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How are Police to know if someone is a threat

Gmork
Posts: 82
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7/20/2015 2:23:17 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Hindsight is always 20/20.

I have seen many people on this website attack police for their use of force on people who do not oppose a threat. However, what I would like to know from these people, or anyone, is how a threat is determined?

For example:
- is someone who runs away from traffic stop a threat? How do you know they didn't steal the car and killed the owner?
- is someone with a criminal history automatically a threat? Is that not an anecdotal fallacy?
- imagine you walk into your house and there is a burglar inside. Is he a threat?

I just don't see how one is supposed to know if someone else is not a threat. Between emotion, drugs, desperation, and many other factors, a person can go from non-threat to threat in a heartbeat, especially if police are involved. So, why is the fact that someone is perceived to not be a threat in the immediate moment an excuse that force is not warranted, such as failure to comply with an officer's directions, like "get on the ground" or "hands on your head".

And, please refrain from derailing this thread into talks of excessive force or racist cops. My central point is that some people seem to think that, since a suspect was not posing a threat, force should not have been used. In other words, force is only acceptable if you "need" to use it to subdue a suspect. You see this often with protesters.
bsh1
Posts: 27,503
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7/20/2015 5:06:51 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
The rage about police arises not from cases of reasonable ambiguity (which does exist). It arises from cases, like with Eric Garner, where there was just no ambiguity at all that he wasn't a threat, or when the police officer failed to do his due diligence in determining whether a threat existed, as with the 12 year old boy in Cleveland.
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ThePresD
Posts: 2
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7/20/2015 6:25:02 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
The issue with this, and reality is truly how vague it is. There's not much information, and in reality not a whole lot of time to quickly determine if someone presents a threat to an officer's life.

For Instance, you said

-Imagine you walk into a house with a burglar on the inside. Is he a threat?

Excellent question. Is he? Does he have a weapon? Is he threatening you? What is his demeanor? These all all questions someone must ask themselves before determining if that burglar is an immediate threat to them.

Another interesting example you stated was

-Is someone with a criminal history automatically a threat? Is that not an anecdotal fallacy?

This one's even better. What is the criminal history? Is he a violent criminal? Has he been known to resist arrest or threaten people? Does he have easily ready access to weapons? All of these must be assessed before determining if this criminal is a potential threat. Especially in a situations where the criminal history may be minor, such as possession of marijuana or other psychedelics. (Completely different argument, of course)

And in the third example you listed you asked

-Is someone who runs away from traffic stop a threat? How do you know they didn't steal the car and killed the owner?

Again, another great question. Again, the officer must pull information from his environment. When he ran the stop, how fast was he going? Did he seem scared? Did he seem reluctant to run it? Has there been any recent stolen vehicles? Is he in an area where cars have been stolen previously? (Yes, crime statistics can actually help in this one.) What was the vehicle the suspect was driving? Was it a car someone may actually want to steal? (Yes, people don't just steal any old car. If you're going to break the law, at least do it right, and get a really sweet ride!)

At the end of the day, there is no universal formula to determine if someone is a threat or not. The officer is only human, and has to pull information from his environment and make life or death decisions within seconds. This obviously, as we've seen from previous events can lead to flaw, which in my opinion considering the stresses they undergo, is understandable. (Not acceptable). Failure to comply with an officer's demands such as "get on the ground" or "hands on your head" can warrant force, of course to the appropriate extent. (Forcing the suspect to get down and forcing their hands onto their head). The police aren't there to haggle with you, they're there to arrest you. The officer won't suddenly stop and say, "Please Bob, just put your hands on your head, please, I'm really begging you right now." Especially when bob hasn't been pat down, and could potentially have weapons on him.

As far as society goes, police brutality does exist. It's a disgusting abuse of power, no doubt, and when it does happen, there is warrant for outrage. (Not rioting, but that's another argument for another day.) Surprisingly enough though, these cases are fairly rare in the grand scheme of things. The only reasons that cases like Eric Garner, Freddie Grey, Or Michael Brown received so much attention is because of the massive coverage they receive from the media. In all reality, the greatest, biggest killer of young black males, just off of the FBI's statistics, is themselves. With nearly 120 young black males dying in gang violence in Chicago last year, it truly represents a much larger problem to the black community than police brutality. Only around 100 cases young black males being killed by the police in the past year. (Total). And of course, a lot of those cases are subjective. If Black Lives truly did matter as the protesters say, they would be working with law enforcement to fight the real killer of young black males.

