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Dormin111
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Is it justified to disarm an agent of the government in self defense?

So, if you're walking along, minding your own business, and a cop pulls up, looking at you aggressively and orders you to do something that is not harmful to you (e.g. to stop, to move to the side, to put your hands up, etc.) are you suggesting your reaction would be to attempt to disarm the cop?

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dream_weaver,

Monday morning quarterbacking, or judging known facts that lead to undesirable results?

The job we ask the police to perform is to apprehend and deliver living suspects, presumed to be innocent, to a court of law without unreasonably endangering themselves or others in the process. I'm not arguing that this officer was trained to do otherwise, but questioning if this incident, and others mentioned, indicates existing tactics made public unreasonably endanger police officers, suspects and others in the performance of their duty. This officer is on record as maintaining he followed his training and that no other outcome was possible. I'm not disputing the former, but questioning the latter as it relates to the efficacy of such training.

It behooves all of us to question generally known tactics being used in those cases where the ends to routine procedures are so unexpected. Particularly in outlier cases, those where a small percentage of deaths occur as a result of following procedure, we must be careful not to become so complacent as to not question the use of training or the investigative body that sanctions that training. It is not enough to claim, "Oh well, it's an unfortunate outcome, but this is what's to be expected some of the time."

No, we cannot reasonably expect officers sanctioned with the use of deadly force to act infallibly as human beings, but we can expect accountability for "reasonable" tactics where guns misfire when needed, radios don't transmit crucial information when needed, and the option of using deadly force becomes the only option during the first moves of a routine procedure to apprehend a person suspected of committing a crime.

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The job we ask the police to perform is to apprehend and deliver living suspects, presumed to be innocent, to a court of law without unreasonably endangering themselves or others in the process.

False. Part of the job cops have is to kill people who are immediate threats to themselves or the public.
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Is it justified to disarm an agent of the government in self defense?

Is it justified to kill an agent of the government in self defense?

I submit that the answer is yes, following basic Objectivist ethics. Brown was originally approached by the officer and harassed for jay walking. He was not under investigation for shoplifting or theft.

Objectivists should be supporting the protestors.

They're not protesters, they're rioters. And Brown didn't try to disarm the cop in self defense, he was a drugged up criminal trying to hurt him. Edited by Nicky
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So, if you're walking along, minding your own business, and a cop pulls up, looking at you aggressively and orders you to do something that is not harmful to you (e.g. to stop, to move to the side, to put your hands up, etc.) are you suggesting your reaction would be to attempt to disarm the cop?

Surely you recognize that whether or not something is justified and what anyone's personal reaction would be, and their personal reasons for such reactions, are two separate propositions, and that deducing one from the other is a non sequitur.
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Surely you recognize that whether or not something is justified and what anyone's personal reaction would be, and their personal reasons for such reactions, are two separate propositions, and that deducing one from the other is a non sequitur.

If you really believe that what's being discussed here is self defense, then why wouldn't it be your personal reaction to defend your life?
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Surely you recognize that whether or not something is justified and what anyone's personal reaction would be, and their personal reasons for such reactions, are two separate propositions, and that deducing one from the other is a non sequitur.

Fair enough, but I was hoping to understand the reasoning. So what if I don't ask what you would do, and ask what you would be justified in doing.

 

So, if you're walking along, minding your own business, and a cop pulls up, looking at you aggressively and orders you to do something that is not harmful to you (e.g. to stop, to move to the side, to put your hands up, etc.), would you be justified (i.e. morally in the right) if you attempted to disarm the cop?

Edited by softwareNerd
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False. Part of the job cops have is to kill people who are immediate threats to themselves or the public.

 

This is a curious response given my statement allows that police defend themselves and the public.  I can't imagine that you're suggesting cops act as executioners in any part of their job, so I have no idea what distinction you're trying to make here.  As you've read the facts related to this case, the only immediate threat posed by these suspects was shoplifting and jaywalking, neither of which required killing them for being threats to themselves or the public.  And the threat to this officer resulted from following his training, i.e., was self imposed.

