I spent a good deal of time yesterday pondering what i could ask for in legislation, in reporting to help address excessive force applied by the police.
What do enforcement officials have to fear? I found that at least five California law enforcement officials have lot their life in the line of duty this year by reviewing the CA DOJ website: there's a press release from the Attorney General with condolences. Only one ends with, "His tragic death is a stark reminder of the danger our brave men and women in law enforcement face every day to keep our communities safe." That officer was ambushed as described in this recent article about Mendocino county NOT militarizing.
I've not tracked down the other deaths, but there are ways to die in the line of police duty that do not involve the bad guys bringing officers down in a gun battle. LA cop Chris Cortijo: motorcycle was hit in a DUI. (I'm not sure how to think about that one: will citizenry support "The car was weaving around and that's a lethal weapon, so we shot him as a danger to us all.") LA cop Roberto Sanchez was another vehicular death.
OK, that's three of the five. The other two deaths were CHP officers... single vehicle crash.
I'm sensing a theme.
So, reading that, and yet getting the sense that police are fearful of highly armed bad guys (at this point, perhaps insert cogent observations about the highly armed 4th amendment folks), i wonder at the fear vs the reality.
I wonder how often police are wounded vs died. I also ran across some number of weapons discharges by enforcement vs resulting deaths at the hands of the police: it seemed most ended in death.
What stats are out there? I didn't save where i saw the stat about weapons discharge. I did find this report about CHP: http://www.chp.ca.gov/programs/pdf/CALEA_2013.pdf and wanted to bang my head against a wall.
I've no idea how to compare the numbers.
Are the districts roughly equal in population? In number of officers?
The numbers are driven by complaints, but there's no way to judge the numbers. How many stops were made for what reason? How many folks were taken into custody? How many folks ended up in the hospital like Marlene Pinnock? (Video of beating easily accessible in twitter search for #MarlenePinnock) How many weapons discharges?
And that's the thing: Marlene Pinnock was called in as a pedestrian who was in distress. Yeah, walking by the highway is against the law, and yes, i admit that a pedestrian can cause harm to others. [long ramble deleted]
I think i might be able to pull a cogent letter to my state reps & governor asking what oversight there is and what review of stats like these are available, but it doesn't seem like there's a clear actionable "ask" at hand.
What should i ask my local law enforcement? The CATO institute explains some of the stop and frisk background (http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/stop-frisk-scandal concluding with a privileged POV "Well-to-do Americans do not realize it yet, but their right against unreasonable detentions is being trampled. They are oblivious because it’s been the minorities in the poorer sections of the city who have borne the brunt of expanding police powers.")
I'll note the incident of Tyler Harney of Los Altos Hills suffering a broken arm at the hands of Palo Alto officers isn't exactly about poorer sections and not well-to-do folks. There's no mention of race in the article, so many commenters clearly assume Harney is white. I think race is less certain to assume from the Los Altos Hills address than class or at least wealth.
Is the first question to ask, what oversight is going on? Write the city council and the police station? Let them know i care?
Meanwhile, reading about Ferguson now seems less about learning about what is experienced broadly in the US than about lousy or absent leadership.