Hero

The word “hero” has been bandied about recently in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Webster defines “hero” as, “A man admired for his achievements and qualities.” Dictionary.com defines “hero” as, “A person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character; a person who, in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities, or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal.” Maybe, the definition of a “hero” could also be, “An ordinary person doing extraordinary things.” For example, Sgt. York in WWI, Audie Murphy in WWII, Jorge Otero Barreto in Vietnam, Pat Tillman and Chris Kyle in Iraq. These were ordinary individuals who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances.

You cannot watch television during these times and not see commercials thanking our “heroes,” those people on the front lines, for their service. Pictures of doctors, nurses, truck drivers, teachers, cashiers, firefighters, police officers and paramedics are flashed across the screen. You see a collage of actors and professional athletes thanking and praising people in occupations they often might hold in distain. Maybe these “stars” have had a change of heart and are truly thankful. Or maybe, because they are not working, they are making these videos so the shuffling masses who buy their products can still see them and, in this way, these “stars” can remain significant.

What were these front-line workers, these heroes, before the pandemic? Were the nurses really, as Washington State Senator Maureen Walsh described: “They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.” The backlash from nursing professionals that followed this statement was understandable. Washington State Department of Health published the following statistics as of 04/24/2020:  12,077 confirmed cases, 723 deaths, 160,324 total tests. During this pandemic, State Senator Walsh has been eerily quiet. Were police officers really as Black leadership described when a White police officer is forced to shoot a Black suspect? In the midst of this pandemic, where Black Americans are dying at a higher rate than White Americans and Hispanic Americans due to their increased risk factors, Black leadership has been eerily quiet. Were teachers really incapable of teaching, assessing student outcomes, and managing their classrooms to the point where politicians felt the need to step in and dictate how a classroom should be conducted? These are the same teachers who had to convert all of their classes to an online format in a very short period of time to keep educating their students because the schools were closed. On this point, politicians have been eerily quiet. Were truckers really the reckless, endangering, negligent drivers that liability attorneys depict in their commercials? Now, however, these same attorneys are praising said drivers for working during the pandemic. Were cashiers really the slow, incompetent, knuckleheads deserving the ire of shoppers which is readily apparent to anyone who has ever shopped at, say, Walmart? Now such front-line workers are considered heroes.

These police officers, correctional officers, doctors, nurses, paramedics, firefighters and others on the front lines are not heroes because they are working during this pandemic. They are heroes because they get up every day, grab their gear, and go to work. They work during hurricanes, tornados, blizzards, the heat of summer and the cold of winter. Maybe a hero is someone who goes unnoticed until the time and place are right for them to be noticed!

Undocumented Immigrants and the CARES Act

I read on Facebook the other day (I know, but CNN published a report that suggests 75% of adults in the U.S. get their news from email or social media) that congressional Democrats proposed a rider to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or the “CARES Act” that would grant undocumented immigrants the same Coronavirus economic incentive benefits as U.S. citizens would receive. Of course, this created a firestorm on social media. A little closer examination may be beneficial.

The CARES Act is a $2 trillion Coronavirus pandemic response bill to aid in the U.S. economic recovery. The CARES Act allocates $603.7 billion to individuals, with $300 billion (15% of the $2 trillion package) being earmarked for direct allocations. Those earning less than $75,000 will receive a one-time cash payment of $1,200. Married couples will each receive a $1,200 payment plus $500.00 per child. For example, this bill establishes that a family of four will receive $3,400.

The Pew Report suggests that in 2017, the U.S. had approximately 10.5 million undocumented immigrants, of which, 7.8 million were part of the U.S. workforce. The breakdown of these undocumented immigrants indicates that 4.95 million are from Mexico, 1.9 million are from Central America, and 1.45 million are from Asia. The report further indicates that approximately 7 million of these undocumented immigrants have been in the U.S. longer than 10 years, and approximately 2 million have been in the U.S. less than five years. Tangentially, the Center for Migration Studies estimates that 44% of undocumented immigrants are here because they have overstayed their visas.

This would seem to suggest that 7 million undocumented immigrants have contributed to the national economy by working, raising children, and paying taxes. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that between 50% – 75% of undocumented immigrants pay federal, state, and local taxes per year. Several sources indicate that undocumented immigrants pay a total of approximately $25 billion per year in federal, state, and local taxes; which includes Social Security and Medicare. In 2016, according to the New American Economy, undocumented immigrants contributed $13 billion to Social Security funds and $3 billion to Medicare. It is important to note that undocumented immigrants do not have Social Security numbers and are not eligible for any Social Security or Medicare benefits.

The Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy approximates that half of undocumented immigrants (approximately 5 million) file a Federal income tax return. These are 5 million undocumented immigrants who could each receive a $1,200 CARES Act allocation. This is because the Internal Revenue Service would have a valid address or a valid bank account for which to apply the funds. Hypothetically, should these 5 million undocumented immigrants each receive a $1,200 allocation, the total would be $6 billion, or 2% of the $300 billion allocated for individual payment and .3% of the $2 trillion package.