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More like inability to follow his training judging from some of your earlier posts.

 

Until I know otherwise, I'm giving this officer and the grand jury the benefit of the doubt that the existing training was followed and no other outcome was possible (according to that training).

 

Like you, I have questions, but I think we are presuming seperate scenarios.  You, that the training was sufficient and the officer negligent, and me, that the officer followed training supported by the grand jury, which if so demonstrates flawed training.  Questions about pursuit or surveillance, the positioning of the officer's vehicle to apprehend suspects, positioning/optional use of non-lethal weapons, of guns misfiring and radios being on the wrong channel can go either way depending on what the actual training allows.

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Eiuol, et al,

 

Statement from Officer Wilson's Laywer following Grand Jury Announcement:

--

“Today, a St. Louis County grand jury released its decision that no charges would be filed in the case involving Officer Darren Wilson. 

From the onset, we have maintained and the grand jury agreed that Officer Wilson’s actions on August 9 were in accordance with the laws and regulations that govern the procedures of an officer.  In a case of this magnitude, a team of prosecutors rightfully presented evidence to this St. Louis County grand jury. This group of citizens, drawn at random from the community, listened to witnesses and heard all the evidence in the case.  Based on the evidence and witness testimony, the grand jury collectively determined there was no basis for criminal charges against Officer Wilson.  Law enforcement personnel must frequently make split-second and difficult decisions. Officer Wilson followed his training and followed the law.  We recognize that many people will want to second-guess the grand jury’s decision. We would encourage anyone who wants to express an opinion do so in a respectful and peaceful manner.  On a side note, Officer Wilson would like to thank those who have stood by his side throughout the process. This continued support is greatly appreciated by Officer Wilson and his family.  Moving forward, any commentary on this matter will be done in the appropriate venue and not through the media.”

--

Again, given the officer's actions were deemed consistent with his training by the grand jury, the choice is either to question the efficacy of training to apprehend unarmed suspects, or to claim that killing unarmed suspects, in this case shoplifters who jaywalk, is justified as the kind of result one expects trained officers to do.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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Well to be fair, jaywalking shoplifters who assault armed police officers, break contact and then re-engage a police officer who is armed and firing in their direction.

 

To be fair, read the transcript from the moment Officer Wilson makes the connection that two unarmed jaywalkers walking down the middle of the road, may be shoplifters...

 

Vol 5, pg 207 - Wilson describes finding suspects and what ensued ~ http://www.nytimes.c...-case.html?_r=0

 

... and ask yourself if the following tactics unnecessarily led to escallation prior to backup arriving minutes later.

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To be fair, read the transcript from the moment Officer Wilson makes the connection that two unarmed jaywalkers walking down the middle of the road, may be shoplifters...

 

Vol 5, pg 207 - Wilson describes finding suspects and what ensued ~ http://www.nytimes.c...-case.html?_r=0

 

... and ask yourself if the following tactics unnecessarily led to escallation prior to backup arriving minutes later.

 

It's clearly Brown that's unnecessarily causing the escalation.

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It's clearly Brown that's unnecessarily causing the escalation.

 

It's clear that the suspects were walking down the center of the road holding shoplifted cigarettes and would have proceeded in that fashion until prevented from doing so.

 

2-3 Minutes passed from the moment Wilson requested backup, knowing additional officers were in the vicinity, to the moment backup arrived.  What was the immediate threat Brown posed prior to having backup, such that a trained officer can only respond by parking in Brown's path of travel within striking range, allowing Brown to immediately pin down Wilson in his own vehicle?  Was Brown expected not to resist arrest??

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It's clear that the suspects were walking down the center of the road holding shoplifted cigarettes and would have proceeded in that fashion until prevented from doing so.

