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Justine and Don Damond

This update will deal with testimony from Monday, 04-22-19 and the philosophy of duty and courage in law enforcement.  Scott Johnson ofPowerline provides some interesting tidbits:

The handling of the police vehicle was abominable, breaking the chain of evidence, something one just does not do.  One might reasonably conclude the police did it to hide destroy evidence.  (Paraphrasing Johnson) However, the BCA did dust the vehicle for prints.  Justine Damond’s were not found.  In order to do this, the vehicle must have been pretty much dust/dirt free.  This does not prove beyond any doubt that Damond didn’t strike the vehicle, but it, with other evidence, is very damaging to the notion that a noise somehow justified Noor killing Damond.

What the…?!

We also learned BCA agent Doug Henning interviewed MPD Officer Matthew Harrity at the home of Harrity’s lawyer, Fred Bruno, three days after the shooting.  And this:

[Noor’s attorney] Plunkett elicited from Henning the statement made by Harrity in the interview that the noise ‘made him jump out of his seat.’ Indeed, he had never felt so scared in the line of duty before.

Hopefully, the prosecution will make the point that this happened only because Harrity and Noor did not, for a moment, expect danger, and were totally unaware of their surroundings.   Any argument they expected an ambush is an obvious lie. Their behavior does not even indicate a heightened sense of paranoia.  This—their obliviousness–was the proximate cause of Damond’s death.

BCA agent Chris Olson was the first to arrive at the alley.  Johnson says he wrote the search warrant affidavit that claimed the car had been struck by Damond, but the application was signed by Joe O’Brien.  Johnson feels the “slap” assertion came from MPD Sgt. Shannon Barnette, who denied discussing the shooting with Harrity, ever.  This is interesting:

Olson testified to the ‘conspicuous absence of information’ made available to him by the MPD about the shooting as he took over the investigation in the early morning hours.

Sweasy asked Olson about the lighting at the scene at 2:00 a.m. He said he could have read a book by the lighting under the street light where Justine was shot at the end of the alley at 51st and Washburn.

So, the MPD was not being helpful, and Noor and Harrity should have easily been able to see Damond and determine she was no threat–if they were actually paying attention to their jobs.  The Minneapolis Star-Tribune adds detail:

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) forensic scientist Jennifer Kostroski testified at Noor’s murder trial that dozens of prints pulled from the rear, side and hood of the squad could not be traced to Damond, but that some results were inconclusive.

Later in his questioning, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Patrick Lofton pointed out that some of the prints weren’t tested until a few weeks ago — the latest disclosure of possible missteps in the investigation by the BCA.

Incredible.  Apparently there was no rush in dealing with the Damond case. In competent agencies, all forensic analysis would have been completed as soon as possible, and the chain of custody of all evidence rigorously upheld.

BCA agent Olson’s testimony is making a perjurer out of Sgt. Barnette:

Olson said he arrived at the shooting scene about 2:20 a.m. and was met by several Minneapolis police leaders, including Chief Medaria Arradondo.

They briefed him on the shooting, he said, but no one mentioned a noise on the squad car.

About 20 minutes later, he testified, he spoke with Barnette in the alley.

‘What happened here?’ Olson said he asked her.

‘It sounds like she made contact with the car,’ he recalled Barnette saying.

Olson said Barnette reported having spoken with Harrity, and he assumed the information came from Harrity.

Oh, gentle readers, it gets worse:

Olson contradicted himself on the stand, first saying he gave another BCA agent information that the agent wrote into two search warrants referencing a slap.

After Olson was asked to read that portion of the search warrant aloud in court, he backtracked and said he didn’t provide the information.

Sweasy asked him for clarification.

‘I think I supplied the word ‘slap’ to” the agent, Olson said.

Olson explained its origin in more detail.

Olson said he asked Barnette at the scene, ‘What sort of contact,’ and she called it a ‘slap.’

Any competent investigator looking into a police shooting would never be satisfied with “she told me someone said something they assumed someone else said, but no one knows for sure.”  They ask, and confirm every fact first hand; they don’t make assumptions or accept speculation, and they absolutely do not put such nonsense in affidavits they have to sign, swearing that everything in it is true, accurate and complete.  This also does not help Olson’s, or the BCA’s, credibility:

Sweasy asked Olson why he didn’t have his colleague write in the search warrants that an officer had fired from inside a squad, information he knew at the time the warrants were being drafted to search Damond’s home and the driveway where she was killed.

