Guest Blog: Dana Beyer On Discrimination And Fear

A few days after the holiday, but it’s still relevant. Dana Beyer’s Huffington Post column from Thanksgiving Day. Civil rights should matter to everyone. It could be you next time. Reprinted with her permission.

Thanksgiving and Its Discontented in Montgomery County, Maryland

Thanksgiving is our annual day for family and friends, one divorced from any religion other than the civic religion of America. It’s a holiday all but native Americans can embrace, from the newest immigrants to the earliest European settlers. As the country has evolved we’ve found innumerable ways to express our gratitude for being Americans. Yet this year, in a month when our attention has been riveted to waves of Syrian refugees flooding Europe, and punctuated by atrocities in Paris, Beirut, Kenya, and Mali, one of our American communities is once again under attack — Muslim Americans.

Montgomery County is home to one of the most diverse communities in America. I’m very proud to serve on our county’s Committee on Hate/Violence. We celebrate our differences with festivals that bring everyone together, as well as encouraging all our communities to share the bounty of their neighbors. It isn’t easy to do that, however, when the leading candidate for the Republican nomination for president, Donald Trump, calls for registration of Muslim Americans. “I would certainly implement that. Absolutely.” Happy Thanksgiving, all.
The response was fast and furious. One tweet from the Muslim community echoed Pastor Niemoller from Nazi Germany: “I Will Stand Up For Muslim Citizens Because I Want Help When The GOP Come For ME.” Many of the other Republican candidates rushed to distance themselves from Trump (for which, I suppose, we can be thankful this holiday). Reminiscent of Romney’s “binders full of women” from 2012, Carson spun away from Muslims by advocating “for a ‘database on everybody who comes into this country,’ not Muslims specifically.” Cruz, Rubio, Bush and Kasich demurred. Than Trump doubled down as his style, going huuuuge:
“We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully,” Trump said. Later in the day, he told NBC News that he “would certainly implement” a database system.
“There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases,” he said. “We should have a lot of systems.”

All this trash talking had the expected impact on the Muslim residents of Montgomery County and neighboring regions. In a series of telephone interviews, a number of our neighbors spoke of their pain and fear.
I will begin with Imam Faizal Khan, Co-chair of the Montgomery County Faith Advisory Council and the Islamic Society of the Washington area, who said:

It is very frustrating and difficult to control these random acts of violence. These are not Muslims. Politicians keep on talking about radical Islam. There is no radical Islam. In Islam, even in wartime, we are instructed to find peaceful solutions and avoid harming women and children and innocent people.
We can’t allow these terrorists to hijack our religion.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about Islam in the media and a lot of incendiary rhetoric by some politicians against Islam and Muslims. For example: Carson in one of his speeches refers to Muslims as ‘dogs.’ The daily rhetoric in turn is translated into bigotry and acts of violence against Muslims.

Shahnaz Baten, a social worker with the Islamic Society of Maryland, from Gaithersburg:

This is a total human tragedy. Our hearts go out to the people of France. We know how it feels. Muslims know firsthand the horrible impact of terrorism. They themselves are victims of ISIS.
These are not Muslims. According to the scripture – in war, you fight face to face. You only fight those who transgress against you. You don’t hide in mosques, and hospitals, and schools. How do you justify suicide? The media is continuously calling them Muslim terrorists. It is not fair to me as a Muslim.

It upsets me terribly to see people who are not Muslim scholars speak so freely about Islam. Why aren’t our imams, those who have spent their lives studying the scripture, getting invited to speak on our behalf?

I listen every day to Fox and CNN and read the newspapers. I only see and hear about those blowing up themselves and killing others in the name of Islam. All the terrible bombardment is in turn translated into acts of violence against Muslims. They are not saying much about ISIS being responsible for killing more Muslims around the world.

I am most disturbed about the response of the Governor against Syrian Refugees. Governor Hogan’s response to punish populations that are victims themselves of terrorism and find themselves guilty by association just because they are Muslims is terribly unfortunate.This cannot be the U.S. position. We are the beacon of hope, justice and fairness for all immigrants from around the world. Syrian refugees should not be the exception.

Imam Mohamed Sheikh Mohamed of the Muslim Community Center, Silver Spring:

Our community gets scared when they hear of acts of violence around the country in response to the Paris terrorist acts.
It is very disappointing that the media seems to hear from one source of information. Some of the Muslims they interview are not scholars and, therefore, do not convey an accurate picture of Islam and the Quran’s message.

