October 22, 2017

Justine Damond: Transformation

Justine and Don Damond

By: Mike McDaniel  

As I’ve previously noted, establishing an accurate time frame is absolutely essential to any police involved shooting investigation. The Minneapolis local CBS affiliate, using all resources available to them, has assembled this time frame:

11:27 p.m. — Justine Damond calls 911 to report hearing sounds of distress from a girl or woman behind her house. She says it may be a rape. A dispatcher says officers should arrive soon.

11:35 p.m. — Damond calls 911 again to ask why police haven’t arrived yet. She gives the dispatcher address again.

11:41 p.m. — Officers Matthew Harrity and Mohamed Noor arrive and drive south down the alley behind Damond’s house. Harrity, who is driving, is startled by a loud noise near his squad car. Damond approaches the driver’s side window immediately afterward, and Noor fires his gun past Harrity, striking Damond through that window of the vehicle, according to Harrity in an interview with state investigators.

11:42 p.m. — Radio report of one person down, starting CPR.

11:50 p.m. — Radio report of police doing CPR for “last four minutes.”

11:51 p.m. — Damond is pronounced dead in the alley at the south end of her block. A medical examiner later says Damond was shot once in the abdomen.

The 11:41 notation is interesting in that the radio log transcript thus far available contains no transmission from the officers announcing their arrival, merely a call, by this time line, at 1142 announcing someone had been shot. They had, at that moment, no idea who Noor shot. We still don’t know when the dispatcher sent the officers to that alley. If this timeline is accurate, from their arrival until Noor shot Damond, less than a minute elapsed, potentially supporting the notion of a panicked shooting of Damond. Hopefully, the BCA timeline will be accurate to the second.

As I noted in Update 4: Political damage, Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteu, a 30-year veteran of the force appointed Chief in 2012, was forced to resign at the bidding of the City Council and Mayor Betsy Hodges:

As far as we have come, I’ve lost confidence in the Chief’s ability to lead us further–and from the many conversations I’ve had with people around our city, especially this week, it is clear that she has lost the confidence of the people of Minneapolis as well.  For us to continue to transform policing–and community trust in policing–we need new leadership at MPD.

Hodges is “transforming policing,” which is social justice for immunizing favored victim groups from arrest and banishing proactive policing. The Guardian, in reporting on Harteau’s ouster, ironically explained how she got the Chief’s job in the first place:

“She worked her way up the ranks and in 2012 was appointed chief, becoming the city’s first female, first openly gay and first Native American police chief.”

In 2012, Haretau must have looked like a social justice Mayor’s dream: female, openly lesbian, and of Indian ancestry, the latter being a substantial social justice totem in a plains state. In March of 2017, Harteau was honored:

“Saying that Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau’s handling of turmoil in the city ‘has made her a leadership role model,’ Fortune magazine on Thursday ranked her No. 22 on its annual list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.”

Some MPD officers were not sorry to see her go:

Lt. Bob Kroll, head of the Minneapolis Police Federation, described Harteau as vengeful and not understanding of the needs of the department.

‘We had high hopes for her when she took over the position and she failed us,’ said Kroll, adding that he believes Hodges only pushed out Harteau for her own political gain in a difficult election year.”

And in an incident that may become emblematic of the state of social justice in Minneapolis, at the press conference where Hodges announced Harteau’s resignation, “protestors” disrupted the event, demanding Hodges’ resignation and of course, damning the MPD. Struggling to regain control of the event Hodges said:

“I hear and understand,’ the mayor interjected while protesters drowned her out. ‘For folks listening, I hear and understand.”

I’m sure she did and did. But what she likely understood is Harteau was going, to at least some degree, defend the MPD, and Hodges and the social justice establishment had very different intentions, so Harteau, lesbian, female and Indian notwithstanding, had to go. Assistant Chief Arradondo has been promoted to Chief. He is black. There is no word on his sexual preferences or potential Indian ancestry, but these days, such things need not be actually traceable, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren–Fauxcohontas–can attest.

In the meantime, the formerly unknown bicyclist has been identified and interviewed by the BCA, though his identity has apparently not been released. The Star Tribune reports: 

“A witness who was nearby when Justine Damond was fatally shot by a Minneapolis police officer has been located and is cooperating, according to state investigators.

The witness, who was seen bicycling east on W. 51st Street immediately before the shooting and who stopped and watched officers perform CPR ‘has been cooperative and provided an interview today [07-22-17],’ according to a news release from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

A source with direct knowledge of the investigation said the witness filmed part of the encounter.”

