Do You Feel Safer…Now?

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President George W. Bush created the Department of Homeland Security, a move that merged several agencies under a single umbrella—Coast Guard, National Guard, FEMA, Customs and Border Patrol, TSA, Secret Service, and a gaggle of other three-letter agencies, with the exceptions of the FBI and CIA.

This move was supposed to create a safer America—“a concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur,” according to the National Strategy for Homeland Security.

Well, here’s a bit of Homeland Security news that just might give you reason to scratch your head and wonder…

1. During the past 31 months, over 1,300 Homeland Security badges and official credentials have been lost or stolen. These were not items kept in a warehouse, though. Instead, they were the ID’s and badges issued to active-duty agents. 165 department firearms are also missing (lost or stolen). Antonio Ramos, a muralist, was killed in Oakland last November. The weapon used to commit the murder was stolen a couple of months earlier from an ICE officer in San Francisco.

2. The BioWatch program is an initiative of Homeland Security. Its purpose is to detect the release of pathogens into the air as part of a terrorist attack on major American cities. Now, I’m slightly familiar with this program, and Denene is extremely familiar with it. The concept is great. The program works, and it works well.

What? You didn’t know there are “sniffers” in position all across the U.S., especially in cities that are particularly attractive targets for terrorists? Well, they’re out there and there are plenty of them, you just don’t recognize them because they’re mingled in with all of the other hardware attached to every piece of vacant space on telephone poles and other such city or utility real estate.

Since terrorists seem to set their sites on gatherings of large crowds, such as the Super Bowl, Homeland Security decided to place a few portable sniffer boxes in and around downtown San Francisco in advance of the big game next Sunday. I know, the game will be played in Santa Clara, not San Francisco. Santa Clara, by the way, is actually 40 miles away from San Francisco, a distance that can sometimes take a couple of hours to travel if the freeway traffic is in full bloom.

Anyway, Homeland Security officials placed portable sniffers throughout downtown San Francisco, and they chained the boxes to light poles. To power the units they ran the electrical cords to the power poles and tapped into city current.

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KPIX/CNN photo

Now, I’m no rocket scientist, but I believe anyone who can figure out how to plug-in and unplug a basic toaster could surmise that cutting the cord or pulling the plug on this high-tech toxin detector would be all that’s needed to set an evil plan into motion. And we mustn’t forget that the game, and the crowd associated with it, will be some 40 miles away. Therefore, I’m thinking the only “sniffs” these boxes will detect will be those of wino urine and pot smoke (those of you who’ve visited San Francisco will understand). And that’s if the boxes are still plugged in on the day of the game. Hmm…a pair of bolt cutters for the cables and officials may find a couple of these diamond-plate boxes for sale in local pawn shops or in the back of a contractor’s truck being used as a toolbox.

Hey, I know.  A crook could steal two or three and use them to store all those missing badges and guns.

A final thought…do you suppose the boxes are nothing more than decoys, mere empty shells used to fool potential terrorists. Nah…those cowards wouldn’t care if the boxes were there or not. Besides, by the time the sniffers detected a harmful toxin in the area, the people around it would already be toast (notice how I used “toast” to tie in with the earlier reference to “toaster?”). However, an alert from these mini tool boxes would provide ample time to save the politicians who will probably not set foot anywhere near these things.

So, do you feel safer now?

 

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The Killing of Laquan McDonald: Murder or a Justifiable Use of Deadly Force?

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I’m often asked to share my opinions regarding officer-involved shootings and other similar incidents, but I choose not to offer personal viewpoints because the purpose of The Graveyard Shift is to present factual information with, of course, an occasional bit of fun tossed in. I especially do not address issues regarding race, religion, and/or politics.

With that said, I thought it appropriate to post a dash-cam video recently released by the Chicago PD. The footage shows Chicago officer Jason Van Dyke shooting a suspect, Laquan McDonald, 16 times. McDonald was carrying a small knife in his hand and was several feet away from the on-scene officers when he was shot and killed.

Now, I’d like for you to clear your mind of all notions you may have of police officers, good or bad, and then watch the video with an open mind, much like jury members are asked to do. Afterward, please continue with the remainder of this article. Also, please try not to cloud your open mind with the age and race of the people in the video. Just the facts, as they say.
 

 

While the video is sinking in, let’s talk about the use of deadly force and when it should or should not be employed.