We need to collectively choose someone among the Muslim scholars community in the U.S. who is an articulate speaker who will be assigned to the media and convey an accurate picture of Islam to the world.

Farouq Musa, a senior Ambassador with the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring:

ISIS is not Islam. Islam is against the killing of innocent civilians. In the Quran, if you kill one person it is as if you have killed the entire humanity and if you save one life, it is as if you have saved humanity.
While in Montgomery County we have not experienced any acts of violence against the Muslim communities, still we are very concerned that eventually all the negative media coverage about Islam and Muslims could end up inciting acts of violence against us. We have been advised to stay vigilant.
I worry about our little children and teenagers in schools, about them getting bullied. They have no way of defending themselves.

Many people don’t really know about us. They don’t realize that Muslims are actively engaged with the interfaith communities. Our food pantries, our clothing drives, our medical clinic, our Ramadan daily free dinners for all (at MCC) for an entire month, are all offered with and in support of the interfaith community.

Finally, Rashid Makhdoom, a retired State Department executive and an active community volunteer, from North Potomac:

ISIS is the result of U.S action in Iraq. They are destabilizing the entire Middle East. More Muslims have suffered at the hands of ISIS than any other religious groups. ISIS is a horrible nightmare for all Muslims. They rely on the fear factor to spread terror throughout the world.
Some of our politicians are also using the politics of fear through their dangerous and inflammatory statements. They are spreading terror in the hearts of Muslim citizens throughout the U.S. This whole environment of fear will probably have a very negative psychological effect on our children as well.

I am very concerned about the backlash from the Paris terrorist attack on the Syrian refugees. They are themselves the victims of ISIS. Why are we punishing them once more for a sin they did commit? The U.S. is made up of immigrants. Mr. Trump’s family would not be here if we did not have the immigration policy we have.

It is against basic U.S. principles and our value system to turn our backs to those who have been persecuted and those who are seeking liberty and a better life. Doesn’t the Statute of Liberty says ‘ Give me your tired— Your poor–etc.?’

When we gather around the table on Thursday, let us remember that only 5% of Americans polled in 1938 on the eve of Kristallnacht wanted to increase quotas for Jewish refugees, and 2/3 wanted to actively keep them out. We know how that played out. Three years later my European family had been exterminated, save for a remnant that escaped to Palestine. And Trump would create a registry and even consider requiring ID cards for Muslim Americans?
A former medical school professor of mine, Martin Seligman, who created “positive psychology,” encourages people to express gratitude for even small, useless things on a daily basis. Take a moment before the repast to question your soul, and be grateful we live in Montgomery County, but know we can always do better.

How To Take Down A University President

Tim Wolfe was hired to be the president of the University of Missouri in 2012, vowing to run the university “like a tech company.”

Needless to say, that didn’t go well. Last week, a graduate student went on a hunger strike over Wolfe’s failure to address racist incidents on campus. Jonathan Butler said he wouldn’t end the strike until Wolfe was removed from office.

Then on Saturday, the Missouri football team announced that it too would strike, refusing to play its next game November 14 against Brigham Young.

Today Tim Wolfe resigned. The Post has a good assessment of the situation going forward.

There are a few reasons that the football team’s protest garnered more attention — and was probably more likely to yield results. Given that this is fundamentally a political protest, it probably won’t come as a surprise that those reasons overlap heavily with methods of leveraging political power.

First, the team is the public face of the student body. Any number of people who live in the state but don’t have relatives in the University of Missouri system likely know student-athletes by name. Butler did a good job of making his concerns known, but having students already known and respected by the community make a similar argument lowers the bar for sympathy to the cause.

Second, the team leveraged pressure on an immediate timeline. Next Saturday, the Missouri Tigers are scheduled to play the Brigham Young Cougars. As Saturday neared, the school was under increasing pressure to resolve the dispute as public attention to the conflict continued to grow. Butler’s threat was more dire, of course, but its duration was unclear.

Third, the team’s protest threatened immediate economic damage to the university. This is perhaps the biggest issue at play. A contract between Missouri and BYU obtained by the Kansas City Star reveals that cancellation on the part of the Tigers would result in a $1 million fine to be paid to BYU within 30 days of the cancellation.

Given the increasing attention being paid to racial justice issues generally, the fact that football players are more likely to be minorities, and the huge economic importance of athletics to colleges and universities, I don’t expect that this will be the last time a boycott like this happens. Or that it succeeds. The leverage is very, very strong.

