Cowardly Police Officer and the Snowball Fight

Police AbuseYesterday, Talk of the Sound reported, New Rochelle Police Draw Guns on Black Youths Over Snow Ball Fight NSFW. This took place in New Rochelle, NY — a town of about 80,000 people just north of New York City. In the video that I embedded below, a police officer seems to be detaining and searching two men who were having a snowball fight. But he does so at gunpoint. According to some sources, the police had been called because of a report of someone with a gun. It’s possible, but it sounds more likely to be a justification after the fact.

What I wonder is how this can possibly be correct procedure. The officer walks up to one man who is knelling on the ground. He is holding his pistol in one hand and searching the man with the other hand. If the man on the ground had been so inclined, he could have grabbed the officer’s weapon. Guns are not an especially good weapon up this close. And then, after searching the first man, he walks to the second — leaving him prone to the first man. If these had actually been dangerous men, the foul mouthed officer could have been taken down or even killed.

According to Talk of the Sound, this was not some inexperienced officer. They are not providing the name of him at this time, but they did report, “We will say that he is a Superior Officer (i.e., Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain)…” Of course, I’ve never particularly bought into the whole idea that our policing problems are due to a lack of experience and training. There are bigger problems — particularly the culture of police departments. One thing is very clear in this video: the officer is not there to serve. He’s there to bully everyone.

So I think that the officer knows this is not a case where dangerous men are running around with guns. If he did, he would have responded in a different way. He would have put his gun away and called the other officers in a bit closer. My best guess — from years of interacting with police officers — was that it was an exciting opportunity. Two young black men were having a snowball fight, so he brought his car to a sudden stop and jumped out of the car. When the young men didn’t immediately respond to him, he drew his gun. Or he drew his gun immediately. And later that night when he went home, he told his wife about what a dangerous job he has.

Another interesting thing in the video is that the officer repeatedly looks toward the camera. He actually seems a whole lot more concerned about it than he is about the lawless snowball fighters. And I suspect that it is the presence of the camera that caused the whole thing to be resolved so quickly and amicably. It’s possible by that point, the officer realized that he looked like a total jerk. But I’m not sure shame is something that many officers allow themselves to feel.

Ultimately, this is as good an example of the problem with our policing that you will find. Why was it necessary for the officer to draw his gun? It clearly wasn’t. But as I’ve written too much around here, police have convinced themselves that their jobs are really dangerous, when they are not. And as a result, police officers tend to be pussies who would rather kill innocent children than risk the slightest threat to themselves. In this case, everything worked out well. But pulling a gun is dangerous, and should be a last resort, not de rigueur.

Update 3 February 2015 9:40 am

The Daily News reported, Video Showing New Rochelle Police Officer Pulling Gun on Teens Not What It Seems: Cops. According to them, when they showed up, one person put something in his waistband and ran. The other officer chased him, but didn’t catch him. I’m not sure what to make of that. Regardless, why was it necessary to hold a gun on the people who did not run? Why was the officer yelling obscenities at the young men when they were already on the ground with their hands in the air? And why did the officer search them with his gun still drawn? I am more convinced than ever that this is a great example of a badly trained police officer with a chip on his shoulder.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

8 thoughts on “Cowardly Police Officer and the Snowball Fight

  1. These posts are terrific — I do wish, though, that you would use “cowards” or “chickenshits” or some other word than “pussies.” I get what you’re aiming at. You’re challenging the macho mindset of cops. “Coward” doesn’t resonate for them, because they think of themselves as brave, so “coward” (an accurate term, and not always a disparaging one) is something they can shrug off.

    “Pussy” does resonate in cop culture. I assume you know more than a little bit about cop culture, so that’s why you’re using that word. I grew up with a parent who was a 9-1-1 dispatcher and cop language was totally normal in our home. (I’ve had to teach myself not to cuss constantly, although cussing is the only virtue I ever learned from cops!) “Pussy” is about the worst slur you could sling at a cop. They aren’t, by-and-large, men who are comfortable with women. (Not as partners. Victims they can protect from bad guys, sure.)

    Cops hate firefighters. Hate hate hate them. Because the public thinks of firefighters as selfless heroes and cops as harassment machines, while both cops and firefighters are generally machismo adrenaline junkies bored out of their minds 99% of the time.

    That’s the point. Cops rightfully hate firefighters because neither of them are massive heroes (individual acts of heroism aside), yet firefighters get all the hero cred. Cops are required to do a truly shitty and mostly pointless job. Firefighters are required to do a mostly shitty and sometimes useful job.

    In a rational society, we would not dismiss cops as lesser beings, tainted by their lower-class incomes and unsavory connections with poor people. We’d look at them the way we do firefighters; kinda adrenaline nut jobs, quite useful in certain situations.

    As it is we’re worshipping cops for being racist thugs. Yeah, that inspires reform. I’m vastly depressed about this.

    • I’ve had some concerns about the use of the word “pussy.” But it is for a different reason. I believe the history of the slight is from pussycat. But given that “pussy” is also slang for a vagina, it bothers me. But you are right about what I’m going after. I don’t think “coward” works. But “cowardly” does, because of the cowardly lion. Of course, at least the cowardly lion admitted it — which shows more bravery than police officers normally do. But they are cowards and a whole lot worse. If you have any ideas for good names, let me know!

