"Just imagine if Officer Wilson in Ferguson had just taken a step back"

"Just imagine if Officer Wilson in Ferguson had just taken a step back"

by digby

 Peter King needs to STFU. Now he's saying that Eric Garner pretty much killed himself because he was overweight and had asthma and couldn't take the chokehold. He should have thought ahead. Also too, it's simply unbelievable that a man really couldn't breathe when he said he couldn't breathe --- and then died on the spot:

Even though video captured Garner saying that he couldn't breathe as officer Daniel Pantaleo placed him in a chokehold and wrestled him to the ground, King said that "police had no reason to know that he was in serious condition."

"The fact is if you can't breathe, you can't talk," King said. "If you've ever seen anyone resisting arrest, I've seen it, and it's been white guys, and they're always saying, 'You're breaking my arm, you're choking me, you're doing this,' police hear this all the time."

In August, the New York City medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide caused by compression to his neck and chest, in addition to the way that he was positioned on the ground as he was arrested. The medical examiner also determined that Garner's asthma, obesity and hypertensive cardiovascular disease contributed to his death.

Yeah, whenever someone claims cop is hurting them it's really because they're doing it to themselves. Whiners, all of 'em.

This is a common excuse the law and order types make for deaths at the hands of police. Taser deaths, for instance, are often attributed to underlying heart conditions or this bogus diagnosis of "excited delirium" that only afflicts people who die in police custody rather than the 50,000 volts of electricity that was inflicted upon them.

Lawrence O'Donnell featured a very smart discussion tonight which he started off by noting that police officers encounter these sorts of situations all the time and the difference between those that end tragically like Michael Brown and Eric Garner and those that don't is "the better and cooler" judgment of the police. He was speaking with two police analysts Eugene O'Donnell and Jim Cavanaugh and Cavanaugh brought up the fact that the police used to engage in high speed chases no matter what the crime but realized over the years that the dangers outweighed the necessity to catch all but the most violent felons. He said:
We need to take that attitude to the street. If you would just imagine if Officer Wilson in Ferguson had just taken a step back after the confrontation with the vehicle and after Michael Brown ran away. Just after he called for back-up that was 90 seconds away. Where was Michael Brown going to go? He's going to the hospital, he's been shot.  He's not going the Katmandu, on an airplane. You're going to catch him. Just take a step back. In Mr Garner's case, as well. When he put's his hands like this it's like "ok ok", when they get on his back, take a step back. In the Cleveland case with the child, if you drive your car in like that if you have an escaped felon with a gun your dead, he's going to shoot you as soon as you drive up. What kind of tactic is that?

So take a step back and be smart and we can police better than we're doing.
O'Donnell went on to talk about police training that includes a responsibility to reasonably retreat in situations where there is nothing at stake in closing in someone. Clearly, unarmed citizens at the top of the list. The only thing at stake there is the officer's pride or desire to punish them in the moment for failing to instantly comply.

I watch cops all the time in LA dealing with various altercations. One thing I know for sure. They are in no hurry. They take hours to deal with virtually any call, standing around shooting the shit with each other, taking their time no matter what. Unless someone is "defying" their order, in which case they simply refuse to take even an extra five minutes to try to defuse the situation. It's not about time, it's about authority. And that's what we need to change.

I've been writing about this culture of instant compliance in my work about about tasers for nearly a decade. It's a problem. It's a particular problem with the kind of racial bias that pervades so much of white America and it's a problem for the mentally ill and the disabled who often simply cannot comply either through lack of understanding or emotional agitation or sometimes because they are in the midst of a seizure or are deaf and literally cannot hear what the policeman is demanding that he do. There are dozens of examples of all of those situations.

As the police analyst Eugene O'Donnell pointed out, there are many cops who are skilled enough to handle these situations peacefully and there are many other professions that have strategies to deal with potentially violent altercations without escalating them. The militarization of the police and the kill or be killed combat zone attitude adopted by so many departments makes little use of any skills other than sheer force when what largely makes for effective policing in a free society are things like psychology, patience, common sense, empathy, confidence and maturity. If these skills were more highly valued it would be easy to see that stepping back from pulling your gun and shooting at Michael Brown or continuing to talk with Eric Garner to get him to calm down, maybe even issue a warning instead of an arrest for such a minor crime, could have prevented the deaths of both of them.

The police need to learn how to de-escalate these situations instead of turning them into tests of will. These are citizens not enemies.