So in all reality, is police brutality/excessive use of force a problem? Absolutely. Is it a significant one? No.
Wylted
Posts: 21,167
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7/21/2015 1:53:55 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/20/2015 5:06:51 PM, bsh1 wrote:
The rage about police arises not from cases of reasonable ambiguity (which does exist). It arises from cases, like with Eric Garner, where there was just no ambiguity at all that he wasn't a threat, or when the police officer failed to do his due diligence in determining whether a threat existed, as with the 12 year old boy in Cleveland.

I don't even think the rage is about those issues at all. I'd disagree about the Garber case as well. I thought Garner was a clear cut case of police brutality as well until I took the time to actually research policies and use of force. (I won't get into that now, though if you want to expand the conversation on that specific incident we can do so through PM).

The Cleveland case may not be as clear cut as you think either. I haven't looked into that, it was a tragedy whether the cops followed the appropriate procedures or not, just like the Eric Garner case is a tragedy, despite what in my opinion is the appropriate actions by police. (Appropriate in response to policy, not a moral statement).

I think the outrage is about underlying social issues that are a lot harder for society to put words to. These are people who feel like outsiders, which is wrong. We need to do more to make members of the disenfranchised aspects of the black community feel like they're being heard. That they are valued. That society has not forgotten about them.

Right now the police are forced by the demands of society to keep the lower classes hidden from middle class and wealth thy Americans. The same people who demand they keep that part of society hidden are outraged when a video of how ugly it is to do so arises. The police aren't doing anything society hasn't demanded of them. They're out their arresting people for having addictions every day. They're doing their best to hide social problems, yet they're being put in a tough spot because hiding those problems can get ugly.

I guess what I want you to take from this is that the black lives matters campaign isn't really about police brutality (even if members of it think it is), and their underlying concerns should be addresses. While addressing the issues facing these disenfranchised communities, we also need to be easier on the cops. We need to deal with social issues, instead of asking the police do our dirty work and hide problems from us.
Gmork
Posts: 82
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7/21/2015 10:05:51 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 7/20/2015 5:06:51 PM, bsh1 wrote:
The rage about police arises not from cases of reasonable ambiguity (which does exist). It arises from cases, like with Eric Garner, where there was just no ambiguity at all that he wasn't a threat, or when the police officer failed to do his due diligence in determining whether a threat existed, as with the 12 year old boy in Cleveland.

The rage will always exist when the police make a mistake, whether it was an honest one or not. My concern is the rationale people have that goes "the threat didn't exist, therefore the police are in the wrong". How does one know there is no threat? Remember the pepper spray of the Occupy Wall Street crowd that was just sitting there? There was no threat, right? But, if the police are outnumbered 10:1, is that not automatically a threatening situation? Is not the idea to control the situation before things can get out of hand, or in other words, before a threat can manifest itself?

The case of Eric Garner, how can you say he was not a threat? I agree with you that he did not seem to be a threat, but does that make it so? At the moment he did not appear to be a threat, but can you say he would not have become violent? He clearly was tired of being hassled. Assume for a moment that Eric Garner had a knife on his person, not wielding it, does that constitute a threat? Did the police know for a fact he had no such weapon? Further, even if Eric Garner, the man, posed no threat, what about the situation? There were numerous people around, and, this was a crime filled area. How are the police to know that they are safe among the crowd? For all they knew, half the people around had guns and hated cops.

As for the Cleveland story, is that the one where the cops shot a kid with a toy gun? It is easy to shake your head and say "it was a toy gun!!!", but what matters is the moment. Like I said, if you found someone in your home, are they a threat? Would you attack them? Do you know if they just entered the wrong home, or if they were there to kill you specifically? Chances are, you don't, and you will take steps to protect yourself.

You assert that there was no threat, but do not explain why the police, at the time, should have known no threat existed. Even if we suppose no threat existed, how much time do you think police should spend on arresting one suspect, one who did resist being handcuffed, mind you?