 

2-3 Minutes passed from the moment Wilson requested backup, knowing additional officers were in the vicinity, to the moment backup arrived.  What was the immediate threat Brown posed prior to having backup, such that a trained officer can only respond by parking in Brown's path of travel within striking range, allowing Brown to immediately pin down Wilson in his own vehicle?  Was Brown expected not to resist arrest??

 

Brown wasn't under arrest. I don't see much wrong with blocking his path in order to get him to stop disrupting traffic and off of the street. In terms of escalation, how does blocking Brown's path compare with Brown punching Wilson in the face?

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Brown wasn't under arrest. I don't see much wrong with blocking his path in order to get him to stop disrupting traffic and off of the street. In terms of escalation, how does blocking Brown's path compare with Brown punching Wilson in the face?

 

Again following the sequence of events related to the grand jury, Officer Wilson made the connection that the jaywalkers were possibly involved in shoplifting, and so it follows that the offense moves from a traffic violation to a more serious crime of aggression.  The officer's first move was to call for backup knowing he'd need assistance with someone the size of Brown - so far so good.  The officer's next move was to confront a large and potentially aggressive suspect by placing himself in a postion that allowed to suspect to immediately take advantage by pinning him in the car.  That's where my eyebrows go up...  why?  Are officers trained to place themselves in such a precarious position immediately, knowing backup is at hand when the suspects are simply walking away??

 

Edit:  Consider everything the officer lost by following that initial tactic: mobility, non-lethal resources and having the relative safety of being in his vehicle at a safe distance.  Following that tactic placed himself in immediate jeopardy wrestling over control of his own weapon... that misfired at least 3 times in his own vehicle.  Training??

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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How did Wilson assertain that Brown was unarmed, without a search of his person and given his voilent confrontation isn't reasonable for Wilson to at east entertain the possibility that Brown may have been armed? The fact he was unarmed was only determined after the altercation.

 

That only opens up another can of worms.  If Wilson thought Brown was armed, why throw himself at Brown prior to having his own gun drawn?  Again, as Brown was only walking down the middle of the road, why not wait for the backup he called and knew was about to arrive??

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Again following the sequence of events related to the grand jury, Officer Wilson made the connection that the jaywalkers were possibly involved in shoplifting, and so it follows that the offense moves from a traffic violation to a more serious crime of aggression.  The officer's first move was to call for backup knowing he'd need assistance with someone the size of Brown - so far so good.  The officer's next move was to confront a large and potentially aggressive suspect by placing himself in a postion that allowed to suspect to immediately take advantage by pinning him in the car.  That's where my eyebrows go up...  why?  Are officers trained to place themselves in such a precarious position immediately, knowing backup is at hand when the suspects are simply walking away??

 

Edit:  Consider everything the officer lost by following that initial tactic: mobility, non-lethal resources and having the relative safety of being in his vehicle at a safe distance.  Following that tactic placed himself in immediate jeopardy wrestling over control of his own weapon... that misfired at least 3 times in his own vehicle.  Training??

 

I guess I'm confused as to what you're arguing. My previous question wasn't rhetorical. Does Wilson or Brown deserve the lion's share of the blame for escalating the situation to the point where a gun needed to be pulled? Wilson parked his vehicle in a precarious position (noted after the fact, of course). Brown punched a cop in the face repeatedly.

Edited by CriticalThinker2000
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Fair enough, but I was hoping to understand the reasoning. So what if I don't ask what you would do, and ask what you would be justified in doing.

So, if you're walking along, minding your own business, and a cop pulls up, looking at you aggressively and orders you to do something that is not harmful to you (e.g. to stop, to move to the side, to put your hands up, etc.), would you be justified (i.e. morally in the right) if you attempted to disarm the cop?

I argue that the conditions under which we may justifiably resist government agents in self-defense are the same as when we may resist civilians in self-defense or defense. And I argue this follows from basic objectivist principles. Most of the right-winger type folks on here seem to deny this and instead subscribe to some kind of special immunity which holds that government agents may be resisted only under a much more tightly constrained set of conditions than the conditions under which we may justifiably resist civilians. I deny such a thesis is either valid in its own right, or that such a thesis follows from objectivist principles.

