Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Buzzards Are Circling- The Sunday Collage

This week, I'd like to talk a little bit about the Ferguson, Missouri riots/fiasco. I think I can shed a little light on this. The whole thing has left me looking like this dude sans the headgear and lipstick.


I'd like to start with a lack of judgement or what happens when good judgement is not employed in my meandering, make a short story really long, self deprecating, sort of way.

In rural America, bar fights are common. Bar fights are almost always over before the cops can arrive. When seconds count, cops are minutes away. That sort of thing. So it was, I caught this bar fight call many moons ago. By the time I arrived, whatever fight had taken place was over. The fight involved one local smart ass and three very young and buff, Air Force guys. In those days, we couldn't arrest anyone for that type of misdemeanor (battery) unless someone wanted to press charges- which almost never happens.

Just before I left the bar that evening, I did the smart ass a favor. I told him he should probably leave the bar because once I was gone, I had an eery feeling that the fly boys were going to extract some revenge. He refused to go. In fact, he told me it was a free country and he didn't have to do shit. Undoubtedly, this was the same sound judgement that our local hero had employed earlier that evening which led to my being called.

Twenty minutes later, I helped the ambulance crew quiet down our bloody and beat up smart ass and take him to the hospital while he was strapped to the gurney. I noted that he was not proclaiming anything about it being a free country. Worse yet, the bartender told me it was our local smart ass who had first confronted and then taken a swing at one of the airmen after I had left. That didn't work out too well for Chuck Norris- who got his ass kicked. Oddly, the young airmen didn't stick around waiting for me to return.

As a lawman I often said "The only way to get into a bar fight is to do your drinking in a bar." This type of profound and insightful thinking was something I picked up the hard way. In fact, I had a wake up call of my own once and fortunately, I decided that maybe getting into bar fights was not going to help my career along.

I once squared off with a cowboy named "Shellico" in a bar about 50 miles east of Moonbat Valley in the little town of Mackay. Shellico was one of these guys who thought he was tough and he was a big guy- about my size. He was interlocking fingers with other bar patrons and then forcing them to their knees. Loser bought drinks. He had whipped a few people, much smaller than him, before yours truly decided to have a go. Now I'd been lifting weights for years and I was pretty sure old Shellico was about to scrub the floor with his knees but as life would have it- that's not quite how things turned out.

Once we interlocked fingers, Shellico immediately had the upper hand. Very quickly he was trying to drive me to my knees. Unfortunately for him, I was just as big as he was and pretty strong. So Shellico's plan B was to try and drive me out the front door of the bar. This worked for a few seconds, up until the part where I wedged myself up against the door frame and I felt Shellico's strength and grip waning. We were having quite the battle. The next thing that happened was that I began driving Shellico all the way back through the bar and across the dance floor and rather than bring him to his knees- I just sort of threw him through a pile of stacked tables and chairs. He landed on his ass and he came up swinging. He was pissed. About that time, the bartender- a very large woman- got between the two of us with a sawed off pool cue and told Shellico to hit the bricks. She bought me a drink.

My father was in the bar with an old friend of his- watching all of this drama unfold. The old man turned to my father and asked, "Aren't you gonna help your kid?" My father said,"'No, not unless there is trouble." Those were the good ol days.

I wished I could tell you that I was something less than 22, that I wasn't half drunk, that I didn't pick that fight, or that I wasn't a new cop at the time. I plead guilty on all four counts. Nobody ever said ya know Brian- you have excellent judgment when you've been drinking. However, I did learn something that day. I quit doing my drinking in bars, and oddly, I have not been in a bar fight since 1983. Well, unless I was called to one.  

The point of my telling you about all of this personal stupidity has to do with judgement. I haven't always employed the best judgement and I can damn sure tell you that drinking never enhanced the judgement I did have. So it was, I was pretty much a late bloomer. Somewhere around my 30th birthday, I finally began to develop what might loosely be called- a trace of intelligence.

Which brings  me to the Michael Brown shooting. Here's a good link to give you the chronology of events in case you are unfamiliar with what happened. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/14/michael-brown-ferguson-missouri-timeline/14051827/

To sum it up- there has been a week long, shit ton of bad judgment going on which stretches all the way up to the head of our executive branch- a guy who can't even string together a couple of useful comments while playing golf at Martha's Vineyard. http://www.bizpacreview.com/2014/07/23/another-16-day-vacation-in-marthas-vineyard-rumors-of-lavish-house-shopping-it-can-only-be-the-obamas-133543

Normally, this is how it works in the world outside of Ferguson, Missouri.

