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Police Militarization / Use of Force

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Dormin111
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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.

Argument from intimidation much? Psychologizing much?
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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?!

 

OK, your overall point makes sense to me. Perhaps there should be different training administered. I thought you were arguing that Wilson was morally culpable for Brown's death.

Edited by CriticalThinker2000
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Argument from intimidation much? Psychologizing much?

 

I realize that what I've said is not really answerable. The post was meant to explain why I think there is such a wide range of opinions on the incident amongst people who supposedly hold the same basic premises. I thought it was actually quite prescient given your posts comparing law enforcement to the mafia and Brown to "a highly independent individual who denies the moral legitimacy of the mafia to monopolize the turf", as well as the claim in your analogy that the police officer assaults Brown, as well as the implication that it's perfectly fine to walk down the street blocking traffic (what about the rights of the drivers?), as well as the equivocation between police officers and random citizens. When two businessmen disagree about what exactly a contract means, and the disagreement is arbitrated by the state, does the business man who believes he's been wronged get to 'defend' his property by force against the ruling of the court system? 

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as well as the equivocation between police officers and random citizens.

So I take it you are agreeing with what I am saying in my response to Snerd, that you ascribe to some kind of special immunity thesis, as I argued.

Do you have an argument for this thesis, or are you going to engage in what Ayn Rand referred to as psychologizing, to try to ascribe motives, such as well there must be some kind of deep hatred motivating you here, without any kind of professional license to do so? That is now how argument, philosophy, or critical thinking is done. I suggest we avoid discussions of what psychologically motivates our debating partners and stick to deriving logical conclusions from premises.

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 I thought it was actually quite prescient given your posts comparing law enforcement to the mafia and Brown to "a highly independent individual who denies the moral legitimacy of the mafia to monopolize the turf", as well as the claim in your analogy that the police officer assaults Brown, as well as the implication that it's perfectly fine to walk down the street blocking traffic (what about the rights of the drivers?), as well as the equivocation between police officers and random citizens.

I think the point is that in both the Ragnar case and the Brown case, what the enforcer knows about them is the same. But somehow, altering the adjectives makes Ragnar justified and Brown unjustified, adjectives known only later. Say mafia, oh, how horrible to be harassed! Say officer, oh, now it's all okay! We can't say this is reasonable when either way, a grave injustice has been committed. Or a reason to investigate at the least - it's not really doubtful that a bad thing happened and Wilson did it. Brown being a shoplifter being rebellious to cops or Ragnar ignoring the mafia is irrelevant as to evaluating the level of moral blame to put on the enforcer.  

 

What I'm getting at is that although 2046 is basically an anarchist, that's not what the thread is about. We can ask not only if Wilson followed training, but if existing procedures allow for proper checks on authority. 

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From the fact that you are condemning the police (a very modern concept indeed), or even just the specific actions of specific officers or departments, and siding with the victims of governmental oppression, it does not follow that you want to abolish government per se, or that you are opposed to organized protection of rights under objective law. The government of Ferguson, St. Louis, Missouri, and the U.S. are not objectivist governments. Anyone who is an objectivist or individualist or Randian or wants a minimal, night watchman state, or even just an extremely limited and classically liberal-libertarian one, and is unaware of your own movement's anti-authoritarian and anti-police heritage honestly needs to stfu and read a book. Read Rose Wilder Lane for chrissake, one of Ayn Rand's own influences. People in here are sounding more like bloggers from think progress or move on.org rather than Objectivists.

Edited by 2046
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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.

 

I'm more of an old school type, and without getting too hung up on the issue of a Creator, generally suscribe to the view expressed in the Declaration of Independence:

 

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

 

There were no doubt many contemporaries of Jefferson, Franklin and Paine who wished they'd stfu and stop stirring up trouble for decent law abiding citizens...

 

"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

 

Rioting and protests are sign of troubled times, and we dismiss them at our own peril.  With regard to civil disobediance, Ayn Rand delimits such actions to those in which damages and peril are assumed personally by respectfully challenging laws in court, rather than by casting ballots in the form of bricks through their neighbors' shop windows. ~ http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/civil_disobedience.html

 

I will say though, I appreciate your POV and the examples you cite.  Provoking thoughts is a most effective way to effect real change for the better.

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So much going on in this thread.

I don't understand why someone has to be "pro" or "anti" police. Can't one instead support police action when it is on the side of justice, and stand against it when it is on the opposite side? (Shouldn't that be the standard?)