It will be interesting indeed to learn precisely what the bicyclist recorded. According to this particular Star Tribune account, the more or less official account continues to be that after hearing a “loud sound,” Damond approached the open driver’s window of the police vehicle, and Noor, startled, immediately shot her. I’ll provide several scenarios at the end of this article that may help explain the dynamics of such things.

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As expected, the defense is already seeking to impugn Damond. With what appears to be a very straightforward, and damaging set of facts, the Defense will do its best to try to justify Noor’s shooting of Damond. As the Daily Telegraph reports, via drugs: 

Noor’s lawyer on Thursday said it would be ‘nice to know if there was any (prescription sedative) Ambien in her system’, in an apparent attempt to paint Ms Damond’s behaviour as having contributed to the tragedy.

Ambien is a common “sleeping pill.” While I haven’t heard an audio recording of Damond’s 911 call–I don’t believe it has been released–the transcript does not suggest someone not in control of herself or otherwise compromised.

“It was absolutely sickening, and that’s the game these lawyers play, to try to attack the victim,’ family spokesman Tom Hyder told News Corp Australia.

‘My stomach turned when I heard that.

‘Justine was someone who only ate organic, she watched everything she ever put into her body. She is not someone who would have used drugs.”

As I’ve previously written, it’s difficult to imagine how, even if Damond were using Ambien or any other sleep aid, that could justify Noor’s apparently panicked shooting. What could Damond possibly have done, Ambien or not, that would cause a reasonable police officer to be inexorably compelled to shoot her?

Former Chief Harteau, speaking to Noor’s training, said:

“We have a very robust field training officer program which, I’ve been told by the training officers, he did well,’ Harteau said. ‘There was no indication there would be any issues.”

However, the first crack in the “Officer Noor was a fully trained police officer” wall appeared over the weekend as well, as the Star Tribune reported:

“The Minneapolis Police Department has struggled in recent years with a shrinking pool of applicants for job openings. A pension change that spurred a wave of retirements among peace officers statewide in 2014 dropped the Minneapolis police ranks to their lowest total in nearly 30 years, and the department was faced with hiring nearly 100 officers. It currently has about 872 sworn officers.”

It was this state of affairs that caused Minneapolis to lower and “accelerate” entrance requirements for police officers. What the article did not address is the likely reasons for those difficulties beyond pension issues. The Ferguson effect is surely an issue in an agency struggling with several high-profile shootings of blacks, in a very politically correct, Democrat-ruled city. Enter Mohamed Noor, who may have seen an opportunity, and a city government and police management structure that would have seen a black Muslim Somali with favorable paper credentials as a wonderful diversity hire. Mayor Hodges certainly treated him as such.

“Minneapolis made a significant financial investment in Mohamed Noor.

The officer who fatally shot Justine Damond graduated in 2015 from the city’s accelerated police cadet program. The seven-month training is a quicker, nontraditional route to policing aimed at helping those who already have a college degree enter law enforcement.”

The brief article explained that after his “accelerated” program, Noor was on probation for a year, but six months of that probation were spent in the field training program. This is accelerated indeed. The introduction of new candidates to police work in most of America is quite different.

The testing and hiring process normally takes up to a year, not only for the testing, but for extensive background checks. Once accepted for employment, Officers are officers in name only. They normally must participate in a basic state academy, or a private academy. Passing those schools, which takes as much as six months–sometimes more–normally provides a basic certificate, allowing the recipient to work as a police officer in that state only. Following that, officers attend the basic academy of their agency, which may take from 1-3 months. Officers then engage in a field training program, where they ride with experienced officers who teach them and write daily evaluations of their work and temperament.   All of this initial training normally takes around a year. Only then are officers allowed to patrol on their own–the norm in most of America–and they serve a one-year probation beginning with the completion of all of their training, including the field training portion. In most American agencies, Noor, with only two years on the force, would have only recently passed his probation.

This is the norm because not only is classroom work necessary, but significant time under close supervision is mandatory to find weaknesses that can’t be caught in any other way. Virtually anyone can learn, but great cops are born, not made. One can construct a reasonable argument that college educated people might be more effective police officers, but other factors are, by far, more important.

Whether one has a college degree ultimately doesn’t matter. Most people don’t understand the unique demands of the job. Officers must, for example, be able to simultaneously drive, think–in the moment and ahead–hold conversations on the radio–often with multiple people–and react to events around them. Police work is not all about driving fast and shooting. It requires a broad base of knowledge, not only about the law and police procedure, but general knowledge as well.