Body Cameras Alone Won’t Solve The Problem

If the public can’t get them, or if only police officers are allowed to watch them, then instead of creating transparency, body cameras just perpetuate the problem. The Post has a lengthy story which shows the problems are much deeper than just body cameras.

Nationwide, police have shot and killed 760 people since January, according to a Washington Post database tracking every fatal shooting. Of those, The Post has found 49 incidents captured by body camera, or about 6 percent.

Just 21 of those videos — less than half — have been publicly released. And in several of those cases, the footage, as in Burlington, was severely cut or otherwise edited.
Meanwhile, virtually all of the 36 departments involved in those shootings have permitted their officers to view the videos before giving statements to investigators, The Post found. Civil and human rights groups fear that access could help rogue officers tailor their stories to obscure misconduct and avoid prosecution.

Even where new laws requiring use of body cameras have been enacted in the past year, they’re often accompanied by restrictions on access to the video.

While individual police departments are adopting rules on the local level, police chiefs and unions are lobbying state officials to enshrine favorable policies into law. In 36 states and the District this year, lawmakers introduced legislation to create statewide rules governing the use of body cameras, often with the goal of increasing transparency.

Of 138 bills, 20 were enacted, The Post found. Eight of those expanded the use of body cameras. However, 10 set up legal roadblocks to public access in states such as Florida, South Carolina and Texas. And most died after police chiefs and unions mounted fierce campaigns against them.

An ACLU attorney makes a very good point – why mandate body cameras if you’re not going to allow anyone to see the videos?

“If police departments and law enforcement become the sole arbiters of what video the public gets to see, body cameras will go from being a transparency and accountability tool to a surveillance and propaganda tool,” said Chad Marlow, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. “Are we going to let that happen?”

Even worse, while keeping the video away from the public, local jurisdictions often allow police officers involved in fatal shootings to view the video before they give statements to investigators.

In most fatal shootings where there is body camera evidence, the officers involved have been allowed to view the footage before talking to investigators. This spring, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck urged the Los Angeles Police Commission to adopt that practice as official policy.

The practice is becoming standard nationwide, thanks in part to a 2014 report funded by the Justice Department and prepared by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). The report says prior review will “lead to the truth,” and that officers will have to “account for their actions, regardless of what the video shows.”

So one set of privileged witnesses get to see the video, but not other witnesses. This creates all sorts of obvious problems, but Los Angeles adopted the policy anyway.

Civil rights attorneys and community groups argue that the practice could aid corrupt officers in covering up misconduct.

“If you are going to concoct a story that isn’t true, it is awfully helpful to know if you will or will not be contradicted by your body camera video,” said Marlow of the ACLU.
Attorney Dan Stormer, who represents the Keunang family in a $20 million claim against the LAPD, said the practice could help police discredit witnesses who disagree with the official account.
“If you get to see the video and you know exactly what happened, you can totally destroy someone else’s credibility who has a less firm view of what took place,” Stormer said.
In April, the commission voted with Beck, 3-1. Commissioner Robert Saltzman was the lone dissenter.

“Research shows that watching videos affects memory. It alters it,” Saltzman said. “If they watch it first, we will miss what the officer’s perception was at the time they used force and why they felt force was necessary.”

And, not shockingly, it turns out that the guy who wrote the 2014 report has already changed his mind.

PERF Executive Director Chuck Wexler agreed, saying his position has shifted since the group issued its report. In an interview, Wexler cited academic research showing that video can “essentially erase and record over” an officer’s memory.

“If [police] are going to review the video, other [eyewitnesses] should be allowed to see it, too,” Wexler said. “How can they expect to have any credibility if they keep it to themselves?”

The opportunities for abuse in terms of testimony and cross examination of witnesses who haven’t seen the video is enormous. It’s like having your witnesses blindfolded.

When even remedial legislation to provide an accurate record of police encounters with the public can be so twisted around that the only beneficiaries are police officers engaged in questionable behavior, legislators must realize that there is no magic bullet, whether it be body cameras or other laws. Only by uprooting the culture of police arrogance and self-aggrandizement are we going to bring down the senseless number of fatal shootings and bring our police forces in line with what the community determines to be appropriate norms of behavior. 

Selective Use Of The Bible, Chapter Eleventy Billion

So y’Know that court clerk down in Kentucky who doesn’t want to issue marriage licenses because some same sex couples might be getting married? And she’s worried about going to hell for violating the Bible? Turns out she has nothing to worry about.

