Which proles can we lock up now?: Thursday evening, on CNN, we heard from someone who was even described as an expert.
The observer in question was Charles Ramsey, former police chief in Washington, D.C. and in Philadelphia. He was asked to state his view about the death of Daniel Prude.
In an act of mercy, John Berman was sitting in for Anderson Cooper. As we sat and watched, the first exchange went like this:
BERMAN (9/3/20): Joining us now is Charles Ramsey, CNN law enforcement analyst and former top cop in Washington and Philadelphia. Chief Ramsey, looking at it with your expert eyes. What's your reaction to that video of Daniel Prude's arrest?It was "a very difficult situation" for the police officers on the scene, Chief Ramsey said. At present, of course, our national discourse rarely runs on such fuel.
RAMSEY: Well, I mean, obviously, it is disturbing to watch, but if I may just kind of walk you through it very carefully.
Obviously, he's in mental distress. I mean, it's winter time, you can see the snow falling and he's naked. That tells you right there that he wasn't in his normal state of mind.
He was compliant initially. He put his hands behind his back as requested, he's sitting on the ground, and then you do see him begin to spit.
Now they use what's called a spit hood, some call it spit mask, and put over his head. Some departments use that; some don't. It's a little on the controversial side, primarily because of the optics of it, as you can clearly see from the video. But you can breathe through it, it's mesh, basically. But it does protect an officer against being bitten or being spat upon.
Once they put that hood on, though, he becomes more agitated, and that's when he tries to get up. They start to apply pressure to keep him on the ground.
Now the autopsy showed, of course, asphyxia. But it also shows he had a high level of PCP in his bloodstream. I don't know if you've ever seen a person or had to deal with a person high on PCP. They are very difficult to control, they can be incredibly strong. It is, it is not a pretty sight to see somebody being taken into custody so on PCP.
I don't know if that had anything to do with it or not. I'm not trying to justify this, that'll all come out as part of the investigation. But I do know that having drugs in his system, I don't know what his mental state is normally. But all those things combined, that was a very difficult situation.
At present, our national discourse, such as it is, runs on instant blame, preferably of the lowest players on the social-class totem pole.
We don't ask why the Rochester Medical Center released Prude without successful treatment. At newspapers like the New York Times, we wait for the police officers to show up in the middle of the night, at which point we interject talk about the way they conducted a "lynching."
Ramsey had already talked too long and with too little certainty, given the norms of our discourse. Incredibly, Berman, a batter than average cable player, invited him to say more:
BERMAN (continuing directly): I get it. What you're laying out is that this was a complicated situation with different factors here. But looking at the video, did you see anything that was done that you think could have or should have been done differently?According to Ramsey, the officers were facing "a very difficult situation." This isn't "like a George Floyd situation, where it's obvious that that is totally inappropriate."
RAMSEY: Well, it's hard to tell, but the pressure on the back for a sustained period of time could cause positional asphyxia. According to what I read, he was still spitting while he had the hood on, plus he may have vomited. That of course could get in the airway and cause problems as well. Obviously if they had released some pressure, roll him over earlier, maybe things would have been different.
Who knows whether or not that would have been the case? But it's not like a George Floyd situation, where it's obvious that that is totally inappropriate. This is a little different situation here. So it'll be interesting as the evidence starts to come out during the course of the investigation, exactly what's found.
BERMAN: Charles Ramsey, as always, we do appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
Inexcusably, Ramsey even suggested that we should wait for additional evidence as the (real or ersatz) investigation(s) drag on. Cable news is much less entertaining and fun when people make statements like that.
Did the officers in question do something wrong on that cold March night? More to the point, did they do something illegal?
Seven officers have now been suspended based on what happened that night. Given the way our discourse works, various entities will be actively looking for a way to lock them all up.
Perhaps they should lock Chief Ramsey up too, on a charge of avoiding stampede!
Did the officers do something wrong that night? We're forced to admit that, much like Ramsey, we can't quite see it from the videotape.
This morning, though, the Washington Post has called in the nation's actual "experts" to get us all straightened out. Before we review what the experts have said, let's recall the chronology which left it to those seven officers to handle this matter that night.
The story starts with Daniel Prude boarding a train in Chicago. Amtrak couldn't deal with his PCP-laced behavior, so they kicked him off the train in Buffalo.
In Buffalo, he ended up in a shelter. From there, he called his brother in Rochester, who drove the 70 miles to Buffalo and picked Daniel Prude up.
When the brother couldn't deal with Prude's PCP-laced behavior—there's no reason why he should have been able—he called the Rochester police for the first time. The police had Daniel Prude taken to the University of Rochester Medical Center.
At that point, the story becomes a bit strange. This morning, the Washington Post reported what happened next:
KINDY AND CRAIG (9/5/20): On the evening of March 22, before his early-morning arrest, authorities had responded to a separate police call involving Prude. He was taken to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper reported. But the hospital released him.Stating the obvious, the hospital released Daniel Prude without providing successful treatment. When his brother still couldn't control his behavior, Daniel Prude fled into the night at roughly 3 A.M.
The brother called police again. It was left to a bunch of working-class cops to deal with this manic behavior.
Let's offer an unbalanced review of the chronology here:
Amtrak kicked him off their train. The shelter let him depart.
The hospital kicked him out of the hospital. In the end, seven policemen may yet get locked up because the weight of the case finally descended on them.
