Tag Archives: law enforcement

Should Attacks on Police be Considered a Hate Crime?

The debate and discussion has resurfaced regarding if attacks on police officers should be considered and treated as a hate crime. I think it’s fair to say that there are excellent arguments for both sides of this issue. What do you think?

The FBI uses the following definition to categorize an act as a hate crime and for the purposes of collecting statistics:  “A criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

Earlier this year Louisiana expanded its hate-crime law to include additional penalties for people convicted of attacking police officers and first responders. The law previously provided for enhanced penalties when the victim of a crime of violence was targeted on the basis of several other factors including race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation.

Recently, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colorado) introduced the Blue Lives Matter Act of 2016. The bill would expand the federal hate-crime statute to make it a crime to target law enforcement officers for acts of violence.

With the recent killings of police officers, such as in Dallas and Baton Rouge, this movement will likely gain support. Some feel this effort is based on a misunderstanding of what hate crime statutes are designed to do, specifically deal with pervasive racial and religious prejudice.

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In discussing his legislation, Buck indicated whether based on skin color or uniform color, a crime motivated by hate is not going to be tolerated in the United States.

Many have asked if it is possible and do some state laws already provide additional penalties for attacks on police officers without classifying them as a hate crime? Before Louisiana amended its hate-crime statute, state law provided longer sentences for those who committed attacks on law enforcement officers.

Some feel that an overbroad definition and classification of hate crime may create two impressions: that an act of violence is not being treated serious enough unless it is categorized a “hate crime” and inclusion in the list of categories is considered a mark of respect. Is there an underlying battle of symbolic messages between “Black Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” going on?

With the FBI definition in mind, should we treat, categorize, and enforce a violent crime against police officers as a hate crime? If not, would it be a hate crime if a gang member spray painted “187 cops” (187 is the California Penal Code section for murder) to a block wall or building, and later that same gang or individual committed a violent act against a police officer and or verbally referenced their sentiment and hatred toward law enforcement? I believe a separate distinction is warranted involving hate crimes against law enforcement. #hatecrime, #bluelivesmatter, #blacklivesmatter, #lawenforcement, #dallas, #batonrouge

 

To follow me and or purchase my book, “Never Again”, please go to my website- http://www.billcweiss.com.

 

As a retired Lieutenant and 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Bill Weiss worked various patrol, custody, administrative, investigative, and special assignments. He has been an Incident Commander for several major tactical incidents. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

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El Cajon: A No Win Situation

 

The unfortunate deadly officer involved shooting that occurred recently in El Cajon, California, is a typical scenario where police officers must react quickly to erratic and rapid movements by a person, which in this case involved a possible mentally disturbed individual. It is definitely a no win situation for all involved.

A family member called 911 and indicated to police that her brother, an African-American adult, was “not acting like himself.” The caller said her brother was walking in traffic, endangering himself and motorists. Two responding officers found the man behind a restaurant. He refused multiple orders to remove his hand from his pocket, which resulted in one officer drawing his firearm. The individual continued to ignore further commands and paced back and forth while officers tried to talk to him.

The individual suddenly and quickly drew an object from his front pants pocket, placing both hands together and extended them rapidly forward at eye level toward one of the officers, then taking a definitive shooting stance. One officer fired his weapon several times striking the suspect. The other officer deployed his taser.

The object that was pointed at the officer was an approximately 4-inch vape electronic smoking device, not a weapon. This took place within a few feet of one officer and the object was pointed directly at the officer’s head. Anyone who has seen these vape devices are aware that they are fairly large as they fill most of the web and palm area of a person’s hand. Even in slow motion it would be difficult at best to discern what the object is as it is pulled from the front pants pocket. These devices can be easily mistaken to be a weapon.

Although the statements by the police officers and their actions are corroborated by a very clear cell phone still photo, taken from a video image provided by a nearby witness during daylight hours, protests erupted in the San Diego suburb alleging improper tactics, lack of mental health training for officers, and a lack of attempts to de-escalate the incident. Several community activists have alleged that the individual’s race played a role in the officer’s actions.