‘I don’t know,’ Olson said.

Olson also testified that the police weren’t helpful, and Noor’s shooting from inside the vehicle made no sense.  As I’ve previously written, there was no probable cause for the warrant  on Damond’s home.  A half block away, it had no role in her death, and the search was nothing more than an unlawful fishing expedition done for who knows what reason? MPR provides more detail on the handling of Harrity and Noor’s police vehicle:

MPD Deputy Chief Kathy Waite also testified at Noor’s trial last week that she disagreed with how the BCA collected evidence on the squad vehicle at the crime scene.

She said the agency should have taken the vehicle somewhere to be analyzed.

Yes, they should have, oh, and “somewhere” Deputy Chief?!  Perhaps it would be useful, and more conducive to public faith in the MPD, to know where “somewhere” was?

Attorneys are also exploring why the state agency returned the squad car to Minneapolis police so quickly when they knew the shot was fired from inside it.

Sgt. Shannon Barnette then ordered the car to be washed and returned to service, although it was later sent back to the BCA for additional testing.

What the…?!

This alone would have broken the chain of evidence, rendering anything else done or found useless in court.  This is the kind of mistake a particularly dense rookie might have made.  Perhaps rendering any evidence of guilt inadmissible was the point?  If they tried, they could not have made more of a mess of things.

Minneapolis Officer Jeremy Foster testified Monday that he was told to bring the squad from the MPD to the BCA parking garage on July 20, but not warned to wear gloves or preserve evidence in the vehicle.

He said there was a sign in the squad window that said ‘something like keep out or don’t use.’

What a clown show.

Police Duty And Courage:

Police officers are, in many ways, special. I’ve already mentioned they must be able to multitask in ways that few can manage.  They must also be steady, able to keep their heads when all about them are losing theirs.  They must be natural diplomats, able to deal with a variety of people under all imaginable circumstance.  They must be able to make rapid decisions under stress, and be 100% right 100% of the time. They must be able to use—or withhold–violence, but control it to fit widely varying situations.  They must be psychologically stable, and able to deal with great stress over time.

credit: bouldercolorado.gov

These are only a few of the qualifications necessary.  You may, gentle readers, be less than thrilled to hear that many police agencies have a policy of hiring officers they feel are just barely smart enough. The theory is smart people will get bored with the job and quickly leave, wasting their agency’s investment in them, so they hire people dumb enough to stick around. Believe it or not, the courts have actually upheld this kind of reasoning.  The officer responding to your call for help may very well be just barely smart enough to do the job, or not quite that smart.  By all means, take this link to explore this issue.  The linked article specifically refers to the Damond case.  An excerpt:

Should we strive to hire the most intelligent police officers possible, or are those that score at least 20, which is probably a bit below average, good enough?If a police agency strives for that level of mediocrity, due to diversity hiring ideology, or merely as an attempt to retain officers as long as possible, what can one expect from that agency? Is that the problem in Minneapolis? How about other agencies dramatically reducing their entrance requirements and disqualifiers, accepting people that have used serious drugs and/or have been convicted of serious crimes?

Who do you want investigating the crime when you’re burglarized? Who do you want responding to the 911 call when someone is breaking into your home at zero-dark thirty?  The 20 or the 27? I suspect those that loved Justine Damond know.

As I’ve previously written—the SMM Damond case archive is here-the MPD has dramatically changed their psychological testing over the years, including during the time Mohamed Noor was hired.  Non-qualified psychologists were hired, and standards substantially lowered.

I suspect the City of Minneapolis is going to be desperate to settle the wrongful death lawsuit out of court, so we may never get access to their internal documents, but it is not unreasonable to believe they also lowered hiring standards to ensure sufficient numbers of inclusive, diverse hires. It’s a wonder more citizens haven’t been killed by deficient MPD officers.