I’m sure I’ll be revisiting this issue, but that’s enough food for thought for the moment. Based only on what we now know, it appears Officer Noor and his contemporaries were fast tracked through training in a way that may have allowed unfit people to end up on the street.

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Experience:

To help you judge what it means to be a police officer, and what is expected of every competent officer, consider these true events in my police experience:

Scenario #1: About 60 officers of our police department and the local sheriff’s agency were sitting in a briefing room, attending a class on a change–if memory serves–in the state mental commitment law. Suddenly, a movie screen at the back of the room came loose and rolled down into its housing, explosively and loudly. Almost everyone reacted by flinching, but remained seated, eventually turning to look behind them, except two of us: me and a deputy sheriff.

At the sound, we both leapt to our feet, spun toward the direction of the sound, and by the time we were facing the potential threat, had our hands on the grips of our revolvers (that should give you a clue how long ago this was). Neither of us unsnapped our holsters or drew our handguns. Recognizing what happened–the stand was still shaking–we glanced at each other, grinned rather sheepishly, and sat back down to the cat calls of our fellows.

All of us were startled, but two of us were fast enough to immediately address the threat, which included clearly identifying it, and deciding what, if anything was required to deal with it. Even though our fellows were not nearly as fast, they too did the right thing. Can you imagine, gentle readers, what would have happened if I fired my weapon in that situation, even if no one was hit? “I heard a loud noise and felt I was in danger so I shot the screen?” I wouldn’t have been prosecuted, but I surely would have been fired, and rightfully so. Police work has no place for people too tightly wrapped to properly use firearms.

Scenario #2: O-Dark-thirty. I was called, with a back up officer, to a woman’s home. She recently broke up with a boyfriend, and he wasn’t taking it well at all. He was banging on her front door, demanding to be let in, and wouldn’t leave.

By the time we arrived, I found him behind the wheel of his car, the engine off, in the driveway. I approached and got him to roll down the window. After confirming he was the boyfriend and the subject of the call, I asked to see identification. Things happened fast.

He leaned left and cocked his right hip, precisely in the manner of someone about to draw a handgun, reached behind his right hip, in the same manner, drew his black billfold upward, just as one would draw a handgun, and holding it not as a billfold, but as a handgun, thrust it forward, not at all like someone moving a billfold to their lap to remove something from it.

A few fractions of a second into that movement, I was already leaping backward, drawing my handgun, and yelling “gun!”–an octave higher than my normal voice–to my backup officer, who was speaking with the woman at the front door of her home. I landed, went to low ready–pointing my handgun at a downward angle–and took another few fractions of a second to determine he was holding a billfold and not the gun his every action indicated. I called “clear” to my backup, who was charging in my direction, and ended up taking the guy in on an involuntary mental health commitment.

He was trying to commit suicide by cop. We talked. He was initially upset I didn’t shoot him, but months later, grateful for my restraint.

If I shot him, would I have been justified? Probably, but it would have been ugly in every way, even though we were both white. I say probably because reasonable, professional cops in the same situation would have believed they were about to be shot. I didn’t have to shoot because I was fast, calm, and well trained enough to be able to take the extra few fractions of a second to be certain I didn’t need to shoot. I didn’t want to shoot anyone–still don’t–but knew my capabilities, so knew how much time I could take.

Every cop knows his actions will be judged by those with the benefit of all the time they need while sitting in a comfy office chair, the only danger they face potential paper cuts. Some police administrators or prosecutors might not understand what “reasonable” in that context looks like.

To this day, I’m glad I took the time. Isn’t that what we want, gentle readers, police officers that not only have the skill to take the time to make sure there is an actual threat, but more importantly, the disposition to do it?

To gain a better understanding of what it is to be a police officer, you might want to visit the SMM Literature Corner, where I archive short stories–true–of my police experiences.

In case, gentle readers, you were wondering what the black wing of the social justice moment thinks about Justine Damond (language warning), here’s a sample:

“I’m going to say this and I mean — down to my subatomic particles — what I say. And I actually don’t care what anyone might think about it:

I don’t give a FUCK about Justine Damond and what happened to her.”

These, gentle readers, are the kinds of people that are going to decide whether to prosecutor Mohamed Noor, and the kinds of police officers and policies the citizens of Minneapolis will have. It will be, I’m certain, transformational.

More, I’m sure, soon.

Mike’s Home blog is Stately McDaniel Manor.