Police, The Fourth Amendment, Qualified Immunity

Professor Moskos On Ramarley

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Professor Moskos writes in his Cop In The Hood blog about NYPD police officer Richard Haste’s killing of Ramarley Graham:

When [these] kinds of events happen, don’t be [] surprised or shocked or outraged. This is what happen[s] with drug prohibition and the war on the drugs. The courts destroy the 4th Amendment. Police bust down doors. Police assume (with the courts’ blessing) that drug dealers are armed. Sometimes police make mistakes, and unarmed people get shot.

Sure, the Drug War was a but-for cause of Ramarley’s death, and is one message, I’d say the most obvious one, to be taken from the tragedy. But, it is easy to get carried away and forget about other messages. Trigger happiness (or recklessness as the penal codes generally call it), in and of itself, also appears somewhat likely to have been a but-for cause, and, if so, would be a more proximate and direct cause at that. Another problem is that Officer Haste may not have been making a “mistake” at all, as the above-quoted passage seems to assume. For all we know at this point in time, Officer Haste may have waited his entire career to get alone in a room with a suspect, gun justifiably drawn, situation properly tense, so that he could play Dirty Harry Callahan. I know of nothing to suggest Haste has this attitude problem, but there are certainly people out there who do, and he could be one of them. If Haste was born in late 1985, he could be the reincarnation of Dan White for all we know right now.

Assuming no facts favorable to Officer Haste that we haven’t heard about yet, some serious jail time for Officer Haste would make these kinds of reckless murders and manslaughters go down in frequency, which hopefully is a high priority for police departments and police educational institutions around the country.


Professor O’Donnell has this comment about the increased freedom to shoot that recent NYPD police-related policy changes are going to provide:

But the department still has to do more than put it in writing. It needs to explain[] to officers what it means and it needs to explain to them that deadly force is still a last resort.

They already know that deadly force is a last resort. They get that already. They know that they can’t tie the suspect’s corpse to a bridge and burn it. They knew better than to dunk Ramarley’s head in the toilet after they shot him down next to it. When Haste chose to lay waste, he knew it was the last resort and that there would be no further resorts after his bullet was done doing the talking. People are not complaining that Officer Haste tried additional “last resorts” after Ramarley died. The problem is explaining the degree of personal risk that police officers are expected to take on and paid by society to take on. Police seem to have forgotten this, generally speaking. Call it “sacrifice.” Call it “duty.” Call it “bravery.” Whatever you call it, it needs to start happening again.

Written by Burgers Allday

February 15, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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