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by Peter Moskos

February 4, 2017

"Ronnie Goldman has a brand new cane"

Good God, I haven't posted in a while. Well, I still get paid.

Here I am on Glenn Loury's Bloggingheads TV today, talking about the issues I discuss here.

Anyway, what to post about next? I don't want to be let the perfect post be the enemy of the good. This is hardly an important post, but I couldn't resist this story:
"Good Samaritan" beats unarmed black man senseless. Called a hero. Gets a lifetime bus pass.
A bus driver gets attacked for no reason. An old poor man with a cane beats the attacker senseless. Beats him so hard, in fact, he breaks his cane. No big thing. He just goes about his night. There's a small quest to find this "hero" so he can be feted in proper fashion. Turns out he wants a new cane cause he needs one but can't afford a new one. Welcome to America.

Despite the narrative on the TV news ("it's a story about a new friendship"), Goldman didn't hit the attacker thus "allowing the bus driver to escape." The first smite came after the driver gets away. And the subsequent ten, too. But then perhaps Ronnie was just making sure the attacker couldn't get up and hurt him. Fair enough.

The attacker was arrested. But thank God this "hero" is not a cop, or white. Cause if he were either, there would be protests. But would they be justified? A cop would be fired and charged with assault. I wouldn't defend a cop doing this. Despite the feel-good narrative, I can't help but notice Goldman beat the crap out of an "unarmed man." But Goldman isn't a cop. But when is it OK to beat up a man attacking a (female) bus driver? I'm on the justice-is-served side of the equation.

What's the lesson to cops? Or citizens? I think he should just let him go with a wink and a nod. And perhaps a verbal warning. The bus company has no problem with street justice. They game Goldman a lifetime bus pass. And for his efforts, Goldman got two new canes. Good. He's salt of the earth. And needs a cane. One was wood and the other metal. He liked the metal one more. Why?:
In case I have to put in on somebody again, I won't have to put in on too bad. You know, two or three hits with this, and you'll act right.
I was glad I was there.
If I'm on the bus and it happens again, I'm gonna do the same thang."
I believe him. And this is why people don't like riding the bus.


Nathan said...

I also believe that if an officer was in this situation the public outcry would become completely different. This would then be plastered all over the news and talking heads would have a field day with it.

Unknown said...

I would hold a police officer to a stricter standard than a good samaritan citizen when it comes to using excessive force on a criminal, and, I think, rightly so. A cop should be more knowledgeable as to law, better trained in use of force, better equipped and more experienced in violent situations, and thus better able to apprehend the guy/stop the attack without excessive force than an old man needing a cane to walk.

Moskos said...

As you should (hold a cop more accountable). But the fact remains Ronnie beat an unarmed (albeit criminal) man senseless, and is heralded as a hero for doing so. Either it's good to beat a criminal who isn't an immediate threat, or it's not. Ronnie can be excused for actions, perhaps, given his age and condition. But talk about mixed messages...

Unknown said...

When I was living in Anchorage I was on a bus at night and a drunk jackass tried to attack the female driver who turned around and whacked him across the face with the snow-brush.

Unknown said...

Fair point. I think almost everyone can praise Goldman for intervening. Some, like myself, can excuse him for perhaps being a bit overzealous, while others will praise him for every additional blow. So, I can see how that may seem like a mixed message if a police officer gets criticized for using similar force, although I don't think I'm actually being inconsistent on the issue.

Andy D said...

A) Nice to see you post today I've missed the blog.
B) Being on the "justice is served" side of the equation explains a lot about the way the different factions in this country treat police when they are involved in things like this; I hear it a lot: "he had it coming to him." And for the record you and the others I see here are right: we should hold police to a different standard. But that rough & ready "old school" street justice type stuff is still viewed favorably by many, many (often white, usually law-abiding) people in this country.

I say good for him, the guy deserved it. The cop in me cringes when I say it though because it is hard not feeling the same way when cops do stuff they shouldn't even when the person "deserved it."

Moskos said...

A) Thanks. It's just so much easier for me *not* to write blog posts. And I've never figured out if writing here helps me with my other writing or simply serves as a distraction. But I do enjoy thinking about these things and having these discussions.

B) And that's the problem. We're asking cop to restrain themselves from doing what most people (and cops) think is morally justified. I'm not saying it *can't* be done, but we need recognize there's cognitive dissonance here. And if we want cops to not beat people who "deserve" it, it might help not to label those who do as "heroes."

And I don't think desire for corporal punishment is any less among blacks. I'd say the opposite. If anything, it's a class thing. One of the difficulties of being a cop working in some neighborhoods is that just about everybody around thinks that those who do bad "deserve" it. All parties involved -- cops, victims, bystanders, even those who do wrong and get their ass kicked -- think there's such as think getting a beating you "deserved" (within the bounds of reason, of course). And yet the law (and also dem goo-goos who write the law) disagrees.

I wrote something on this, way back when, in the Washington Post. It holds up pretty well, if I do say so myself: "Old-School Cops in a New-School World" http://wpo.st/Wr-a2

Anonymous said...

The fact that if an officer did this they would receive harsh public backlash makes me think maybe this guy wasn't 100% in the right with how he responded. I understand the he stopped a crime, or something worse from happening, but to praise him as a hero doesn't seem like the right route to me. Sure, don't prosecute him, but I also don't think he should be 'praised' for his actions.

Unknown said...

While I think that we all assume that cops should be held to a higher standard and should know better isn't that exactly what is causing such a drift between the public and police. Because we look back at situations like this, where an average citizen acts this way and gets praised as a hero, yet had a cop done this, there more than likely would be public outcry of police brutality. It is by no means fair to the police, and increases confusion on what should be considered okay and what shouldn't. It causes cops to be worried about simple actions because they don't want to be on tomorrows headlines being accused of brutality.

Unknown said...

It seems to me like there may have been more to why he attacked the assailant. He hit him so hard and so many times he broke his cane!? This is more than "justice", in my opinion this is also anger issues. You mentioned he did not actually hit him until the bus driver was able to get away- he could have been trying to keep him from escaping or hurting him, as you said. Or he could have been disgusted in a female being attacked. I would not have wanted to grow up as his child if that's his idea of corporal punishment!

I'm trying to imagine how I would perceive the story if it would have been a cop. Also, would it have mattered if it were an off duty cop? I agree with previous posters, that yes, we do hold trained officers of the law to a higher standard than other citizens, but also agree with the sentiment that this man should not be acquiring hero status. I worry that he likes the metal cane better- is he going to make a habit out of hitting people with it, and therefore likes the one least likely to break again??

Unknown said...

"Either it's good to beat a criminal who isn't an immediate threat"...neither I nor most I know in my deep south neck of the woods would do anything other than keep on walking.

" But that rough & ready "old school" street justice type stuff is still viewed favorably by many, many (often white, usually law-abiding) people in this country."...if doing as much keeps the street safe and the Cop can distinguish b/t someone making a dumb mistake and a thug, again, in my deep south neck of the woods, most folks would simply shrug and move on. Then again, said 'folks' are mostly white, educated, numerous veterans, and law abiding.