As stated earlier, undocumented immigrants pay approximately $25 billion in taxes each year. For the 10-year period the majority of undocumented immigrants have worked in the U.S., this totals approximately $250 billion. If the undocumented immigrants each receive $1,200, this calculates that they would receive 2.4% of what they have paid in taxes in the last 10 years.

A central theme of the responses I read regarding this Democratic proposal was that undocumented immigrants would be receiving a government benefit of which they were not deserving, and, therefore, this benefit would be borne solely on the backs of American taxpayers. Statistically, however, this is simply not the case.

 

Freedom of Speech: Perception vs Reality

I used to be a fan of the National Football League. I enjoyed the speed of the game, the contact, and the mano a mano nature of the offenses and defenses. I lost any desire or interest in following professional football, in part, when the sports pundits shifted their focus and conversations from the game on the field to the issue of kneeling during the National Anthem. Colin Kaepernick is the primary face of this kneeling controversy. While there were other players who participated at different times in kneeing or remaining seated during the National Anthem, Kaepernick is by far the most recognizable participant.

This is not a discussion on the political correctness or incorrectness of not standing for the National Anthem. This is a discussion of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution as it relates to free speech. One of the prevalent discussions during the Kaepernick controversy was his “right” not to stand during the National Anthem. To paraphrase a consistent theme projected by those in the sports media and more mainstream news outlets, we have free speech in this country, and he has a right not to stand during the National Anthem. In one respect, this is true. He does have the right to kneel during the National Anthem, but he also may suffer any consequences from team ownership because this is an action that is not protected by the First Amendment.

We don’t really have total free speech in this country. What we have, at best, is limited free speech. You cannot go into a crowded room and yell, “Fire!” You cannot use language that is designed to induce panic. You cannot burn a cross in the yard of an African American. You cannot use “fighting words.” One does not have an unfettered right of free speech in the United States.

The Bill of Rights is the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution. James Madison wrote these amendments, which list specific prohibitions on government power. These amendments were added to provide greater constitutional protection for individual liberties. What does the Constitution protect you from?  The Bill of Rights protects individual liberties from unlawful governmental intrusion.

The First Amendment states, in part ”. . . Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” Keep in mind that speech, in this case, is not limited to the uttered word. The United States Supreme Court has included symbolic free speech as an area protected by the First Amendment. In Cohen v. California (1971), the Court ruled that the First Amendment prevented the conviction of Paul Robert Cohen for the crime of disturbing the peace by wearing a jacket displaying the phrase, “Fuck the Draft,” in the public corridors of a California courthouse. In Texas v. Johnson (1989), the Court invalidated a Texas statute that prohibited the burning of the American flag, stating the burning of the flag was protected free speech under the First Amendment.  The Court issued a similar ruling on the federal statute prohibiting flag burning in United States v. Eichman (1990).  These are examples of symbolic free speech. In 1968, the International Olympic Committee suspended Tommie Smith and John Carlos for raising a black gloved fist during the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Avery Brundage, the president of the International Olympic Committee, interpreted this action to be a domestic political statement unfit for the apolitical, international forum of the Olympic games. As such, he suspended Smith and Carlos, banned them from further participation in the Olympics and ordered their removal from the Olympic Village. Granted, this took place in Mexico City, clearly outside of the jurisdiction of the United States Constitution, but it is an example of consequences that may arise when issues of speech are not protected by the First Amendment.

So why is the Kaepernick debacle not a First Amendment issue? It’s very simple. There was no unlawful intrusion by the government.  You can utter the same statement to two different people and obtain radically different results. For example, you get pulled over by a police officer and are issued a ticket for speeding. When the officer hands you your ticket, you respond by saying, “Kiss my ass!” Under most circumstances, provided you have not threatened the officer or raised your interaction to a level consistent with disturbing the peace, you will not be arrested for your comment. Should you be arrested, the arrest would be an unlawful intrusion by the government because this is protected free speech. Should you be called into your boss’s office for a personnel review and at the end of your review you tell your boss, “Kiss my ass!” there is a good chance you will be fired. You may have some protections in this event, but a First Amendment protection is clearly not one of them.

When you look at events like those surrounding Colin Kaepernick, ask yourself a couple questions: Was there intrusion by the government? And if so, was this intrusion unlawful? Answers to these may clear up a substantial amount of misconception concerning issues of free speech and First Amendment protection in this country.

Perceptual Biases in Policing

There have been a number of incidents where unarmed Black men have been shot by White police officers. These incidents have led to a number of assumptions, up to and including the suggestion that policing in America is racist. While this deduction is clearly unsubstantiated, the issue does warrant closer examination.

