Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Legal Fiat.

It's time we talked about "fiat."

Fiat is Latin for "let it be done."  

Merriam-Webster's first definition of the word is thus:
"1. a command or act of will that creates something without or as if without further effort According to the Bible, the world was created by fiat."

It is used in discussions of policy to further the discussion without getting bogged down in detail.
Basically, it means, "For the purposes of this discussion, we will assume that I have a waved a magic wand, and X has occurred."

Back when I was in  high school debate, we used fiat for all of our proposed plans to solve a topic.   An example would be, say, if the topic was on how to solve illegal immigration in the United States. The affirmative team would propose a plan, such as rounding up all the immigrants, or putting up a wall, or putting a border guard every fifty feet along the border, or whatnot, and the negative team would attack Significance, Harms, Inherency, Topicality, and Solvency (which was easily remembered by a lovely little acronymn) on the plan. Or, the defense could grant that the plan would work, but that there would be SUCH a disadvantage (such as lost cheap labor, or a shortage of cultural exchange (see: cheap taco stands)), that the plan wouldn't be worth it.

At no time, though, could the negative side attack that the plan could actually be effected. For the purposes of our discussion, the plan was put in place by fiat.

So here we are in the gun control debate, and everyone seems to believe that fiat is actually a workable thing.

"We will make it against the law to possess semi-automatic magazine-fed rifles!" would be the surprisingly-well-worded battlecry of the fiat-using gun banner.

Okay.  Let's pretend that passes, and federal law makes it illegal to own such a gun:
--There will be VIGOROUS attack on the law in the lower courts, and then the appellate courts, and then in the Supreme Court.  Let's pretend that the SCOTUS also upholds the law.
--Then, let's pretend that the executive branch mobilizes to enforce the law. How? Um, they'll put out public service announcements demanding that guns be turned in, else those with the guns will suffer severe federal penalties, with time in prison.
--And let's suppose that the good, law-abiding citizens of the U.S. do turn in their guns. Because they are law-abiding.
--And let's suppose that, everytime that they're caught with such a gun, a bad, non-law-abiding person goes to prison.
--And let's suppose that the prisons are able to take the influx of new prisoners.
--And let's suppose that a large quantity of guns remain in the public hands, against the law.
--How will the federal authorities, assisted I suppose by state and local police, get those firearms? 
--Will an order be given to go house-to-house? I assure you, the local cops aren't doing that. No, they will not.
--And remember that SCOTUS which affirmed the ban? They're NOT going to affirm a house-to-house search and arrest.
--And remember how all those good, law-abiding people turned in their guns? Just kidding. You just created a felony criminal class out of OTHERWISE good, law-abiding people. Now, they're legal-neutrals.
--And remember those actual bad guys, who don't follow the rules, and keep their guns, because, you know-- they're criminals? They're going to do what they want.

Fiat is a device for philosophy. Not for improving the nation that you have now.

While Fiats can be a lot of fun, they don't always work.
Photo by Tamara Keel. (Cropped.)

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

How would you like to die?

Living well is best. Dying well is next best. Living badly is worst.

On Valentine's Day of this year, a horrible person murdered 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, kicking off an enormous clash about gun control, almost immediately.

The murderer was 19 a years old man, and had been identified as a dangerous person before. In fact, friends and counselors had called the FBI about him. He slipped through. It happens. He committed these crimes, and no one else is blame.

During the murders, there were heroes. A coach who shielded the bodies of children as he died. A 15 year-old ROTC student who held the door to get more kids evacuated out of the building. There were others.

One of those heroes was not School Resource Officer Scot Peterson, who "took a position" outside a door of the building where 900 students were, and listened to the shooting continue for four minutes. To make this clear: this man was an armed, sworn deputy, who was made aware of shooting in a school, where his primary duty was to see to the safety of students there, and he did nothing.

There are those who would argue that a man with a pistol has little to no chance against a man with a working AR-15. As a rule of thumb, it is true that any rifle is superior in a gunfight to any service pistol. And I could argue right back that in a majority of the cases in which a shooter was confronted by armed response, the shooter has either given himself up, or killed himself, ending the killing in either instance, for the vast majority of the cases.

But the odds are not the issue. The duty is. Each shot is potentially a student dying. Each moment's delay can mean yet another mother's child being taken. It is imperative to not-walk-but-run toward the sound of that gunfire, and stop the killing.

This deputy has trained with his weapon for over twenty years. If he hadn't settled this in his head beforehand, he was criminally negligent in his duties.