But what of duty and courage?  Anyone enlisting in the military knows they could die.  They are there, first and foremost, to kill the enemies of the Unites States, and those enemies want to kill them.  But as General George Patton said, “you don’t win wars by dying for your country.  You win wars by making the other poor bastard die for his.”  They know their duty, they know the risks, and they enlist anyway.

Police work is different, but only in degree.  All police agencies are paramilitary.  The wearing of uniforms, rank structure, discipline, giving and taking orders, are all essentially the same.  Anyone becoming a police officer must also be aware they could die, and they may be called upon to kill, though few ever do, thank goodness, and the substantial majority of those are lawfully justified.  They too know their duty and chooseto accept the risks–or so they?

Anyone who does not understand, and accept, this reality, should never be allowed to become a police officer.  It helps that few police officers are killed, though recently, this has become more prevalent, thanks to the efforts of Black Lives Matter and the leftist politicians that maliciously exploit racial hatred for political advantage. However, the possibility is always there, and officers that do not deal with it are a danger to themselves, their fellow officers and the public.

But I don’t get paid enough to die for the public!  How much would be enough?  Another $10 thousand per year?  Twenty thousand?  Double the base patrolman salary?  How much is a life worth?  And if we can put a price on willing sacrifice, how do we reconcile paying lower ranking enlisted personnel so little, certainly less than police officers?

Police officers have to be willing to die for a philosophy, for an ideal: American constitutionalism.  They are the thin, blue line between liberty and chaos, between freedom and socialism.  If they don’t understand and accept that, they are, again, uniquely dangerous.

Recently in police work, the “go home every night at all costs,” mantra is being drummed into the heads of new officers.  Combine this with the fact that so many recruits were brought up on shoot ‘em up video games, where they trained themselves to shoot first, fast, always, and ask questions never, and we have a potentially deadly combination. There is nothing inherently wrong with intending to defend one’s life, but all police officers must be willing to give their life to protect others.  There is no greater love, and no more solemn duty.

If they are not so willing, the consequences are obvious. Innocents who might have been saved are not, because officers shrink from danger, and innocents who might have lived, die, because officers are too quick to shoot.

This mantra is not, by itself, unreasonable, but if it replaces duty and the willingness to sacrifice, what we’re hiring is people willing to go only so far.  When things get dangerous, they opt out, and others die.  Americans have always shown they are willing to pay the ultimate price for liberty, for the freedom and safety not only of themselves, but for others who don’t so much as speak the same language.  Do we expect less of the police?  If so, a computer program that would allow citizens to write their own crime reports for insurance purposes would be much cheaper and far less deadly to the innocent.

Obviously, police officers must do everything they can to make themselves as hard to kill as possible.  They must constantly train in shooting and tactics, and spend their own money and time to do it.  The training provided by their agencies is never sufficient.  They must develop superior situational awareness so they are never caught off guard. They must be in charge of every situation, not caught with their pants down, desperately trying to react to innocent and non-threatening, but unanticipated, hence spooky, events.

Most police are not shooters.  Their skills are sufficient only to barely pass occasional qualifications. Such qualifications tend to be easy, and officers may reshoot as often as necessary to pass.  Officers unskilled in shooting, unfamiliar with their weapons, will never take the few seconds, or portions thereof, necessary to be absolutely sure before shooting.  They don’t have the ability or temperament. And if they’re scared out of their limited minds because they couldn’t be bothered to develop situational awareness and pay attention to their surroundings, they’ll shoot first and ask questions never.

Above all, capable officers know the vast majority of citizens are willing to obey most laws most of the time.  They are no threat to the police.  To think otherwise is paranoia.  To imagine an ambush behind every tree is debilitating mental illness and a sure danger to the innocent, as Justin Damond realized in the seconds before her death.

And this, gentle readers, is where proper screening of police recruits enters the picture.  Beyond the issues I’ve already raised is the issue of culture.  Americans are, in many respects, unique.  Our culture embraces—praises–self-sacrifice for a greater cause.  Many cultures do not.  The peoples of many cultures—and religion always plays a part—are simply not fit for American policing.

I leave it to you, gentle readers, having absorbed this brief police primer (a two part, more comprehensive primer, may be found here), to decide how it applies to the Damond case, and as always, I’d appreciate your comments.