This Bloomberg write up describes how the class is open quote. 40 cops are in a classroom watching recent footage of protesters in San Francisco, denouncing the police. "Your children are ashamed of you," a black woman in the video tells a black officer who looks away. "Coward!" others shout. A young demonstrator walks up to a cop and sticks out his middle finger, a female officer trips and the demonstrators laugh. The volume is way up and the cops in the room are leaning back in their chairs, crossing their arms and getting tense.
David Grossman's partner in this steps in through the front of the room and stops the video. Glenn is 59, but spent 29 years as an officer in Lombard, a suburbs of Chicago, where they tortured people. And at one point running accounting, homicide investigations, he's six foot, one, 210 pounds, and has the gravelly voice and bearing of the desk sergeant on the 1980s TV show Hill Street Blues, who told cops to "be careful out there" before the squad cars rolled. "Welcome to our world," Glennon says. "It's as bad as it's been since the sixties and seventies." And again, obviously that's not fucking true. That's objectively not true. I mean, you could argue that within the last three or four days, it might be starting to be true, but it's because the cops treated people like enemy insurgents and murdered a bunch of them.
Yeah. And even then no cops have been killed yet in this, at least as of the recording of this fucking episode, who knows where we'll be, you know, in another couple of days.
But yeah, this is what cops believe. And if it's not what the man who murdered George Floyd believed, it's probably what the other three cops he was with, who stood by and who helped him murder George Floyd believed.
Minnesotan police love Grossman's courses. And he has taught a lot of Minnesota cops, a lot of Minneapolis cops. And as you might expect, he does not teach officers positive things about groups like Black Lives Matter. He calls BLM protests "treason." And he says that BLM has "blood on its hands" for encouraging people to kill police.
The media, he teaches his cops, are bastards for their unfair coverage of police violence. When homicide cropped up ever so slightly in 2015, he blamed it on what he called the Ferguson effect. His hypothesis is that after those police protests, cops were scared to do their jobs.
And so they let more crimes happen, I guess? It is not a very coherent belief system, but in Grossman's head, it all makes sense. Just like his sheep dog metaphor makes sense. Quote, "The sheep dog," he says, "looks a lot like a wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference though, is that the sheep dog must not, cannot and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheep dog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed."
Now, of course, Grossman doesn't think cops ever actually intentionally harm innocent people. The author of that Men's Journal article I've quoted from, I got a chance to interview him and he brought that up. And here's his quote about this:
Of all the recent high profile police killings, Grossman sees almost none that he believes were unjustified. Take Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died after an illegal choke-hold from the NYPD and whose last words were, "I can't breathe." "If you can talk, you can breathe," Grossman said, "that guy had a heart condition. The lesson is don't fight cops when you have a heart condition."
Jack O'Brien: Jesus Christ, man.
Robert Evans - Host, Behind the Bastards: By the way, one of the things that was said to George Floyd by the police, when he said that he couldn't breathe, is that if he could talk, he could breathe. Yup.
Jack O'Brien: This guy is like...
Robert Evans - Host, Behind the Bastards: Or take Tamir Rice, the 12 year old Cleveland boy who was fatally shot at a park while playing with the toy airsoft gun. If you had a gun pointed at you, Grossman says sympathizing with the cop who for the record did not have a gun pointed at him that one's borderline. I'm not going to give you that one. Yes. The instant shooting of a 12 year old with a toy is borderline.
Jack O'Brien: Yes. Yes. Clearly.
Robert Evans - Host, Behind the Bastards: Grossman does not believe that police have any kind of bias against black men that makes them more likely to shoot black men. Instead he says the far greater bias in our society today is a bias against cops, and in 10,000 TV shows and a 500 movies, black people are almost never the bad guys. And name me one cop movie in the last 30 years that didn't have a bad cop.
Now in total fairness, Jack, to David Grossman, he does think there's one way in which policing could be reformed and he even agrees that policing is broke. Do you know, what do you want to know?
Do you wanna know what he thinks is broken about policing Jack?
Jack O'Brien: They're too hemmed in by restrictions and they need to be able to more freely use violence.
Robert Evans - Host, Behind the Bastards: He does think that clearly, but what he says is actually even dumber: when people tell you law enforcement is broken they're right. And what's broken is sleep. He believes that when cops shoot wrongly, it's not because they're biased or scared or in need of better training or have been trained to shoot people much more regularly. It's because they're tired because they've been working too many long shifts. And taking too much overtime. Sleep deprivation, he says, is the number one predictor of judgment errors, ethical problems, and use of force problems.
If I could change one thing in the world right now to make law enforcement better, it would be mandating sleep.
Host #3: Holy fuck.
Qualified Immunity and the myth of dangerous traffic stops - Pod Save the People - Air Date 5-26-20
Dr. Clint Smith - Host, Pod Save the People: Alright, so, my news is about police accountability, in particular , we've talked a lot about policing and police violence on the pod over the past three years, but one of the big aspects of this issue that often goes unnoticed is the issue of qualified immunity. So, just to backtrack, when we're talking about police accountability, there's very little of it in this country, but there are a couple of mechanisms by which if a police use excessive force against you, you may be able to get some sort of redress or relief or accountability.
First, there's the criminal justice system and criminal prosecution, which we know very rarely actually effectively holds officers accountable. So, nationwide only about 1% of all cases where police kill somebody result in an officer being charged with a crime, any crime, and even fewer than that results in a conviction.
So, that essentially doesn't work. The second strategy is administrative accountability, which is essentially the department will fire or discipline the officer through an administrative proceeding. Now, national data on excessive force cases collected by the Bureau of Justice statistics shows that only 7% of all excessive force complaints result in a substantiated finding, meaning that the officers are able to be disciplined or fired as a result. Not all of them get disciplined or fired, but 7% is the best data that we have in terms of the extent to which a complaint of excessive force will result in some type of accountability. So, that leaves 93% of cases where there is little to no accountability at all when somebody reports excessive force. So, enter qualified immunity. Qualified immunity refers to cases where officers and departments are sued for, among other things, excessive force. And what we've seen in the courts over the past several decades is an effort to make it very hard for people who are victimized or attacked by the police to get any type of compensation or redress through this process.
So, a new investigation from Reuters looked at 252 excessive force cases brought in the nation's appellate courts. And what they found was that in the majority of cases where officers are sued for excessive force ,that the courts rule in favor of the officer and not the civilian who experienced the excessive force in 57% of cases that they've heard.
Now, what's fascinating about this is they're actually able to track how a series of court decisions made by the Supreme Court have made it even more difficult to actually seek redress through this process. In particular, there is a process under qualified immunity, a doctrine whereby in order to actually have standing, you have to prove that not only did the officer's use excessive force, but also that there was a clearly established case or precedent that what they did was in fact wrong and illegal. Now, this sounds sort of straightforward, but it actually means quite a bit with regard to accountability, because what that means is if you can't show that there was a specific case in which another officer was ruled to have used excessive force in an almost identical situation, if you can't show that, then you're unlikely to actually prevail in the courts. And this is because of the Supreme Court's interpretation of a law that was actually passed in the 1870s during the Reconstruction Period, Section 1983, which specifically allows for this process of suing for civil rights violations in the courts, and what the courts have done since the 1960s is made it much harder to actually prevail in those cases by introducing this clearly established standard.
So,this investigation by Reuters, what's so fascinating about it is, what they're actually able to show is that, over time, as the courts have made decision after decision after decision narrowing what people can actually sue officers for that is not covered under the doctrine of qualified immunity.
What we see in the data is that a smaller and smaller proportion of those cases results in a finding against an officer over time. So, from 2005 to 2007, the data that they have on court cases shows that the majority of excessive force cases were actually ruled in favor of the civilian and not the police But fast forward to 2017 through 2019, and we have 57% of all cases ruled in favor of the police.