The use of deadly force is permitted in cases of self defense and to defend the lives of others. In other words, a real threat to someone’s life must be present in order to justify using deadly force. No threat to life or serious injury = no use of deadly force.

Was there a clear threat to life or serious injury in the incident shown in the above video?

Remember…

1. Police officers are legally allowed to shoot a fleeing criminal suspect only when the suspect has killed/seriously injured someone and the officer believes the suspect will continue to kill or further cause serious bodily injury to others. This was not the case at the time the video was recorded.

2. Police officers are not required to be absolutely certain that a suspect is in possession of a dangerous weapon before they’re legally permitted to use deadly force. However, a threat must be perceived at the time the use of deadly force is employed.

3. Officers are not required to use less-lethal weapons before resorting to deadly force.

Do either of the above three rules apply to the shooting in the video?

What about #4? Is it possible that Officer Van Dyke feared for his life or the life of another? I believe that’s what his attorney has stated, that he feared for his own safety.

4. There are no absolute, clear, and defined laws that police officers must follow when using deadly force. An officer’s perception at the time of the shooting is enough to justify the act. In other words, only the officer who used deadly force can know if he percieved a suspect’s actions as a threat to his life or the life of others.

While you’re pondering these points, let’s address some common questions regarding knife-wielding suspects.

Some argue that a small knife, like the one held by McDonald at the time he was shot, present no danger whatsoever. Actually, the size of the knife is not an issue. Small blades can kill as easily as their larger cousins.

Why not use some sort of martial arts technique to disarm a knife-wielding suspect who is on the attack.? The answer to this question is quite simple. There is no foolproof technique, so why should the police or anyone for that matter, be forced to wade into a knife fight, barehanded? The suspect has initiated deadly force and that force must be responded to with the amount of force that’s necessary to stop the threat to the officer’s safety. The officer must defend himself with deadly force, if possible.

What about keeping a safe distance? Why not simply follow the guy until he gets tired and gives up? Well, suppose he’s using meth and doesn’t tire for 12 hours? Suppose he walks until he runs across an innocent person and decides to stab them? Obviously, this is not an option. At some point the police will need to confront the situation to end it.

We’ve mentioned distance, right? So what is a safe distance from a potential attacker who’s displaying a knife or other edged weapon? Well…

There is a long-standing and proven rule that an officer cannot draw, point, and fire his/her weapon if the attacker starts the assault from a distance of 21 feet.

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In the photo above, the officer’s weapon is still in his holster, therefore he should be contemplating a means of survival other than attempting to draw his sidearm and shoot, such as running for cover, or preparing to go into a defensive tactics mode—hand-hand combat, with the almost certainty of being cut. I have nasty scars on all five fingers on my right hand, and my head, as proof of this last-resort tactic.

However, if the officer already has his weapon drawn and in a ready position, he’ll be able to effectively fire a round to stop the threat. Remember, officers are taught to shoot center mass, not shoot to kill, or to shoot a weapon from the attacker’s hand. That stuff is for TV.

In the two photos above the officer would easily be able to stop the threat by firing a round or two.

Okay, by now you should have a basic grasp of when the use of deadly force is appropriate when dealing with knife-wielding suspects. Now, let’s return to the shooting of Laquan McDonald, by Officer Van Dyke. Did you see anything in the video that should/could justify the use of deadly force? Did McDonald make any movements that could be deemed as threatening to the officers or to anyone else? What about the number of shots fired—16? After all, we know that when using deadly force officers are trained to shoot until the threat is stopped.

What did McDonald do that could be perceived as a threat, and when, exactly, did the threat cease to exist? Was it after two shots? Five? Ten? Fifteen? Or was it the 16th round that terminated the threat?

Or, did the officer simply commit outright murder with an obvious disregard to human life?

Well, prosecutors have now charged Officer Van Dyke with 1st degree murder and he is currently being held in jail, without bond. Obviously, they believe they have a solid case.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on the use of deadly force against McDonald, but I ask that you address only the use of deadly force, saving comments regarding race and/or cop-bashing for your own sites.

 

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Cop Stuff: The Weekly Top Ten List

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1.  A law enforcement officer dies in the line of duty every 53 hours.

2. Not all police officers have access to ballistic vests. Why don’t they? Sadly, this due to to a lack of funding in their areas.

3. Deputy Sheriffs in Wayne County, Mi. earn $28,284 annually. That’s less than the salaries earned by county tree trimmers and maintenance workers. Some deputies in the area have opted to leave police work in favor of careers at Home Depot or Lowes where the earning potential is greater.