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I argue that the conditions under which we may justifiably resist government agents in self-defense are the same as when we may resist civilians in self-defense or defense. And I argue this follows from basic objectivist principles. Most of the right-winger type folks on here seem to deny this and instead subscribe to some kind of special immunity which holds that government agents may be resisted only under a much more tightly constrained set of conditions than the conditions under which we may justifiably resist civilians. I deny such a thesis is either valid in its own right, or that such a thesis follows from objectivist principles.

 

What happens when two people disagree about the terms of a contract? What you've claimed that Objectivism implies is contrary to the rule of law. Anarchists and libertarians often call ARI 'right wing'. I've been thinking about what is causing some people here to ignore facts about the situation (constant references to them as cigarette thieves, evading the assault of a police officer), focus on minor errors Wilson made in hindsight with no focus on Michael Brown's actions, etc. There is more and more evidence that it's the old libertarian hatred of everything government. I suspected so earlier but I think it's becoming clearer to me now. Just as environmentalists interpret facts differently because they hold the environment as their standard of value, so libertarians/objectivists will interpret this incident differently depending upon whether they hold the non-initiation of force principle as a context-less absolute.

 

Edit: I don't mean that certain views on the situation are necessarily directly derived from the NIF principle. I mean that holding it as a context-less absolute creates a deep seated hatred for police officers and any other agent of the state, which creates a certain mindset that affects how you interpret events, what facts you deem important, etc.

Edited by CriticalThinker2000
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I argue that the conditions under which we may justifiably resist government agents in self-defense are the same as when we may resist civilians in self-defense or defense. And I argue this follows from basic objectivist principles. Most of the right-winger type folks on here seem to deny this and instead subscribe to some kind of special immunity which holds that government agents may be resisted only under a much more tightly constrained set of conditions than the conditions under which we may justifiably resist civilians. I deny such a thesis is either valid in its own right, or that such a thesis follows from objectivist principles.

So, I think you're saying that's a "yes"... that you would be justified in trying to disarm a police officer in a situation like that.

 

I suppose you're also saying that if a private citizen were to command you to do something like this, and the private citizen was wearing a gun, you would be justified in disarming him on that basis.

 

In terms of the facts, are you suggesting that there was reason to suspect the police officer was going to shoot Brown before Brown tried to disarm the officer?

Edited by softwareNerd
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Consider the following case. Ragnar Danneskold is walking down the street. The local mafia has been successful in claiming this street as their "turf" and enforcing a wide range of edicts from tax collection to mundane sidewalk usage rules. Ragnar is a highly independent individual who denies the moral legitimacy of the mafia to monopolize the turf, and believes the local mafia to be an oppressor and leading cause of poverty and privilege in the area. Ragnar walks down the middle of the street in disgust. A local strong man approaches him and begins harassing him. Ragnar has been bullied before and this time he tells the enforcer to get lost. The enforcer, miffed that this mere mundane citizen is refusing to obey his authority, and this particular strongman having a history of power tripping and bullying, proceeds to assault Ragnar. Ragnar struggles, resists the enforcer, and disarms him.

Most objectivists wouldn't have a problem with the above. But turn Ragnar into a black man and turn the mafia enforcer into a cop, then suddenly we must defer to the government agent, even when these agents act in extremely disgusting, authoritarian, and harmful ways. This is puzzling in objectivists, even when most objectivists would agree, in the abstract, that (both violent and nonviolent) resistance to governments that exceed their proper bounds is justified.

Now you may say that if in the above, Ragnar was a shoplifter, then that changes whether you are okay with him resisting the mafia enforcer. But why? The enforcer only states after the fact, when he is being guided by a friendly fellow mafia investigator, on what to say to justify himself. The fact is, at the time Brown was not under investigation for shoplifting, and there was no evidence provided that he was, at the time of the stop. It makes no difference at this point whether or not he actually was a shoplifter, he still retains his procedural rights.

