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Saturday, December 27, 2014

How the Ferguson Fiasco Might Have Been Averted- The Sunday Collage

Mutual aid agreements and officer involved shooting protocols came about largely in the public sector as a result of events or incidents which were larger than any given jurisdiction's ability to mount an effective response. In fact, I haven't even heard them mentioned anywhere which includes a few of the police sites that I visit. They are effective tools and might have stopped the Ferguson riots altogether. It begs the large question- what good is training if law enforcement doesn't use it? What good is a protocol that has been proven to work if law enforcement agencies don't deploy them?

Today I'd like to talk a little bit about what went wrong in the Ferguson, Missouri officer involved shooting of Michael Brown, the subsequent riots, and the victim class. I'd also like to talk a little about disclosure and honesty from both sides. Could all of the rioting and subsequent fallout been preventable? Maybe.

But first two caveats. I have read hundreds of articles online, viewed several videos- mostly of Michael Brown and various press conferences gathered in the wake of the shooting. I am by no means an expert on the Michael Brown shooting nor do I have access to all of the innermost details of that event. Secondly, I intensely dislike armchair quarterbacks- having been one myself and quite often, and eventually realizing late in my career the pomposity of one who looks back at all of the flaws of any given event and cherry picks those flaws at their leisure while mulling things over ad infinitum- and then arrogantly pronounces what should have happened. Having said that- I do think it is possible to learn from our mistakes without throwing anyone under the bus.

So first, I'd like to introduce a video of Ferguson Police Chief, Tom Jackson. It is about ten minutes long. I have to tell you I got a little sick to my stomach remembering that kind of stress. Thank God, I didn't have anyone on our police department shoot anyone under similar circumstances. It was published on You Tube on Aug. 15 a full six days after the Brown shooting. I am not sure when the actual press conference took place- I just note this was published on the 15th.

In my 25 years of policing and education, I enrolled in an officer involved shooting class sometime in the mid-90's. Prior to that class which I think lasted 24 hours, I had no clue of the devastation that an officer involved shooting might wreak upon our community and I also had no idea about the immense scope of the subsequent investigation. In all, and it's been awhile, a shooting (one person, one event) such as the Michael Brown incident- would probably take a minimum of 20-24 officers and investigators by my estimation back then. In a town the size of Ferguson, Mo. pop. 21,000- according to the 2010 census- the proper investigation is simply not possible. The Ferguson City P.D. like any other law enforcement agency, cannot be allowed to conduct it's own investigations by design or by policy. They are compromised at the outset- they are involved. Any investigation they conduct regardless of the outcome will simply appear to be compromised and most likely would be- by friendly and sympathetic investigators hoping to clear one of their own. Indeed, this is still a problem even when enlisting outside and well trained investigators beyond the grasp of Ferguson and it's politics.

Many jurisdictions in the United States have emergency operation plans. EOP's for short. These are plans developed well in advance for likely and unlikely emergencies. They might range from large scale events involving multiple casualties, to weather related disasters and earthquakes, hazardous chemical leaks and spills, riots, anything where containment is necessary to prevent further damage or loss of life and where manpower requirements are calculated allocated prior to the incident. All personnel involved in the implementation of an EOPs plan should know their duties and responsibilities and be directed as an event unfolds. They should drill and practice and many do. The Federal Government has often targeted, directed, and financially encouraged municipalities to participate in this type of training so that everyone should know what the duties and responsibilities are of everyone from the command post on down.

Having said all of that- here are two caveats. You can prepare for 50 emergencies and the one you don't prepare for or are working on, perhaps the 51st EOPs plan- like flying hijacked planes into skyscrapers- is the one that unfolds. Secondly, no matter how much you prepare and drill, the actual event always deviates in size and scope. Unintended and unforeseen consequences arise. Having said all of that, it is far better to have a plan in place rather than nothing at all. Winging it becomes the playground of preventable and devastating consequences and career suicide. Not having a plan is not serving or protecting anyone. These are nothing more than mutual aid agreements and unfortunately I have always given credit for mutual aid agreements to the mattress backs. (Firefighters have been using them for eons and teasing them is a hobby of mine)

I think a drilled on plan for an officer involved shooting might have prevented many outcomes in Ferguson. I don't think Ferguson had one because the Chief doesn't mention it- all he says at the conference is that he called St. Louis County for help and then he complicated that by stating he had a long friendship with the Sheriff. People looking for impartial and unbiased investigations do not want to hear that.

Even an unpracticed plan would have been better.