Moreover, what they found was that the courts were actually intervening in ways that seem to be intentionally designed to expand the ways in which qualified immunity could be invoked to defend the police against any claims of excessive force. So, what they found was that when the courts intervened to take up an excessive force case, they were 3.5 times more likely to intervene in favor of the officer than a civilian.
So, they would take up a case in which the officer was actually found to commit excessive force by the lower courts and then overturn those cases in the majority of cases that they heard. So, this is fascinating in part because there are very few mechanisms as I described to actually hold police accountable in America.
Most of those mechanisms only work in rare instances, but the vast majority of them do not result in any type of accountability. And while lawsuits remain one of the only mechanisms whereby a substantial proportion, anywhere from. 40 to 50% of cases, is ruled in favor of the civilian, that that number is actually decreasing over time because of decisions made by the Supreme Court.
And so, as we head into the election, it's another reminder that the presidential election matters for a number of reasons as we're experiencing, but, with regard to police violence, in this case, because the composition of the Court and the way that it is structured directly impacts the likelihood that people will be able to seek any type of redress when they are the subject of excessive force.
DeRay Mckesson - Host, Pod Save the People: So, what's interesting to me is I'm reminded that so much of how the lower courts make decisions about the police actually rests on things that we know aren't true today. So, recently I was reading -- Sam sent me a study -- about the police with regard to mental health training, and there's some interesting conclusions in that study.
So, I'm reading that study, and, in reading that study, it references a host of other studies. So, I'm like, you know what? I haven't seen these other studies. So, let me just print them out. Let me read them to you because if I'm going to be an expert on this, I want to be an expert. So, I print out this study, it's called the Bristow study, and the Bristow study was done in 1963.
I don't think we've talked about this Clint or Brittany, but this study is so fascinating because it is this study, done in 1963, that the conclusion that the researcher reaches is that a third of all the police officers who are killed in the United States are killed at traffic stops. This is actually the birth of the dangerous traffic stop that you see in TV and film being a dominant narrative.
It's the birth of this image is like the traffic stop being equally as dangerous for police as it is for citizens. This whole narrative of the officer has a tough job. Traffic stops being this particularly dangerous thing comes from this study in 1963. So, I read the study, I sent it to Sam like Sam, did you see this?
Sam sees it. And we look at it and we're like, Oh my goodness. The study samples -- doesn't even sample --this study is just a reference of 111 cases. In the study, it literally says "no attempt was made to obtain a random selection of these cases." Like, the study is so flawed in so many ways that it is incredible that it has lasted this long.
And I was just like, wow, but all across the country, people cite this idea of traffic stops as particularly dangerous, and it comes from this study. So, in the interest of trying to figure out, like, what's the truth, I realized that there was another professor, Jordan Blair Woods, who is a law professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law.
He has written an updated review of this called "Policing danger narratives and routine traffic stops," put out in 2019. And his conclusion is fascinating because what he essentially shows is that there is no issue. Now, let me read his conclusions. He says, "To summarize, the findings do not support the dominant danger narrative surrounding routine traffic stops. Based on a conservative estimate, I found that the rate for felonious killing of an officer during a routine traffic stop for a traffic violation was only one in every 6.5 million stops. The rate for an assault that results in serious injury to an officer was only one in every 361,111 stops. Finally, the rate for an assault, whether it results in officer injury or not, was only one in every 6,959 stops."
The Bristow study was a lie. It was a lie. It was a piece of police propaganda, but it has shaped the way that so many of us think about the work of policing with regard to traffic stops is dangerous. And this directly feeds into a lot of cases that actually get to the Supreme Court or that are appealed to the Supreme Court, because you'd be surprised at how many court decisions rest on faulty logic, or they reference things, they indirectly reference the Bristow study in their conclusions.
The Man Who Teaches Our Cops To Kill Part 2 - Behind the Bastards - Air Date 6-1-20
Robert Evans - Host, Behind the Bastards: So, yeah, following all this, we get a page on “The Modern Warrior’s Edge”, which includes some pretty embarrassing clip art of a shlubby cop, looking in the mirror and seeing a muscular cop. It does positively note that communication skills are the most important skills for an officer to master, which is true, I would say.
But then it warns cops that most of their attackers will warn or provide indicators before striking. And that predators are always looking for a body count, which they find by recognizing soft targets.
And then after that we hit what is probably the most central and important aspect of this whole training program.
The video, "I'm in fear of my life!" This video is about a police officer who was killed in 1998, deputy Kyle Dinkheller. And I'm not sure if I've seen the exact same video that Grossman plays in his courses. But I did find a CNN article on the case and it includes a video that I believe to be at least very similar.
The article on CNN that includes this video opens with this paragraph, Jack: "If you want to know why cops shoot people, you can find one of many answers in those three minutes on Whipples Crossing Road, where Dinkheller was shot. There, on January 12, 1998, Deputy Kyle Dinkheller of the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office made the final traffic stop of his brief career.
And it is striking, in short, we're going to play aspects of this in a bit. The video shows a traffic stop. The deputy pulls over an older man driving erratically. Said man is belligerent. He jumps and he refuses commands. At one point he jumps up and down yelling for the officer to shoot him. He yells that he is a Vietnam veteran. He gets in Dinkheller's face and he gets aggressive. The deputy eventually hits him with a nightstick. The man is knocked down, but he gets back up and runs to his car there—there he grabs a rifle, which he uses to shoot deputy Dinkheller to death, And kind of critically, he fired several warning shots first. Dinkheller fires back and hits him, and then he shoots Dinkheller to death. And the video was horrific, whatever else you think about cops, Dinkheller does seem to have honestly tried to do everything in his power to avoid shooting this guy, even after the guy pulled out a rifle. it is a terrible video.
And, I guess if we're going to do a content warning, you're going to hear a man's death screams, a little bit later, it's it's bad. But it's important because this is what is, this is like one of the most important videos in police training in the United States, even outside of of Grossman's courses. The CNN video of this includes interviews with Kyle Dinkheller's dad who trains cops now. And what didn't Keller's dad takes out of this video is just as horrific as the video itself. And I'm going to ask you to play that clip now.
Audio of training video - Kirk Dinkheller: "Kyle, he was a deputy sheriff with Laurens County Sheriff's department in Dublin, Georgia. He was a good officer. Being his dad, I'm the first one to say, yeah, he made some mistakes. He was too fair. He was too nice. That was just him. My son pulled out his ass baton, hit him a few times. But then the first mistake he made was letting the man get up."
Jack O'Brien: This is his dad talking?
Kirk Dinkheller: "He should have kept him on the ground and cuffed him right there."
Robert Evans - Host, Behind the Bastards: Yeah, this is his dad.
Incident Audio: 10-78 [Inaudible] "Step back now! Put the gun down! Put it down now!"
Kirk Dinkheller: "He was giving the guy to the last ditch effort to put the gun down. He didn't want to hurt him. It didn't work."
Incident Audio: [Panting... multiple gunshots... screaming]
Robert Evans - Host, Behind the Bastards: Okay. Yeah that's probably enough So that's pretty horrific right Those screams are yeah. That's bad. it's, it's, a hard video to watch. It's brutal. And it has, you can tell the impact that it's had on his dad, because he's taken out of this, the fact that his son was too kind and, gave this guy too many chances, was not violent enough.
And that is what, watching the video, that's how it's trained to police that like, you need to be shooting faster to save your own life. that video, you can like imagine about a whole classroom full of young cops, which is like what, who this video was played to almost every day in this country.
Jack O'Brien: Yeah, and they show that actually is like a bunch of cops just putting their head down. I mean, it's really like one of the, I can't like that's, it's like trying to amp them up to just be as trigger happy as possible. It's like the bad, bad police porn. Like how? Not the person who's being killed in the video, but like, it's, it's just such a specific example and like just piece of propaganda.
