Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Insurance Agent, Taser, And A Revolver

One can only hope that the media follow the example of these three CNN writers, as well as of the family of Eric Courtney Harris, the fellow shot and killed (video, below) on April 2 by 73-year-old Reserve Deputy Robert Bates at the tail end of an undercover weapons sting by the Tulsa County Sheriff's Department.

It's not about age. Among the few sensible things uttered by Sheriff Stanley Glantz was "I am 72 years old, and I think I am still active." Given the task of reviewing the case, Tulsa Police Sgt. Jim Clark noted "It's happened to 21-year-old law enforcement officers. It's happened to 30-year-old law enforcement officers" (whereupon he went on to say something foolish).

Nor is it primarily about race, with the brother of the deceased helpfully- and realistically- commenting "I don't think this is a racial thing. I don't think this has anything to do with race. It might have a hint there somewhere... This is simply evil."

It isn't primarily about even tasers, though "according to the charge filed in Tulsa County District Court, Bates mistook a Smith & Wesson revolver for his Taser."  If he had not possessed a Taser, he would have realized it was a firearm he was drawing. (Unfortunately, the State of New Jersey now probably- has joined the 49 other states in approving Tasers, a bad option for the public but a good one for Taser International.  No, an excellent one for Taser International.

Instead, the folks at CNN addressed in at least eight paragraphs the primary issue involved in the fatal encounter. The family of the deceased has been

questioning why the 73-year-old Bates -- the CEO of an insurance company who volunteers as a certified reserve deputy -- was on the scene in such a sensitive and high-risk sting operation.

Daniel Smolen, an attorney representing the Harris family, said Bates paid big money to play a cop in his spare time.

"It's absolutely mind boggling that you have a wealthy businessman who's been essentially deputized to go play like he's some outlaw, like he's just cleaning up the streets," he said.

Wood said his client -- who had donated cars and video equipment to the Sheriff's Office -- had undergone all the required training and had participated in more than 100 operations with the task force he was working with the day he shot Harris. But he'd never been the main deputy in charge of arresting a suspect, Wood said, but was thrust into the situation because Harris ran from officers during the arrest.

"Probably in the past four of five years since he has been working in conjunction with the task force he has been on, (there were) in excess of 100 operations or search warrants where he was placed on the outer perimeter," Wood said. "He has never been on an arrest team or been the one who is primarily responsible for the capture or the arrest of a suspect. He is there more in a support mechanism."

Bates, who worked as a police officer for a year in the 1960s, had been a reserve deputy since 2008, with 300 hours of training and 1,100 hours of community policing experience, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Lest we think that Bates' experience in the 1960s (a little while ago) had much to do with his assignment, we then read

He was also a frequent contributor to the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, including $2,500 to the reelection of Sheriff Stanley Glanz.

Tulsa County Sheriff's Maj. Shannon Clark denied accusations that Bates had paid to play a cop, describing him as one of many volunteers in the community who have contributed to the agency.

"No matter how you cut it up, Deputy Bates met all the criteria on the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training to be in the role that he was in," Clark said.

That insurance professional Robert Bates was considered qualified to play police officer because he received some training should have been seen as more than problematic, very troubling.

So try a little experiment. Enter your local community bank, in which you are a well-known customer, and tell the manager you realize the bank is under-staffed with tellers on Saturday, their busiest day. Offer to volunteer your time and notice that after a few seconds of a quizzical look, the manager responds with hearty laughter. Then add that you expect to receive extensive training before you begin volunteering, and she doesn't bother to hesitate before laughing hysterically.

If you work with money, you'll be subject to a degree of accountability unknown to the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office. Volunteerism, the kissing cousin of privatization, is de rigueur there- and elsewhere, it appears, sometimes for a price.  Charles Pierce puts it as only he can when observing

Something has gone permanently squirrelly with law-enforcement in this country. There is the change in attitude by which police increasingly feel and behave like an occupying army in American cities. There is the preposterous increase in available armament. On a wider scale, there is the triumph at all levels of government of an attitude that we will not tax ourselves, ever, for anything, even our own safety. So we wind up with traffic cops who look on, ahem, certain citizens as resources to be pillaged, or we wind up with septuagenarian insurance salesmen empowered to shoot people in the street under color of law, because they were willing to buy guns and ammo privately for a public purpose. This is Kafka rewritten by Grover Norquist and Bozo The Clown. You get what you pay for, and we're not willing to pay for anything any more.

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