Under an excellent plan, a supervisor immediately implements the officer involved shooting protocol upon arrival at the scene. His duties are caring for the injured parties, preserving and protecting evidence within the scene, identifying potential witnesses. (Note that I did not say interview them) Once the officer involved shooting protocol goes out- calls are made from dispatch to all of the participating agencies who send personnel for assignment. It is a tremendously labor intensive undertaking. Officers are assigned duties by a pre determined supervisor. For instance- two officers might be assigned to each ambulance for interviews and evidence gathering. Clothing, blood draws, gunshot residue, etc. Two might be assigned to the involved officer(s). Personnel may be assigned to photograph, sketch, measure, and gather scene evidence. Two may be assigned for any subsequent search warrants. Personnel are assigned to canvass the area. More personnel are needed to gather and record witness statements. Personnel are assigned to command post and press information duties. Using two officers helps preserve the integrity of each task and also provides an added measure of safety. Some protocols involve prosecuting attorneys offices and investigators, state police agencies, and the attorney generals office- in addition to participating county and city police departments.

Officer involved shooting protocols are an excellent tool. They provide integrity, sufficient manpower and safety, and the best outcome available. They also allow you to stand in front of a crowd of reporters with some measure of confidence that this is something you have planned for. Explaining the process would have been a HUGE asset. People might have thought at the very least that we have some measure of confidence that the investigation will be thorough, credible, and impartial rather than hearing the Chief wing it at a press conference. In fact, a Press Information Officer might have been designated to speak to the press and prevent errant statements. I am in awe that after 20 or 30 years of teaching agencies about officer involved shooting protocols- that agencies are still operating without them. Which brings me to another point. Honesty, disclosure, and fairness.

You have to address these things quickly. I don't believe the Chief did this in Ferguson and the whole situation spiraled out of control quickly. Riots began the following day. Had the Chief been on this with a sense of urgency- he might have prevented the riots the following day. Statements to the press must be reviewed for mistakes usually by attorneys- city and prosecutors according to the protocol. Why not have a plan and provide it to the press and all of the parties involved? Here -this is what we are going to do. Disclose the truth.

In the video you'll note over and over again- the Chief saying things like "I held the video as long as I could" or that he released the video of the store robbery because he had to as the result of freedom of information act requests. Why not just give it to the press as part of a press release?

In the video you will also see the Chief surrounded by up to ten- some muscled up- cops. I am not sure what that was all about. I don't think it helped matters any, however after 6 days of rioting and threats, it kind of gives you an idea of the mindset. That particular piece of choreography conveys a sense of  "us against them." I used to know old time cops that have tried to intimidate judges by showing up en masse to sentencings with similar displays. It is almost a show of force and it certainly doesn't conjure up goodwill. These types of tactics simply don't work. Support from your staff is fine- from a distance.

Could the Chief have delivered a much more effective statement? Of course. Is the Chief a polished speaker? No. I have to say I like him though- I got the feeling that he is a good guy and not a politician because he is very uncomfortable. Good cops are rarely political animals. They shun any sort of limelight where politicians often run to it. That's not to say that you can't be a gifted orator, politician, and straight shooting lawman but that combination in my experience has been quite rare or limited to elected officials rather than appointed ones.

Last but not least. An officer shooting protocol provides the most level, impartial playing field for everyone involved. Especially the officers involved. Had a plan been in place- Darren Wilson might still have a job. He certainly would have been more defensible as every agency including the federal government launches attacks and civil litigation. The family of Michael Brown would also have received the best service available and that would also help them and a jury resolve this in a civil court room later on. By virtue of the fact that I don't think there was a protocol involved here- Darren Wilson got a raw deal. The officers on that department or any other agency absent a designed protocol might very well suffer the same fate or worse.

I got a little sick to my stomach as I reviewed clips regarding Ferguson. It brought back all of the stress and responsibility that get piled high on a a guy like Chief Jackson. Additionally, depending on the political scene in Ferguson I noted that the Mayor ran unopposed last election and is nowhere to be found. I think that's good. At least it shows a little support or the Mayor would be actively trying to dump the Chief to save face. I can tell you with relative certainty that next election- someone with an ax to grind will run and although I am impressed that the Chief has been able to hang onto his job thus far- I think his time is limited. That's the business. I hope I'm wrong.

Dorian Johnson's (with Michael Brown that day)  irresponsible, biased, and dishonest statements (most of which were contradicted by evidence or proven false) amounted to a man yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater. Johnson did a very real disservice and injustice to everyone involved. Conjuring up statements like Brown had his hands up when he was shot (proven false by three autopsies) or claiming that Officer Wilson told them to "get the fuck out of the street" are designed to inflame people and most likely- they are lies. Unfortunately Wilson had no means of defense at that point, the community will undoubtedly believe what they want to believe, and it's hard to say whether or not a good plan might have overcome the statements of an irresponsible witness given a microphone and seemingly unlimited face time in front of cameras. I viewed a number of Johnson statements on You Tube.