Robert Evans- Host, Behind the Bastards: Yeah. And it's, yeah, we're gonna be talking about this video quite a bit. So yeah, as you might imagine, the Dinkheller video has a powerful impact on the police in Grossman's classes. And he ties this video and the fact that Dinkheller didn't shoot earlier, to some facts from the civil war, on battlefields in the civil war dropped, muskets were often found loaded with multiple balls, of the conclusion that Grossman and a number of people take from this is that most soldiers weren't trying to kill the enemy, that they they were basically like pretending to fire and then fake loading their guns, which is why, like, there were so many bullets in them cause they weren't willing to shoot people. That is one interpretation that other people say that like people panic in, in gunfights, 'cause it's terrifying. And they were like fucking up not realizing their gun wasn't actually firing, 'cause they were in a panicked situation or they were like fucking up while loading and accidentally sticking too many balls in. There's no way to know what the actual truth is, but Grossman ties this to the fact that people are so naturally unwilling to kill people that you have to really aggressively train people like police to kill very easily. Otherwise they won't kill when they need to. Like that's that's the lesson he learns from this.
Jack O'Brien: So that there, his argument is that the civil war wasn't deadly enough?
Robert Evans- Host, Behind the Bastards: Kind of, yeah, that is part of it.
Jack O'Brien: What the fuck?
Robert Evans - Host, Behind the Bastards: We'll talk more about this in a little bit. In these classes, the sheriff who trained Dinkheller gets a lot of guff, for the way that he trained his deputies, which gives you an idea of kind of like some of the pre Grossman attitudes towards at least shootings of white people. And the sheriff who trained this cop that died was famous for telling his officers, “make sure that if you shoot, it's a good shoot. And if not, you're probably gonna lose everything you've got plus you're probably going to go to prison.” So he was being like don't shoot unless you're absolutely certain, it's the right thing to do, otherwise you will go to prison, which I would say is how everyone with a gun should feel. Right?
Jack O'Brien: Right. You would think so. Yeah. Like at all times, no matter who you are.
Robert Evans - Host, Behind the Bastards: At all times, Yeah. Now the way the story goes Webb had a minor dustup with Dinkheller a few months prior to his death, the deputy wound up yelling at a driver on the road while responding to an incident. That driver was a friend of sheriff Webb’s. He told the sheriff and the sheriff yelled at Dinkheller and made him write a letter of apology, this humiliated Dinkheller, and caused him to get shit from his colleagues so as the story goes, he was also super conscious about fucking up on the job and getting in trouble and that's why he didn't shoot first.
This whole story and the video of this man's death has become a seminal moment in the history of law enforcement education. Not only did Kyle Dinkheller's father start touring with the video of his son's death and teaching classes on it, but other trainers have adopted the video, including Grossman. It is used in police training courses in at least 27 States. The lesson plan that accompanies this one course notes that the video is meant to help police “determine when lethal force is justified,” and to “always remember, your life is worth more than a lawsuit.” And the thing that's not stated there, but is true is that if they're also saying, remember your life is worth more than other people's—as a cop.
Jack O'Brien: Right.
Robert Evans - Host, Behind the Bastards: One thing I find really interesting is that Grossman and all these other police trainers tend to completely ignore the person who killed Kyle Dinkheller, Andrew, Brannan. And I'm going to quote from CNN talking about who Brannan was. Brannan spent three years as an army officer in Vietnam where his company commander was blown apart by a landmine, and Brannan never really came home from the war. The sound of a bottle rocket sent him diving under the couch. He left college after a nervous breakdown. He couldn't hold a job. He got married and divorced. He tried walking alone in the woods from Mexico to the Canadian border or from Tennessee to New York. On the trail in 1986, he wrote a postcard to his father. “I wish to thank you for being the being that means the most to me. You have set a good example, which I am only now getting better at following. But I will keep on going . Better to keep going than to stop.” Then his father died of cancer and he withdrew to a hide out in the woods of Laurens County, and in early 1998, he ran out of the medicine that treated his depression and stabilized his moods. By January 12th, when he met Kyle Dinkheller, he had been unmedicated for five days. There are a lot of lessons to take out of the shooting of Kyle Dinkheller. I don't think they are cops should be shooting people faster.
Jack O'Brien: Yes. That's the, it's you really have to work hard to get that decision that wrong.
Robert Evans - Host, Behind the Bastards: Yeah. Among the lessons I would take out of this is we shouldn't be fighting wars that don't concern us in any, our security in any meaningful way and, and send back thousands of young men who have been traumatized. We shouldn't have a system whereby somewhere..
Jack O'Brien: We should make it easier for people to get their mood stabilizing medication.
Robert Evans - Host, Behind the Bastards: Get their meds, yeah.
Yeah, we should, we should have more therapy. We should have a culture in which it is, a, it is considered, less shameful for men to, to, to take therapy. There's a lot of lessons to take out of this shooting.
Jack O'Brien: So so many lessons
Robert Evans - Host, Behind the Bastards: Grossman takes one. Yeah. So yeah, and the good enough analyses I've read on Brannan suggest very credibly that he was trying to commit "suicide by cop", firing a number of shots that didn't hit Dinkheller before he actually shot the officer.
And when he fired back, it was after he had been wounded and kind of the theory goes that he flipped out and went to “Nam” mode. Once he got hit and killed the deputy. The officer who was taking the Bulletproof Mindset course that I'm reading from, took this note during this section of the lecture. “We know what they are trying to do, kill a cop. So why do they expect us to act differently? They start this, but then they ask us to play by the rules.”
So from this point in the lecture, Grossman goes on to lecture his now terrified and angry students about what his research has told him about their adversaries, which are again, American citizens, mostly of a specific color. Grossman warns that they are younger and in better shape than police, that they have been in more gunfights and violent encounters, which in Grossman's cases, not a high bar, at least, he states that they practice more, which is true, states that they don't hesitate when it comes to violence. So he's..
Jack O'Brien: Who is he talking about?
Robert Evans - Host, Behind the Bastards: I mean, some of this is based on the fact that, like, an FBI study revealed that cop killers tend to have more armed training and practice than cops, but that's a low bar.
Cause most cops practice very little with their sidearms. like it's actually an extremely low bar to practice more—I practice more with my gun than the average us police officer. But he's also noting that, like, like he's, he's not just saying that like this about cop killers, he's saying about this about your adversaries, which he kind of intimates are almost anyone you run into as a cop.
Jack O'Brien: Right. So it seems like he could just be saying that everybody who you pull over is like a trained assassin.
Robert Evans - Host, Behind the Bastards: Yeah, that is what he said.
Jack O'Brien: He called them generation assassin. "Assassination generation."
Robert Evans - Host, Behind the Bastards: Yeah. That's what he's saying. .
Police Unions And Police Violence Part 1 - Planet Money - Air Date 6-5-20
AMANDA ARONCZYK, HOST: The last few weeks have been exhausting for a lot of people, especially people in Minneapolis, including Javier Morillo.
JAVIER MORILLO: It's just been a really trying time. Even if your neighborhood was not literally in flames, it was just extremely difficult to rest or to sleep.
ARONCZYK: Javier is a union organizer in Minneapolis-St. Paul. And until recently, he was the president of a union, SEIU Local 26, representing thousands of janitors, security officers, window cleaners. But lately, all he is thinking about, all his city is thinking about ,are the protests.
MORILLO: There were a few days when 911 was almost nonfunctional. Neighborhoods that do not trust the Minneapolis police department have begun policing themselves.
ARONCZYK: When he went for a meeting in South Minneapolis, he told me that it looked more like a war zone in a movie. There were Humvees and soldiers carrying machine guns. So much has happened in the past two weeks. But there is this one thing that really stuck out for Javier-- started with a letter on Monday.
