Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: A Weird Day in the Hood

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  • BenWilson,

    Matthew, nothing in the Godwin Law says the comparison has to be to the other party. It's just a comparison of some kind, and that is exactly what I/S did. He compared the "Befehl ist befehl" defense used at Nuremberg, by Nazis, to what could be raised by some poor cop trying to save people's lives in NZ. In the context of the discussion that is precisely what he did. But why be pedantic? I already said that mentioning Godwin is not a refutation.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Just wanted to pop in and applaud Greg all the way back on page 1 for turning a crap afternoon into a slightly less crap one for a few people. That's so nice!

    stopping to ask three separate similar baby-carrying cars if I could help, by picking up something from the dairy or anything.

    If I'm ever trapped in traffic with a screaming baby, or (conveniently) pass someone trapped in traffic with a screaming baby, I hope I'd be as lucky or as kind. Interesting, the extremes of behaviour noted in Greg's account (the speeding nutter) and Russell's (the white van!), vs small acts of kindness.

    I find myself wondering what happened to that old bloke Russell saw. It's a horrible feeling when you see something you could possibly help with, but are unable to stop, or don't have your cellphone or a working knowledge of first aid.

    I'm also wondering how the police so succesfully diverted traffic that there was only one other car involved, by the end (apart from the truck and the van). Miracle there were no horrible crashes. Or were there?

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    McDonald was finally arrested, not shot dead. How were police able to do that? If lethal force was not used to "take him down" (euphemisms be damned - we mean kill him), then to what extent was it the best - or only - option?

    There is no lesser option available when a person has a firearm, at least as far as I'm concerned. Lethal force meets lethal force, and nothing less should be even considered. If it can be resolved without firing a shot, as happens most of the time, then excellent. If not, a Taser (being the next-best-thing to a gun in the police arsenal) isn't much use against someone who can kill you while they're still outside your range.

    The Police firearms regulations, specifically Standing Order F61 (of which I have a copy, but I'm not going to post it in full) state that use of lethal force is not acceptable once an offender ceases to pose a threat. In this case, the offender suffered shrapnel wounds of a nature severe enough to warrant surgery. That, quite likely, was what it took to get him to drop the rifle, or at least have him distracted long enough for a cop to tackle him. No longer a threat, lethal force no longer required.

    As far as your "kill him" bit goes, the police don't shoot to kill. They don't shoot to wound, either, but they don't shoot with the express intent of killing the subject. Death is an unfortunate, but likely, consequence of a hollow-point round being fired into the torso, but it's not inevitable. If the policy was actually shoot-to-kill, it would be head shots all round and none of this nancying about with shooting for the largest part of the body.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Harris,

    If I was I/S, I'd stop and take stock of the fact that, as Gooner points out):

    Incredibly, he has an ally, former Red Squad leader and NZ First MP, Ross Meurant. Meurant has a reputation of talking stupidly first and then making it worse later.

    Waikanae • Since Jul 2008 • 1343 posts Report Reply

  • Morgan Nichol,

    If the investigation determines the AOS acted in a careless manner then I'm all for the officer being prosecuted, but we also have to accept that if we give police the right to shoot at people in public things are occasionally going to go wrong and horrible things will happen as a result.

    So do we hold them accountable when things go wrong or not? I think we should, and we should hold them to a high standard, because things can go so terribly awfully pear shaped.

    It's almost certain that it won't be manslaughter. They don't usually charge hunters who kill another person with manslaughter, and that's a far less defensible act than this.

    I'm sure you're right. Whatever the charge is, the important part to me is that justice is seen to be done, by being done in open court - not in a backroom.

    Doubts and excessive consideration for their own well-being could cost an innocent person their life.

    An apparent lack of care cost an innocent person their life in this instance. So it looks like we must be fucked whatever happens.

    If we want expert shots in the police, we should pay for more of their time to go on shooting practice. We don't, so we get police officers who are average shots.