I found Johnson's statements quite predictable and sickening. I often wonder how people like Johnson sleep at night or whether or not they feel any sense of responsibility for anything that happened that day or in subsequent days. Probably not. At no time did I ever hear Johnson mention that bullying a store owner, stealing, walking down the middle of the street, or attacking cops, was any fault of theirs. Instead, Johnson would have us all believe that he is this innocent picked on bystander, and through no fault of his own, found himself in this horrible situation. That's all too common now days- I used to call this inability to self examine and accept responsibility- an epidemic. It is a type of dishonesty that enables us to blame everyone else for our poor decisions. I see it's still with us- causing riots. It's not a race issue, it never has been. It's a cultural problem that involves ego, dishonesty, and rationalization which hopes to attract sympathy by manipulating the emotions of others into believing we are victims. Johnson by all appearances, seems to be part of our national epidemic. Somehow we have to recognize this and take action before the entire fabric of our society is completely destroyed. One Ferguson at a time.

We must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools.
-Martin Luther King

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Christmas Gift- The Sunday, err Wednesday, Collage

I am feeling a little more blessed than usual today. Maybe it's just that time of year.

I had only one wish back in 2007. If you want something bad enough, I think anything is possible. In 2007, I wanted the life I once had back. I wanted to live my life and enjoy it- just as I did as a child.

This week will mark the end of one more year with my inner family intact. Through a series of miracles, my mother and father are still here. We have been blessed.

Ya know, other bloggers and I write about all of the insanity in the world. I often wonder as I write, how do the other writers handle the world's insanity? Are they angry, bitter, outraged? I wish I knew more about them. I am in awe at how the world shapes us- we don't shape it. It hands us what it will and says, "What are you going to do about that?"

Sometimes we become bitter and angry, sometimes clearly frustrated. Sometimes we are confused and sometimes we wonder, who is in charge of this nuthouse? Sometimes we cry.

When everything is going well, we think, now that is the way life is supposed to be. That of course, is the great lie. That is the lie we tell ourselves. We only want what is good and we reject the bad. Unfortunately, you cannot have one without the other. It is a package deal. That was the gift I was given, it was Christmas 2007.

I had been sober a little over two months. I flew into Boise from New Orleans that Christmas and while everyone was drinking and laughing-I felt kind of miserable. Not self pity exactly, but just left out. It's part of sobriety actually. The ability to allow everyone to be just as drunk and disorderly as they want to be. That was a role that I had previously played. The day after Christmas Eve that year, Christmas morning, I received a phone call from my sponsor. He wanted to know what it had been like- Christmas Eve- and so I told him. He laughed at me. I would no longer be the orchestra leader, the loudest drunk in the family. You have been reassigned so get used to it.

Des was simply the hardest man I have ever known. There was an anger, an unrelenting anger that burned in Father Des which simply refused to allow anyone- one molecule of self pity and because he was a Priest I suppose- I just couldn't bring myself to lie to him. I always spilled my guts.

Des died five weeks later on Feb 6 in the middle of Wednesday Mass while in full view of the congregation. His death was exactly as it should have been. I see that now. Officially, they kept him on life support for one day.

Steve Jobs once said, you can't connect the dots going forward. All you can do is look back at your life and connect the dots that way. I can see all those dots now that I am 7 years removed.

Des taught me that I am not running the world and that nobody particularly cares what my opinion of that is. The world according to Des was full of opinions. I was just one more bum on the opinion bus.

The gift I was given Christmas '07, was complete and utter acceptance of everything in the world. I was no longer required to try and control the outcome of anything. I was no longer required to preach to people, to tell them that what they were doing- was right or wrong according to some strange and undisclosed set of expectations in my head. Just let everything in the world be. Let someone else run the place because you haven't been doing such a bang up job.

Today I am good with all things. In fact, I would come to embrace all of the bad things- because it is the bad things that shape us. The bankruptcy, divorce, illness, and death- all of it is quite necessary. These "bad" things are far more necessary than the good things- they challenge us emotionally. They challenge us physically. They challenge us spiritually. We don't learn anything from the good things because we think, that is the way life should always be. So the "good" is often taken for granted. We are quite accepting of all of the good things in our lives- yet we cry like babies and blame others anytime adversity strikes us. For some of us, like myself in 2007, the war drums inside my head were loud. Knocking myself out with a bottle of whisky was my only means of coping with all of that noise.

Today I practice acceptance although, I like to write about all of the tragedy and stupidity in the world. I don't get carried away. I like to think I practice my observations- in moderation. I also like to think that I am part of the fabric of the world. If good and bad are encouraged, embraced even- then I think it's ok to be the play by play guy. There must be a spot for us. I think we can discuss those things without going nuts.