A suspect, armed or unarmed, gets shot or killed. The officer(s) involved are sequestered away or simply placed on paid leave with their families after reports have been filed. Their names are not disclosed for a pre-determined length of time. That type of policy has been developed and is in place well in advance of any incident in most places. That way, once an incident occurs, everyone knows by policy what will take place. Another agency, or perhaps even a team of investigators assembled by a local prosecutor or state attorney general's office, takes over with the hope that an unbiased investigation will take place.

Officer involved shootings are incredibly manpower intensive. Done right, they can easily take twenty to thirty investigators and hundreds of man hours. That's why you must develop the protocol and have it in place prior to an incident because it's going to involve a lot of people under a lot of stress and they are going to need leadership.

After the investigation is complete, evidence is reviewed and eventually submitted for a series of judicial proceedings including inquests, inquiries, and grand juries. The judicial system essentially determines the course of events.

In other words, there is a process for determining guilt or innocence. We call that the rule of law.

The rule of law breaks down when nobody protects the integrity of the process. In other words, once the shooting occurs, the protocol must be followed. The Police Chief or designee, must inform the public how that process works and how you will proceed and you must explain it. You can't simply shoot somebody, armed or otherwise, and then conduct your own investigation or simply neglect to inform the citizens (you work for) that you have a policy or explain how it works.

Without protocol or policy, chaos ensues. There is something small cities should all learn here.

In the Ferguson case- none of this happened. In fact, I am not sure they even have any protocol because nobody ever mentions it. The protocol would have prevented the release of surveillance photos. However, days after the shooting-the police department begins to release pictures of the deceased who apparently was stealing boxes of cigars from a store without ever addressing an officer involved shooting policy or what they were preparing to do. Unbelievable, except that- seeing is believing.

To be honest, I didn't follow any of the Ferguson events in any of our corporate propaganda TV outlets so I might have missed something significant.

Ok, so let's say a complete lack of policy or protocol occurred and the Chief quite frankly didn't know what to do. Maybe the city was simply that unprepared. Then the riots begin. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/15/ferguson-police-shooting/14118187/

Rioters have no excuse for plundering and looting cities. That is simply lawless behavior. Pretty soon, another guy gets shot- this one with a gun by a county police officer and then the state of Missouri steps in and takes over this mess with the state police.

So if all of this bad judgement and poor performance wasn't bad enough- President Obama vacationing in Martha's Vineyard had this to say.

EDGARTOWN, Mass. (AP/ABC News) - President Barack Obama said Thursday that there is no excuse for the use of excessive force by police in the tense aftermath of the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, and no excuse for violence against the police.
This is what the "smartest guy in the room" has to say? Why didn't Obama just tell the rioters to go ahead and loot some more- maybe kill a few more people?

You would think that this alleged Professor, Constitutional scholar, lawyer, and President of ours might say something about the rule of law, an impartial investigation, and allowing the judicial process to handle this incident just like it does the thousands of other shooting cases.

No, he doesn't say that at all. Instead, he says some worthless, presumptuous shit just like he did when police officer James Crowley arrested that black homeowner and Harvard professor. Remember that incident? The one where Obama concluded that the cops were out of line prior to learning any facts about the incident at all? To save face, Obama had the "beer summit." http://www.boston.com/news/politics/gallery/073009_beer_summit_obama/
Often, I have noted that every major incident requires a series of bad steps and poor judgment. It's nothing other than sheer speculation at this point to opine about what might have been prevented.
I kind of understand not having a policy in place- or overlooking one- or failing to implement it. In small town America, shootings happen so infrequently that quite frankly I know Chiefs who think it will never happen to them. We call that the normalcy bias. 

Failing to have a policy or not implementing one and/or not disclosing it to the public- might have led to the riots as the public might have thought there would be a cover up. However, I come from the school of thought that says rioting, grand theft, arson, and malicious injury is inexcusable. You simply do not have the right to justify your criminal behavior.

