Police, The Fourth Amendment, Qualified Immunity

Injustice Everywhere’s Annual Police Misconduct Videos Poll

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The poll. All internet polls are silly, of course, and, in a way, Packratt‘s annual poll is sillier than most because it compares videos showing misconduct that is reprehensible (at least in most cases) for fundamentally different reasons. Consider the two biggest police misconduct videos of the year: (i) Lt. Pike peppersprays the UC Davis Occupy protestors; and (ii) the Kelly Thomas (fatal) beating video. How can one compare these things to each other? One can’t — at least I don’t think so. Nevertheless, every year I do cast my vote because it is good to reflect upon these videos as a group because, poll silliness notwithstanding, a clearer holistic picture of police misconduct emerges. It is this cumulative effect that really shows police attitudes — this cumulative effect is the only way to show something cultural, like an institutional attitude. These institutional attitudes, understanding them, whether for the purpose accommodating, encouraging or curbing the attitude, are key to good and wise police rules and practice reform.

I voted for the Todd Blair shooting and the Jose Guerena* shooting videos. Both of these videos show examples of bad police announcements that are not designed to make people in the dwelling aware that policemen are outside, trying to get in. In both of these videos, it is not merely that announcement efforts are weak or lacking. Rather, it seems that the “announcements” in both cases are designed to confuse, that is, designed to make people in the dwelling think that it is not police trying to break in. In the Blair case, the police are shouting over each other so that it is difficult to make out anything anybody is saying.** Where is the bullhorn? Even if it was at the bullhorn cleaning shop, is it really that difficult to shout a five word message in unison? In Jose Guerena, the police touted the fact that a siren was used. Then the video dropped. Sure, they used a siren.*** Sadly, it was a siren that sounded exactly like a car alarm, and, to make matters worse, it appears that the car alarm was not even sounded in any particular proximity to the Guerena residence. The “siren” didn’t make things clearer — it made them more confusing — and, again, police had to know that ahead of time. I think these announcement problems are egregious, at least from what we can see on video,**** and are under-reported, even by websites generally unafraid to criticize police.


* The Jose Guerena shooting video was a write-in vote because it was not in the poll options. [ON EDIT: JG shooting video has been added to the poll now.]

** What is being huskily shouted is difficult to understand as captured by a camera that was right in the room with the shouting officers — one also has to consider (as the police in Utah surely did) that the garbled babble is going to be even more impossible to decipher inside of Blair’s apartment.

*** Let’s be clear: sirens and flashing lights should be used generously at forced entry raids because they give the strongest and most unmistakeable indication of police presence. In the context of a forced entry raid (especially a forced entry raid designed to give as little notice as possible), the siren is a very good thing, not a bad thing. However, the police who shot Jose Guerena were trying to subvert the siren by using it, but using it in a way inconsistent with giving notice of police presence.

**** The best video showing how police do not announce came out a couple years ago via Barry Kooper (sp?):

Odessa empty house video

Unlike the Guerena and Blair videos of 2011, the police in the Odessa empty house video aren’t putting on a show for the camera.

Written by Burgers Allday

January 4, 2012 at 4:24 am

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