According to this morning's Post, "The University of Rochester Medical Center is now conducting an internal review of Prude’s case." We expect to see little follow-up, but of one thing, you can be fairly certain. No one will be looking for ways to lock those people up, or to defund them.
At present, we see no questions being asked about what happened at the medical center—about the judgment or the behavior of the medical staff. You see, those people come from the high-end professional class. Like college presidents and certain police chiefs, they're largely immune from rebuke.
Amtrak couldn't deal with Prude, so they cut him loose. For whatever reason, the medical center sent him back to his brother.
Eventually, police were called for the second time; entities are now begging to lock seven cops up. This morning, the Post brought the note of unintentional comedy in, placing its lengthy news report under this hard-copy headline:
Union backs Rochester police as experts criticize tacticsThe Washington Post had spoken with the experts (plural)! Oddly, this comes close to being the totality of what the "experts" said:
KINDY AND CRAIG: Mental health experts, who help train police officers in ways to de-escalate such encounters, said the officers should have maintained their distance from Prude while they calmly talked to him, asking how they could be of assistance. Handcuffs and the hood served to escalate the tension and fear, they said, causing Prude to tell the officers, “You’re trying to kill me.”It could be that WITHHELD's expert advice is correct! On the other hand, this is the way the New York Times has reported the background events:
[NAME WITHHELD], a vice president at Mental Health America, said instead of shouting orders, officers should ask, “How can I help you?” They should also not order a person having a mental health crisis to “calm down,” as officers repeatedly did with Prude, whose autopsy said he had the drug PCP in his system.
As for the handcuffs, [WITHHELD] said, “They are already afraid. It also criminalizes people with a mental health condition.”
NIR ET AL (9/4/20): The man, Daniel Prude, who was having a psychotic episode, was handcuffed by officers after he ran into the street naked in the middle of the cold night and told at least one passer-by that he had the coronavirus. Mr. Prude began spitting, and the officers responded by pulling a mesh hood over his head, according to police body camera footage.As you may have heard, people can die from the virus in question. Apparently, though, the officers, being mere proles, maybe shouldn't have cared about that.
"The officers seemed preoccupied with concern that they might catch something from Mr. Prude," the Times report, at one point, may possibly seem to sniff. NAME WITHHELD, the Post's top expert, said they should have played Mr. Rogers as Prude continued to spit, perhaps at risk to their lives. They shouldn't have told him to calm down. They certainly shouldn't have used handcuffs!
In fairness, the Post's report is full of interesting information. Much of it comers from people urging a nuanced look at this fatal event, not from the "mental health experts."
Much of it comes from Mark Mazzeo, head of the Rochester police union. Mazzeo sounds a great deal more sane than many such union heads sometimes do. Here's part of what he said:
KINDY AND CRAIG: Severe budget cuts for psychiatric services—by as much as 30 percent in some states in recent years—have created a vacuum that local police are increasingly asked to fill.Governors and legislators eliminate psychiatric services. Medical personnel put psychotic people out on the street, asking young cops to mop up.
Mazzeo referenced how New York has shut down many of its mental health institutions, which he said has strained police officers.
“They put people out on the street, and who is one of the only agencies to deal with them—it’s the police,” he said. “We definitely need changes.”
In the case of Daniel Prude, it was the Rochester Medical Center which put him back on the street. That said, no one will try to lock their personnel up, nor are we saying they should.
Whoever wrote the Post's headline today went straight to the work of the "experts." The expert quoted in the report seemed to be phoning home from a slightly make-believe realm.
That said, the familiar story being told here involves a familiar format. We go in search of magical solutions to extremely difficult situation. When no magic solution appears, we try to lock up the lowest players on the totem pole.
We lock up the college freshman, not the Stanford president and the Stanford provost who kept permitting the drunken brawls which were always destined to lead to disaster. (Note: to this day, no one has the slightest idea what actually happened that night.)
We lock up the two rookie cops, not the politically skilled police chief who left the apparently crazy Derek Chauvin out on the street—as the rookie cops' training officer, no less.
It Atlanta, we lock up the second cop, the one who didn't fire his gun. No one tried to lock up the corrupt DA who rendered that judgment as he ran a badly failed campaign for re-election. (For update, see below.)
Yesterday, we read some of the comments to that Times report. We were struck by how many angry pseudo-liberals seem to reason exactly like Donald J. Trump.
He promised that the virus would "magically" disappear. Over here in our own unimpressive tribe, many commenters seemed to want a magic solution to the problem which arose when Daniel Prude, on PCP, had another psychotic breakdown that night.
Amtrak kicked him off the train. The hospital put him back on the street. When a bunch of cops didn't have magic solution to this, we start trying to lock them up. This is the way we "rational animals" have always tended to reason.
When he was interviewed by Berman, Chief Ramsey spoke with a great deal of nuance. Berman even called him an "expert." Very few others will.
We like our experts from La-La Land. We like our proles locked up. We like our tribal narratives neat. This is the way we've always been wired, major top experts now say.
Atlanta DA goes down: Paul Howard was behind in the polls. Also, he was faced with several corruption charges.
And so, he brought charges against both cops. That included the second cop, the one who didn't even fire his gun.
Last month, Howard lost his run-off by 45 points. On cable, no one is yelling to lock him up, but that second cop remains charged.
This is the way the game is played over here in our self-impressed tribe!