Look it over, investigate
Life is wrong, and full of flaws
-Run DMC in Pause
Apparently my thoughts on policing are too radical. I’ve got these crazy ideas about them not killing people that shouldn’t die. They don’t seem too concerned with that.
I’ve tried to explain why that is. To sum it up again, I think that if the police kill somebody who doesn’t need to die, they are doing it wrong. Police, on the other hand, gauge whether or not they’re doing it correctly by whether or not they followed their own procedure. To quote myself from last week:
You look at the dead man and say, “something didn’t go down right.” The police look at their policy, they see that they acted in accordance with their set “use of force” guidelines, and their process validates their behavior. Their guidelines don’t care if a man died. As long as they acted in accordance with their policy, they believe the result must have been correct.
I’m not meaning to talk with you about the man they killed with Down’s Syndrome (Robert Saylor) again. Despite the fact that it still bothers me, you’ve heard me say it all by now. Instead, there is another man.
Have you heard about John Warna? He’s the 95 year old man Park Forest, Illinois man that the police taser-and-bean-bagged to death. Warna (or “Grandpa” as I’m going to call him) was going to be “involuntarily commit.” Involuntary commitment happens when somebody is so far off mentally or physically that they are a danger to themselves. Having represented several patients on involuntary commitment, I can tell you that they are not always easy to deal with. Sometimes they are suicidal. Sometimes they don’t know their own name. Sometimes they think they’re Jesus. Sometimes they think you’re trying to kill them.
On top of whatever physical and mental aliments Grandpa had, he was threatening the cops. With his cane. And a shoehorn. Then a knife:
When police arrived, Warna was threatening staff and paramedics with a metal cane and a 2-foot metal shoehorn, the release said. Police demanded that he drop the cane and shoehorn, but he did not comply and then picked up a “12-inch butcher type kitchen knife.”
No doubt, Grandpa was cranky. What’s a cop to do in that situation?
Police continued to demand that Warna surrender and follow their orders and eventually used a Taser on him. That failed to subdue him and he continued to threaten others, the release said. Police then fired bean bag rounds at the man to get him to drop the knife and surrender. He did so and was taken into custody.
Of course, that killed Grandpa. He’s dead. Would it have killed you? No. Would the cops dragging you out of a theater like Mr. Saylor kill you? Probably not. But, you aren’t frail.
They were frail.
Remember when that Boston Bomber kid was on the loose and they found him in a boat? How long was he sitting in that boat surrounded? It wasn’t a quick capture. It was enough time for the entire country to get back to the televisions and watch the talking heads waste air speculating about all sorts of stuff they didn’t know. There’s something to be said for waiting until the time is right. And that’s what the police did for that mass murderer.
Or what about that David Koresh fella? Remember him? Forget shoehorns and canes: He was hiding in that compound with a bunch of women and guns. 51 days we stood outside his house before going in. That’s a long time to wait. But that’s what the authorities did. They waited. Often times, waiting works.
Go ahead and look up any random police standoff. They typically take hours. Especially if the target has a gun. There’s no shame in waiting for a peaceable end.
And, there’s the rub. Why is it that an able-bodied man with a gun will get more time and caution from the police, than a frail person without a gun? Not to mention, in Grandpa’s case, somebody who isn’t even a criminal.
Why do presumed mass murderers and illegal gun hoarders get the benefit of patience, but not the innocent and developmentally disabled? Why isn’t patience preferred over force? Why couldn’t they wait for Grandpa to calm down or Mr. Saylor’s mom to show up? If you might point a gun at the police, you get every opportunity to calm down and surrender. If you’re Grandpa, though? If you’re a man with Down’s Syndrome in a movie theater? Then? Oh, then the police need to get you out of there quick. No matter the cost.
Think of all the dumb ways Grandpa could have died over the last 95 years. At that age he’d lived through a World War. Maybe even fought in it. He’d no-doubt survived countless close calls in cars. He’s a full two decades past when heart attack or stroke would normally take somebody out. Of all the dumb things that can get you over 95 years, none of them got Grandpa. Until the taser and bean bag.
So, there you go. I’m sure that the police will say the police acted in accordance with their policy and it was “just an unfortunate ending.” I doubt the police will say they could have just waited for Grandpa to fall asleep and drop the shoe horn. It’s too radical of an idea.