      The reason people don’t like police officers has little to do with the fact that they so often kill unarmed kids. It is just that they are such complete jerks even when you have to deal with them during routine traffic stops. Firemen don’t have to deal with that. Although locally, many of them have been incredibly aggressive in getting donations. They have fundamentally the same problem as the police have. The only difference is that we the public have to deal with the police, so we know better what jerks they are.

      You aren’t suggesting that police are not paid well, are you? Their starting pay generally puts them very neatly in the middle class. Within a short time, they are in the upper middle class. And many of them retire while making an upper class income. I’ve long been amazed that some jerk could take a couple of classes and fall into a $50,000 per year job (as long as he doesn’t score too high on his IQ test).

      • Cops are well-paid, it’s a good union job. (Which is what made the Wisconsin cops backing Scott Walker so tragic; had the situation been reversed, and Walker had targeted cops first, I guarantee you the teachers and librarians would have stood in solidarity with the cops.)

        However they are considered dirt by the rich for whom they act, essentially, as security guards. (Security guards, BTW, tend to be poor people, as the job pays less than nothing, and security guards, who have guns, are way less likely to go apeshit and shoot somebody than cops. If there was a rampage of poor security guards, many of whom are African-American, shooting white teenage mall shoplifters, the nation would be up in arms.)

        If you are rich, the idea of your daughter dating a cop is about as low as your daughter can sink. That’s not because cops don’t make enough money. It’s because cops are there to serve the rich; they’re the house slaves. You’d even rather your daughter dated a teacher, “slumming” as that would be.

        Cops are fully aware of how the rich hate them (for being the house slaves) and the poor hate them (for being a constant royal pain in the ass.) That’s what creates the “inside the bunker” cop mentality. And what makes it impossible, currently, for any poor person who becomes a cop, because it’s a good union job, not to fall into the groupthink evil of cops. Since busting up bar fights and enforcing traffic laws are really useful public services, we should have a sensible means of doing those things. But we don’t.

        (In my dream-world alternate reality, I’d be a traffic cop. I HATE IT when people disobey traffic laws. I’d totally get my aggressive dickhead side out by flashing my siren and handing out tickets. I’d be unfair about it and selectively target drivers of luxury cars, because I would enjoy that. “Don’t you know who I am?” “Sir, I know you just got a $1500 fine. You can tell the judge who you are.” Just harass those shits unmercifully. I’d dig it.)

        There’s a book that sticks in my memory, “Night Dogs,” by an ex-Portland police officer. Kent Anderson. It’s basically insane but it does capture the bunker mentality of cops, and the cops I knew said it was spot-on. It’s a sick book and will poison your mind if you read it; check it out if your interlibrary loan system has a copy, it does help us understand what cops think.

        It’s odd we’ve never had a good piece of drama about cops. We have idiocy like common cop shows, we have “The Wire” which wasn’t really about cops, we have out-there “bad cop” dramas like “Bad Lieutenant” or “Training Day” which show us rogue cops behaving fantastically badly. Nothing about real cops, the ones all of us are familiar with. Odd.

        BTW, thanks for the heads-up on Robert Ferguson’s “Inferno.” That’s just an amazing, amazing book. It made me gasp out loud at times, but it’s not a potboiler. One of the more memorable things I’ve read in a long while.

        • Your point about rich people’s daughters marrying police officers is a subplot in the novel Jaws. Brody’s wife has entered that period of her marriage where she regrets having married down. So she has an affair but ends up realizing that she really doe s love Brody. I don’t think it can be said enough: Peter Benchley really wasn’t a very good novelist.

          I rather think that traffic police should be less tolerant. I have a friend who is constantly stopped by police and never gets a ticket because he knows how to talk to them. If I’m stopped, I get a ticket. It’s as simple as that. And that speaks to the wider issue we are talking about here. Police act like kings.

          Regarding Inferno, I agree. Our society is so screwed up about this stuff: both practically and theoretically. I should write about this stuff more.

  2. And, no, I don’t have a better word than “pussies.” I looked on Yahoo to see if that term was taking off and, sadly, your posts weren’t front-paged, but here’s a good short one:

    I particularly liked how the blogger mis-typed ; for ‘ at the end, since I do that often. The blogger also mentioned that British cops don’t carry guns. It reminded me of one time I met the former sheriff of Harney County, a huge rural county in Southeast Oregon. The former sheriff said he never carried a gun, as guns escalate the situation. He let people know he had guns at the police station, and could call for armed backup if needed, but he refused to carry a gun. We were discussing this because the headline of the paper was about a cop shooting an unarmed black man; this back in 1994 or so. That sheriff’s observation, which I heard at some ungodly hour of the night when I was a convenience-store clerk (a much more dangerous job than cop), sticks with me. Some people who work in law enforcement realize how fucked-up it all is.

    • This is unbelievable! And his use of the word is exactly what I’m looking for. But the fact that I put “cowardly” in the title indicates my discomfort with the term. It may just not be me. Maybe “wimps” would be better.

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