Random notes: May 23, 2014.

A couple of things that I’ve run across:

1. The Sunday Statesman had a longish article about problem police officers moving from department to department. I don’t think this is all that unusual – I’ve seen Balko and others write about this problem in other states – but the Texas angle is interesting.

In Texas, a police officer’s license can be revoked for only three reasons. One is for “barratry,” or using his position for financial gain; officials said it is rarely invoked. The second is for a felony criminal conviction. About 35 peace officers annually get their licenses pulled for qualifying crimes.
The third is for egregious misconduct. Unlike some other professions licensed by the state, however, Texas defines this for police in an extremely narrow and specific way — two dishonorable discharges.

The reason a police officer left a department, and the status of his “discharge”, is noted on a form called an F-5, which is filed with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. Part of the problem is that, if an officer’s discharge is noted as “dishonorable”, that officer can appeal their discharge status.

In 2008, Ken Walker, chief of the West University Place Police Department near Houston, fired officer Rosemarie Valdes “after she repeatedly told false and grossly exaggerated version of an on-duty incident,” court documents show. When she appealed her dishonorable discharge, Walker recalled, the small department virtually had to close up shop for a day while it sent two attorneys, the city’s human resources director, a police captain and the chief and a firefighter to Austin for the appeals hearing.

So in a lot of cases, departments agree to make the discharge “honorable”, in return for the fired officer agreeing not to take another job in any nearby department. In other cases, even if an officer is “dishonorably” discharged, smaller departments may not check the F-5, or they’re so hard up to get a qualified officer that they’re willing to ignore it.

(As a side note: isn’t it interesting that police departments have adopted military style language for this: “discharged” instead of “fired”? “honorable” and “dishonorable”?)

One other noteworthy bit of information: remember WCD favorite, former APD officer Leonardo Quintana? Were you wondering what happened to him?

Wonder no more: “In March, the former Austin officer was hired as a deputy by the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department, in the Rio Grande Valley. Quintana didn’t return phone calls seeking comment. Acting Sheriff Eddie Guerra, who took office six weeks ago, said he wasn’t familiar with Quintana’s past.

(I didn’t write about this previously because it was behind the paper’s paywall. Also, it’s been a heck of a week. Hattip to Grits for Breakfast for the non-paywall link.)

2. When I first saw “Stop Leaning In. Put Down Your IPhone. And HELP ME.” come across the Hacker News Twitter feed, I initially thought it was another “women in tech” rant. I don’t know why I clicked through to it, but I’m glad I did; it turned out to be something completely different.

Suddenly a thin figure bumped into me, which I wasn’t unused to in this city, but instead of the normal mumbling apology and eye contact, she didn’t move away. She stayed close and stared at me directly.
“Give me your phone, your purse, your bag, everything

I’d like to see this get more attention in the gunblogging community, as I think this is an excellent example of things we talk about a lot.

People stare and watch.
“Anybody, please, somebody, help me!”
30 eyes follow us.

You are responsible for your own safety. Yes, it would be nice if we could count on other people to help us. Yes, it would be nice if the police were always right there, instead of minutes away. But the world doesn’t work that way, and all of our wishes won’t make it so. The world, and the drug addicts in it, don’t care that you have to give a presentation to 200 people that night, or that you have children. You have to take responsibility for your safety. What are you doing about that?

Coffee in hand I mulled in front of the train station waiting for an Uber because I’d recently torn the ligaments in my foot. Headphones in my ear as I watched the little dot on the screen’s progress, scrutinizing his every move as if he were the worst Pac Man player I’d ever seen.

Situational awareness. Enough said.

Well, maybe not “enough said”. I know that situational awareness is something I sometimes have a problem with. I’ve been trying consciously since I got my CHL to work on improving that, and I feel like I’ve made some progress. But I’d love to find additional resources in that area: Hsoi has written some good stuff on the subject.

I realize it’s your business if you choose to tune out the world. But if you do choose to do so, don’t be surprised if you’re viewed as a ripe target for someone willing to take advantage of you… and your first post-situation thought is “they caught me by surprise… I wasn’t aware of them until they were on top of me”. Be pro-active, don’t let it happen to you, stay aware of your situation. And teach your kids the same.

She caught up to me and latched on.
“ I’m going to stab you and kill you”
By now she was livid. And suddenly we were brawling, she swinging at me with a knife in one hand, and punched with the other. I blocked all I could. panic filling every moment.

How’s that strict gun control working for you, San Francisco?

Okay, that may be a little facile. This post is the only one (so far) at Kirsten’s Amazing; there’s no way of knowing if she’s the type of person who could (or would) use a gun in self-defense, and there might be some practical problems with carrying one in her environment. (Example: what do you do with it at work, if you’re taking public transit instead of a personal vehicle?). But I think Kirsten is damn lucky to have come through this as well off as she did; she could very well have been seriously injured or killed.
Some martial arts classes might have helped Kirsten out in this case (since it sounds like her attacker was a small woman, rather than a 250 pound ex-football player) but it takes time to become good at martial arts. (It takes some time to become good with a gun, too, though.) (Edited to add: and torn ligaments in one’s foot might, perhaps, cramp your martial arts style.) Maybe she would have benefited from carrying pepper spray, though we know that doesn’t always work either. Guns may not always be the answer, but I like Kirsten’s odds a lot better with a S&W Bodyguard or even a little Beretta .25 in her hand.