Now another example. A local mafia has taken control of a street, which they call their "turf". They force local businesses to pay a tax on items they sell, and in return, they keep competitors off the turf. The businesses are in league with the mafia. Ragnar Danneskold is a highly independent and enterprising individual. He denies the moral legitimacy of the local mafia to monopolize and extort the street as its turf and denies that he must pay taxes. To Ragnar, the mafia is an oppressor and is responsible for keeping the area in poverty and privilege for its favored groups. Ragnar decides to sell his own "sign of the dollar" cigarettes on the street without paying taxes. Local businesses are outraged at the competition and call mafia enforcers to harass Ragnar. When enforcers arrive Ragnar tells them they have no moral authority over him. The enforcers proceed to grab Ragnar, but he resists, a struggle ensues, and an enforcer pulls a gun, threatening to kill Ragnar. Ragnar manages to take the gun, and then kills all the enforcers before they can kill him.

Most objectivists would still have no problem with the above example. They may even cite it as easier to justify than the first example, because, in the first example, Ragnar was accused of shoplifting, and it may turn out that he actually committed the petty theft. Why, he's a drugged up shoplifting thief, he's guilty! I guess we can go ahead an extra judicially kill him then? I think this stems from a gross misunderstanding of basic legal principles.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/police-name-darren-wilson-as-officer-in-ferguson-missouri-michael-brown-shooting-1408108371

Brown was not stopped for shoplifting. The ferguson police said the officer was not aware of the shoplifting. There exists such a thing as procedural rights, and whether or not Brown was metaphysically guilty of theft, he may still not be stopped legitimately by government agents without evidence of having violated someone's rights, according to objectivist principles. The officer was, therefore, the aggressor, Brown therefore having the right to resist, and yes, disarm him of his weapon, on objectivist grounds. Objectivists should therefore be supporting the protestors, who are resisting a systematic institution of state oppression and privilege. Objectivists are also supposedly, among the leading anti racist libertarians, as Ayn Rand was, who believe in "libertarian thickness," i.e., that politics is dependent on ethics and broader ethical commitments. Objectivists should be the last peeople to be siding with the government and with those making racist trope statements like "barbarians" and whatever other Gus van Horn-style insults at protestors.

By the way, the second example actually happened as well, only instead of Ragnar, it was Eric Gardner who sold untaxed cigarettes, and instead of resisting, he simply put his hands up and said "Don't touch me." He was put in a chokehold by police and face smashed into the pavement. He died saying "I can't breathe," repeatedly. When are objectivists going to be on the right side of this if not now?

Edited by 2046
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I guess I'm confused as to what you're arguing. My previous question wasn't rhetorical. Does Wilson or Brown deserve the lion's share of the blame for escalating the situation to the point where a gun needed to be pulled? Wilson parked his vehicle in a precarious position (noted after the fact, of course). Brown punched a cop in the face repeatedly.

 

Yes, Brown acted criminally from start to finish.  My argument is that this officer's training (validated by the grand jury) appears to have made a bad situation worse.  Following the events from the moment Wilson realized he found the shoplifting suspects to killing Brown, and look for the moment where Wilson lost control of the situation (hint: Wilson is asking himself why this isn't working).  Then ask yourself, was this point unavoidably reached by following training on how to apprehend a potentially violent suspect?

 

I've witnessed officers entering my neighborhood under similar circumstances, looking for someone potentially dangerous, and have yet to see (even on Cops TV) an officer drive right up to confront someone such that the suspect could simply block their door from opening and pummel them through their open window.  Does that really seem like the best approach under the circumstances to you??  If that's how this officer was trained then he can't really be faulted for following procedure, but jeeze, really?  Drive right up to someone that outwieghs you, minutes ahead of backup, and put yourself within arms reach without having your hand on any weapon?!

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