Saturday, July 28, 2007

Equal Justice?

It has been just about a year since Ann Kirkpatrick was hired as Spokane's police chief. She inherited a department with severe budget and personnel problems. A departmental public relations overhaul was badly needed.

I don't know how she's doing with the budget but her handle on public relations would appear to need some help. At least to one who gets information from the local press. An officer has escaped prosecution for shooting to death an unarmed assailant. It was deemed justifiable. The victim was apparently involved in a drug deal when the officer came upon him. A chase took place, ending in a fight. It is reported that the victim twice went after the officer who then tried pepper spray. When that failed the bloodied officer shot him. Dead. The story did not elaborate as to whether the victim was high, or just wanting to get away. It did not state whether or not the officer was equipped with a taser. It did not state whether or not he called for back up. Do they not do this any more? Is shooting to kill the standard operating procedure?

Fast forward to this week just passed. A mentally impaired man had perched himself on a local bridge threatening to jump. The standoff lasted through the night and well into the next day, some twenty hours. The man barely spoke yet it is reported negotiations took place.

A face saving agreement had been reached for the man to surrender. Face saving for who? A mentally impaired man who wanted to kill himself? Was he worried about what people would think?? The police approached with weapons drawn. Weapons drawn? The plan was to taser him once. Taser him? Why? Look at the reaction being tasered evokes in the picture! He had supposedly agreed to be taken into custody.

The taser was fired but only one probe found its mark. The man retreated and jumped and died. I wonder if both probes had found their mark if the force wouldn't have knocked him over the edge anyway.

The report states "Everyone involved in the effort to help the man was shaken by his decision to jump". Twenty hours on a bridge. An agreement to be taken into custody. Then approached by police with weapons drawn and a taser fired at him.

I'm not sure one had to be mentally impaired to have wanted to jump. So much the worse that he was. What are they teaching in police academies these days?


Big O said...

I'm pro-man in blue, but it seems they sure like to use those tasers and shock people. I know one thing though, I've watched enough real "COPS" program on the tube and if they ever stop me I will do exactly as I'm told. I'm too old to get body slammed or tased.

Dogwalkmusings said...

Amen, Big O! I guess the thought of it is a deterrent of sorts.

Word Tosser said...

I understand he has a father in Spokane... in all the reviews and the morning report... I never heard they brought out his father.
Did they? If he agreed to come off the bridge...why the taser...I don't get it.
My sister in law was tasered. 2 big men and 2 women wrestled with her to the floor and then a man tasered her. Great damage to the skin.say nothing about the emotional part.. by the way she was 4'9 and weighed 102 pounds. I think there needs to be a lot of training in tasers in all police depts.

Bill McCrory said...

The initial reports of an incident like this are often incomplete. That's as true for the "official" accounts as well as from the unofficial ones.

Once the investigation has been completed and written up and after the prosecutor has reviewed it (for four or five months) and determined no criminal charges will be brought against the officers (foregone conclusion), get the report and study it. Often the complete final report will appear to contradict the original premature accounts.

For example, in late December 2004, Kootenai County sheriff's deputies and a Coeur d'Alene police officer tried to arrest Michael Madonna for a non-violent theft. The arrest was at Madonna's house. He was handcuffed but managed to go inside his house, pick up a handgun, and engage deputies and the officer in a shoot-out. During the exchange of gunfire, the police officer was wounded and Madonna was killed. That's pretty much what the news accounts of the incident said. About a month later, our county prosecutor predictably ruled the deputies' shooting of Madonna was justifiable homicide.

Case closed? Well, not quite.

Because Madonna's death was a homicide, it had to be thoroughly investigated by a disinterested agency, in this case the Idaho State Police. Contrary to the early, incomplete reports (including the prosecutor's very misleading summary - based on the ISP report which he had), the very detailed and thorough ISP report revealed that the shooting death of Michael Madonna and the career-ending wounding of Michael Kralicek were both completely avoidable. While the initial failure to maintain control of Michael Madonna was the deputy's fault, it turns out that a failure of communication within and from the Coeur d'Alene Police Department about an earlier incident with Madonna and an absolute failure of supervision and training within the sheriff's department contributed equally significantly to the events of December 28, 2004. (See Theft, Gunfire, and Death in Hayden, Idaho: Part II.) Relying only on initial accounts of the incident would mislead one to believe the shootings had been unavoidable. They were absolutely avoidable, but you only would learn that if you studied (not just casually read) the ISP's report. Evidently that was too much trouble for The Spokesman Review and the Coeur d'Alene Press. Never let facts get in the way of a good distortion.

Bill McCrory said...

The last line was supposed to read, "But the newspapers never let facts get in the way of a good distortion."