Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Fatal Decision

We should learn to judge actions and not people. It is easy to change policies and actions but difficult to change people.

The Ferguson shooting shows how the impulse to judge one's neighbors leads to ruin.

Activists on the Left decided that the shooting of Mike Brown was a wrong. So they played the narrative that the shooting resulted from racism. They heaped accusations of racism on the officer involved in the shooting. Agitators worked people into such a frenzy that they set Ferguson on fire in their riots.

The right was equally ugly. The right responded by heaping derision on Mike Brown. They loudly proclaimed the shooting a just kill and that Mike Brown's shop lifting Cigarellos was such a heinous crime that he deserved to be gunned down in the street like a rabid dog.

Now that the inquest is through, we have the sequence of events.

The confrontation started when Officer Brown responded to a call about a robbery. He saw Mike Brown and friend walking cockedly down the middle of the street with the loot in hand.

He stops the suspects. The 6'4" Mike Brown assaulted the officer in his vehicle. It is likely that Mike Brown was trying to take the officer's gun away. Officer Wilson shot Mike Brown in the hand. This first shooting is evidenced by blood spatter in the vehicle.

Mike Brown fled the scene.

Officer Wilson called in for back up then made the decision to pursue Mike Brown.

In the second confrontation, Mike Brown charged Officer Wilson. The officer fatally shot Mike Brown in self defense.

The deliberate actions in this event were the shoplifting and Officer Wilson's decision to pursue Mike Brown before back up arrived.

Both decisions were wrong.

Officer Wilson's decision was wrong because he chose to pursue a suspect when he had inadequate resources to detain the suspect peacefully.

Both actors engaged in flawed actions. There is one big difference:

Mike Brown was an amateur crook. Officer Wilson is a professional law enforcement officer. One should expect more from trained professionals employed by the state than from amateur crooks out for personal gain.

A professional should be able to foresee the outcome of his actions. Officer Wilson chose to pursue a suspect who he could not contain. This is evidenced by the fact that he had to shoot Mike Brown.

Officer Wilson claimed that he was doing as he was trained. If so, then the training was at fault.

We live in a day when there is so much surveillance going on and identification procedures are so strong that it would have been easy to track Mike Brown after the first confrontation. Mike Brown had a shot up hand and could easily be identified by the blood spatter in the squad car. The video at the store clearly showed Mike Brown as the shoplifter.

The risk that the pursuit would result in a fatal shooting was very high. Mike Brown had already tried taking the officer's gun. A pursuit by a lone officer was all but guaranteed to result in the fatality of either the officer or suspect.

We can see the question of risk and reward in a closely related subject of high speed pursuits.

For decades the thinking was that the police needed to pursue perpetrators in high speed car chases until the inevitable spectacular high speed crash.

This idea led to a great deal of property damage and loss of life including many innocent lives.

People later realized that if you can get a proper description of the car and a good picture of the driver; the police are likely to catch the perpetrator without the high risk of the pursuit.

I just watched a video for the StarChase Pursuit Management which tracks vehicles allowing officers to back off from a fleeing suspect and reduce the risks associated with a chase.

Professional Law Enforcement is a matter of risk management. Risk Management plays a central role in most professions.

Risk Management is central to investing. Investor should fire and sue financial advisors who take an undue risks and lose their money.

Office Wilson claimed that he was trained to pursue the perpetrator after the initial confrontation. If the training is not teaching proper risk assessment; then the training needs to be reviewed and revamped.

Personally, I was upset that the official report on the incident casually glanced over the officer's decision to engage in a high risk pursuit and concentrated on Mike Brown's behavior instead. Mike Brown was a small time amateur crook. Vilifying an amateur for being amateur is redundant.

Officer Wilson is a professional police officer. We should have higher expectations of professional police officers than for amateur crooks.

That said. Police officers put themselves in harm's way to protect the public. The idea of issuing a criminal indictment against an officer for doing this job is absurd.

The decision to risk the loss of life by pursuing the suspect before back up arrived was a poor professional decision.

Just as you would be correct for firing a portfolio manager who invested your money with Berny Madoff, the people are in their rights for dismissing an officer who made a bad professional decision that led to a the shooting of a teenage shoplifter.

By rationally analyzing the events that led to the shooting, we find a bad risk management decision. Figuring out how to avoid pursuits with a high likelihood of a fatal shooting should be a priority of the police.

Regardless, the game of vilifying the actors in a tragedy leads to bad ends.

Rather than vilifying the police officer in the Ferguson shooting, as was done on the left, or attacking the victim as was done on the right, our attention should look at the actions that led to the shooting and find out ways to reduce that problem.

Contrary to what Sean Hannity says, Mike Brown did not deserve to be gunned down for shoplifting. The bold declaration that Ferguson shooting was a just kill is also absurd.

Bad decision making led to a horrible result. We should use this horrible event to find ways to improve decision making.

Officer Wilson was not the only police officer in Ferguson on August 9, 2014. Officer Wilson, himself, was back up for the primary officers in the shoplifting case. Officer Wilson's decision to pursue a suspect that he could not restrain was imprudent. The decision to a confrontation that was likely to lead to a fatality. In this day of networked system, pursuing felons should not be seen as the act of an individual officer but as a professionally managed activity of a professional police force. On seeing a perpetrator shot for shoplifting, the Ferguson Community is right to be outraged and to demand dismissal of the officer for what was clearly a bad decision.

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