It's possible that not all of these recent episodes are equal. While I understand those who have supported the police in the Brown case (and can yet empathize with those who have questions), I'm far less comfortable with the Garner case, and I'd like to see that addressed at some point. It thus far seems inexcusable to me.

I also think an interesting question has been raised as to when a person is morally justified in physically resisting the police. But are the allowable answers supposed to be either "always" or "never"? Because I can't imagine that either of those are the right answer. As a starting point (though I imagine that this would still be a complex exploration), wouldn't we say that a person is morally justified in resisting when physical force is being initiated against him?

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What's disturbing about the Garner case is that the use of choke holds was apparently banned in 1993 by the NYPD*, and followed up with documentation prohibiting its use, but not punished in instances where it was subsequently used (many times) including this most recent event.  It is particularly troubling when training is modified and then willfully disobeyed in a kind of redefinition of what choking means*, while oversight turns a blind eye to a practice known to be unnecessarily dangerous.

 

"Defenders of the officer involved say he was using a proper technique -- one he had learned in the academy that stays away from a person's throat and neck. The New York City medical examiner's office has called Garner's death a homicide resulting from "compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.”*

 

I listened to one galling account over the weekend by a proponent of this modified/redefined technique who was making the point that the fact Garner could say he couldn't breathe proved he wasn't really choking, and after all everyone says these kinds of things to avoid being placed under arrest.  All of which just points to a more problematic reversal of the presumption of innocence and due process, to tacit (and sometimes explicit) support for the idea that suspects are obviously guilty or the police wouldn't be apprehending them in the first place.  Therefore they deserve whatever happens to them on the way to court (or the morgue).

--

* http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/12/03/the-nypd-banned-chokeholds-20-years-ago-but-hundreds-of-complaints-are-still-being-filed/

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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DA, More than this is wrong with the Garner case. Garner was not accused of a violent crime. He was resisting arrenst but not violently. What he is supposed to have done wrong was a made-up phony crime. Why he should die for any of this is beyond comprehension. Every police officer involved in restraining him should be charged with a crime, not just the one who had his arm around his neck. They were all responsible for his safety and none spoke up to protect this man's life. This should be at least negligent homicide or manslaughter of some sort.

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... As a starting point (though I imagine that this would still be a complex exploration), wouldn't we say that a person is morally justified in resisting when physical force is being initiated against him?

 

I can't imagine avoiding that as a benchmark since the initiation of force is presumed to be evil.  Even if you allow that police have a legitimate monopoly on the use of force, the presumption remains that they are responding defensively and the Fourth Amendment explicitly defines the terms of engagement.  But as is said, the Devil is in the detail  :devil: , and the terms unreasonable and probable leave a lot to interpretation, or in the case of police, a lot of room for initiative.

 

DA, More than this is wrong with the Garner case. Garner was not accused of a violent crime. He was resisting arrenst but not violently. What he is supposed to have done wrong was a made-up phony crime. Why he should die for any of this is beyond comprehension. Every police officer involved in restraining him should be charged with a crime, not just the one who had his arm around his neck. They were all responsible for his safety and none spoke up to protect this man's life. This should be at least negligent homicide or manslaughter of some sort.

 

There's a lot there to respond to, and my focus thus far has primarily been on the efficacy of police training to bring living suspects to a court of law.  An officer who follows orders certainly appears to get favorable reviews by grand juries.  Perhaps the other DA can chime in again?  Apparently the medical examiner's office has called Garner's death a homicide, however...

 

"So in a medical examiner’s report 'homicide' just means one person intentionally did something that led to the death of someone else. It doesn’t mean the death was intentional and it doesn’t mean it was a crime." ~ http://time.com/3618279/eric-garner-chokehold-crime-staten-island-daniel-pantaleo/

 

Go figure...

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They'd have more reason to follow strict protocol and not make error upon error and then "have to" kill in order to survive. I find it questionable that Wilson was performing the job asked to be done. He got himself into a situation that he shouldn't be in. I'm seeing a system failing to evaluate what the job Wilson should be doing, or possibly abuse by Wilson knowing he could eventually kill Brown without worrying that he went too far or did his job properly.

I did read up some more, and I'm still not seeing how Wilson wasn't at least truly commiting negligent homicide due to incompetency. The worst thing, looking at Wilson's testimony (which shouldn't be part of a grand jury process) I can't make heads or tails of what "charging" is. Bulls charge, not humans. And anyway, grand juries don't determine guilt.