Recent data indicate that Black males are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than White males. A 2017 research article, “Racial Bias in Judgements of Physical Size and Formidability: From Size to Threat,” published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, addresses why some of these events may have occurred. The article suggests that Black men are stereotyped as threating, which may be causing a disproportionate targeting by police even when the victim is unarmed. Prior research suggests a stereotype of young Black men as physically threatening, less innocent, and perhaps even physically “superhuman.” These stereotypes may create conditions where the police officer has a distorted perception of a Black man’s physical size and formidability. The officer may perceive danger when, in fact, none exists. These perceptions have been demonstrated in shooting simulations where unarmed Black men were shot.

This research also found that people have a predisposition to perceive young Black men as bigger (taller, heavier, more muscular) and more physically threatening (stronger, more capable of harm) than young White men. This can easily be seen in the differences of the physical descriptions given by police officers who have shot unarmed Black males and the descriptions in the medical examiners’ findings. Furthermore, research conducted in 1982 suggests that racial differences in formidability judgments are a product of bias rather than accuracy. Biased formidability judgments in turn promoted participants’ justifications of hypothetical use of force against Black suspects of crime. Thus, perceivers appear to integrate multiple pieces of information to ultimately conclude that young Black men are more physically threatening than young White men, and, therefore, must be controlled using more aggressive measures.

An interesting twist: this research was not conducted using police officers. It was conducted using randomly selected White males and White females. Considering that 80% of police officers in the United States are White, and the hiring process for police officers selects “out” candidates and does not select “in” candidates, the individuals used in this research are actually representative of a police officer.

This research suggests that police officers commonly make decisions to shoot, not on whether the suspect was armed, but based on how large and physically formidable they perceive the suspect, and how this formidability may translate into potential danger.

I was still a patrol officer in 1982 when a research article was published that identified a bias in perceptions for physical formidability and threat posed by Black men and boys. I was never exposed to this physical formidability information in any in-service training, nor in any command decision training as a police chief, nor in any training materials as a field training officer or as a police academy instructor. The last basic police academy class I taught was in 2016. This poses a series of questions, like what happened to this data? Has this information ever been reviewed for use in a training format? In this day and age of interactive police training, has this bias been built into training scenarios? Has this information made it out of the academic journals and into the real world of police training? Why are we not using this information to better police training?

For the most part, I find theoretical research in criminal justice generally and in policing specifically as simply an academic exercise (and I have been there and done that). These findings on size and formidability as they relate to threat perception should be integrated into police training at all levels. This clearly has the potential to reduce officer involved shootings based on a racial bias.

Mental Illness and Gun Control

In the wake the recent push to blame mass shootings on something, the focus on mental illness, mental health and gun control has come into prominence. So just what is mental illness? The American Psychiatric Association defines mental illness as, “health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.”The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines mental illness as, “a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood. Such conditions may affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day. Each person will have different experiences, even people with the same diagnosis.” The Mayo Clinic defines mental illness, also called mental health disorders, as, “a wide range of mental health conditions-disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors.”Medline Plus defines mental disorders (or mental illnesses) as, “conditions that affect your thinking, feeling, mood, and behavior. They may be occasional or long-lasting (chronic). They can affect your ability to relate to others and function each day.”  Using any of these definitions, someone who has been married more than one time could be diagnosed as “mentally ill” because of the inability to relate to others. Military veterans with PTSD would, by definition, be mentally ill. Bear in mind, military veterans are actively recruited to work for police departments. In fact, veterans’ preference points are used as a recruitment incentive into a job where they are given guns. When you fill out the questionnaire for the doctor and you answer yes to the question about ever feeling depressed, you could be diagnosed as mentally ill.

So how are shootings, particularly mass shootings, and mental illness related? First off, we need to define mass shooting. A good working definition of a mass shooting is “an event where three or more people are shot in one incident, at one location, at roughly the same time, excluding gang-related and drug-related shootings.” On 08/14/2019, six police officers were woulded in a stand-off in Philadelphia when police tried to serve a warrant. In 2018 Philadelphia experienced 351 homicides. On 08/04/2019, 10 people were killed in a shooting in Dayton, Ohio. In 2017, Dayton experienced 30 homicides. On 08/03/2019, 22 people were killed in a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.  In 2018, El Paso experienced 23 homicides. Washington D.C. experienced 159 homicides in 2018, an increase of 40%. In 2018, Chicago experienced 561 homicides, which is down 100 from 2017. Detroit experienced 261 homicides in 2018, down from 267 in 2017. New Orleans experienced 146 homicides in 2018, down from 157 in 2017 and 174 in 2016.  Baltimore experienced 309 homicides in 2018, down from 342 in 2017. Miami experienced 51 homicides in 2018, down from 59 in 2017.

How does all of this relate to mental illness? There is a movement afoot by politicians that suggests the mass shootings are perpetrated by the mentally ill. Even President Trump targeted mental illness as the cause of the mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso. It is easy to say that someone who kills a lot of people must be mentally ill. The Japanese Kamikaze pilots of WW2 were not considered mentally ill when they flew their aircrafts into American warships in an effort to win the war. As a matter of fact, it was a great honor to die for the Fatherland as a Kamikaze pilot. Nobody has suggested the 09/11 terrorists were mentally ill when they flew passenger aircraft into the World Trade Center. There are some who even believe that these terrorists died as martyr’s and were rewarded for their actions. Soldiers in combat who kill the enemy are not considered mentally ill. They are considered heroes.

