Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Fair and Balanced

During the Steven Avery & Brendan Dassey trials I noticed a blogger Convoluted Brian – Brian McKorkle who took a contrary view of the Avery/Dassey trial. In fact, I am of the opinion his take is over the edge.

However, his first work since the Dsssey verdict came out is downright reasonable. He examines police - civilian interactions particularly those involving deadly force:
On 21 April 2007, Green Bay Police shot and killed a fleeing suspect. The homicide of Ben Sonnenberg was found to be justified. An innocent bystander in a nearby bar was shot in the chest.

Green Bay Police Chief Jim Arts emphasized suicide by cop. Maybe that is true. There was the surreptitiously recorded statement by the homicide victim’s sister that could be made to fit the theory. Yet, it seems that it was not typical of those incidents labeled as such. This was a spur of the moment act by the inebriated victim that lead to his homicide. Brown County District Attorney John Zakowski downplayed the suicide by cop issue in his report.
Source: Convoluted Brian – Suicide by Cop?
The case as I understand it does not sound like a suicide by cop incident it sounds like drunken stupidness gone very very wrong. People must keep in mind the edge police officers live on and carry themselves in such a manner to assure police officers they are well away from the edge and do not intend to cross it. For example, when I get pulled over by a police officer I immediately get all the documentation I know they will ask for (registration & drivers license), place those materials on the dashboard, and keep my hands at the top of the steering wheel. Witnesses report Mr. Sonnenberg jumped up on a car and pointed something at the officers:
There are other issues here. First is whether deadly force is needed once a suspect turns and flees. A second is how is it that bullets depart from the scene and strikes or nearly strikes innocent persons? The claim of suicide by cop obscures these.

Many witness statements said that Sonnenberg jumped from the vehicle and pointed something at officers. Statements also indicated that a sound that could be construed as a gunshot was heard at the start of the incident.
Source: Convoluted Brian – Suicide by Cop?
It sounds as if Mr. Sonnenberg did not consider the fact his play was easily viewed as life threatening by the police officers (or perhaps he understood it very well). I went to college at UW-Platteville aka Dick Tracy U and I knew a few people going through the criminal justice programs; one person I will call Jeff was very anxious to become a law enforcement officer. Jeff told us each department has its own policies on the use of lethal force and the use of their guns. Furthermore, the typical guideline was to shoot at the torso and while it varied by department policies typically dictated an officer empty their guns, that is shoot all rounds available. It sounded like once deadly force is initiated the idea is to take no prisoners. When one thinks about it, this is reasonable.

Many police departments (PD) face drug saturated assailants who feel no or little pain, in addition the use of deadly force is to prevent the application of deadly force by an assailant against the officer. If someone is trying to kill me I would not shoot once and then ask "are you going to stop attacking me?".

Brian also wonders about the errant shots:
The suicide by cop theory is a convenient explanation. It might have some substance. But that does explain why so many shots hit the victim as he fled. Nor does it explain the shots that went wild.
Source: Convoluted Brian – Suicide by Cop?
I do not know if Brian is a shooter or not but this line of thought leads me to conclude he is not. I am a shooter (not avid or frequent) and have shot a variety of guns from muzzleloaders, to .30-06, to shotguns, and to handguns. One thing one learns quickly is the inerrant accuracy of the hero on TV and in the movies is fantasy. My father, said of his days in the national guard and training on the 45 ACP that you would be better off throwing the gun at the enemy than shooting it. My experience shooting the .45 ACP confirms that observation.

To be sure our police typically use a smaller easier to handle rounds (.38s and 9mm.s being typicaly police rounds) but handguns are inherently more inaccurate due to their construction alone, add in the fact you do not have the benefit of your shoulder to steady the gun, and finally add in an adrenaline pumped situation on the move. In fact, I would say under those circumstances the police did well.

Finally Brian states:
This is an opportunity for the Green Bay Police Chief to look for better and more controlled responses in the future. Certainly in high risk situations the best defense is prior training and lots of drills. This preparation can protect all of us in future incidents. Unfortunately, the behavior so far has been a continued undermining of the victim.
Source: Convoluted Brian – Suicide by Cop?
I would say the police responded well. However, he is right the GBPD would be correct in reviewing the situation with an eye to coming up with better policies and training. However, I am not convinced this was the result of police gone amok and in fact I would guess this was exactly to training.

Barracuda normally do not attack human swimmers but given the right stimulus (do not wear flashy jewelery while diving/swimming in the tropics) they will slash a swimmer. Please do not take this analogy as a strike against the police, but when you are swimming and police are in the water do not present a shooting stimulus

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