I threw my hot coffee in her face and made a run back for the train station.

Caleb Giddings, call your office, please. (More seriously, that’s good thinking, Kirsten. Your main weapon isn’t a gun or pepper spray or your martial arts training; it is your brain. Use whatever is at hand if you need to defend yourself.)

I’ve seen two different schools of thought in the community. School number one is what I’d call the “sheepdog” school: “I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.” School number two is perhaps best described this way: “My gun is to protect me and the people I care about. I’m not going to become involved in some stranger’s bullshit.”

Would I have jumped in to help Kirsten? I find it hard to say. First of all, I wasn’t there; I’m not sure how obvious it was that Kirsten was in trouble and who the aggressor was. What if I was mistaken about what was going on? What if this had turned out to be a fight between Kirsten and, say, an undercover cop who was trying to arrest her for using Uber instead of a licensed taxicab? Surprise! Now I’m facing charges of “assaulting a police officer”!

If it had been clear that she was being attacked by that woman, would I have jumped in? Would you have jumped in? Does it change things that we’re talking about San Francisco (where we both almost certainly would be unarmed) instead of Austin?

Someone (I wish I could remember who) said recently that you should look at self-defense this way; if you have to use your gun, every bullet has a $50,000 bill attached. Are you willing to bear that cost for someone you don’t know? Honestly, I don’t know if I am.

We live in a world where you can be shunned by society for engaging in justified self-defense. Are you willing to become this week’s featured demon on CNN because you jumped in to help a stranger? Even if it was justified? Imagine the family on the nightly news: “He was always sharp, always goofy, loved to dance, he was a respectable boy.” Why did you have to go and shoot Mister “Loved to Dance”, just because he pointed a gun at you? And as bad as those links are, you can bet it’d be even worse if you shot a petite woman with a knife. “He’s a big guy, he could have taken the knife away from her.” “He didn’t have to kill her, he could have just shot her in the leg.” You know the drill.

And are you willing to bear the costs, even if it was justified? This story from the comments is illustrative: time away from work (and I don’t know about you, but I don’t get paid if I’m not working), the risk of infection from junkie blood, being attacked by the bad guy’s lawyers…

…and that’s if things go well. What if the junkie bitch turns around and stabs you instead? Even if you have health insurance, you may end up out-of-pocket a significant amount of money. That is, if you survive being stabbed.

These questions are hard to answer, and I’m not sure of my own answers. But not being sure doesn’t make them any less worth asking.

2 Responses to “Random notes: May 23, 2014.”

  1. lelnet says:

    I’m pretty sure of my answers, actually.

    The only person I’d bear that risk for is my wife. If it were _me_ getting robbed, and I was alone, I’d give up the stuff. Better to lose your wallet and phone and other goods than to become the next George Zimmerman. Damn sure I wouldn’t do it for a stranger.

    In San Francisco? I’m ashamed to admit I might even hesitate to do it for her. But then, that’s why I’m only ever going back to San Francisco one more time (when my mother dies, to scatter the ashes) and when that time comes, I’ll be doing it alone, and returning to civilization as quickly as possible.

  2. Former Whiteknight says:

    I was the guy who wrote about my experience after the night at the bar. There’s something I didn’t mention there, but I probably should.

    Situations like that, when the nice, orderly, easy to predict world you live in is suddenly turned upside-down are what I call acute mental traumas. Seeing someone being attacked, being shot at, finding yourself seconds away from being hit by a train, taking a punch… things like that.

    Everyone deals with acute mental traumas differently, but the most common is what people call the “Fight or Flight” response. It’s not very accurate though, it’s closer to “Fight, Flight or Freeze”, and it turns out most people freeze. A lot of training in the armed forces is based on the idea that when you’re subject to those acute mental traumas (a bomb goes off, your buddy gets shot right next to you, whatever) that once you get past that instinctual FFF reaction, you’ll revert to training. Often, it doesn’t work. People’s instincts are very, very hard to overcome.

    I don’t doubt there’s some guys who are making mental calculations like some of what we see in the comments. I’d like to think that I’ll be one of them in the future… but I’m also self-aware enough to know that my nature in response to acute mental traumas is to orient towards the danger and advance. In a more dangerous world, it probably would have gotten me killed by now. It may still.

    I stand by my words; I do think intervention is for suckers. Some of us just can’t help wading in, some of us can’t help but ducking and covering, and a lot of us just can’t help standing by watching while it all unfolds because we can’t get an even mental keel on which to decide how to act. The hostility that men experience when they lay hands on a woman, even women who really really need it, may not cause that freeze-up, but it may well amplify and extend that period of indecision. Perhaps to the point where people die, or suffer some other severe (and possibly avoidable) consequence.

    In the end, it doesn’t make any of us brave, or cowardly, or numb to the suffering of others. It just makes us human… and bottom line, some days, being a human sucks balls.