    I'm completely happy to do that. We're not talking about a lot of staff, so the cost won't be great - even if we end up sending them off to train in the States (or whichever country produces the most skilled AOS type officers).

    My point with the paintball analogy was that just because Ben wasn't very good at hitting a motionless paper target the first time he ever fired a pistol, doesn't mean it's actually an impossible feat - with practice you can learn to do that, and with more practice still you can learn to shoot a moving target (it's just harder, not impossible). My point was that more training, as you have also now mentioned, is necessary.

    The law allows police officers to use lethal force under certain conditions.

    And I've never argued against this. The law allows me to use lethal force as well.

    Just never against, you know, innocent bystanders.

    The public needs to get their head around the fact that sometimes the police are going to have to shoot people, and that's the end of it.

    That's not the problem. The problem is they shot the wrong guy. Which ISN'T one of the powers we let them have.

    The police (and you, apparently) need to get their head around the fact that when they get it sufficiently wrong, they answer to us.

    Auckland CBD • Since Nov 2006 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Ben, I didn't read it as a comparison, though I do appear to be alone in that. I immediately thought (and even said), as he did, that there's long-standing legal precedent that "just following orders" doesn't protect the grunts who actually carry out the orders.

    It should be possible, in reasonable discourse, to make mention of the outcome of the Nuremburg Trials without it immediately being taken as comparing whatever is under discussion with the actions of the Nazis. Or am I alone in that belief?

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Morgan Nichol,

    It should be possible, in reasonable discourse, to make mention of the outcome of the Nuremburg Trials without it immediately being taken as comparing whatever is under discussion with the actions of the Nazis. Or am I alone in that belief?

    Well we do actually agree on that point.

    Auckland CBD • Since Nov 2006 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Whatever the charge is, the important part to me is that justice is seen to be done, by being done in open court - not in a backroom.

    We really do need to get this country beyond the belief that the Police police themselves. They don't, any longer. The Independent Police Conduct Authority is, in name and in law, independent of the Police. It's in s4AB of the Independent Police Conduct Authority Act 1988 (yeah, 1988, what the hell happened to the intervening 20 years?!), even.

    If the IPCA decides that, as best as possible, the shooter fulfilled their legal and professional duties, then that should be acceptable to the public at large. It won't be, of course, but then again anything less than a full lynching party won't satisfy some members of the public when it comes to the fuzz fucking up. And, no, that's not aimed at anyone here.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    So do we hold them accountable when things go wrong or not?

    Do we hold surgeons accountable? The stakes are the same (life or death) and they kill a lot more people than the police do.

    The answer is that sometimes we do and sometimes we don't, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes people make stupid mistakes and need to be held accountable but sometimes they were trying to do their best in an impossible situation at which point we accept that the world is an imperfect place in which horrible things sometimes happen.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I'm also wondering how the police so succesfully diverted traffic that there was only one other car involved, by the end (apart from the truck and the van).

    A possible final vindication for on-ramp signals?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    Matthew, if the likely outcome is death, I think "kill" is a pretty valid word, and certainly preferable to euphemisms that allow us to diminish the reality. Killing people (on our behalf) may, in certain circumstances, be justified, but it should never be euphemised. Leave that to the Pentagon.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1330 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    It should be possible, in reasonable discourse, to make mention of the outcome of the Nuremburg Trials without it immediately being taken as comparing whatever is under discussion with the actions of the Nazis. Or am I alone in that belief?

    Nope, I agree. But I don't think the principle of Nuremberg applies, since it was restricted to "war crimes", as I recall.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Naly D,

    I'm also wondering how the police so succesfully diverted traffic that there was only one other car involved, by the end (apart from the truck and the van). Miracle there were no horrible crashes. Or were there?

    That was one of my questions too, along with:
    'What happened to road spikes?'