The videos that have been publicly released at the time of this writing were provided by a camera mounted on a drive-thru restaurant window and from the cell phone of a bystander.

The evidence presented so far clearly shows that the individual was not complying despite the officer’s best intentions to control and de-escalate the situation. It does not appear that any additional training would have helped as the individual placed the officers in a deadly encounter and situation by his unpredictable actions and aggressive body stance at a very close range. One could argue that his actions are conducive to those who want to commit suicide by cop.

It does not appear that the officers had any ability to determine that the individual had anything but a weapon in his hands when all factors are taken into consideration, such as his non-compliance, actions, movements, and body/shooting stance that he took.

I would only question the officer’s tactics they used, such as proper use of cover and concealment, which placed them in an unsafe position. The shooting appears to be fully justified, even though the media continuously discusses if the officers will be prosecuted.

Of additional interest is this individual has a past criminal record with convictions for the sales and transportation of narcotics and for a weapons charge. U.S authorities twice tried to deport him to his native country of Uganda, but Uganda refused to take him.

It is very disturbing and unsettling, despite the video image and other evidence, that so many people automatically resorted to violent protests and allegations of police misconduct which has followed this incident to date. Several days and nights of senseless, violent, and hostile encounters have needlessly occurred, such as protesters confronting and assaulting innocent motorists at intersections and gas stations. Ironically, from the news reports and video that I have seen, I have failed to observe any law enforcement presence or arrests during the first few days of these incidents. Why is that?  #elcajonpolicedepartment, #lawenforcement, #policeshootingsandmentalhealth

 

To follow me and or purchase my book, “Never Again”, please go to my website- http://www.billcweiss.com.

 

As a retired Lieutenant and 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Bill Weiss worked various patrol, custody, administrative, investigative, and special assignments. He has been an Incident Commander for several major tactical incidents. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

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HOW DO WE IMPROVE POLICE-COMMUNITY RELATIONS?

I think it’s fair to say that one of the biggest issues facing our country today is the issue of police-community relations. Many experts in the field have recently expressed concern that the racial conflict and tensions between the police and the public are the highest since the outbreak of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

There have been many recent discussions in the press and on social media regarding how do we improve and solve the racial tensions and conflict between law enforcement and the public. This has especially come to light since the disturbances in Ferguson, Missouri (2014) and in Baltimore, Maryland (2015).

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Experts and critics analyze and discuss the need for more community based policing, more dialogue, more restraint by law enforcement, more de-escalation of force, more training, more accountability, more transparency, and a host of other issues that law enforcement needs to do to improve these relationships.

A COMMON TREND

As I analyze the facts of the various officer involved shootings and other tragic events that have unfolded, I see several common denominators that no one talks about, yet they explain the causal factor for a huge majority of these incidents.

After examining the facts and peeling back the rhetoric, I see the following trends:

  • The majority of these encounters start with a call for service (not self-initiated contact by the officer) that involves a victim of a crime, someone who has been threatened, or suspicious actions by the suspect/party in question.
  • Once law enforcement arrives on scene or conducts a traffic stop they are met with non-compliance (not obeying lawful orders and commands), verbal abuse, and physical resistance by the suspect.
  • The suspect is usually armed (gun, knife, etc.) or attempts to disarm the officer of his or her weapon.
  • The suspect attempts to flee or initiates an attack on the officer, which usually dictates how the encounter and incident will progress.

Unfortunately, the officer must take drastic action to protect himself against the suspect. Although the above mentioned issues, such as more dialogue, more training, more restraint etc., are important and necessary considerations, none of them will correct or eliminate the violent behavior and aggressive actions taken by the suspect. More times than not what is in question is the officer’s response to this challenge, not the actions or behavior of the suspect.

Some treat these incidents as if the officer arbitrarily engaged the suspect without cause or did not have a valid reason to defend himself. This is absolutely mind boggling! Where are the morals, values, and common sense of society, and most importantly of our leaders and public figures who comment publicly about these incidents?