4. Isle of Wight County Virginia Sheriff’s Deputies now wear body cameras in response to the public’s desire that they do so. However, the county schools now want school resource officers to announce that their recorders are on prior to becoming involved in an incident. School officials are also demanding that they have immediate access to the recordings upon request, even if the recording is of a criminal act. What happens, for example, in the case of a school shooting? Must the officers first announce to everyone involved that they are recording the incident before beginning the steps needed to save lives?

5. Remember the infamous typo on the Pinellas County Florida Sheriff’s Office new rug, the one that should’ve read “In God We Trust?” Instead of the desired phrase the company mistakenly printed “In Dog We Trust.” Well, there’s now a hot bidding war going on by people hoping to purchase the rug. So far the highest bid is more than $9,000. For. A. Rug.

6. A Riverside, Ca. police K-9 named Sultan was fatally shot by a fleeing felon the dog was pursuing. A Texas police K-9 named Pepper was also shot and killed by a fleeing felon.

7. New copper-thread technology added to ballistic vest carriers eliminates heat-related issues and odor-causing bacteria and fungus troubles. Spouses and in-car partners will definitely appreciate this new technology. No more P.U. or rashes!

8. A Pennsylvania man applying for a job as a trooper was arrested during the polygraph portion of his interview after he stated he’d had sex with an underage girl. After interviewing the now adult woman, the man was charged with additional counts. He was not hired.

9. A Washington man was rudely awakened from a deep sleep when a man being pursued by police rushed into his home and climbed into bed with him. The homeowner told police he wasn’t sure if it was the intruder or the police crashing inside that actually awakened him.

10. ShotSpotter, the gunfire detection system, is now deployed in over 90 U.S. cities. Savannah, Ga. is one of the latest cities to make use of the technology and, according to reliable sources, it is working extremely well. The system displays the locations of gunfire as it happens, allowing officers to respond even before a call by citizens is made. This greatly decreases response time which could potentially save lives and to potentially apprehend criminals before they’re able to flee the shooting scene.

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Pay It Forward

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Twelve-year-old Trevor McKinney, a character in Catherine Ryan Hyde’s tale Pay It Forward, devised a simple plan to change the world for the better—do a good deed for someone and ask them to “pay it forward” to someone else who needs help. The story was so moving that living, breathing humans actually began to follow Trevor’s example by paying it forward in their own lives. And such was the case this week when Emmett Township, Michigan Public Safety Officer Ben Hall stopped a young woman for a traffic violation.

As Officer Hall spoke with the driver about the reason behind the traffic stop, he noticed a young child in the back without a car seat. The driver, Alexis DeLorenzo, explained that she recently fallen on seriously hard times, including her fiance’ losing his job and having been diagnosed with cancer, and having her car repossessed. She went on to say that when the repo company towed the vehicle they also took all the belongings inside. One of the items taken was the child’s car seat. DeLorenzo told Officer Hall that she simply could not afford to purchase another one.

Officer Hall did not write a traffic ticket. Nor did he arrest DeLorenzo. He didn’t blast her with his TASER. No baton. No pepper spray. No handcuffs. No chokehold. No punching.

Instead, Hall asked Delorenzo to meet him at a nearby Walmart where he bought a brand new car seat and gave it to the surprised driver.

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DeLorenzo says she’s eternally grateful to Officer Hall.

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Officer Hall says the decision to purchase the car seat was an easiest fifty bucks he’d ever spent.

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“It’s something that anybody in the same position, in our position, would do,” Hall said to Fox17. “I in no way, shape or form expect to be paid back. It is a ‘pay it forward’ situation completely.”

Officer Brian Hall did something for Delorenzo’s family that they’ll never forget. It wasn’t something he had to do, nor was his act something out of the ordinary for a police officer.

Yes, cops do things like this all the time. Unfortunately, it’s typically the bad news about law enforcement that makes the headlines and sells papers and ad space.

What Officer Hall did was a wonderful thing, and his attitude and dedication to the citizens of his community is reflection of good law enforcement officers everywhere.

Pay It Forward.

What a wonderful world it would be if everyone paid kindness forward. No hurt. No racism. No war. No greed. No violence. No stealing. No backstabbing.

Just honest and loyal people paying it forward…

 *Top photo is a screen shot of a page from Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

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