    Wellington • Since Sep 2008 • 307 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Simon, kill implies an intent to do so. A cop shouldn't be shooting with the intent to kill, they should be shooting with the intent to stop a threat. If the threat survives, all the better. You can't prosecute a corpse. No euphemism, just a recognition that the intent shouldn't be death. Death is, if anything, unfortunate. Not only does it result in prolonged periods of media scrutiny, and shitloads of paperwork, it denies society its chance to put the offender on trial and impose its own punishments.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    What happened to road spikes?

    They're not long enough to deploy across the motorway (at that point it's four lanes wide, plus shoulder), as I understand it. Plus, in a "hot pursuit" situation, it then requires the following cops to break off until the spikes can be pulled.

    Oh, and it's not even a year ago that an officer was killed while deploying spikes. I can't imagine an incident controller being too keen on risking that the offender might decide to see what a cop looks like as a bonnet ornament.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    "kill implies an intent to do so"

    Wrong. Cause and intent, not synonymous.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1330 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    But I don't think the principle of Nuremberg applies, since it was restricted to "war crimes", as I recall.

    You may be right, but that doesn't mean it can't be used as a shorthand for "just following orders won't protect you from the consequences of what you've done." Certainly it's a very frequent comment in all kinds of discussions that you can't say "I was just doing what I was told" when you get called on doing something that's legally or morally dubious.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Harris,

    if the likely outcome is death, I think "kill" is a pretty valid word, and certainly preferable to euphemisms that allow us to diminish the reality.

    The point is that the Police do not shoot to kill - they shoot to incapacitate. The nature of the act is such that the probability of death is high. That's not a euphemism - it's a statement of probability. If police were shooting to kill, they'd take the headshot.

    Also they shoot at the torso because that's the bit easiest to hit, not because hitting it is likely to cause death through hydrostatic shock .

    Killing people (on our behalf) may, in certain circumstances, be justified, but it should never be euphemised.

    Going out to kill people on our behalf can never be justified, except for the Army in a war situation - that's precisely what they're for, after all.

    Intent is a very important part of culpability, as any law stdent who's got as far as mens rea can tell you. If we had cops who just wanted to go out and kill scumbags, I'd be very worried. I don't think we do.

    It's not hair-splitting or euphemistic to say that there was no intent to kill, even though death is a possible, or even likely outcome. I's accurate.

    I'm no big fan of the cops or police culture, but they're better than the alternative.

    Waikanae • Since Jul 2008 • 1343 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    I'm also wondering how the police so succesfully diverted traffic that there was only one other car involved, by the end (apart from the truck and the van).

    They didn't. The police are asking for a driver who passed in the outside lane moments before shots were fired.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Harris,

    Independent Police Conduct Authority Act 1988 (yeah, 1988, what the hell happened to the intervening 20 years?

    The Independent Police Conduct Authority Amendment Act 2007 amends the Act that was previously called the Police Complaints Authority Act 1988, including the title (which is a little Orwellian, to me).

    Waikanae • Since Jul 2008 • 1343 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    My point with the paintball analogy was that just because Ben wasn't very good at hitting a motionless paper target the first time he ever fired a pistol, doesn't mean it's actually an impossible feat - with practice you can learn to do that, and with more practice still you can learn to shoot a moving target (it's just harder, not impossible). My point was that more training, as you have also now mentioned, is necessary.

    Maybe so, but my experience in a firing range was quite different. I found that I was far more accurate than my army buddy who had trained for years and years. I didn't miss the circle even once. When I spoke to him about this he said "Yeah man but you were taking 10 seconds between shots. If you're trying to shoot a human, you have to fire bursts. They're not stationary, and you have to keep the fire going so that they don't have time to aim at you. You can't just stand there with your whole torso exposed taking careful aim". When I tried what he was actually doing, firing rapidly, or from a quick point and shoot, my hit rate was appalling. He was definitely way better, and still, if there had been a bystander within 10 feet either side, he would have hit them.

    So armchair analysis isn't really much help.

