Monthly Archives: December 2014

You Betrayed Them

I saw this article and it brought me to tears. Who betrayed those officers?

This House Is Our Home

police

I was driving to a Christmas party when my phone rang. I heard the words and my heart felt shattered. Every fear, every worry, every feeling of panic came rushing into my throat and I couldn’t stop it. I had to stop it. My babies were with me. I was about to meet new people and see old friends. It was a party. Everyone’s supposed to be happy. My heart felt ripped to shreds. I kept looking at my phone, even though I knew there would be nothing good to see. My face kept smiling, my mouth kept speaking but my heart was racing and the tears were always right beneath the surface.

Today it was them. You don’t know them. They’re just names to you. To some of you, they are symbols of heroism and honor, but to many of you they are symbols of “oppression” and “brutality.”

Today…

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This Chaplain’s take on the events in Cleveland

Warning: This is long.

Disclaimer: This is written as a perspective, not official guidance on the law or police procedures. If you have questions on your laws and ordinances, seek professional guidance. This article (nor its author) may not necessarily represent the opinions and thoughts of the Cleveland Police Department (or any of its members), or the City of Cleveland, or any agency the author is affiliated with.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, here is how I come to the following conclusions. I’ve been around public safety since 2008 and a Chaplain since 2012. I’ve spent over 500 hours in a police cruiser with police. I have been in situations that I thought I might have to use a weapon in defense, or almost hit by a passing car in traffic. I have not come to these conclusions lightly, but I have used my training and experiences, experiences that I know most people do not have or understand.

By now most of us have seen the video of the shooting of Tamir Rice in Cleveland on November 22, 2014. Two Cleveland police officers, Timothy Loehmann, 26, and Frank Garmback,46, responded after receiving a dispatch call describing a “young black male” brandishing a gun at people in a city park. The officers stated that during the confrontation, Rice reached towards a gun in his waistband. Loehmann fired two shots within two seconds of arriving on the scene, hitting Rice once in the torso.The gun turned out to be an Airsoft gun. Rice died the following day.

  1. He was pulling in and out of his waistband. You see in the video that he was clearly pointing this weapon at people. Those people may or may not have know that the gun was only an air soft gun.
  2. “Rice was just a child”. While Tamir was a child, and 12 years old, his appearance my not have made that easily identifiable. According to the autopsy, Tamir was 5:7 and weighed 195 pounds. Tamir’s appearance was “consistent with the reported age of 12 years old or older,” the autopsy said. I joined the military in 1995 at the height of 5:10 and 185 pounds. So even from up close, he may not have given the appearance of “a child”. In addition, the initial radio contact from the officers on scene was “Shots fired, male down, black male, maybe 20.”
  3. “Children can not be dangerous, especially to grown men”. This has been proven false numerous times. For example:
    This is roughly the age that gang involvement and initiations begin.
    12 Year old kills a homeless man in Florida.
    Boy, 12, stabbed baby brother to death.
    Boy, 12, charged with murder in playground stabbing.
    10-year-old boy confesses to killing 90-year-old woman.

    I could go on, but you see the point. Minors can definitely be dangerous. The other factor is this: If the minor has a weapon and knows how to use it, they are armed and dangerous. If they do not know how to use it, the weapon is still dangerous, because it can fire due to neglect or carelessness and hurt/kill anyone around them.

  4. “Killed because of a toy gun”. What people infer is that since we NOW KNOW that the gun was a Airsoft gun, the police did not have to shoot. While this statement is true, it is only true at face value. The officers were not aware that the gun was an Airsoft gun. Only after examined up close were they able to determine that fact. So based on the information they had, they thought someone was pointing a gun at people walking by. In Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989), the United States Supreme Court held that the “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. The Fourth Amendment “reasonableness” inquiry is whether the officers’ actions are “objectively reasonable” in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation. Pp. 490 U. S. 396-397.

    In an initial statement following the tragic incident, a Cleveland Police spokesperson said, “Upon arrival on scene, officers located the suspect and advised him to raise his hands. The suspect did not comply with the officers’ orders and reached to his waistband for the gun. Shots were fired and the suspect was struck in the torso.”

    So the point here is that given the information they had, did they do what a “reasonable” officer would do in the situation. Is it reasonable to shoot someone who attempts to go to their waistband for a gun? I would say “Yes it is”. Is it reasonable to do it when it is a child, even if it may be (or even looks fake)? I again would say it is. And while some would like to rush to judgement based on the facts as we know them now, the Graham v. Connor standard mandates that officers be judged on the information they have.

    I hope this article is informative and help put the Rice shooting in some perspective.

    If you are one of my LEO friends and you have additional thoughts, examples or clarification, please let me know and I’ll update the article.

Please distribute to all Police, Paramedic, Fire and Dispatch personnel – Merry Christmas 2014

First, I again want to say thank you to all the Chiefs, Sheriffs, Officers, Administrators, and fellow Chaplains who have made it possible for me to distribute this message.

I wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. For those of you in stations or cars working during the holidays, we appreciate the sacrifices you and your family are making while ensuring our safety and security. It does not go unappreciated or unnoticed.

If anything marks the holidays, it’s a sense of gratitude (hopefully). I know that we sometimes see the worst that society has to offer, and the holidays may seem like anything but gratitude. But what I’m coming to know more and more as I get older, that gratitude can be anywhere, and will be there when you least expect it. Sometimes you just have to know where to look. Just like most people, I can get disappointed, agitated, disillusioned, or just plan cynical. Sometimes we have bad days. Today, as I write this email, it was a bad day for me. Horrible really. But then took time to read a card I got in the mail. It was from a dispatcher far away from where I live who read my email and took the time to reply and it turned my day around (and if that person reads this before you get my reply, it is coming!).