Some might say that the issue was his training. Back when I went to police academy in 1994, the training was to form a perimeter, and wait for SWAT. Certainly a single officer wasn't supposed to go in alone. (I clearly remember sitting in the back of the classroom, and thinking that this was a hill that I would die upon; I would take whatever write-ups they cared to throw at me, but I was going in.) The massacre at Columbine High School in 1998 changed that doctrine forever. The doctrine since the turn of the century has been to go in hard and fast and take the shooter out. We are specifically trained to step over and past the wounded, to rapidly close distance with the shooter, and take him out without any warning. This is as it should be. It is not a secret. It is how you help the bleeding and those yet unwounded.  How could a man or woman assigned to the duty of being a School Resource Officer not have studied this topic?

It is rare in one's life that one can recognize such an important crossroads, illuminated so clearly as this one.  One could absolutely guard one's own life, forsaking his moral duty to act, and die several decades later in one's bed, aware for the remainder of his life that he was living the life of a coward. One could swallow one's fear, and attack the killer, and fail. This would be horrible, because it would mean that one didn't stop the killer. But it's a worthy death, to die in the attempt to stop the murder of children. In fact, if an officer stopped the killer, but the officer was killed as well in the engagement, that is not a failure.  It is sub-optimal, but the goal was achieved: the killer was stopped. Dying while SAVING the lives of children is so much more preferable than dying of old age, after failing to even try. I am not suggesting that one should martyr one's self; I'm simply saying that one should fear the long life of a coward, rather than the quick and worthy death of a peacekeeper.  

My excellent friend and colleague LawDog said it better, here.

I was discussing this with friends recently, and one good friend cautioned (correctly, of course) not to give the impression that one should hope to find such an event occur. I agreed, but shared the following:
Back when I was a rookie working evening shift, I caught my first Sexual Assault case. My chief happened to drop by the police department at that time, and he took it off my hands. I had been flustered and out of my depth. My chief at the time was an expert at such cases. He said afterwards, “I am sorry that the event occurred, but I am so glad that it happened when and where I could do something about it.” He had skills that the average beat cop did not. He applied those skills to take care of the problem (the actor got 20 years, IIRC). I probably would have muffed it.
Living well is best. Dying well is next best. Living badly is worst.

Choose wisely. And train.

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Sunday, January 14, 2018

So that's that.

Oliver cat passed away this morning, apparently just before I woke up. I notified the family, and then swung a pick to dig a hole in the cold winter soil the back yard. I had actually thought that he was going to pull through (as he had before), but one never knows. Hell, I knew that I was going to outlive him when we got him. (That's one reason why I didn't want to get him.)
That damned fat, grouchy cat.
He brought me some pleasure —and displeasure— at unexpected times.

November, 2017, under the lemon tree in the sunroom. One of those "unexpected pleasures."

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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

So is this how it's going to be? Every 5 years?

For the second time, it looks like Oliver Cat may have cheated death.

He's eating, drinking, and looks good. I'm medicating him daily. His condition is "guarded." So is mine, after my wife found out how much I'd spent on the vet bill. I had to work a few extra off-duty gigs to cover.

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Sunday, January 07, 2018

Sometimes, it's about something else.

I wrote this last weekend, on December 31st:
“Burglar Bob,” the semi-self-healing full-sized plastic shooting dummy which I had used for Shooting Incident Reconstruction back in grad school, was in the way again. My teenaged daughter Allie and her boyfriend had set him up on the porch during Halloween, and his clothed leg was sticking out into the main lane of travel in my cluttered garage while we put up holiday decorations. My wife, aggravated, yelled at Allie to come fix this mess, and stow ol’ Bob away properly. The joints on Bob’s limbs locked at 22.5 degree increments, and his pants had to be removed to adjust the wingnuts on the stupid system, and Allie wasn’t getting it, right away.
Allie had been called away from trying to get Oliver the family cat to drink something, and was realizing that tomorrow she would be taking the 9 year-old cat with kidney problems to the vet, perhaps (probably?) for his last ride. She fumbled with the scarred plastic mannequin fruitlessly for a few seconds before tears became sobs over this task which she felt helpless to effect.
I realized that I hadn’t done any shooting at “Burglar Bob” in years. Years of leaving this... thing... in our way. Years of not doing more of the kind of training that I had planned to conduct. Years of annoying my sweet wife.
I ripped “Bob” from his 2x4 mount, pushing past my crying daughter and startled wife. Though man-sized, the dummy was much lighter than I remembered, dressed in a cheap polo shirt, an old pair of Dockers, a belt, and tennis shoes. I honestly don’t recall if I threw him to the frozen ground next to the driveway, or just fell atop him, but I found in my hand a very large screwdriver which we use as a garage door track lock. I began to use it on the plastic dummy as an implement of rage. The detached part of my mind noted that the plastic had none of its self-healing properties at 20 degrees Fahrenheit, as the half-inch flat-head bit gored hole after hole into the torso of the dummy.
I left the screwdriver in “Bob’s” chest, and beat the ugly patched plastic head with my right fist, knocking it off the torso to roll somewhat comically across the lawn. I ripped the arms off of him, surprised a bit at how easily the brittle cold plastic threaded bolts popped, with a touch of rage. I beat “Bob’s” body with his own limbs, breaking them down segment by segment. I again took up the screwdriver and began stabbing again and again, until I became aware of the scrapes on my knees and bruises and cuts on my knuckles, and my deep breathing.
I stood up, brushed myself off, and began picking up the remnants of my old training dummy, and stuffing them into the garbage can. I assured my wife that “Burglar Bob” wouldn’t be in the way anymore. I thought it would be a little funny, but my daughter was still crying.
That damned cat. I didn’t want him in the first place. Now look at me. What a mess. I’m going to find some ibuprofen.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Sex crimes

