On Sundays I devote my morning to reading the Washington Post newspaper. I choose the Post because it is the best paper covering stories and issues occurring where I live in Maryland but also because the journalism is excellent and, I believe, the fairest balance of national issues writing found today.
I dive into each week’s copy in depth and detail because I refuse to watch the ridiculous coverage of politics and current state of American life on TV, radio or the Internet. I absolutely never look to social media for any truly serious discussions of newsworthy issues because it fries my brain cells.
Since it is so damnable frustrating to find reasonable coverage in and of the tinderbox times we are living through I apply the Serenity Prayer to things a lot these days. You may know it as the more formal version of the thought ‘if you can’t actually change something bad then you should let it go’:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
The key thought in “letting go” is to not completely stop and forget about the problem – but to take a step back from your involvement and honestly examine what role you can play in helping to fix things. If you can’t find that then it is sometimes best to set it aside and concentrate on something you can influence in a positive way.
Reading the paper today I ran across a bit in an article that stopped me in my tracks. It was the Post’s coverage of a request for dismissal of murders charges for Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin who killed George Floyd while trying to affect an arrest.
Of course any U.S. citizen and his lawyer have the right to manipulate and massage the judicial system in any ridiculous way they can find to avoid conviction but this particular tactic is particularly nauseating to me.
Here is the excerpt from the Washington Post article:
“Though Minneapolis police officials have repeatedly said Chauvin was using a restraint technique in violation of department rules, the filing cites training materials to justify the former officer’s conduct, including what his defense said was a 2018 photo from a department training manual showing a demonstration of a knee-on-neck hold similar to the one Chauvin used on Floyd during the Memorial Day encounter.”
In essence his shyster is saying that because Chauvin had seen a single photo in a training manual years ago he must be excused for killing Floyd by kneeling and bearing weight on Floyd’s neck for eight (8!) minutes.
Well, that is a load of crap…but the lawyer is taking every shot for a dismissal he can because that’s what they are paid to do all morality aside– hence the thousands of lawyer jokes which are 99.9% on mark.
This is especially abhorrent to me as during my long career in the U.S. Coast Guard I was designated as the Command Training Officer at two different units. In the United States Code (which are the permanent federal laws of our nation) Title 14 USC § 89 grants authority of arrest powers to Coast Guard members against US citizens on both the seas, waterways and, surprisingly to most people, on land.
They are the single service in the Armed Forces who have the authority to do so and that is so very important because if the Army, Navy or Marines had, and used, that arrest authority we’d be living in 1930s Berlin right about now.
So, the Coast Guard, and I’m quite sure the vast majority of US law enforcement organizations, never train their members to be unthinking and order-obeying robots; quite the opposite actually. I tried to ensure our Coasties had as many cross-organization training sessions as possible so our sailors were taught not only the strict official side of law enforcement but to see how others like the FBI and the State and local police used ‘best judgment’ in the execution of enforcement and, if necessary, arrests.
In essence we wanted our law enforcement officers to use their experience, intelligence and authority to find the most humane way to complete their duties. Not with the use of deadly force that Chauvin and others have jumped to when it wasn’t a last resort as we have seen happen over and over again.
When an officer forgets that who he is taking actions against is also a living breathing human being like the Floyd incident is when arrests turn lethal. Watching the videos and realizing how easily possible it would have been to change tactics and still make a safe arrest for all parties involved is what makes we civilians so angry.
Chauvin had ample opportunities to release Floyd’s neck but time and again decided not to. He chose instead to not just subdue Floyd but to punish him – which only the judicial system is mandated to do if necessary – certainly not a beat cop. Floyd’s past felony convictions were pertinent to the responding officers only to the point of placing handcuffs on him. After that he should have been treated just as anyone else being placed under arrest.
No one in their right mind can watch that body cam video and listen to the dialog between Floyd and among the other officers on-scene that took place prior to Floyd’s death and dismiss the result as accidental. There were no accidents that day in any way, shape or form. There were only consequences derived from a deliberate act.
No training in the world teaches law enforcement officers to kill unless it is the clear and only way to protect others’ lives. Using a training photo as an excuse, as if it was seen in a complete vacuum without further discussions and teachings on its subject, is, as an excuse goes, almost unbelievable.
Yet there it is…