MORILLO: So a week after Memorial day when George Floyd was killed, there was made public a letter by Bob Kroll, who is the president of the Minneapolis Police Federation.
ARONCZYK: In that letter, the police union president writes that the four officers charged with killing George Floyd were fired without due process and he is going to fight to get their jobs back. So that was Monday. Then Tuesday, there was a response that Javier did not expect.
MORILLO: Individual labor unions and then the Minnesota AFL-CIO put out a statement condemning the killing and specifically calling for the resignation of the president of the police federation.
ARONCZYK: Is that a big deal for one union leader to demand that another union leader resign?
MORILLO: Absolutely, yes.
ARONCZYK: We reached out to the Minneapolis police union for their response, but they did not get back to us. This police union, by the way, is not a part of the Minnesota branch of the AFL-CIO, which is kind of this umbrella organization for unions, including the union that represents a bunch of us here at PLANET MONEY.
Now, calling for the resignation of a union boss might sound small, but this was a very big deal. Unions don't usually trash talk other unions. Usually, they're all about solidarity, but not this week. These labor leaders accused the president of the police union of failing the movement and the people of Minneapolis.
MORILLO: I mean, I'm glad that we're finally having a full conversation on the labor side.
ARONCZYK: Javier - remember; he's a former union president himself - he says police unions are just not the same as other unions. For one, police unions are really powerful.
MORILLO: They are wildly successful at saving the jobs of people whose jobs should not be saved.
ARONCZYK: Compared to other unions, they have all of these tools to keep their members from getting fired or even disciplined. So in this moment, Javier's like, we have to talk about our police unions, what makes them different and how they need to change.
MORILLO: My personal feeling is that the greater good demands that we take this on and that the labor movement speak up. And if it means that the police union does not exist anymore, I personally am fine with that.
ARONCZYK: Because - that's a fairly radical thing to say because you're saying, I believe in organized labor, but not for this group of workers.
MORILLO: And I think that colleagues in the labor movement may disagree with me, but I think we need to hit reset - period.
Not Just Another Protest - It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders - Air Date 6-5-20
Sam Sanders - Host, It's Been a Minute: I want to talk about a Buzzfeed article you published this week, that lays out what might be one of the big reasons these kind of cases keep happening. And that is police unions. Talk about that.
MELISSA SEGURA: Sure. What we're seeing, based on the reporting, is that police union contracts, you , sort of this obscure little part of probably your local city website - are incredibly powerful documents that can stand in the way from what many consider to be common sense reforms. These are contracts that govern everything from what we typically think a union, you know, contract would cover. And those are reasonable things like, how much an officer makes, health insurance, salary time off, the typical working conditions that we associate with unions.
However, there are a number of other cut outs in these contracts that are specific. And sometimes, what advocates are saying are particularly problematic and obstacles to, seeing the kind of changes that people want. Those tend to be particular provisions that deal with discipline,
in the way that officers' cases of misconduct or citizen complaints are adjudicated. And the second part of that tends to be investigative procedures, when officers are accused of wrongdoing, those also include provisions that allow to get their jobs back, even if their police chief has fired them.
SANDERS: So, what I hear you saying is that in some instances, these contracts with police unions allow the union to supersede or overrule actual police departments and police chiefs.
SEGURA: That's exactly what's happening. Those of us who've been watching the George Floyd case in particular know that just because the police chief has fired these four officers involved in George Floyd's
death, we know that that does not necessarily mean that that firing will stick. And a lot of that is due of course, to the provisions that are negotiated within that police union contract. And what that contract says is, Hey, we can take this back to an arbitrator which most union contracts do allow.
That's not out of the norm, but what is out of the norm is, that there has been this culture of unquestionable police authority for so long. And a lot of these arbitration systems work off of a precedent system. So what that means is that if Officer A back in the day was reinstated to his job and faced no discipline, then Officer B certainly won't be either.
SANDERS: So you detail in this article, how police unions across the country have pushed through collective bargaining agreements that make it really hard for police departments to punish or fire officers. They take away a lot of power from civilian review boards. They prevent police chiefs from, giving meaningful oversight.
Was it always this way? Were unions always doing this or is it a more recent phenomenon?
SEGURA: I mean, that's a union's job. and I don't think that anybody would say that they're acting beyond the scope, right, of what a union is supposed to do. And that is to be able to protect your officers, and get them the best deal that they possibly can. But what's been really interesting, I would say in the last 10 to 15 years, is after the Barack Obama administration - or actually in the midst of the Barack Obama administration which had decided to say, hey, we're going to come in, and we are going to push for reforms that we're seeing. We're seeing too many civil rights violations in towns like Ferguson.
What they did is they took a very proactive approach. They installed federal task force. They were enforcing consent decrees, which the unions of course blocked. I mean, they were furious because they felt that it took away a lot of their power within to be able to effect change or to prevent change within their own departments. And, of course, this happens at the same time as Black Lives Matter and other grassroots efforts are starting to rise up across the country. So we have like this double barrel, right? We have federal consent decrees that are starting to pop up around the country, and we have a grassroots movement that is much more unified in saying we don't want this anymore.
SEGURA: And the union really pushed back on that.
SANDERS: And we have video footage of all this stuff a lot more now as well.
SEGURA: Yeah, absolutely.
SANDERS: Do these police unions - do they represent the entirety of police forces or a certain type of officer? Your reporting found that there isn't just one type of union that speaks for one type of police officer.
SEGURA: Yeah. This is this whole super fascinating rabbit hole that I really can't wait to explore further. And that's that there is an alphabet soup of these particular types of unions. Like there's the International Police Unions Association, and there's the Fraternal Order of Police, and there are a number of other unions. But what is most interesting is - particularly in major metropolitans, like St. Louis, for example - what you have are what they refer to as sort of like these affinity group unions. And those are, for black and Brown officers in particular who form their own sort of mini-unions within...
SANDERS: In response to these other unions that are predominantly white?
SEGURA: And, really, in St. Louis, for example, they have taken strong stances against their primary unions, right?
The white-dominated unions. And sort of the hierarchy of how these things work, these, like, quote-unquote, black and Brown unions are still subordinate to the white union. Right. And they, a lot of times. They formed, not so much to protect their interests externally, like with the community or with the city council or anything like that.
In some of these instances, they were formed to be able to protect themselves from other officers and from discrimination within their own departments.
SANDERS: So what do you think happens next? We have already seen protests lead to change here in Los Angeles. For instance, mayor Eric Garcetti has already promised to cut the budget of LAPD next fiscal year, in terms of the relationship between unions and police forces and civilians, will this moment lead to any change in that relationship?
And if so, how, from what you can tell right now,
SEGURA: What I can tell right now is, that this is a grassroots movement that was afoot even before George Floyd's death. There have been some pockets like in Austin, Texas, for example. A group of black activists - namely, the Austin Justice Coalition - had come together and joined forces with a group called Campaign Zero, which has been on the ground and really tracking contracts for quite some time now. And they came up with some sort of reforms that they really wanted to see that they thought would make a big difference in their community. And it's the first time that we're aware that a city council has then rejected a union contract. And they forced the police union, and they forced the city councilors to go back to the negotiating table and actually include some of their reforms.
Did they get everything they wanted? Of course not. But one of the big things that came out of it was a civilian accountability board in which the public has much more access to disciplinary procedures. So it's a first step. And so we're starting to see that in smaller pockets across the country is people recognizing the power of this particular contract and what it means.
Police Unions And Police Violence Part 2 - Planet Money - Air Date 6-5-20
CARDIFF GARCIA: Rob Gillezeau is an economist at the University of Victoria, and he is the co-founder of the Racial Uprisings Lab, which has been gathering data about every single race-based protest in the U.S. since the 1990s. So, of course, Rob has carefully been watching the nationwide protests of the past week or so.