REALITY

We need to be careful regarding our expectations of police officers and be aware of reality when dealing with human beings who are asked to do one of the hardest jobs on a daily basis. No other occupation is so heavily scrutinized and asked to be as transparent that deals with one’s life and liberty in a civilian setting. Dealing with people on one of their worst days of their lives, who exhibit unpredictable behavior in deadly situations, is an inexact science.

We must not forget this no matter how great the political or public pressure. Especially, if we want to attract and retain people to the profession who have the ability, desire, ethics, judgment, and common sense to be a first rate law enforcement professional.

Cops are not perfect. When an officer or agency is out of line they need to be held accountable and criticized. To the contrary, when we criticize an officer for defending themselves against someone who is trying to take their duty weapon from them and they are trying to stay alive during the attack, then we have a major problem as a society. Should we not be holding those individuals who fail to comply and exhibit violent behavior and aggressive action, accountable too? #policecommunityrelations, #useofdeadlyforce, #lawenforcement,

 

To follow me and or purchase my book, “Never Again”, please go to my website- http://www.billcweiss.com.

 

As a retired Lieutenant and 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Bill Weiss worked various patrol, custody, administrative, investigative, and special assignments. He has been an Incident Commander for several major tactical incidents. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

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SHOULD POLICE OFFICERS BE SHOOTING AT MOVING VEHICLES

Recently, two undercover California Highway Patrol officers fired their weapons on a moving vehicle, killing the driver and wounding the passenger. This incident has re-kindled the debate regarding when and if police officers should use this dangerous tactic of shooting at moving vehicles. What do you think?

In this particular incident the two CHP officers were in an unmarked car at night and part of a detail focusing on street racing. They were monitoring a “sideshow” where truck drivers were performing burnouts outside a swap meet. As officers closed in a 19 year-old male fled the area in a pickup at a high rate of speed.

The officers, driving in an unmarked car, followed the vehicle for several miles and tried to stop the driver as he drove into a residential cul-de-sac. The suspect driver made a U-turn and drove toward the officers, who opened fire. The driver died on scene. A passenger was shot in the arm and his injury was not life threatening.

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Some law enforcement agencies consider this option too dangerous and have banned the tactic from their policy. The California Highway Patrol’s use of force policy allows officers to use deadly force to stop the commission of an assault with a deadly weapon, including situations where a moving vehicle is considered the weapon.

Under California state law, officers are allowed to use deadly force if they believe and fear their lives, or the lives of other, are under imminent threat.

Questions can be raised, when reviewing the law, tactics, and their department policy, if pursuing in an unmarked vehicle is appropriate, especially for this type of offense and at night.  Also, was the suspect driver even aware he was being pursued by law enforcement officers?  Were the officers able to identify themselves?  Is it normal for the CHP to have unmarked vehicles pursue instead of having marked patrol vehicles designated during this type of operation to conduct these traffic stops?

More recently, a fatal shooting occurred in Chicago after an 18-year old male, who was driving a stolen Jaguar and was part of a group involved in a series of car thefts, crashed into police vehicles after driving toward the officers. Departmental policy for Chicago Police Department specifically bans shooting at a vehicle when it is the lone threat to officers.

This particular incident also brought up several tactical issues such as taking proper cover, placing oneself in harm’s way, shooting at a vehicle once it has past the threshold of posing an immediate threat and is driving away from the officers, and background and cross fire considerations. The use of the body camera, which was instituted approximately one week prior to this Chicago incident, is also in question as the suspect was later chased into a backyard and shot either during the foot pursuit or while being handcuffed. The body camera of the officer who fired his weapon in the backyard was turned off until after the shooting.

Some agencies allow for shooting at moving vehicles as a last resort when the officer fears for his safety and his life is endangered. A key issue to evaluate is if the tactics used were proper considering the specific circumstances? Did the officer place himself in harm’s way and could the officer avoid the encounter by taking cover and or moving out of the way to safety?

