So, I wasn’t going to bother with this one, but a friend of Facebook (why is it always Facebook!?!) sent me a series of pictures to show why the police officer, Corporal Eric Casebolt, was right to draw his weapon, and that he would have done the same thing. When I didn’t immediately agree, things got a little rough.
So, if you haven’t seen the video, go find it — I’m too lazy today to link to it. The broad strokes. There’s a pool party in a good middle-class neighborhood in McKinney, Texas (why is it always Texas!?!) that got crashed by “some black kids that didn’t live there” according to the police call. A (too) few officers show up and the kids start dispersing. At this point, were this 20 years ago, they’d ask a few questions, find out who was throwing alleged punches, and go get them.
Not this guy. It look like his ninja rolls into the fray at the start of the video (I think he tripped, but the image of a cop so hot to get into it he acts like an action hero is too damned delicious not to run with…) and started chasing kids down to hold them. He’s pissed when they don’t listen or immediately obey. It’s bad strategy — they went in without a semblance of an idea of what the situation required, or what they would do when thing inevitably didn’t go as expected.
Add to that bad strategy — he’s trying to spread himself across half a dozen suspects and half a small town block. There’s zero way to control the event — there’s too much ground and too many moving parts, and he doesn’t have enough backup. Instead of trying to de-escalate, he’s winding the crowd up. It gets worse when some mouthy girls finally get under his skin. Does he got for the “mouth” of the pack of girls? No, he snags the quiet one and when she doesn’t immediately acquiesce to his demands, he throws her to the ground and kneels on her neck. Bad. Fucking. Move.
Worse, now he’s got a bunch of folks, including a white guy who looks mid-20s and is probably a resident, surrounding him and taunting (rightly) him. The guy drops into a squat and either reaches behind himself, or the momentum of his action causes his arm to sling back behind him. The cop sees a guy reaching and draws his gun. I’ll even say it was understandable for him to do so, but when the guy goes track star, Casebolt starts to pursue and is stopped by other officers, before he reholsters his weapon.
Later, he’s placed on administrative leave, and smartly quits the force. I doubt the Outrage Machine™ will leave it at that, but that should be the end of it. Casebolt screwed up and paid for it.
Now, let’s “Monday Morning Quarterback”, or as we called it in the army, let’s do an after action report. Was he right to draw? Maybe, if he hadn’t been obviously wound up tight, if he hadn’t been over-reacting to perceived slights to his authori-tah, and hadn’t been spreading himself so thin.
The issue is the shift from conflict resolution style policing, where you try to deescalate a situation, to coercive, ham-fisted use of violence (deadly or otherwise) to force compliance with their instructions. When you have dozens to one numbers, anything less than dispersing the crowd and spinning things down is stupid, and is going to put an office in a place like this. You have ubiquitous sousvellance — cell phones and people taking video of police action — which means you better go into a call with a plan and think (not overthink, not second-guess, but think through your actions) instead of reacting blindly and emotionally.
The badge and gun carry an added expectation of responsible action, and police have to realize that this expectation is not going away. Yes, sometimes you have to throw down. Sometimes you have to shoot. But the trick is knowing when it’s appropriate. I suspect the “us vs. them, we’re at war, you go home before they do” mentality, rather than a “protect and serve” one is at the center of the decrease in trust and respect for police officers. No one respects a bully, even if they are afraid of them.