ROB GILLEZEAU: I will say as someone who has studied this area for a large part of my career, they are extraordinary. We remember the wave of BLM protests after Trayvon Martin, after Michael Brown. But the extent of the protests that we're seeing right now are easily the largest, since 1968 in the aftermath of the assassination of Dr. King. So, not unprecedented, but right the biggest wave of protests we've seen in half a century.
GARCIA: Every year, more than a thousand people are killed by a police officer in the United States. And that is many more people than are killed in other countries with similarly advanced economies. For example, last year, someone who lives in the U.S. was almost 60 times as likely to be killed by police as someone in the United Kingdom. And within the U.S., there is also a big disparity. A black American, like George Floyd, is about three times as likely to be killed by police as a white person.
STACEY VANEK SMITH: Rob studies the history of police killings and the protests that often result from them. He says there was a big increase in the police killing of civilians starting about a half-century ago.
GILLEZEAU: The uprisings that happened in the 1960s were a reflection and, a use of voice against police brutality against African Americans in that era. And how was - what was the response? The response was that officers killed more civilians - in particular, African American civilians.
GARCIA: And Rob wanted to study what might've contributed to police killings of African Americans increasing the way they did and to know why these big racial disparities in who dies from confrontations with police still persist to this day. One theory is that it is very hard for a police officer to be prosecuted for a wrongful killing. And one possible reason for that is police unions.
VANEK SMITH: Yeah, police unions bargain with city and state governments, of course, to get better pay for their members, the police officers. And Rob says after a police union is formed, officers do get paid better. But, he says, police unions also negotiate for things that most unions don't.
GILLEZEAU: They're bargaining over legal representation in the event of a potential prosecution. They're bargaining over the length of time, between which, they might be involved in committing a crime and when they will give their statement,
right? So they're bargaining essentially for delays in giving a statement. They're bargaining over the conditions under which that statement would be made, how often they would get to take breaks. Oftentimes they're bargaining on restrictions of releasing footage. Often when killings of African Americans happen by police , you see a number of irrelevant and awful photos put out of, right, the victim released to the media. But you don't see the officer released, and that's often because it has been bargained that it cannot be released. And you'll see them try to bargain opportunities to huddle with other officers so that people can agree to a story before it's ever recorded in the record.
GARCIA: But on the question of whether or not these protections for police officers that the police unions have bargained for have actually contributed to police killing more civilians, there hasn't been much evidence to answer it - not yet.
VANEK SMITH: Rob and his co-authors Jamein Cunningham and Donna Feir wanted to provide that evidence in their latest research paper. Starting roughly in the late '50s, Rob says, state governments began allowing police officers to collectively bargain - in other words, to join unions. Those unions would then negotiate on behalf of the police officers with their employer, which was their state or city government. That's what collective bargaining is.
GARCIA: Yeah. And because those unions were all formed in different counties throughout the U.S. at different times, it's possible for an economist like Rob to then compare what happened in counties with unions versus counties without unions. Rob stresses that the paper is not yet published, but it is far enough along now that he can share the conclusions.
GILLEZEAU: This is where we found a really remarkable and really horrible result. We found that after officers gained access to collective bargaining rights, that there was a substantial increase in killings of civilians, 0.026 to 0.029 additional civilians are killed in each county in each year, of whom the overwhelming majority are nonwhite.
That's about 60 to 70 per year civilians killed by the police in an era, historically, where there were a lot fewer police shootings. So that's a humongous increase.
GARCIA: And as Rob says, pretty much all of that entire humongous increase was killings of nonwhite civilians.
GILLEZEAU: So bargaining rights are leading to a substantial increase in the number of primarily African Americans killed by police officers. So it really does look like it is the protection of the ability to discriminate, and that is enormously problematic.
VANEK SMITH: One possible reason why police unions might want more ways to protect officers from being prosecuted is the safety of the officers. If an officer is worried about being prosecuted, then that officer might hesitate to shoot in a dangerous situation. So the added protections negotiated by the union would be protecting the officer by giving the officer more leeway to shoot or kill someone if the officer felt threatened.
GARCIA: But more officer safety, Rob says, did not result from the negotiations done by police unions.
GILLEZEAU: Officers killed in the line of duty: that figure also doesn't change after bargaining rights are granted.
GARCIA: Plus Rob says police unions barely have any effect at all on crime itself. Now, Rob's paper does not talk about any specific police union. Instead, he says, it shows a systemic problem, something in the structure of these collective bargaining agreements that is making discrimination against nonwhite civilians worse. And finally, Rob emphasizes that it's also important to keep in mind who police unions are negotiating with, who their employers are - the state and local government, which is elected by voters and is accountable to them, which might mean that voters themselves share some responsibility for the results of these negotiations, he says.
GILLEZEAU: Right. If you are a local government, you're bargaining with your police union, you probably mainly care about keeping costs down - right? - because you don't want to raise local taxes, you're holding that down, and you maybe give the police union other things that they want that don't have a fiscal cost and maybe those things are exactly what's leading to this increase in killings of nonwhite civilians.
So looking at that interplay, I think is a really important policy point, but also really important research point because, right, in this case, it is the employer's obligation. The employer is our government, right? It is bodies that Americans elect, and they don't seem to really be sitting down at the bargaining table and actually putting lives of nonwhite civilians at their top priority.
What Science Says About Police (with John Rappaport) - Pod Save the People - Air Date 6-9-20
John Rappaport: Imagine an officer in your community killed somebody, and it seems like it was probably not justified. Okay, one thing we can investigate the officer internally, maybe we can try to get the prosecutor to prosecute him, although that very rarely happens. but another thing we can do is, is we can sue him.
Okay, so usually the family of the person who was killed by the police will file a lawsuit, and they'll say you violated the rights of our family member when you shot him, and it wasn't justified. And if you win one of these cases where you win a good settlement, it could be millions of dollars. Okay, so this is a, this is a big lawsuit for a city.
Now, if you win this lawsuit, then what happens? Who pays? Okay, when you file the lawsuit, it will actually look as though you are suing the police officer himself, alright? It'll be named John Rappaport versus DeRay McKesson. Okay, but in reality, that officer is never going to pay that judgment.
Joanna Schwartz, a law professor at UCLA, has the canonical article on this. She finds that police officers pay the judgments and settlements way less than 1% of the time. Basically never happens. The city or some unit in the city has agreed to indemnify the officer, meaning we'll pay the judgment against you.
You were out there working for us. If you get sued, and they say you have to pay a million dollars, we'll pay it. Now, how is that going to change anything, right? The city pays. Well, you'd like the world to be like this: you'd like the mayor or the city manager or the treasurer to be really pissed that the city just had to pay a million dollars because of something this officer did. And you'd like that person to turn around and call the police chief and say, you can't keep doing this to us. This is killing us financially, okay? And you've got to stop the officers from causing these kinds of harms and hurting people. It's money that we don't have, okay. And then, the chief turns around and does whatever chiefs can do to try to improve the officer's behavior. It relies on this whole sort of chain of incentives, right? The city pays, and then the city treasurer tells the chief, and then the chief tells the supervisors, and the supervisors tell the rank-and-file officers to shape up.
And if that doesn't happen, if instead the treasurer says, Oh, I just wrote a check a million dollars, but who cares? It's not my million dollars. It's not coming out of my pocket. I'm still making the same salary, right? It falls on the taxpayers and the voters, right? It's ultimately where did that million dollars come from? It came from taxpayers. At the end of the day, that is who is paying this million dollars. The taxpayers are paying this million dollars. And typically, it's been difficult to get taxpayers to care because a million dollars sounds like a lot, but if you live in a city like Chicago with millions of people, it's just not that much money per person, not to mention they don't actually know about it.