Shooting at the driver of a moving vehicle is often not very effective and can be extremely dangerous as missed shots can hit bystanders or others in the vehicle, as was the case in the CHP incident. If the driver is injured and shot, the vehicle may become out of control and even more dangerous.

After weighing all of these issues, I believe that officers should have the option to use deadly force against the driver of a moving vehicle who is using that vehicle as a weapon against them or is firing a weapon from the vehicle or posing some other real threat. Especially, when they are legitimately in fear of their life, they used sound tactics, good judgment, and common sense. Each situation presents a unique set of factors that must be weighed on its own merit. I base this belief on my patrol experience and several years of analyzing, reviewing, and presenting significant use of force cases for the Executive Force Review Committee for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. #policeofficersshootingatmovingvehicles, #useofdeadlyforce, #lawenforcement, #californiahighwaypatrol, #chicagopolicedepartment

 

To follow me and or purchase my book, “Never Again”, please go to my website- http://www.billcweiss.com.

 

As a retired Lieutenant and 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Bill Weiss worked various patrol, custody, administrative, investigative, and special assignments. He has been an Incident Commander for several major tactical incidents. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

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The Debate on the De-escalation of Force

There have been recent discussions and movements to create a new national standard for when police officers can use deadly force and how de-escalation of force techniques should be taught. This debate also includes a review process to determine whether an officer could have done more to avoid violent encounters. Are we recreating the wheel here?

In May of 2016, a bill called the Preventing Tragedies Between Police and Communities Act of 2016, was proposed by Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.). Moore indicated she wanted officers to use force that is proportional to the situation and to give police officers additional training assets with regard to encounters that don’t necessarily have to end up with a deadly use of force. This legislation is the one of the latest measures that has been introduced since the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.

The call for a de-escalation of force by police agencies is really nothing new from what has been previously taught or discussed. For decades, new policy and procedures have been implemented with the goal of de-escalating force and improving the safety of the public and police officers. The recent terminology may have changed from less lethal to de-escalation of force, but the idea and concepts are the same.

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The use of mace, OC spray, tasers, verbal judo, the Arwen, batons, saps, long poles with nets for PCP suspects, stun-bag/bean-bag shotguns, team takedowns, weaponless defense training, crisis intervention training, crisis negotiating teams etc., are some of the tools, tactics, and techniques used for decades and modified as time has passed. All of these involved the idea of de-escalating force for the mentally ill, drug crazed suspects, or the resistive and violent suspect alluding capture.

The demand for more transparency in law enforcement and the constant challenge to officers’ credibility while performing their daily functions, especially concerning incidents involving the use of force, are of course extremely important and vital. New tools and additional training is great. The emphasis on the preservation of life is a must.

Do we need to create more legislation, more committees and more commissions, that already are in place, to review and regulate force used by police officers?  Do we need to create more avenues of second guessing officers who face deadly threats with split-seconds to act? How do we judge the mindset and not just the tactics of an officer to determine if he or she properly attempted to exhaust all efforts to defuse a situation before using force?

We need to be careful regarding our expectations and be aware of reality when dealing with human beings who are asked to do one of the hardest, if not the hardest job there is on a daily basis. No other occupation is so heavily scrutinized and asked to be as transparent that deals with one’s life and liberty in a civilian setting. Dealing with people on one of the worst days of their lives, who exhibit unpredictable behavior in deadly situations, is an inexact science. We must not forget this no matter how great the political or public pressure. Especially, if we want to attract and retain people to this profession who have the ability, desire, ethics, and judgment to be a first rate law enforcement professional.

As I mentioned in an earlier article, when an officer or agency is out of line they need to be held accountable and criticized.  To the contrary, when we criticize an officer for defending himself against someone who is trying to take his duty weapon from him and he is attempting to stay alive during the attack, then we have a major problem as a society. Should we not be holding these individuals accountable too? #deescalationofforce, #policecommunityrelations,#lawenforcement, #useofforce

For another must read article on the De-escalation of force see the following article by Dr. Ron Martinelli. “WHO REALLY NEEDS DE-ESCALATION TRAINING?”

https://drronmartinelli.com/2016/07/16/who-really-needs-de-escalation-training/

 

As a retired Lieutenant and 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Bill Weiss worked various patrol, custody, administrative, investigative, and special assignments. He has been an Incident Commander for several major tactical incidents. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

To follow me please go to my website- http://www.billcweiss.com.