What is unique about killing three victims that does not apply to killing only one? Why must the single shooter in Dayton be mentally ill when those that committed the 30 homicides in Dayton in 2017 are not? So, if those who perpetrate homicides are mentally ill, then the standard for criminal culpability must designate these people unfit to stand trial. The M’Naghten rule, which is the standard in for measuring competency to stand trial, states, “at the time of committing the act, the accused was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing or, if he did know it, that he did not know what he was doing was wrong.” Using the previously discussed definitions of mental illness, someone who commits a homicide would clearly be laboring under a defect of reason and, therefore, unable to stand trial.

So just how are mass shootings and mental illness related? Or are they? Furthermore, is the mere suggestion of a link that does not clearly exist an attempt to legislate gun control? In an August 22, 2019 article titled, “New York’s ‘Redflag’ Gun-Control Measure Goes into Effect this Weekend,” the New York Postoutlined the new gun control measure: “Petitioners must provide evidence that individuals own, possess or have access to a firearm and pose a threat to themselves or others. Applications will be heard and a decision to move forward with a hearing will be made on the same day a petition is filed. If a person is found ‘likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to himself, herself, or others,’ a temporary ‘extreme-risk protection order’ can be immediately issued, effectively blocking the individual from firearm possession or purchase, according to the legislation. Such an order would allow law enforcement to immediately remove any guns from the person’s home.” A mere subtle change in the definition of mental illness could have a wide range of unintended consequences.

I am not suggesting that we do not have a mental illness problem in this country, because we surely do. Newsone.compublished an article in 2013 by Michael Arceneaux that led with, “The three largest mental health providers in the nation are the following jails: Cook County in Illinois, Los Angeles County and Rikers Island in New York.” What I am suggesting is that we exercise caution when linking mental illness to mass shootings. There are always unintended consequences. Poorly drafted mental illness legislation, in an attempt to legislate gun control, could lead to those who truly need help not to seek it in fear of government reprisals. An article published in 2017 by Leah Samuel on Statnews.comclaims, “Medicine is grappling with rising levels of physician burnout, one of the factors driving high rates of depression and suicide in the profession. But physicians who suffer from mood disorders are often reluctant to seek treatment — in part because it might jeopardize their license to practice.” Two-thirds of U.S. states ask doctors the broad form of mental health question, “Are you currently diagnosed with a mental health condition?”  This interrogative is included despite the fact that groups including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the Federation of State Medical Boards recommend against asking such a generalized question. The suggestion is that DOCTORS are foregoing treatment for fear of losing their license.  Food for thought.

 

Do We Need Diversity in Congress?

There have been numerous posts, articles, and comments on Muslims in Congress. While I clearly understand the phobia behind these comments, I have to wonder, historically, what are the truths behind these fears. 

This country was founded on immigration. If it wasn’t, you would not be reading this commentary in the language it is written. This country was settled by immigrants who were seeking freedom from a variety of persecutions, including religious persecution. While we were founded on immigration, we have never been overly inclusive or accepting. Our founding fathers nearly decimated an entire indigenous people.  Our founding fathers also brought slaves and the slave trade to this country. The phrase “Chinaman’s chance in Hell” is the result of the White construction manager’s placing no value on the life of a Chinese laborer during the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.  Among the more dangerous duties the Chinese were given was the task of placing nitroglycerin charges, a job that had a very high mortality rate. As late as the 19th and early 20th centuries one could see signs that read, “No Irish Need Apply.”  For those of you old enough to remember and for those of you who aren’t, when John Kennedy ran for President of the United States in 1960-61, there was a real fear of a Catholic in the White House. The paranoia was that the Pope eventually would be running the country. To date, Kennedy is the only Catholic ever elected President, and he was assassinated while in office in 1963. 

How many of these paranoias have panned out? The indigenous people of this country are no longer being persecuted; as a matter of fact, some of the most profitable casinos are owned by Native American tribes. The persecution of Blacks in this country has abated. If you truly think Blacks are still being persecuted, read a previous blog entitled, “Is the Criminal Justice System Racists?” The Irish and Chinese have assimilated into our population as have most other immigrant peoples who came to this country for a better life. The Catholic paranoia in Congress seems to have abated, as approximately 30% of the 116th Congress members are Catholic. 

Women were not readily included in our culture in the early history of the United States. They couldn’t own property, they were very limited in what jobs they could hold, and they didn’t get the right to vote until 1920 — 52 years after slaves (males) were given the right to vote in 1868. Now I am not suggesting that Blacks effectively had the right to vote in 1868, but the language of the 14th Amendment granted that right, which was more than White women had at that time. These are just a few examples of our history of lack of inclusion. 