They don't even know this is happening. They don't understand that they're paying tax dollars to support this. This is the first important point is that people will need to understand when they're talking about, we got to make the city pay, they're talking about making the taxpayers pay, and that's fine.
And that's great, but that's only going to change things if making the taxpayers pay gets the taxpayers pissed off enough that they put enough pressure on the politicians, who put enough pressure on the police leaders to change things. Now, all of that is before these insurance companies come into the picture. Most cities in the country, they buy liability insurance, okay, because they know we've got cops walking around on the street with guns. They could kill people. If they kill people, it could be millions of dollars. Our city is not New York City. Our city is not Chicago. That would really hurt us; that would be 10% of our entire annual budget if we had to pay out one of these judgments. We can't afford that.
So, we're going to do what people do when they know that they might get hit with payments that they can't make is they buy insurance. So, they go to an insurance company, and they buy an insurance policy, just like we buy car insurance. And now, you've got a situation where they know, okay, if we shoot and kill somebody, and it's a million dollars the insurance company is going to pay.
And so, your first thought, I think the natural first thought, is that sounds like a terrible idea because if officers are walking around knowing not only will I not personally pay, but even the city won't have to pay. So, no one's even gonna get pissed at me because it's really just the insurance company paying -- that they're going to be more likely to pull the trigger, right? That's called moral hazard in insurancespeak. The idea that when you give someone liability coverage, then they don't act as carefully because they know they won't have to pay for the consequences.
But that's just the beginning because now you've got an insurance company, and the insurance company is saying, boy, if officers in this city shoot people, we're going to lose a lot of money. So, we don't want officers in this city to shoot people. So, what can we do about it? A
nd they engage in what in the industry they call loss prevention or risk management. But this is basically just a fancy way of saying what steps can we take to try to prevent the police from killing people cause it's it's, frankly, it's bad for our bottom line. And that's not to say these people don't have a heart, and that they don't want to see fewer police killings for other reasons. I don't mean to imply that, but I just mean within the sort of economic model here, they say that's bad for business.
It's bad for the bottom line, okay. And so, they then form a relationship with the police department, and they try to work with the police department to reduce the risk that that kind of thing occurs. And I've written a lot about all the different ways they do this,and I won't go into great detail now, but I'll just say they do a lot to support the training efforts of police departments, educational efforts, make sure that the officers are being well-trained on good use of force policies. They'll change the premiums to reflect the risk. So, if a city's officers are going out there and hurting lots of people, the insurer's going to call up the city manager or the chief and say, Hey, we're raising your premiums. You guys are out of control, and, worse yet, if you don't get things under control, we may just cut you off.
And then we're back to square one where the city is sitting there saying, how are we ever going to pay for a million dollar judgment if we don't have insurance? So, they're very motivated to keep their insurance coverage. And if their insurer is telling them you better do X, Y, and Z or else we'll cut your coverage, that's a real threat, and that's something that the city is going to respond to. Last thing I'll say is that it's very important to understand that as things stand right now, the biggest cities in the country, the ones that we talk about all the time when we talk about policing, they don't buy this kind of insurance because they're so rich that they don't need to.
They have such a huge tax base. They have so many residents, so many taxpayers that their budgets are just enormous. And so, a million dollars here or there isn't as big of a deal as it might be for a 20,000-person town. And so, they do what we call self-insure, which basically just means they pay for it as they go, and they don't have these insurance companies looking over their shoulder.
DeRay Mckesson - Host, Pod Save the People: I didn't know about this insurance. I did read something that somebody was like, Wall Street is helping with the insurance to cover police misconduct. Is that related to this? Like, is Wall Street backing some of these, or am I like completely in left field?
John Rappaport: Is this the stuff about police brutality bonds?
DeRay Mckesson - Host, Pod Save the People: Yes.
John Rappaport: That's a little different. So, this brings us back to the example of, okay, you've got a city. Doesn't have insurance. It's a small city. Let's say 25,000 people ,doesn't have insurance. They don't think they need it, or they don't want to pay for it, or whatever it is. They're just not thinking about it. They get hit with a million- $2 million judgment. Now, they're kind of screwed financially. So, what do they do? They've got a couple of choices. One is they can turn around and they can raise everyone's taxes, and there's an example about this from the town of Inkster, Michigan, which is not far from where I grew up, where they literally turned around and they raised everyone's property taxes by a couple hundred dollars. And this was not a well-off community. And people were pissed .A couple hundred dollars, overnight. Made a big difference to people, and that made people really wake up and think what the hell is going on and realize like we're paying for this police misconduct.
But there are other ways to deal with it. If you don't want to turn around and raise everyone's property taxes, maybe what you do is you sell bonds. You say, well, it's the same as like, Oh, well we need to build a bridge, but we don't have enough money. We could either raise everyone's taxes or we could borrow the money. We could issue bonds, which is basically a way of borrowing money.
And so, cities will borrow money. They will issue specific bonds to raise the money to pay this million dollar judgment because one of their officers shot somebody. And then what they're doing is they're actually increasing the overall cost because now they're paying interest on these bonds. So, in the end of the day, the city is going to pay much more than a million dollars.
They're going to pay a million plus lots of interest. And that's the mechanism that people are calling police brutality bonds. A very critical way to frame it would be, you know, it's a mechanism that really allows the cities to hide the costs, right? Because instead of doing what Inkster did and saying, look, everyone's got to chip in 250 bucks to cover this judgment, they're making it invisible. They're kicking the can down the road, right. They're saying we'll just issue some bonds. We'll pay the million dollars, and we'll be making payments on these bonds for the next 30 years or whatever. And no, one's really gonna notice it. And I think that's why people are being really critical of it.
DeRay Mckesson - Host, Pod Save the People: Can you talk about The Wandering Officer?
John Rappaport: Yeah. Okay. So, I wrote this paper recently with another law professor at Duke Law School named Ben Grunwald, and it's called A Wandering Officer, and basically what it's about is cops who are fired, often for serious misconduct, by one agency, and then they just go to another town nearby, and they get another job and they're back on the street. And the most famous example of this and the one that we use at the beginning of the paper is Timothy Loehmann, the officer who shot and killed Tamir Rice. He had been let go by another agency because they said he was not stable, he was not able to handle the pressures of policing. Then, Cleveland hired him, and they didn't even do a thorough background. And not only that, but he was actually going to get hired by another agency after he killed Tamir Rice, although there was sort of an uproar, and that ended up falling apart. But he was set up to get a third law enforcement job after killing Tamir Rice the way he did.
So, this is the problem of the wandering officer. Why are these officers bouncing around? This is another example of something that I had been reading about in the newspapers. And when you read about it, you're just like, what is wrong with these people? Why would you ever hire an officer that just got fired by another agency?
But then I started thinking about it. I put my academic hat on, and I started thinking about it. I said, well, okay. We don't really know whether this is a problem or not. And here's why. When all you do is read the stories about the guys got fired from another agency, got rehired and then they hurt somebody, it seems crazy, right? But we also read lots of stories about officers who never got fired before and hurt somebody. And so we don't actually know just from reading these news stories, as shocking as they are, we don't actually know whether the wandering officers are going to behave any worse in aggregate. The fact that you can find me some examples of ones who behaved badly and who hurt people, it doesn't mean that they're going to behave worse as a group. It's just the stories that are available to us.
And in fact, you could hypothesize that they might actually behave better. Right? It's like getting fired that first time was the wake up call. It was the message. You're not invincible. You're going to get fired if you do this kind of thing. And so the second time around, I'm going to be more careful.
And so, Ben and I really wanted to try to study this in a quantitative fashion, and figure out are these stories really, really exceptional, really rare, or is this a common thing, and do these officers actually behave worse than other officers who've never been fired before? We use data from Florida again because Florida is the Sunshine State, and they have really good public records laws, and they keep really good records on policing, and we're able to learn the employment history of every law enforcement officer in the state of Florida going back several decades.
