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by Peter Moskos

April 8, 2015

Well this look bad.

Very bad. For a lot of reasons. A man is wanted for arrest for unpaid child support. A cop shoots the man while the man is running away and clearly, at that moment, is not a threat. The officer then apparently picks up and moves and drops his Taser closer to the dead body? Oh, it's all bad.

The North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer is being charged with murder.

The NYT has the video.

As if the first seven shots weren't bad enough... the pause and the eighth shot? That last shot, as so often happens, will doom the cop. Though in this case it's not like the first seven were justified. But even if they were, cops have to justify all their shots. And a pause indicates a reassessment of threat. And then he shot again?

8 comments:

Andy D said...

The worst part for me was reading the comments on Law Enforcement sites about this. The scary fact is that so many cops will attempt to justify this. I was hoping it wouldn't be so. but it is. I nearly lost my lunch reading the comments by people who should be saying "woah! THIS one looks awful! bad shoot."

Peter Moskos said...

You need to read comments less (these comments excepted, of course). Comments are filled with trolls and the dregs of society. Not to mention racists and idiots. I've found no cops who think this is a good shooting. None.

That Fuzzy Bastard said...

What's most appalling isn't so much the shots. It's that when he plants the taser on the now-deceased victim, he doesn't even wait for his partner to look away.
It's good to see that the department seems to be taking action. But the real question is whether other cops will be willing to testify against him. If not, what they think is irrelevant.

Andy D said...

Well, no cops *I* know think it is a good shoot either. I just never know if that is a representative sample of the cops in this country since everyone says we're so awful.

That Fuzzy Bastard said...

The question isn't whether cops think it was a good shoot; it's whether they'll do anything to prevent it from happening again. If other police in that department think it was a bad shooting, but still close ranks to protect the officer in question, then they're as awful as people say. Worse, even, because they're not protecting an unjustly persecuted cop, they're protecting someone they know to be a killer. So far, the police chief has been impressively willing to treat this seriously; we'll see if other police follow his example.

Peter Moskos said...

It's not like this is the first time cops have had to deal with a cop who murdered someone. I guy in my squad friggin' murdered somebody (off duty, domestic, and before I was in the squad). This might be news to non-police, but cops don't like criminals, even when they're cops.

Andy D said...

I don't know if it has ever been addressed, but so much of the inability of the public, prosecutors and even cops to tell the difference between a justified shooting and an unjustified (criminal) shooting or use of force is that thanks to the legal loopholes used by defense attorneys and bought by judges and juries, police reports often use "boilerplate" language that doesn't reflect the nuances of the situation. Just as I hate how cops are tend to yell "stop resisting" reflexively when involved with a resisting suspect, they writing in shooting reports that they "feared for their life" or other lawyer-approved BS. Obviously this doesn't apply in this shooting which appears to be blatantly illegal and for which there is not justification. But I have heard a lot of people saying that the report in this case reads "just like all the other 'justified' shooting reports." Maybe if cops could just honestly write what they saw without worrying that failure to include some specific phraseology will result in bad legal consequences we would be better off. Every DUI report seems to say that the driver's eyes were "bloodshot and glassy" regardless of the circumstances. Every traffic stop resulting in a major seizure of drugs uses the same phrases to describe the reasons the officer was suspicious of the driver, and each use of force report seems to use the same phrases to justify force (usually phrases taken directly from state law or agency policy manuals.) It is a sad state of affairs that, IMHO increases distrust of cops even when they do the right thing.

Peter Moskos said...

The reports are for the legal system. The legal system (actually, the lawyers who work in the system) demands a certain form and style and even language. It's not creative writing. It's not self-reflective writing. It's a legal document to be read by legal people with actual legal law degrees. There are I's you have to dot and T's you have to cross.

Having been part of our legal system, I'm not a big fan our legal system. It's a game. And everybody is trying to stay within the rules and win.