So, this brings us to today. Social media is awash with anti-sentiment directed towards the two Muslim Congresswomen in the 116th Congress. First term Congresswoman Iinan Omar is very outspoken and wears a traditional Hijab. First term Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib is also outspoken but does not wear traditional Muslim female head covering. Lumped in this group is first term Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio Cortez. Some social media postings have identified her as Muslim, also. 

What is the problem that has caused these women to be targets, not only in social media, but also from within Republican leadership? Is it the fact that they are Muslim? Cortez is clearly not, she is Catholic. Five-term Congressman Andre Carson from Indiana is also Muslim, but you don’t hear anything about him, either now or in his past five re-election campaigns. Is it the fact that Omar wears a traditional Muslim headpiece? This is an expression of her faith. How is this different from a Catholic wearing a cross or a Jew wearing a yarmulke? Is it because these Congresswomen are outspoken? Is it because these women are first term Congressional members and have not paid their dues? Is it because they are female? Is it because they are Democrats? Is it because they are different? Or, is it because they are all of the above?

These are all questions of introspection. You, gentle reader, must make a value judgement. You make them all the time. Every time you process a piece of information, you make a judgement. Do you have to justify your judgement? NO! You just have to live with it.

If we want our Country’s leadership to continue as it has for the past 200 years or so, then we don’t need any diversity. If we want our country’s direction to be driven by old White guys, then we don’t need any diversity. If we want women to be seen but not heard and kept at home, barefoot and pregnant, then we don’t need any diversity. Data from 2012 indicates that Whites made up approximately 63% of the U.S. population, followed by Hispanics at approximately 17% and Blacks at approximately 13%. The United States is 51% female, but women comprise only 25% of the Senate and only 23% of the House. Women hold more seats in the House and Senate than ever before. Minorities have made advances in the electorate at both the State and Federal levels. There is no reason to believe this trend will not continue. 

We, as human beings, are the aggregate of our life’s experiences. These experiences influence how we approach any situation, which includes our thought process and our decision-making process. Prejudice is learned. There is no prejudice gene. Prejudice is rooted in fear. What we as individuals should do first is to address our own fears and stop blaming what happens on someone else. Maybe then we could move forward as a society. 

 

What Happens When the Police Stop Responding?

What are you going to do when the police don’t come? This seems like more of a rhetorical question than one that needs to be answered, but what would you do? There seems to be a pendulum swinging toward forcing the police to be kinder and gentler. This sounds good until you think about what it is that they do and the consequences of them not doing it. But that can’t happen . . . right? Or can it?

In May 2018, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law a ban on high-capacity magazines. This legislation defined a high-capacity magazine as a direct-feed magazine designed to hold more than 10 rounds. An exception to this ban had to do with on-duty police officers. However, an unintended consequence of the law was that it limited off-duty police officers, including those going to and from work, from carrying their pistols loaded.

Rachael Rollins was recently elected as Suffolk County’s (Boston MA) District Attorney. She has published a list of 15 charges for which she will decline to prosecute. These include trespassing, theft under $250.00, receiving stolen property, drug possession with intent to distribute, threats (including domestic violence), and resisting arrest.

In 2016 the Chicago Police Department and the Illinois ACLU reached an agreement to reform what the ACLU described as unconstitutional stop-and-frisk practices. The results of said agreement were an 82% decrease in street stops (which are undercover officers identifying suspicious individuals and stopping them) and a 58% increase in the homicide rate. “If nothing else,” Paul Cassell, a law professor, and Richard Fowles, an economics professor, write in their new paper, their statistical analysis “provide[s] strong evidence of a ‘discernible link’ between declining stop and frisks and the tragic spike in homicides in Chicago throughout 2016.”

The New Hampshire legislature currently is considering a bill that would revoke the legal authority law enforcement officers have to use using deadly force during an arrest. Supporters of the bill suggest they are not trying to tie the hands of the police, but rather to save lives.

In California, lawmakers will consider “The Police Accountability and Community Protection Act” (AB-931) which would raise the current guideline from “reasonable force” to “necessary force,” requiring officers take deadly action “only when it is necessary to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death” and, if given all circumstances, there was no reasonable alternative. This legislation provides for a retrospective review of police use of deadly force, which appears to be counter to Graham v. Connor, in which the United States Supreme Court ruled police use of deadly force must be examined through the lens of the police officer at the time.

All of these legislative reactions to public outcries put the police, as well as the community, at an increased risk. So what happens when the police become strictly reactive, where they only respond when requested to do so? What happens when the police increase their response time so that the perpetrator has time to leave the scene? What happens when the police drive by, don’t stop, and don’t get out of the car to investigate?

One may think that the police have to respond. One may think the police have a duty to protect. This is not the case. The United States Supreme Court has consistently ruled that the police have “no duty” to an individual citizen. In Warren v. District of Columbia (1981),the Court ruled, “official police personnel and the government employing them are not generally liable to victims of criminal acts for failure to provide adequate police protection.” In an oft cited companion case, Nicol, the Court ruled, “the fundamental principle that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen.” In Trautman v. City of Stamford (1975), the Court found no special duty was owed the plaintiff, “the allegations of the instant case nowhere assert any conduct directed specifically by the defendant police officers toward the plaintiff individually.”  In Henderson v. City of St. Petersburg (1971), the Court found the police have no special duty to protect an individual citizen unless a special duty has arisen.