So, we can see when officers are fired and then get another job. And what we found is that over the past 30 years or so, at any given time, there were about a thousand or 1,100 police officers walking the streets in Florida who had previously been fired. And if you multiply that by the number of interactions that each of those police officers has with civilians in the course of a year, that's a lot. That's about 3% of all officers in the state of Florida had previously been fired.
And then we're able to test, well, how do those officers behave as a class, as a group, compared to, let's say, brand new officers, rookies, who are in their first job, and also compared to the officers who have moved agencies, but not because they were fired.
And we find that they behave worse. They're about 50% more likely to get fired again. And they're about 50% more likely to commit what are called moral character violations in Florida. These are basically serious incidents of misconduct. And so, we think it probably is a mistake in most cases to hire a wandering officer. Maybe not every case. Maybe sometimes you have enough information about the person to know this guy is going to respond the right way. This guy's going to try to get it right the second time. But you know, absent more information like that, you should consider this to be a really serious risk factor when you're deciding whether to hire somebody.
Now, let me just add one last thought, which is that we talk in the paper about why are agencies doing this? Why are they hiring these guys? And I think there's a couple of different reasons. Sometimes I think they just don't do background checks. They're required by law to do background checks, but they don't always do them, either because they don't care or because they are spread too thin or whatever. Sometimes, they do the background checks, but maybe they hadn't realized because they hadn't read our paper yet what a risk factor this was, and how this is a red flag. Right?
But sometimes, what might be happening is that the wandering officer is actually still the best choice. And I think this would be the most plausible story in rural agencies, really small towns, that are not considered especially desirable places to live, that maybe are paying low salaries. They just don't attract a lot of talent to apply to be a police officer. So, it may well be that this wandering officer they hire, this guy who was fired before, is the best choice for them.
Now, we do a little bit of work in the paper to try to figure this out. What we do is we compare the wandering officers to other officers who were hired around the same time, around the same place. So, they're kind of like officers who seem like they were on the job market at around the same time as the wandering officer..And we find that the wandering officers still behave worse, although the gap shrinks. So, this implies that this story of the wandering officer being the best choice is probably true some of the time, but certainly not all of the time.
This should connect up to another issue you might hear people talking about, which is the National Decertification Index, or this whole issue of police certification. And it connects in this way: law enforcement iis a licensed profession. You need a license to be a law enforcement officer the same way you need a license to be a certified public accountant or a financial advisor or a cosmetologist.
There's a licensing board, and if the licensing board pulls your license, you cannot practice your profession in that state. So, licensing has an obvious interaction with these wandering officers, because if a wandering officer is not only fired but he's decertified, his license is taken from him, then he can't get a job at another agency two towns over. He's not allowed to work.
What he could do, in theory, if he could cross over the border from Florida to Georgia is apply for a license in Georgia, and he might get it. And so, what becomes important is a database that Georgia can query, and can learn that this guy used to be a cop in Florida and was decertified.
And right now, we have something that purports do this, but it's hollow. It's just, I don't know, maybe swiss cheese is the better analogy. It's like a piece of swiss cheese. There are just tons of holes in it. Some states don't report, and so we really don't have a good functional database that allows agencies in one state to learn about the history, employment history, of an officer in another state, and, in particular, to learn whether that officer was decertified.
And so, I think this really needs to be a bigger part of the conversation, this idea of certifying officers. I think people should be encouraging these licensing agencies to step up more. Most of them are pretty passive. They very rarely decertify officers. And they could be doing a lot to protect communities from these officers who are wandering from agency to agency by being a little bit more aggressive, a little bit more assertive and more willing to delicense officers who are causing serious harm.
American Police: 100 years of reform - Throughline - Air Date 6-4-20
Rund Abdelfatah - Host, Throughline: How science and culture have deeply reinforced these notions of identifying black citizens with criminality, right? This, kind of evolution of this process. Given how deep that is and given what happened with George Floyd, the response from people in the government and from local police departments, et cetera.
What kind of hope or what kind of, maybe that's not the right word, vision for the future. Are you left with, for turning the tide of that? Like what, is your feeling about how do we get out of this as a society given this kind of deep history?
MUHAMMAD: Yeah. So I have two responses. One is the voice of someone who I think watched this pattern unfold over many decades in a similar way that we have the benefit of history to reflect on. So Kenneth Clark was a social psychologist whose famous doll studies contributed directly, the research, to showing that segregation had contributed to a sense of inferiority by African American children who prefer white dolls to dolls that look like themselves. And so this research, which was conducted in the 1940s, contributed directly to the evidence presented in the Brown vs. Board of Education case, which in 1954 ultimately overturned legal segregation.
Because Kenneth Clark was such a well-respected social scientist when he was called before the Kerner commission, which looked at a series of uprisings that occurred over the course of the mid-1960s - so when Kenneth Clark was called to testify, this is what he said. He said, I read the report of the 1919 riot in Chicago, and it is as if I were reading the report of the investigating committee of the Harlem riot of 1935, the report of the investigating committee of the Harlem riot of 1943, the report of the McCone Commission of the Watts riot of 1965. I must again in candor say to you members of the commission, it is a kind of "Alice In Wonderland" with the same moving picture reshown over and over again, the same analysis, the same recommendations and the same inaction.
So going back to that first blue ribbon commission report based on Chicago, which articulated the fundamental problem of police racism in America, which was an extension of white citizens racism, Kenneth Clark looking back over four decades said we're having the same conversation.
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That gives me clarity not to have the same aspirational faith that simply pointing out the problem today is sufficient to fixing it because the problem has been known for a century. The evidence has been presented for a century. The recommendations for change for holding police officers accountable, for charging them with criminal offenses when they behave criminally, for establishing citizen review boards that have an independent investigative power, all of it, just like the dozens of consent decrees and pattern and practice Department of Justice investigations like the one done on Ferguson in 2015 or the one done in Chicago in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting in 2017, it's a century of the same story playing out over and over again. So when you ask me the question, what do I think about this moment, what's possible in this moment, it seems to me that's what's possible is recognizing that police officers and police agencies are incapable of fixing themselves. They've never been able to do it, and they've never particularly been compelled to do it. The incentives have never quite added up to be strong enough.
And so the question that has to be asked in the wake of George Floyd and I think this question is being asked and answered by more white people than I've seen in my lifetime is, do white people in America still want the police to protect their interests over the rights and dignity and lives of black and in too many cases, Brown, indigenous, and Asian populations in this country.
Final comments on the pain and sadness of being lied to by your country
Jay Tomlinson - Host, Best of the Left: We've just heard clips today, starting with Frontline discussing the lack of recent enforcement through consent decrees.
Behind the Bastards, in two parts, explained the police fear-porn video that tricks cops into believing that their lives are in danger at every turn.
Pod Save America discussed qualified immunity and debunked the myth of the dangerous traffic stop.
Planet Money, in two parts, discussed the dangers of police unions which fights to protect dangerous cops.
It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders also dove into the many issues with police unions.
Pod Save America discussed what happens when cops get sued and the problem of the wandering officer.
And finally, we just heard Throughline explain that well-meaning reforms of police have been our history for 100 years, and that that should give us clarity on why we need to act much more decisively today so as to not just continue to repeat that pattern.
Members are going to be getting the bonus episode with additional clips about the problems with cops, including their white supremacy problem. And I know I said that this episode about all their problems aside from racism, but of course, they've got that one too, and it's not just a little, you know, a few bad apples sort of white supremacy problem.