And I expect that the leader of the free world, a judicial officer himself in charge of that branch of government which controls all of law enforcement and the military- might have something more useful to say than "there is no excuse for excessive force" as though somehow the facts were already in. You'd think the beer summit might have taught our knucklehead in chief a lesson or two about waiting for the facts to be gathered before uttering your opinions. Nope. Same as it ever was.

I can't help but think the buzzards are already circling this administration. I don't even think Obama is remotely interested in his job anymore and at this point, he might as well phone it in while playing golf and vacationing. Wait until the market crashes or the new Obamacare premiums go supernova. We may have to pry this guy out of a White House closet. Really.




Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sunday, August 10, 2014

"The shame based fear of being ordinary." - The Sunday Collage

This is actually the third piece I have written this week. I'd didn't like the other two.

Each week I consume a couple hundred articles, about 75 blogs, and I usually have a book or two on the side. Mostly what I read online is the same regurgitated crap.   

What I truly yearn for is something original. I am so tired of reading the same old schtick, week in- week out. And I figure if I'm tired of the same old schtick- maybe you are too.

This week I began reading a book called "Daring Greatly." I wasn't even 25 pages in and I realized this author had something original to say. Among all of the interesting speculation she offered regarding the growing narcissism in this country, the author mentioned "the shame based fear of being ordinary."

That phrase stopped me dead in my tracks. Like a time machine it took me back to 2008.

Imagine for a moment that you are living in a culture which measures your usefulness as a human being based primarily on how much wealth you can accumulate. That's how we measure your worth. Oh sure, credentials and a little power and prestige certainly help. But the way we measure self worth in America is done with money. That's how we keep score.

Your parents, your relatives and friends, and your adversaries will all measure and judge you the same way. You'll return the favor because you've been taught the same rules.

So what happens to those millions upon millions of people who never measure up to the expectations of their family, friends, and culture or worse yet- fail to live up to their very own expectations? 

Do those  people who see themselves as failures- do they ever get right? Do they ever get happy?

Yes, I think it's possible given the right set of circumstances.

In 2008 I met a man with two degrees, one a masters degree in engineering. He was a tree trimmer in New Orleans. The night I met him he said he had a promising future behind him. He was no longer bound by the shame of being ordinary. In fact, he loved being ordinary. But in order to celebrate and love being ordinary, he had to set aside all of the faulty beliefs that had been instilled in him- seemingly from birth. That is a whole lot of cultural programming and guilt to shit can. Not a small job.

Then you must set about the task of doing whatever makes you happy and ignoring what others might think of that. Indeed, what others think of you is none of your business anyway.

Years ago when I became a cop, I had all the right reasons. I wanted to help people. I discovered some interesting stuff. Nobody seemed to care. When you worked your ass off, or nearly got killed- nobody cared. Years later when I became the Chief, I saved every dime I could- often returning at least 6 figures back to the city every fiscal year. Nobody cares. In fact, other chiefs and department heads spent every last penny, every year. We all got treated the same. Burn through what they give you- they'll give you more tax money next year.

So doing the right thing within a completely apathetic society is probably over rated. I am going to tell you right now that I know some of those old department heads and they are retired now. They do not sit around and feel guilty for having spent every penny they were authorized to spend.

The point being is that you are the only one responsible for your happiness. You can only do those things which make you happy. You are an idiot to think that anyone else is responsible for your happiness or that others must rely on your for their happiness. That is simply foolish.

Having learned all of those things in the school of hard knocks- meant I no longer had to commit to a body of work wherein nobody really cares how you perform as long as it is simply adequate. Having recognized that harsh reality- I was able to focus on my own happiness rather than trying (and failing) to make others happy. That is the lesson of 25 years of intimate law enforcement.

Today, being ordinary feels pretty damn good. I don't secretly covet others and their possessions. I don't keep score that way. I am not interested in a bigger, nicer car. I like my little bungalow and my Harley. I enjoy my ordinary every day life, my afternoon naps, and the ability to do whatever pleases me without someone demanding that I do more and instilling a little guilt in me.

You know what's different today? Instead of forever wanting, I am grateful for what I have. I simply don't use the old cultural scoring system anymore. It never liked it anyway.

I'm anxious to get back to this book.The next section is about fear and scarcity and how we convince ourselves into thinking we never have enough. Does that sound familiar? "Daring Greatly" by Brene Brown, ISBN 978-1-592-40733-0.