The Court has without exception concluded that when a municipality or other governmental entity undertakes to furnish police services, it assumes a duty only to the public at large and not to individual members of the community.

Job requirements change. When I first started policing, we didn’t carry rubber gloves or use pocket masks because we never considered there to be fatal diseased you could catch. We weren’t required to wear seatbelts. We didn’t have body cameras. But the job changes. So, what are you going to do when the police don’t come?

In the eyes of the law, the police are really “crime accountants.” Their job is to observe the aftermath of crimes and record what happened. If they arrive in time and if they feel so inclined, they can lend a hand. But that’s up to them. Citizens have neither the right to police help nor to recourse when it is refused.

Assault Rifle: Myth or Reality

There has been a lot of rhetoric concerning “assault” rifles and their deadly effect. There is no doubt that an “assault” rifle in the hands of someone who knows how to use it can be devastating. All one needs to do is refer to the military for confirmation. There seems to be a question regarding the definition of an “assault” rifle. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF&E) is responsible for identifying weaponry for which the civilian possessor must have a tax stamp. These include the M-2 carbine, the M-14, the AK 47 assault rifle, and the M-16. These weapons have the very distinct characteristic in that they all can be fired as fully automatic.

It may be a good thing here to define the terms “fully automatic” and “semi-automatic.” For the purposes of this discussion, we will use the terms “trigger press” and “trigger pull” interchangeably. A “fully automatic” weapon can expel all rounds in the magazine or clip with one press of the trigger. A “semi-automatic” weapon can expel only one round with each press of the trigger. For example, if you have a “fully automatic” weapon with a 30-round magazine, all of the rounds can be expelled with one press of the trigger.  For a “semi-automatic” weapon to expel 30 rounds, the shooter must press the trigger 30 times.

Let’s do some math. An AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle. A thirty-round magazine provides the shooter with essentially thirty rounds of a .223 caliber projectile (essentially the same as a .22). One trigger press equals one .22 caliber round sent down range. A 12-gauge shotgun round loaded with .00 buckshot holds between eight and twelve .32 caliber projectiles. What this means is with every trigger press of the 12-gauge shotgun, between eight and twelve .32 caliber projectiles are sent down range. To sum up so far, an AR-15 can send one .22 caliber round down range per trigger press while a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with .00 buckshot can send eight to twelve .32 caliber projectiles down range per trigger press.

Let’s expand this a bit. A 12-gauge shotgun round loaded with #4 buckshot will hold between 18 and 24 .25 caliber projectiles. With every press of the trigger, between 18 and 24 .25 caliber projectiles are sent down range. Compare this to an AR-15 which will send one .223 caliber projectile down range with each trigger press.  Some blog sites suggest that #1 buckshot is the most effective home defense round. This is a 12-gauge shotgun round that holds between 16 and 20 .30 caliber projectiles. Again, with each press of the trigger of the 12-gauge shotgun, between 16 and 20 .30 caliber projectiles are sent down range as compared to the AR-15 which can only send one .223 caliber round down range per trigger press.

Let’s expand our math lesson.  A magazine for an AR-15 typically holds either 15 or 30 rounds. You can get larger capacity magazines, but our focus here is what is more often purchased over the counter. Focusing on the 15-round magazine, the shooter can send a total of 15 .22 caliber projectiles down range. A typical 12-gauge “semi-automatic” shotgun (or a pump-action shotgun) will hold between 6 and 8 rounds. Every time the shooter presses the trigger on an AR-15, one .223 caliber projectile goes down range. Every time the shooter presses the trigger on a 12-gauge shotgun, a much larger number of projectiles go down range. With .00 buck, it is between 8 and 12 .32 caliber projectiles, with #4 buck it is between 8 to 24 .25 caliber projectiles, and with #1 buck it is 16 to 20 .30 caliber projectiles.

Table 1

Weapon # of Rounds # of Projectiles Caliber # of projectiles in a 15 round magazine
AR-15 1 1 0.223 15
00 Buck 1 8-12 0.32 120-180
#1 Buck 1 16-20 0.3 240-300
#4 Buck 1 18-24 0.25 270-360

There is a distinct advantage of an AR-15 over a shotgun, that being projectile distance.  An AR-15 can typically shoot farther. As a combat gun, the shotgun is much more devastating in close quarters, meaning within a 75-yard range. However, with limited exceptions, the shotgun is considered a hunting weapon while the AR-15 is more often depicted as an “assault” rifle. This is merely form over function. Some media outlets and certain politicians have portrayed the AR-15 as an “assault” rifle. Some of these same media outlets and politicians have portrayed the AR-15 as an “automatic” rifle. Clearly, neither is the case.