This just to address the parenthetic comment "(which shouldn't be part of a grand jury process)"

According to this government document about the court process in Missouri, on page 4

Grand jury proceedings are closed to the public. Defendants do not attend unless they are testifying as witnesses.

 

In the Handbook for Federal Grand Jurors under (4) Calling the Person Under Investigation as a Witness on page 7

Normally, neither the person under investigation (sometimes referred to as the "accused," although this does not imply he or she is guilty of any crime) nor any witness on the accused's behalf will testify before the grand jury.

Upon request, preferably in writing, an accused may be given the opportunity by the grand jury to appear before it. An accused who does so appear cannot be forced to testify because of the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination. If the grand jury attempts to force the accused to testify, an indictment returned against that person may be nullified.

Because the appearance of an accused before the grand jury may raise complicated legal problems, a grand jury that desires to request or to permit an accused to appear before it should consult with the United States Attorney and, if necessary, the court before proceeding.

Even if the accused is willing to testify voluntarily, it is recommended that he or she first be warned of the right not to testify. Also, he or she may be required to sign a formal waiver of this right. The grand jury should be completely satisfied that the accused fully understands what he or she is doing.

 

The tradition of the Grand Jury stems from the Magna Carta granted in the year 1215, although I don't know if the section regarding the accused has been a part of it all along.

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I may be beating a dead horse here, but anyone who may think it a good idea to shoot the leg should try the following exercise. Go back to the autopsy sketch of Michael Brown. Realize that Darren Wilson was aiming for center mass (the chest/upper torso). Picture the center mass of the sketch as a kneecap sized circle (actual center mass is either a bit bigger or a single fixed point, but kneecap diameter will work for this exercise). Now imagine that the location of the bullet wounds are fixed relative to that circle. Now move the circle to Brown's right knee. Note that one of the bullets might now be in Brown's arm (if he were charging, that arm is actually closer to center mass and doesn't get hit). Now, move that circle to Brown's left knee. Notice that one of the bullets hit's Brown's hip. Neither of these hits results in certain incapacitation - only the kill shot that resulted from aiming center mass does.

I realize that bodies in motion offer different pictures than the autopsy sketch. Brown was reported to be falling forward when he was hit on the top of the head, meaning that the killing shot was probably much closer to where Wilson was aiming than the sketch suggests. But I believe the exercise should have some value regardless.

Edited by FeatherFall
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The Garner case seems much more difficult to me. Here are a few issues to consider:

1) Yes, the definition of choke. If police banned the "choke hold" what kind did they ban? Was it the tracheal choke, which crushes the windpipe and interferes with verbal communication? Or was it the carotid choke ("sleeper hold") which restricts blood flow to the brain? The offending officer didn't appear to have Garner in a tracheal choke. Thanks to anyone who provides a clarifying link.

2) Garner's health. Despite what many articles were clearly written to convey, Garner was not choked to death. He reportedly suffered heart failure in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. It was reported that one of the reasons he was not given CPR by the police was that he was still breathing while he lay there. I don't know how believable I find this, but I understand this to be the official record.

3) The felony murder rule is a tradition that holds criminal actors culpable for deaths that happen as a result of the commission serious crimes. New York has such a rule, and I think it is a sound principle. Is the use of a banned (by department standards, not statute) choke hold a serious crime? Probably not. Seeing as how Garner's death was more influenced by his poor health than by unsafe tactics, I don't think this even amounts to a manslaughter charge. I don't think a reasonable person can look at the 13 seconds Garner was in the hold and conclude, "Oh, that's likely to result in his death."

4) Moral law.  Garner was being arrested for selling untaxed "loosies." A pretty sound case could be made that enforcing such a regulatory code is a moral crime similar to racketeering in severity. If you want moral laws to govern, you want these officers prosecuted by way of that felony murder rule described above. I do. But I would not feel the same way if Garner had committed a real (moral) crime. So I - tentatively - conclude that we shouldn't see these officers prosecuted. But I remain open to contrary persuasion.

Edit: Isn't it a bitch that when we invoke the "rule of law" we're often protecting codified law at the expense of moral law?