I am grateful for everything that I have and I know I probably deserve far less. My gifts exceed my exertions here. I am grateful that I have a God of my understanding, a universal intelligence, that transcends some crazy punishing God that the world told me I had to buy into or spend eternity in hell. I realize now that all of that is nonsense. That any God must be a loving God or- he is not a God worth having. If I can manage to love a few people despite all of their flaws, I have great confidence that an all knowing God can do far better than that. I am no longer consumed with ridiculous fears.

You know God has a sense of humor. He created Republicans and Democrats. He saw that as necessary, like ticks and mosquitoes.

I have solutions today that I didn't have in '07. I don't run and hide anymore when things don't go according to the script in my head. I deal with them calmly, rationally, and I continue to live life and enjoy it. I even embrace all of those bad things because I understand now- how necessary all of that is. Figuring that out, accepting it, and applying the proper, healthy solution- worked out in advance- keeps the war drums from beating once again.

I want to thank all of my family and friends for stopping by. Des would never have read a single word on this blog. He would have been angry at me. He hated opinions. Sometimes, I giggle when I think of what he might have said to me had he still been alive and stumbled in here. Thank God for Des- the best Christmas gift I have ever received.

I sincerely hope that you all have a great Christmas and a happy New Year.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Cowards Keep Winning

Here's a piece about a public employee questioning publicly, why a white shooting victim doesn't get the same attention as black thug, Michael Brown.

For exercising her First Amendment rights- she was fired. Not the America I was guaranteed. Definitely worth the read.

Maybe Bernanke Was Right- The Sunday Collage

I wrote this on Saturday.

As this year comes to a close, I note that a lot of very intelligent people once again, seem to have been very wrong about the economy. Billionaire Eric Sprott's call for December 2100.00 gold seems to be the most outrageously stupid call- but he can be forgiven since he owns silver and gold funds and he is hopelessly jaded by his own desires to get people invested in his funds.

Perennial bears like Marc Faber and Peter Schiff were wrong again this year. Shorting any stock index in 2014 was a recipe for disaster. The "housing bubble" did not collapse. Nor has the stock or bond bubble.

My favorite all time wrong call award this year- goes to Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens. Pickens on a CNBC interview a year or two ago was questioned about whether we would ever see a sub 2.00 gas price again. T. Boone Pickens said rather emphatically- that we never would.

Even Meredith Baxter and her appearance on 60 Minutes- have been proven wrong. A few municipalities have gone bankrupt- but her call for bond Armageddon in the municipal bond market has largely never materialized. In places like Detroit- it hardly took a rocket scientist to know they would default.

What do all of these people have in common- besides giant egos? Their judgment seems to be colored by their desires. Some like Schiff have had some success and apparently think moving forward that they have some valuable insight.

There comes a moment when eventually- you must confront the facts. The facts thus far have proven all of those people wrong. People with expensive degrees and valuable credentials. The only guy who appears to have gotten it right thus far- is Ben Bernanke and his minions.

So far, Ben has been right. Maybe we can print our way out of the mess that greedy bankers and politicians created in the years prior to 2008. And maybe, we just won't have to face the consequences. Indeed, they've had to manipulate the entire investing landscape. They've had to destroy alternative investments like gold and silver. They've destroyed any kind of savings return on CD's, savings accounts, and bonds.

Even as I speak, there is a guy on CNBC right now- saying that 2015 will be the year that this fraudulent market finally gets revealed. I have heard that very same speech in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Our debt, well in excess of 18 trillion with another 100 trillion coming due and payable, doesn't seem to matter. Inflation doesn't matter. Oil and other commodities have retreated all year.

This is what I know for sure. Let me describe it with an excellent metaphor.

If my most bitter enemy woke up every day and hopefully said, "This is the day that the lunatic writer at Frankenstein Government will perish. I am sure of it." Clearly that person would be wrong every day for years. Those would be the facts. However, one day that bitter enemy of mine will be on the mark. My life is finite and one day- my enemy will finally be proven right- if he doesn't die first.

Do you want to be wrong a few thousand times just so that you can be right once?

That's the dilemma. I am still on the side of history and the Austrians. The death of the US dollar will come just as surely as the death of every unbacked fiat currency does. The problem for all of us is trying to predict when that will happen. The best and most wise advice at this point- is to just keep your mouth shut and quietly take out a little insurance and hope to hell that the dollar doesn't implode while we are still living. I know it's going to happen- what I fear the most is- What will the US landscape look like after it does?

If you just keep your mouth shut- nobody will think you are a nutter like Schiff, Baxter, or Pickens.

For now, I am going to give Ben Bernanke his due. I am in awe that they have been able to pull this off and continue to do so. In the meantime, I just might take out a little more insurance in 2015 and pass it on to my loved ones if that day doesn't happen while I am still living on the top side. One day, alive or dead, I'll be right. Someone down the line will thank me.