A February 2017 article published on Outdoorlife.comreported that the Associate Deputy Director of the ATF&E, Ronald Turk, “identified ‘assault weapons’ as a politically contrived term with no real meaning.” However, many media zealously have embraced the term, “assault weapon,” which has now become a term both of substance and of reality. The media’s dysfunctional use of the term, “assault rifle,” is literally anything that looks like its military version.

There does not seem to be much discussion regarding hunting rifles that chamber a .223 round, like the AR-15. Some of these rifles are tube fed or magazine fed, with some able to hold numerous rounds. There is no discussion on banning these weapons. There is no discussion on banning 12-gauge shotguns, which can be infinitely more devastating than the AR-15. There is no doubt that a weapon in the hands of someone who knows how to use it can be devastating, be it an AR-15, a 12-gauge shotgun, a crossbow, or a broadsword.

It is imperative to understand the role of the media in these discussions. Their primary function is to sell their product (i.e. getting more subscribers or viewers). This is why the evening news starts with teasers that generally are events of a tragic nature. The lead-in might refer to a residential break-in as a “robbery” because the term “burglary” does not sell well, while “robbery” does. When was the last time you saw a news teaser that was something positive or uplifting? That does not sell: fear sells.

So, when you hear the media or a politician talk about “assault” weapons, remember the facts of firepower. Remember that the media manufactured the term. Remember that they are not interested in educating you. Their interests are in making money by getting you to watch or to read their product. Mark Twain once said, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

The Electoral College: What Has Changed?

I have read with some interest comments regarding the electoral college and the role it plays in the election process for the President of the United States. It seems that there are those who believe the President should be elected by popular vote, and when the nominee who received the most votes does not win, that candidate was cheated. When this has happened in the recent past, there has been a hue and cry to do away with the electoral college. My question is, what has changed? The United States has never elected a President by popular vote. Again, what has changed? The electoral college has been in use since 1787. Again, what has changed? There are few instances where the nominee who won the Presidential election did not also win the popular vote. Again, what has changed?

Contrary to the belief of some, the United States of American is NOT a democracy. It never has been. We have, in the United States, what is known as a Constitutionally Limited Federal Republic. We have a Constitution that limits the control our representatives have over the people. A “Federal Republic” is a form of government where the people elect representatives to make the governmental decisions including writing laws, controlling the budget, and making foreign policy. We, the people, entrust our elected legislators to conduct the business of State. The general population does not vote on each and every piece of proposed legislation.

The method for electing the President dates back to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. There were several alternative methods proposed for electing the President.  These included selection by Congress, selection by the governors of each state, selection by the legislatures, selection by a special group of Members of Congress, and selection by popular vote. The Electoral College system was devised by the Committee of Eleven on Postponed Matters and was approved by the Constitutional Convention delegates. The purpose of the Electoral College system was to reconcile differing state and federal interests, to provide a degree of popular participation in the election, to give the less populous states some additional leverage in the process, to preserve the presidency as independent of Congress, and to attempt to insulate the election process from political manipulation.

The Constitution gave each state a number of electors equal to the combined total of its membership in the Senate (two to each state, the “senatorial” electors) and its delegation in the House of Representatives (currently ranging from one to 52 members). The electors are chosen by the states “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct” (U.S. Constitution, Article II, section 1).

During a Presidential election, the voters are actually voting for presidential electors. These electors make up the Electoral College. It is these electors who actually elect the President. The only persons prohibited from serving as electors are Senators, Representatives, and persons holding executive appointments. The electors meet in their respective states and cast their ballots as state units. This was implemented in an attempt to prevent manipulation of the process. A majority of electoral votes is necessary to elect. This was intended to insure a broad acceptance of the winning candidate.  In the event of an Electoral College tie, election by the House of Representatives is the default method of election. The only major change to the original Electoral College process was the ratification of the 12thAmendment in 1804. This Amendment enacted separate ballots for President and Vice President, with electors casting a single vote for each office.

The number of electoral votes allotted to each state may change based on the census conducted every ten years. This reapportionment process, which reallocates the number of members of the House of Representatives, reflects the changes in a particular state’s population, may increase or decrease the number of electoral votes as the population of a particular state increases or decreases.

The Electoral College process has changed very little since the ratification of the Constitution in 1787. There have been five Presidential elections where a nominee won the popular vote but lost the election: the elections of 1824, of 1876, of 1888, of 2000 and most recently, of 2016. There have been 58 Presidential elections in the history of the United States. In 53 of these 58 elections (91%) the nominee who won the popular vote also won the election.

So again, what has changed? To answer my own question, nothing has changed, except maybe some people’s understanding and appreciation for our election process. I guess Civics class was important in high school after all.

The 2nd Amendment

I have been a member of the National Rifle Association off and on for about 40 years. I would let my membership expire periodically because of philosophical differences, then I would renew my membership for the same reasons. While I do like my handguns and do support the 2ndAmendment, I am by no means a fanatic. I like to shoot and have shot for a long time. I do carry a concealed weapon as per the Law Enforcement Officer’s Safety Act. I carry it for my protection.  There has been a lot of discussion regarding the 2nd Amendment, particularly when there is an event that focuses on guns: owning guns and using guns. Hopefully, I can add to the discussion in a meaningful way.