So what do we do when we get to the end of the year and our “tank is empty” so to speak?

  1. Count your blessings  – A wise person challenged me to do a gratitude jar recently. So you get this jar and every time something good happens to you, you scribble it down and put it in the jar. Someone buy your lunch? Out it in the jar. Someone shook your hand at the gas station? Put it in the jar. Find a $5 bill in a parking lot? Put it in the jar. Then when you have those bad days, look at the jar. Maybe even read some. Use than money to buy your lunch.
  2. Open your eyes – If you tell me nothing good ever happens to you, or that no one ever cares, I challenge you to look closer. It might not happen every day but I bet that more happens than we notice! And the mid has a funny way of working. If you start noticing even the small things over the next few weeks, guess what will happen. You will see more good things than before.
  3. Don’t wait for big things – Some people wait forever for their “ship to come in” and it never does, so they get disillusioned. Life is too short. Take note of the small things. If you wait your whole life to win the lottery, you will be passing up so many good things that others would give anything for.
  4. Have “A Person” – Have someone in your life that can call you out when you are in a dark place. I have a few that can do that. When I start the “woe is me” they get to tell me what I am failing to see. Let me be honest, no one likes being called out. But it just might help you see how good things really are.

In closing, I know that some of you think that this is all crazy. You “live in the real world”. Maybe you don’t see anything good in your life right now. Just give what I said a try. What do you have to lose? If I’m wrong then all you are out is a few minutes and a dollar for a jar. But, if I’m right, you can be happier this time next year.

During the holidays, I always put in this information, because I know that someone may need it. The holidays are meant to be times of joy, happiness, time with those we love and hope. While it can produce stress for even the best of us, for some of you can be a time of sadness, frustration or depression. It can be hard to balance out what you have to deal with and still know that there are great people in society as well. I also know that it’s hard for us to reach out sometimes (and I’m no exception to this rule). If you find yourself struggling in this holiday season, don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance. Your departments may have Employee Assistance Care, Chaplains, Chiefs, and any other Supervisor available for help. There is also other Clergy and/or even friends for guidance and assistance should you need it. My phone is always on and I’ll make myself available to help you in any way that I can. Call us, grab us after roll call, send an email. Reach out if you need to.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and best wishes for 2015. I’ve said it before and will say it again, you all are heroes. I don’t know how often you hear it, but I’m certain it’s not nearly enough.

Thoughts from Doc – Video recording Police

Disclaimer: This is written as a perspective, not official guidance on the law or police procedures. If you have questions on your laws and ordinances, seek professional guidance. This article, or my views, may not necessarily represent the opinions and thoughts of any agency that I (the author) is affiliated with. They are strictly my own. Any real-life scenario will have any information withheld that would be considered confidential or identifying information.


I just wanted to come out and post a few quick thoughts on recording the police. Some people (including anti-cop groups) are encouraging everyone to  “record all contact with police.”  Here is my thoughts about that.

One face value (and some of my LEO friends may disagree), I don’t see a problem with it being recorded. When I think back on my experience (almost 500 hours inside a police car), the overwhelming majority of that time would not reveal anything wrong, or improper. It would show that the overwhelming majority of that time the officers have been professional, dedicated, courteous, and accommodating (even to those who were placed under arrest). But it’s not the majority that these folks are after, and quite frankly I don’t think that they care. I’ll give you a personal example.

Scenario: I am with a police department who gets a call for a missing child. We catch the suspect who is extremely uncooperative with officers. He admits to maybe knowing where the child is located, but is belligerent to anyone talking to him.

So , had this entire thing been recorded, what would they have seen? Was the suspect handled rough? Was he treated graciously? In the real life case he was treated kind, far better than I think he deserved. But it could just as easily go the other way. If the officer didn’t guide his head properly and he hit his head on the door, you become an internet sensation. “Officer XYZ when talking to this helpless teen bashed his head on the side of the car. #StopAbusiveCops.” What if it was very hot or cold and you left him outside so you could talk to him and not break your neck trying to turn around in the cramped car? “Officer XYZ leave defenseless young man in the hot sun for hours while questioning him. #StopPoliceBrutality”

See a problem there? Out of a hour or so incident, someone took 5 seconds to prove their own agenda that all cops are bad, and that police brutality is intolerable. Then we all get to see that picture on the internet a thousand times. And does that cop have any recourse? Can he stop the flow of misinformation? And taken out of it’s context, you have “proof” of brutality that doesn’t really exist when it’s viewed in context.

I know some of you are saying “That doesn’t happen” or  “You are minimizing the significance of the proof”. I’m not saying that every cop is perfect, that brutality doesn’t exist, or that there are no bad cops out there. What I am saying is this: I don’t object to anyone videoing the interaction. What I object to is the ability to throw a 30 second video or a couple of pictures taken completely out of context. In addition to that, where is the right of the office to face his accusers? Where is the right of the suspect for fair treatment (I mean, the suspect may not want that picture/video out either)? And on the flip side, what if we recorded you at your job? Do you always give 100% all day, every day? Because that one time you don’t, I’ll make sure all your friends and family (and boss) see you sleeping on the job, shopping online, or sticking that pencil in your pocket.

Fairness, and context is all I ask.