Edited by FeatherFall
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I may be beating a dead horse here, but anyone who may think it a good idea to shoot the leg should try the following exercise. Go back to the autopsy sketch of Michael Brown. Realize that Darren Wilson was aiming for center mass (the chest/upper torso). Picture the center mass of the sketch as a kneecap sized circle (actual center mass is either a bit bigger or a single fixed point, but kneecap diameter will work for this exercise). Now imagine that the location of the bullet wounds are fixed relative to that circle. Now move the circle to Brown's right knee. Note that one of the bullets might now be in Brown's arm (if he were charging, that arm is actually closer to center mass and doesn't get hit). Now, move that circle to Brown's left knee. Notice that one of the bullets hit's Brown's hip. Neither of these hits results in certain incapacitation - only the kill shot that resulted from aiming center mass does.

I realize that bodies in motion offer different pictures than the autopsy sketch. Brown was reported to be falling forward when he was hit on the top of the head, meaning that the killing shot was probably much closer to where Wilson was aiming than the sketch suggests. But I believe the exercise should have some value regardless.

 

OK, I may be totally off on this, but one thing that jumps out to me when reading the transcript, is that at the point where officer Wilson sees Brown turn around at the street lamp, he states that Brown places his right hand in his waist band, under his shirt.  Wilson seems to really be concerned that Brown may have a concealed weapon, and even describes having tunnel vision focusing on the right arm.  His following series of gun shots are exclusively aimed at and hit the right arm.  That being the case, and check the transcript to see if I'm wrong on this point, it could be argued that Wilson totally nailed the most threatening limb he was concerned about.

 

If true, doesn't that suggest that aiming with the same concern for the legs would have actually worked?

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I'm not sure if you're being facetious. "Charging" is a pretty common way to describe any animal (or group of animals) that rapidly advance to attack.

Words like "dash" would make sense. I haven't heard anyone say "he charged me", it just sounds very weird and sketchy when used for something besides a bull or something like an ostrich. Seems to me a euphemism for big black guys running, or at least for Wilson it might be. If it's a normal term for people, I never heard it.

 

"It was reported that one of the reasons he was not given CPR by the police was that he was still breathing while he lay there."

The guy REPEATED "I can't breathe". Was he breathing normally? Barely breathing? If it was because he was "barely breathing", then that's plenty actually, and that's why he died - died from a choke indirectly. Why do the chokehold? Garner was obese. Seems like a case of "whoa, big black guy! Scary." He was an obese guy. He wasn't going anywhere...

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2) Garner's health. Despite what many articles were clearly written to convey, Garner was not choked to death. He reportedly suffered heart failure in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. It was reported that one of the reasons he was not given CPR by the police was that he was still breathing while he lay there. I don't know how believable I find this, but I understand this to be the official record.

If I shoot a person, and an ambulance is called, and they're taken to the hospital but die en route due to heart failure, brought on by the gunshot... is it wrong to say that my gunshot killed them? Doesn't the medical examiner's report tie Garner's death into the specific actions taken against him (whether a blood or wind choke)? Or has that been misconstrued by the media?

(On the distinction between chokes, I expect that the written policy 1) does not specify, but 2) was written to prevent situations just such as these. Thus, as pertains to the "spirit of the law," I would guess that "tracheal" versus "arterial" is a distinction without a difference. But perhaps I'm wrong on that point.)

 

3) The felony murder rule is a tradition that holds criminal actors culpable for deaths that happen as a result of the commission serious crimes. New York has such a rule, and I think it is a sound principle. Is the use of a banned (by department standards, not statute) choke hold a serious crime? Probably not.

I expect that I would have no legal authority or license to walk up to some person and begin to choke them. I expect that if I did choke a person, and they died as a result of it (even if ill health was also a contributing factor), that I would be held responsible and charged with murder. Does a police officer have said legal authority or license to choke, more than any other person, when the very tactic under discussion is explicitly prohibited?

If a police officer does something which he has no legal right to do, which he is expressly prohibited from doing, and kills someone in so doing, how does he not have legal culpability for his action and the results?

And if these kinds of results could not reasonably be anticipated, why would a choke be off-limits to begin with? If poor health + these tactics are a deadly combination -- as it appears that they sometimes are -- then perhaps these tactics are justly prohibited, as many people suffer from poor health, and not always so obviously as with Garner's obesity.

 

Edit: Isn't it a bitch that when we invoke the "rule of law" we're often protecting codified law at the expense of moral law?

If we are not arguing for the application of moral law, then aren't we necessarily arguing for the immoral? In this case, aren't you arguing on behalf of those who initiate the use of force, and against those who have force initiated against them (and have died as a direct result)?

If these are the results -- which seem immoral and reprehensible to me -- then what good comes from "protecting codified law" in this manner?