It has never been the government’s responsibility to protect the citizenry. As a matter of fact, it is the citizenry’s responsibility to protect themselves, primarily from an oppressive government. This was a founding premise of the 2nd Amendment. The 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Second Amendment discussions seem to focus on the definition of the term, “well regulated.” Well regulated by whom or what seems to be the crux of any 2nd Amendment conversation.

To get a clear understanding of what the Founding Fathers intended when the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, was ratified, we need to re-examine the political climate of the time. The colonies ended an armed revolution from a tyrannical English government in 1776. England attempted to impose the Crown will by using the most powerful and highly trained standing army of the time. The Founding Fathers did not want the centralized power to lie with the Federal Government. The Founding Fathers constructed a Constitution that guaranteed the right of the citizenry to “keep and bear arms” as a check and balance on the standing army which the Constitution gave the Congress the power to “raise and support.” In addition, the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) was included as an additional level of protection for individual private rights. These Amendments were designed to be a series of “shall nots,” telling the government again, in no uncertain terms, where it could not tread.  “In keeping with the intent and purpose of the Bill of Rights, both of declaring individual rights and proscribing the powers of the national government, the use and meaning of the term ‘Militia’ in the Second Amendment, which needs to be ‘well Regulated,’ helps explain what ‘well regulated’ meant.  When the Constitution was ratified, the Framers unanimously believed that the ‘militia’ included all of the people capable of bearing arms” (Emphasis added). A “well regulated” militia was a check and balance against a tyrannical government seeking to use the military to keep the populace oppressed.1

So let’s fast forward to today. We, as a society, have put the burden for our existence on the government in an increasing fashion. We continue, in an ever increasing amount, to expect the government to provide for us. The government has attempted to accept this increased burden. My question is this: What is the government’s level of success?

The War on Drugs clearly has been an epic failure. The results of the War on Drugs is eerily similar to the results of Prohibition. Prohibition imbedded organized crime into this country and the War on Drugs, likewise, has embedded drug cartels and gangs into our nation. Neither the Volstead Act nor the plethora of legislations enacted to control drugs has had the desired effect. One unintended consequence of these two epic failures has been the demonstrated propensity for the use of violence. The police, clearly, have not been able effectively to address these issues and the military is expressly prohibited from being used in these circumstances.  The Posse Comitatus Act clearly stipulates that, “it shall not be lawful to employ any part of the Army of the United States, as a posse comitatus, or otherwise, for the purpose of executing the laws, except in such cases and under such circumstances as such employment of said force may be expressly authorized by the Constitution or by act of Congress.”2

A recent phenomenon is the increased number of mass shootings. We have experienced mass shootings in our schools, our churches, our theaters, and at concerts. Our police officers have been targeted for murder just for wearing the uniform. These brave defenders of “We the People” are themselves becoming targets and victims.

Let’s get one thing straight: it is not the job of the police to protect you. I know that on the side of some cruisers it says, “To protect and serve!”, but the reality is, if the police cannot protect themselves, how do you expect them to protect you? If the police were effective at protecting the people they serve, the murder rate would be zero because the police would be there to stop such crimes! There would be no traffic accidents because the police would be there to intervene prior. There would be no “drunk drivers” because the police would be there to make sure the intoxicated individuals did not get behind the wheels of their respective vehicles. Policing has always been and always will be reactive–something happens, and the police respond. So where does that leave us: the citizenry who are unintended victims (or maybe intended victims) of random and not-so-random violence; the silent majority who go about their everyday existence, but due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, don’t get to go home; the victimized citizenry, who, if they are lucky enough to survive a violent encounter, must wait for the police to respond? This leaves us exactly where it always leaves us, being responsible for our own protection and our own survival.

The 2ndAmendment stipulates that “We the People” must provide for our own protection. Again, when the Constitution was ratified, the Framers unanimously believed that the “militia” included all of the people capable of bearing arms” (Emphasis added). We all are capable of bearing arms, with limited exception. We all are members of the militia as designed and incorporated in the 2nd Amendment. Maybe what we need is less legislation attempting to skew the language of the Constitution and more enforcement of the Constitution as written.

As Mr. Schultz so eloquently stated, “It is an absolute truism that law-abiding, armed citizens pose no threat to other law-abiding citizens. The Framers’ writings show they also believed this. As we have seen, the Framers understood that ‘well regulated’ militias, that is, armed citizens, ready to form militias that would be well trained, self-regulated and disciplined, would pose no threat to their fellow citizens, but would, indeed, help to ‘insure domestic Tranquility’ and ‘provide for the common defense.’”1

1 Daniel J. Schultz, The Second Amendment: The Framer’s Intentions. (www.lectlaw.com/files/gun01.htm).

2 The Posse Comitatus Act. (18 U.S.C. § 1385).