It's enough of a problem that the FBI put out an intelligence report under George W. Bush describing white supremacist groups interest in "infiltrating law enforcement communities or recruiting law enforcement personnel." The report, based on FBI investigations and open sources, warned, for example, that skinhead groups were actively encouraging their members to become "ghost skins" within law enforcement agencies, a term, the report said white supremacists use describe members who avoid overt displays of their beliefs to blend into society and covertly advanced white supremacist causes. So, yeah, the FBI said that the famously wildly progressive FBI. So to hear that and all of our bonus content, which also includes more voicemails and commentary from me, plus ad-free versions of every regular episode, sign up as a patron of the show at patreon.com/bestoftheleft.
Now, I just want to finish up the show today and the 4th of July weekend with this little story that I've probably told before, but bears repeating. And this goes back a few years. To when Amanda's grandmother, now deceased, was she's about 93 at the time. And, and what you need to know about her is that she was born and raised in the South, she was 93 years old at the time of this story but, given all of that, she would have defied many of the impressions that, that you would think that she would have. You know, she considered herself an "FDR Democrat" her entire life. She basically hates the Republican party and what they stood for and was horrified by the rise of Trump and things like that.
And so she was this great case study in a person who was obviously going to be accidentally racist, but never, ever, ever intentionally racist. And she was going to have a lot of institutionalized American propaganda baggage that she had been learning her whole life, but she really, really valued truth.
She really valued the idea that the things she knew were true, she would hate the idea that she was beliving in a fantasy for the sake of comfort. And so a few years ago, she... it was summertime, we were visiting her and she said, we can't remember why it came up. It was sort of maybe apropos of nothing beause it wasn't Thanksgiving, but she brought up how much she loved Thanksgiving because it was a holiday for everyone that everyone could enjoy it. You know, it wasn't a religious holiday that only certain religions participate in. And so in her thought process she thought it's great it's a nonreligious holiday. We can all have a good time and that makes it great. It's not just great holiday, but it's great that everyone can enjoy it.
And some would argue, to paraphrase the comedian, Mike Birbiglia, what I should have said was nothing. That is not what I did though. I took the bait, keeping in mind that she likes sort of getting into it.
She likes digging into some politics. She likes having her perspective challenged. So I thought, "let's do this thing." I was like, "well, It's not quite that simple about Thanksgiving. Not everyone is really on board with the whole message of Thanksgiving or the origins of it or anything like that."
And I, I mentioned how, you know, just as a, for instance, up in Plymouth, you know, the famous Plymouth in Massachusetts, there's a little plaque that points out that the native tribes there consider Thanksgiving to be a day of mourning. So, you know, to rejoice in the universality of Thanksgiving's not quite accurate.
And so she got a little frustrated at this, but understood where I was going with it. But her response, you know, a little bit of frustration was like, "Oh, well, I mean then, what holiday is there then? Is there any holiday that we can all just enjoy? What about the 4th of July? I'm sure. No one has a problem with the 4th of July, right?"
Again, I mean, she was near the end of her life. She was in good health at that moment, but she was 93. I, I could have let her just continue to enjoy the fantasy, but I knew she wouldn't have actually wanted that. So I said, "well, no, not exactly. I mean, not everyone is super on board with the 4th of July holiday and the message behind it. I mean, there's a pretty famous speech by Frederick Douglas talking about how, from the very beginning, the idea of, you know, freedom and separation from the United Kingdom, like it kinda benefited some and not others. And that legacy is pretty, pretty well continued on since then."
And again, this sort of irritated her, but again, she, she understood. And, and then she said, this, that is the point of this story. She said you know, I guess she probably come across people criticizing or maybe what would more accurately be called, just bringing up truthful history, which is uncomfortable for some people. She'd probably heard about people talking about Thomas Jefferson, for instance, having not only had slaves, which was bad, sort of playing both sides, talking about how we all need freedom for everyone and everyone's created equal, but also not really because we have slaves and then there's the whole, like, you know, we kind of raped to slaves and, and, you know, created a black line of descendancy from himself.
And she brought this up in this context, talking about holidays and said, you know, "I just just hate how people are tearing down our heroes because my whole life," she said, "I have been able to look to these people as heroes and taken great comfort from that and taken great pride in that. And so I just think it's sad."
And so she was a complicated person. She, she loved the myths. She also loved truth and didn't want, she basically didn't want for the myths to be myths. And so in her own way, she was describing the sadness that comes from having your bubbles burst, having myths dispelled in a way that is uncomfortable because what it reveals is thatyou have been lied to your whole life.
And so not only do you want for the myths to be true, but you do not want to have been lied to and to have believed those lies your entire life. And then to compound all of that discomfort, the fact that these lies are not harmless, that these lies help perpetuate actual harm on other people. And so then what she is realizing in all of this, all in a, you know, a sudden swirl is that the lies that have brought her such comfort for her whole life have not just been lies, but that they have been helping to cause harm to others, which is the last thing she would have wanted.
And so the point of the story is that it is genuinely sad. It is genuinely sad that the stories we tell ourselves have been lies.
It is genuinely sad that we have built our vision of ourselves and our country on myths. It is genuinely sad and it would be more comfortable, it would be easier to take pride if we didn't have to struggle through undoing the propaganda that we have been taught our entire lives. And so when people resist, when they insist that the lies were true, or they insist that the bad parts don't matter, what is happening, in part, is not a desire to continue to harm others or a desire to actively continue to support white supremacy.
That is definitely not what Mima was all about, but it was the pain of confronting these myths and the pain of cognitive dissidence that comes with very much wanting to do the best for everyone and to harm no one while very much wanting to believe the lies that you had been told your whole life. It's a very painful thing to experience.
So I think that now, at this particular moment in time, you know, we've been building to this moment for several years, but, but at this moment we are at the peak, we are at the height and we don't know where it goes from here. We don't know if it continues to escalate or, or if it dies down. But right now the revelations that people are having about the history and, and about the sheer weight of information about their own history that they did not know and are being confronted with right now. You know, that this is a moment when, when we are having a sort of seismic shift in understanding about ourselves and our history and it is genuinely painful for people. And so I, you know, my advice to anyone having these kinds of conversations is to be sensitive to that.
If you're ahead of the game, If you knew these things years ago, and you're talking with people who now are only just learning them. Just remember, there was a time when you didn't know these things, either you were taught the myths, essentially from the beginning, and it's very unlikely that you were one of the lucky ones who, you know, you're definitely going to be taught the myths in school, but you could have had parents who helped balance that out.
Maybe. Very few people were that lucky. This is a time to remember that, that we are all on our own journeys. We all come to these sorts of truths in our own time is great to encourage people to come to these realizations and help people come along but I think being angry at people for believing in the myths or frustrated at people for having, you know, they're going through their own experience of learning to deal with these new truths.
And I would just caution everyone to think back to when you were being confronted with all of this stuff and, and how maybe you didn't take it as well as you like to imagine you did. But even if that's not true, maybe you took it brilliantly. This is just my way of reminding everyone that people are gonna have a hard time struggling through this shift in consciousness and it's not because they're bad people.
Some are, I mean, some are bad people and they want to believe bad things and want to keep groups of people down and that's part of it. But if you're having a conversation with someone in good faith, there's a really good chance that they don't fall into that particular group.
As always, I would love to hear from you on our voicemail line. I would love to get back into the habit of playing and replying to voicemails, but because I went through a stint of not having the time to play them, I haven't been receiving any recently, which makes perfect sense. So I would love to hear from you to kick start that conversation once again, the number to dial 202-999-3991.
That is going to be it for today. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or making donations of any size at patreon.com/bestoftheleft. That is absolutely how the program survives. Of course, everyone can support the show just by telling everyone you know about it and leaving us glowing reviews on Apple Podcasts and Facebook to help others find the show.
For details on the show itself, including links to all of the sources and music used in this and every episode, all that information can always be found in the show notes on the blog and likely right on the device you're using to listen. So coming to from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you as often as we are able in these strange times, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from BestoftheLeft.com.