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The Math Says that there are More than a Few Bad Apples in the Law Enforcement Community

by Rich Monetti about a year ago in controversies

Policing Culture Needs to Change

Photo by Chad Davis

Note : I wrote this following George Floyd’s murder, and returning now, I’m not quite ready to comment on Jacob Blake’s case

Tragically, America has again witnessed the death of a seemingly helpless African American at the hands of police officers.  So egregious this time with George Floyd, the anger now explodes across the nation.  What’s the same, though, is the standard talking point about a few bad apples.  Pretty hard to quantify and my own emotion also running hot, I can’t help try to put the rationalization to rest and take a look at the math at my personal disposal.

I almost want to say, maybe there aren’t a few bad apples, there’s only a few good apples.  But that’s pure emotion, and I certainly don’t have the numbers to back it up. So I’m going to start with some personal anecdotes and extrapolate as best I can. 

Back in the late 80s, I lived in Manhattan with a few of my college buddies. We were young and living it up.  Going to parties, bars and all the sports in sight, we took any opportunity to expand our reach.  Through a common friend, we got connected with a group of guys in Queens.  Of the five or six new friends, a couple were NYC police officers, but that was of little consequence. We were all on the same page in regards to having a good time.

However, my guys were left perplexed one Sunday afternoon.  My group had a dark skinned friend among us and he joined in for a day of football watching.  Time passing, we suddenly realized that all the Queens guys had left for the other side of the apartment, and the guests were now sitting alone.  We didn’t have an explanation but got the answer on another football Sunday. 

All enjoying ourselves, one of Queen's guys takes a look out the window and goes full force in directing his outburst to the street below.  “Hey N…..R, get the hell out of this neighborhood.”

He then turning back to the game as if nothing happened.  Utterly shocked, I don’t know if the bigot in question was actually a cop. But if you were among New York’s Finest, how could you live with someone like that.  Yes, guilt by association and I’m employing it.

The incident was the most horrific piece of racism that I've personally witnessed, and it came from a police officer or a very close friend.  Given the bad apples sound bite, I wonder what the odds are. 

But one event, a few degenerates, that’s a pretty broad brush I’m painting. Let’s continue with some more math nonetheless, and in this case, I’m using a secondary source.  I live in the suburbs of NYC, and I have a friend who is a waiter at a local restaurant.  

He’s doing his night’s work about a year ago and gets a table of NYC police officers.  All good until he starts hearing the conversation.  The group of seven are freely using the N-word and are unconcerned by who hears them.  

The arrogance and entitlement disturbs, but what's especially troubling is that these men weren’t typical cops.  They were part of some elite police task force that was in the area.  So again, I must ask, what are the odds.  

And I'm going deeper in this case. If you’re a police officer, I’m sure there’s a lot to deal with and getting jaded is an occupational hazard.  Even so, they must rise above the emotion.  Some obviously fail but what does it say when the best of your best fail.

Does a secondhand story suffice, though?. My friend had no reason to fabricate the incident and I'm going with it. 

So let’s move onto something that can be corroborated.  Ahmaud Arbery was out for a jog in a sedate little neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia.  Thus, Gregory McMichael - who was a Former Police Officer and investigator with the Glynn County District Attorney’s Office - decided Arbery was a threat or suspected burglar. In turn, he and his son Travis loaded up their .357,  an altercation ensued and another African American lay dead. 

Now, I don’t necessarily find the incident mathematically inconsistent with the few bad apples discourse.  It’s what comes after that doesn’t compute.

After recusing himself because he worked with the suspect, the District Attorney for the Waycross Judicial Circuit clearly tried to influence the case.  They were “following in ‘hot pursuit’ a burglary suspect, with solid first hand probable cause, in their neighborhood, and asking/telling him to stop,” he writes. “It appears their intent was to stop and hold this criminal suspect until law enforcement arrived. Under Georgia Law this is perfectly legal,” wrote George Barnhill, according to Bloomberg News.

Thus, the DA found no cause for arrest.  Of course, at the center of the controversy is the stand your ground laws and long time Georgia Defense Attorney Page Pate are among the many who put the defense on shaky grounds.  “What's critical about Georgia's law (is that) although you are allowed to detain someone as a citizen if you think they committed a crime, you cannot use excessive force,” Pate said in an interview on The Morning Show. “So even if there was a crime committed and he was trying to hold onto Mr. Arbery to wait for police, you cannot then escalate it.”

In this case if Arbery takes off, McMichael have no legal recorse to prevent the flight. In addition, property crimes don't apply either, and the top law enforcement official in the county interpreted the law in way that benefited one of his own.  Sorry, there’s no reason to even do the math when the institution owns all the numbers. Fortunately, the video forced another look and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation saw it otherwise.

And finally George Floyd. Four officers are called to the scene, and it’s certainly possible that a bogie breaks the percentages among the smaller barrel. But three other officers stood by and let the atrocity persist.

That leaves us with four officers who show up and all four fail to do their job. I’m sorry, the agreed upon math does not add up, and maybe we need to adjust the baseline. There aren’t a few bad apples, there’s more than a few bad apples and change starts by recognizing the actual math.

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