Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Police Force

Awhile back the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that citizens do not have the right to defend themselves from law enforcement officers behaving illegally. The ruling was such that were you to walk in on a law enforcement officer raping your wife, the only thing you could legally do would be to sue him after the deed was done. This was clearly an unacceptable situation.

Enter the NRA, just recently Indiana's legislator passed a NRA backed bill that added language to Indiana's Castle Doctrine that that explicitly allows a citizen to use force against a "public servant" if the citizen "reasonably believes" that the officer is acting illegally and if the force is necessary to prevent "serious bodily injury." This is a rather narrow definition, but a much needed one.

Bloomberg.com wrote an article about this law, and I'd like to comment on parts of it. Give it a read first, and then come back here and lets discuss it!

The article starts out with a very small amount of background and then the police response: “If I pull over a car and I walk up to it and the guy shoots me, he’s going to say, ‘Well, he was trying to illegally enter my property,’” said Hubbard, 40, who is president of Jeffersonville Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 100.

The Fraternal Order of Police are notoriously anti-gun rights, so this reaction doesn't surprise me at all. Hubbard construes the law as giving citizens the power to shoot police for pulling them over, but this is clearly not the case. "serious bodily injury" has a pretty strict legal definition and a police officer is well within the law to pull someone over. If the above scenario were to take place, the perpetrator would most likely be sentenced for murder.

"Among them is the Stand Your Ground self-defense measure in Florida, which generated nationwide controversy after the Feb. 26 shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Florida teenager."

Despite the media's best efforts to make the Zimmerman-Martin case about Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, that law has absolutely zero bearing on the case. Stand Your Ground simply removes one of the three requirements for claiming self defense as a defense against the legal charge of murder. The first two are 1) the defendant can not have instigated the fight and 2) the defendant must be in reasonable fear of his or her life. The third, nullified by Stand Your Ground, is that the defendant has a duty to make a reasonable attempt at retreat.

In the case of Zimmerman, one of two things happened. Either Zimmerman did indeed chase down Martin, as the popular media narrative goes, and instigated the fight, in which case he cannot claim self defense. Or, if Zimmerman's account is true, then Martin pushed Zimmerman to the ground and was on top of him when the shooting occurred, in which case retreat is impossible and Stand Your Ground matters not at all. So, either Mark Niquette over at Bloomberg did not do his research, or he's pushing the "Martin was murdered in cold blood" narrative. Either way, this is not truth in journalism.

Continuing we find: "It’s not clear under the law whether an officer acting in good faith could be legally shot for mistakenly kicking down the wrong door to serve a warrant, said state Senator Tim Lanane, the assistant Democratic leader and an attorney."

To which I say, good. I don't want police killed, and I'm not against police in general. But we give police great power over us, and with that power comes responsibility. And with responsibility comes consequences. Police make life and death decisions and they need to be held accountable to those decisions less they start to make them lightly. Kicking in the wrong door is a classic example. The number of people killed in wrong door no knock raids is legion, but it is very rarely that police ever face consequences for their mistakes. Even the ones that get innocent people killed.

So yes, I want kicking down a door to be risky. I want it to have consequences. Kicking down a door is a huge violation of civil liberty, if it is to be legal it must be so only under the strictest of circumstances. Kicking down the wrong door should be considered a sign of incompetence and cause for dismissing an officer from a swat team.

Further: "In Clay County, Indiana, outside Terre Haute, the Sheriff’s Department changed its procedures because of the law. Detectives in plain clothes and unmarked cars now must be accompanied by a uniformed officer on calls to homes, Sheriff Michael Heaton said."

Seems to me this should have been standard procedure in the first place.

"Hubbard, the officer in Jeffersonville, in southeastern Indiana, said the law causes him to second-guess himself."

Well then it's working.

"The law has changed Hubbard’s view of the NRA.

He said he has been “a proud member of the NRA for years,” and while he’s still a member and NRA firearms instructor, “the day I found out the NRA was pushing behind this bill was the day I became a not-so-happy NRA member.” "

Oh boo hoo. You love the NRA when it protects your rights, but you don't like it when it protects the rights of the ordinary citizens who have placed you in a position of authority over them? Your job is dangerous, you knew this when you signed up. If it is too dangerous for you then quit. In the mean time be careful how you use your power.

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