People ask me how I like my new job as an investigator. I tell them that the hours are nice, but I had no idea how much of my life would be spent sitting at a desk, going through pictures of phalli.

We live in a very, very different world than we did, 30 years ago.
When I was in my teens, I did not have a device in my possession which could pull up websites capable of meeting people around the globe, chatting with them anonymously in real time, and letting us take pictures and video of our genitals to send to each other. So there were not 13 year old girls getting extorted by foreign creeps who had talked them out of their clothes as well as their identities and social media accounts. There were not men posing as boys, meeting girls online. There were not men posing as fathers of pre-teen girls, soliciting sex from other women with their alleged daughters online. There were not men meeting up online with confused girls who had [literally] infantile fantasies.

We live in a very, very similar world to what we've had forever.
We have teachers having sex with students. We have brothers molesting their sisters, and making them cover it up. We have juvenile rape. We have adult drunken rape. We have buyer's remorse "rapes," in which the victim decides later to call the sex rape. We have enticing of minors. We have family members groping other family members in their sleep. We have teen boys stealing women's underwear.

Honestly? I'm thankful for the residential burglary and the identity theft cases that I've got to break of the monotony.

One of the common themes that I've seen has been repression of sex by the victim's family. In the last year, I've caught one and a half (just helped on one) cases involving a young woman from a sexually repressive family, declaring that she was raped when her family found out that she was having sex. I had a case in which the child's parents had chided the victim as a toddler for being immodest because she took her shirt off around the house, which seems to have contributed to the child not making an outcry for years of her brother molesting her. I've had a retraction of a victim's outcry, when her grandmother told her that she was going to ruin the family.

I'd frankly like to get back to putting other kinds of bad guys and gals in jail.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Things get better.

My elder daughter has moved home, after evaluating her financial situation. She didn't flounder; just just saw that she wasn't actually saving any money to pay for college. At the rate she was going, she would be forced to borrow money next year. She cleaned out her room, found her roommates a new renter for the room who was acceptable, and took back her old room in my house. And it's splendid having her home. She pays us a bit of rent, too. And she cooks and messes up dishes which I wash, because that's' part of the deal we made. And we drink coffee, and have her extremely conservative boyfriend over for dinner, and have lively political discussions with respect and love.

Seriously-- I'm happy.

My younger daughter is engaged in competitive colorguard, and practices hard with the band, and is tanned and muscled, from long days for half the summer flipping wooden practice rifles, and spinning flags. She's in the choir, in a band of her making, and in the Art Club at high school, while taking every honors class that is offered to her. She's happy.

My wife and I took a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where we observed the total eclipse on 8/21/2017 in North Carolina, then drove to Kentucky to Mammoth Cave National Park and to Land Between The Lakes, before heading to Arkansas to go to Hot Springs National Park. We stayed in our "new" 15 year-old Coleman pop-up camper. We took pictures of elk and bear and flowers and hand-hewn cabins. It was fun. My wife and I were happy.
I came back and decompressed for a couple of days before starting my new job at work; I'm now the first detective that we've employed at our little PD.
Mama bear and two of three cubs that we saw with her. Zoom in to embiggen.

The night before coming back on, my boss texted me that we would start by hitting the range together; he'd bought a new gun. (Sig P220 Legionaire.) As I hadn't qualified with my personally-owned Glock 31 (Gen 3) as a main duty gun, I went ahead and brought it to qualify with, as well. There are few nicer things than shooting Other People's Ammo, on the clock, and for a good purpose. He shot more accurately, but my times were very fast.

Today, I was buried in new cases. Financial, Juveniles, sensitive nature cases. Animal cruelty. CPS cases. Follow-up on felony DWIs, and drug cases.

I'm happy.

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