    Similarly, he suggested that they don't go for head shots much. Of course it has a higher chance of killing, but it also has a higher chance of missing. You aim for the center of what you want to hit, which is basically "any part of them", since being hit with a bullet tends to take people out even if it's in their hand or any other non-lethal part. The shock of being hit by a large bullet anywhere is tremendous. Furthermore, an injured enemy soldier is in many ways better than a dead one, due to the distracting effects it has on the other ones, causing rescue efforts, and the demoralizing effects of hearing a friend screaming in pain.

    It's a disgusting business, shooting people. Only in the direst need should it be used, and the circumstances are always crazy and confused. I pity anyone who gets involved.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    The Independent Police Conduct Authority Amendment Act 2007 amends the Act that was previously called the Police Complaints Authority Act 1988, including the title (which is a little Orwellian, to me).

    Yeah, it occurred to me just after I posted that maybe they'd just renamed and altered the PCA Act. 'tis a bit Orwell, isn't it? Though I guess if the former statute was sufficiently close to their intended outcome it makes more sense to alter it than to draft something from scratch and repeal the old one.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Morgan Nichol,

    If the IPCA decides that, as best as possible, the shooter fulfilled their legal and professional duties, then that should be acceptable to the public at large.

    This is an unprecented circumstance, I'm not sure that they're qualified to make the decision - unless the facts make it incredibly bleeding obvious that the officer in question really had no other choice.

    "Meh, it's a hard job, *shrug*." is not a valid finding.

    Once the courts make their decision known, then the IPCA can move forward applying that understanding to any future incidents of this nature.

    It sucks to be the test case.

    But it could (and I hope this is the outcome of the various investigations) well be that this case is so open and shut that the worst the officer should ever expect from anyone is a quiet nod and a doleful look.

    If that's true, then presenting the facts to the public (on conclusion of all of the investigations) should be sufficient for the reasonable majority.

    There's nothing you can do about the nutters - whether of the "the police can do no wrong" or the "fucking pigs deserve whatever they get" ilk.

    But if there's any doubt, it has to be up to the courts to decide.

    Do we hold surgeons accountable? The stakes are the same (life or death) and they kill a lot more people than the police do.

    I'm not sure that this is a good analogy. Leaving aside informed consent, and so on. It's not that surgeons kill people, it's that surgeons fail to save people.

    In the very limited cases where they go rogue, well there you might have a point. Catching a rogue surgeon must be about one of the most difficult things to do - much more difficult than identifying a bad shooting.

    Probably irrelevent aside:
    I used to train with a couple of police (great guys, very friendly & genuine), but the stories they'd sometimes tell about their fellow officers - particularly the inbred fuckwits that get shunted into team policing - made my toes curl. And they'd tell them with a chuckle. They know that these police are thuggish idiots, but they protect them all the same.

    Those guys should never be allowed firearms under any circumstance. (Barring zombie uprising.)

    Auckland CBD • Since Nov 2006 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    An apparent lack of care cost an innocent person their life in this instance. So it looks like we must be fucked whatever happens.

    At the risk of stating the obvious, it might be helpful to repeat what I said at the bottom of the post: the overwhelmingly culpable actor in this tragedy is McDonald.

    The cop who pulled the trigger may or may not be found to be negligent or reckless.

    But, so far as we know at the moment, he was acting in the heat of the moment to save a life. That's why I find the Nuremberg comparison somewhat offensive. Nazi officers were being tried on moral decisions made repeatedly over months and years.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • dc_red,

    Vaguely off-topic, but interesting in a "what the hell...?" kind of way: naked 16-year old punk beats crap out of police officer in Pakuranga.

    Not the sharpest tool in the box, the alleged offender stole from the same dairy twice within 6 minutes, before retiring home for a refreshing shower (hence the subsequent nakedness).

    Oil Patch, Alberta • Since Nov 2006 • 706 posts Report Reply

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