Edited by DonAthos
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Words like "dash" would make sense. I haven't heard anyone say "he charged me", it just sounds very weird and sketchy when used for something besides a bull or something like an ostrich. Seems to me a euphemism for big black guys running, or at least for Wilson it might be. If it's a normal term for people, I never heard it.

 

"It was reported that one of the reasons he was not given CPR by the police was that he was still breathing while he lay there."

The guy REPEATED "I can't breathe". Was he breathing normally? Barely breathing? If it was because he was "barely breathing", then that's plenty actually, and that's why he died - died from a choke indirectly. Why do the chokehold? Garner was obese. Seems like a case of "whoa, big black guy! Scary." He was an obese guy. He wasn't going anywhere...

From my recollection of the coverage the word charge or charging was the word used by a witness to the shooting and was probably reported to show corroboration of the Wilson's account. In the testimony Wilson says he returned to the station without having contact with any of the witnesses, are you suggesting he planted that word with the witness somehow , it seems more likely that that term was the one used by witness.

 

Do the Staten Island police have any connection with the police force in Fergeson, or is it that  all cops in the US are scared of black guys( including the supervising officer in the Garner case)?

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I haven't heard anyone say "he charged me",....

Haven't been around much? Perhaps better grammar might give it a better ring. How about, "He charged at me"?

 

 

Seems to me a euphemism for big black guys running, ....

 

This is despicable race baiting. Stick to the facts and stop speculating.

 

 

He was an obese guy. He wasn't going anywhere...

 

Is that why it took half a dozed grown men to bring him down? Look, Eric Garner deserved to live. The police killed him and should be punished but won't because of a decision made by a grand jury. We don't have to inject speculative nonsense into the issue just to whip up opposition. The death is worthy of protest on its face without having to make things up.

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Haven't been around much? Perhaps better grammar might give it a better ring. How about, "He charged at me"?

It's not the grammar - I've never heard the word "charged" with a person. My speculation after is looking at what Wilson means, what people mean is never MERELY what they say. If it is typical, just not in my region, then I didn't know. Anyway, as tad corrected me, Wilson himself didn't say it, so it doesn't really matter.

 

"Is that why it took half a dozed grown men to bring him down?"

I'm not speculating. I watched the video. He didn't need 6 people to take him down. He wasn't going to get away, he wasn't even running away.

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It's not the grammar - I've never heard the word "charged" with a person. My speculation after is looking at what Wilson means, what people mean is never MERELY what they say.

For what it's worth, "charge" is a perfectly fine word to use with a person, as in "Pickett's Charge."

I agree wholeheartedly that communication is often coded, and there's always the possibility of subtext, but to take the use of "charge" to imply some sort of racial bias is reading into it a bit too much, I think.

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Words like "dash" would make sense. I haven't heard anyone say "he charged me", it just sounds very weird and sketchy when used for something besides a bull or something like an ostrich. Seems to me a euphemism for big black guys running, or at least for Wilson it might be. If it's a normal term for people, I never heard it.

It's common. I'm sure you've heard it in a military context. Now I'm speculating here, but you may not hear it in everyday language because, like me, people don't commonly attack each other in front of you. But I role play quite a bit and in just about every game I've ever played there are special rules for what happens when one character "charges" another. It's common to hear the word about 10 times a session. I'll admit that is not a normal context, but it worked it's way into role playing through the vernacular.

 

"It was reported that one of the reasons he was not given CPR by the police was that he was still breathing while he lay there."

The guy REPEATED "I can't breathe". Was he breathing normally? Barely breathing? If it was because he was "barely breathing", then that's plenty actually, and that's why he died - died from a choke indirectly. Why do the chokehold? Garner was obese. Seems like a case of "whoa, big black guy! Scary." He was an obese guy. He wasn't going anywhere...

 

I'm not sure what your point is here. Garner wasn't choked to death, which is the narrative so many people seem determined to spread. He was asthmatic and probably panicking due to the physical assault by armed men. Garner didn't begin to complain about not being able to breathe until the choke hold was released. I'm sure the choke hold played a role in his death, but a normal person in that situation doesn't die. It isn't clear that the result would be any different if Garner was pulled to the ground by his arms. The officer obviously didn't intend to choke him to death, so a murder charge is inappropriate. It looks like he wasn't even trying to choke Garner to unconsciousness, so he couldn't have predicted that heart failure would be the likely result of his action, which means a manslaughter charge is probably not warranted. He was engaged in a legal activity (arrest). Because choke holds are not prohibited to police by statute, it appears that he committed no crime whatsoever. 

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