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Do Public Figures Prematurely Shape Public Opinion?

Do initial public comments by public figures prematurely shape public opinion, specifically incidents involving the deadly use-of-force by law enforcement? The recent and still ongoing trials of six police officers indicted in the in-custody death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, is a great case in point.

On June 23, 2016, a Baltimore judge overseeing the trials acquitted Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., who was driving the transport van in which Gray allegedly sustained fatal injuries to his spinal cord. Gray died one week after being arrested on April 19, 2015. Goodson became the second officer in the case to be cleared. Officer Edward Nero was previously found not guilty of reckless endangerment and assault during a second trial. This was on the heels of the first trial ending in a hung jury.

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The judge indicated there was not enough evidence to prove that Officer Goodson provided a “rough ride” for Gray who was not seat belted in while handcuffed inside the van. Witnesses testified that Gray began screaming and kicking so violently that he shook the van prior to being transported.

These acquittals throw the rest of the cases into question since the remaining officers are charged with similar but lesser accusations. Demonstrations have occurred outside the courthouse as many expressed frustration at the not-guilty verdicts. Others are calling for the remaining officers to have all charges dropped.

Ironically, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby drew widespread praise and condemnation after charging the six officers in May 2015, with murder and manslaughter charges within weeks of Gray’s death. Civil rights activists praised the prosecutor for swift and comprehensive action. This action was after demonstrations had occurred in Baltimore against police brutality, which were violent at times, and included rioting, looting, and arson after Gray’s funeral.

This is one of several recent incidents, including the shooting death of 18-year old Michael Brown in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, where activists cheered the quick action of state officials. As you may recall, that incident in Ferguson resulted in violent protests that included vandalism and looting for more than a week and ended the career of Officer Darren Wilson, even after he was cleared of civil rights violations and credible witnesses and forensic evidence corroborated his account. Now in this particular case involving Gray, some activists and legal experts are suggesting that Mosby acted too quickly and did not leave enough time for a thorough investigation.

Also, at the time of this writing at least two reports, which have not been confirmed to my knowledge, have surfaced indicating that Mosby had made some incriminating public statements regarding her true intentions for filing charges so quickly against the six officers and revealing some personal prejudices. She is also being accused of a rush to judgment, making false statements, withholding evidence from the defense that was exculpatory, and is possibly the subject of disbarment charges filed against her.

In an earlier article I addressed the subject of accountability by law enforcement and the public, including public figures, leaders, activists, and celebrities. I made the following general statement in the article, which was titled, “What’s Wrong with this Picture?”

Initial public comments call in to question and assume the officer did something wrong, but the final results of the investigations, even when there are grand jury reviews and a coroner’s report, usually conclude in a finding to the contrary. This displeases many who can’t accept the facts of what actually occurred. Many people are outraged and want to hear the officer was wrong, since they have been told from the beginning to believe he or she was wrong.  Much of this comes from our leaders, activists, and politicians when they are interviewed in the media.” To see this entire article please go to my blog/recent posts on my website-http://www.billcweiss.com.

Public figures who knowingly speak without the facts, either due to public pressure, or who try to capitalize on a situation for their own interest, create an environment of false expectations and anger. This develops into situation where the public, who was made initially to believe something otherwise, can’t handle the truth when the final investigations conclude differently. This is extremely dangerous.

Why not hold these public figures accountable? #freddiegray, #baltimoremaryland, #lawenforcement, #publicaccountability, #policecommunityrelations, #deadlyuseofforce

 

As a retired Lieutenant and 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Bill Weiss worked various patrol, custody, administrative, investigative, and special assignments. He has been an Incident Commander for several major tactical incidents. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

To follow me and or purchase my book, “Never Again”, please go to my website- http://www.billcweiss.com.

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