The Kentucky county clerk facing potentially stiff penalties for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses has been married four times, raising questions of hypocrisy and selective application of the Bible to her life. 

The marriages are documented in court records obtained by U.S. News, which show that Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis divorced three times, first in 1994, then 2006 and again in 2008.
She gave birth to twins five months after divorcing her first husband. They were fathered by her third husband but adopted by her second. Davis worked at the clerk’s office at the time of each divorce and has since remarried.

So she’s violating the biblical principles against divorce. Wait, what was that last paragraph again?

So she divorced hubby 1 to marry hubby 2, but somewhere right in the midst of that, shtups future hubby 3, gets pregnant with twins, doesn’t tell hubby 2, who adopts the kids, then divorces him to marry the guy who fathered the twins, but then later divorces hubby 3 and marries hubby 4.

So let’s see, we got divorce, we got fornicatin’ and we got lying your ass off about who fathered your children. Lady, you can skip the waiting list and go right down there and see the guy with the pitchfork right now. You’ve got enough frequent sinner miles that you can fly first class straight to hell. The gay marriage license thing ain’t gonna move that needle even one little bit. You’re there.

Also very amusing is the comment from her lawyer when asked about the multiple marriages:

The leader of the organization providing her legal representation, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, says he’s not sure precisely how many husbands Davis has had, but that it’s not relevant.

“I know she was married more than once – I’ve heard three [times],” he says. “It’s a matter of fact that she’s been married multiple times.”
Staver says “it’s not really relevant, it’s something that happened in her past” and that her conversion to Christianity about four years ago wiped her slate clean. “It’s something that’s not relevant to the issue at hand,” he says. “She was 180 degrees changed.”
In a Tuesday statement released by Liberty Counsel, Davis admitted she had lived an imperfect life, but insisted her current beliefs are sincere. 
“It is not a light issue for me,” she said. “It is a heaven or hell decision.”

OK. This whole “wiped the slate clean” thing is a problem for me. With all due respect to deeply religious people, this is my problem. I always hear “I found God, I came to Jesus, and he forgave me. So those old sins no longer count.” Until, a day or a week or a month or a year or a decade later, the person sins again. And then they ask for forgiveness. And God gives it to them. Again.

Two questions: this God seems a lot more permissive to these repeat sinners than these folks are about gays or liberals or women getting an abortion. What’s up with that?

Second, can someone find me one person who has said: “I found God. I asked for her forgiveness, and she told me to go straight to hell. My sins were too numerous and too profound for her”? I mean, come on, look at the world, there’s some really, really bad stuff going on. Surely there have to be some sins, some hypocrisy, some level of debased hatred that is more than God can stand. Right?

Or if the answer is that God can forgive anything if you’re sincere in your heart about atoning, OK, well surely some of these people just aren’t sincere. How many people do we encounter in our daily lives who make us crazy with their insincerity, their dishonesty, their hypocrisy? Surely God has to have some limit to how much bullshit she can put up with before saying “just step through that door over there, go down the steps, and when it gets really, really hot, you’ll see another door. Go through it and have a great eternity with no air conditioning.”

If this is what passes for religious liberty, then we might as well throw in the towel on this whole exercise right now, because we are going to be overrun by self-righteous pious frauds claiming that the laws don’t apply to them because “I saw a vision of Jesus telling me that it was perfectly fine to drive my Buick 125 miles an hour through a playground and if those children couldn’t move out of the way fast enough, well, that too was part of God’s plan, and you can’t prosecute me because I believe, I believe, I believe.”

Thanks, Supreme Court, for not squashing this nonsense when the Hobby Lobby case was heard. Anything for the cause of conservatism, huh? Seemed like a smart idea at the time, right? Not feeling so smart now, are you, guys?

So Much For That Whole “Libertarian” Thing

Rand Paul, bloviating with Sean Hannity tonight, decided that the whole civil liberties/libertarian thing just isn’t working for him with Republican voters, and dropped any pretense about it.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) suggested Wednesday night that the Black Lives Matter movement should change its name.

“I think they should change their name maybe … if they were ‘All Lives Matter’ or ‘Innocent Lives Matter,'” the GOP presidential candidate said during an appearance on Fox News’s “Hannity.”
“I am about justice and, frankly, I think a lot of poor people in our country, and many African-Americans, are trapped in this war on drugs and I want to change it. But commandeering the microphone and bullying people and pushing people out of the way, I think, really isn’t a way to get their message across,” Paul added.

It’s not really that hard to understand – black people have been subjected to a centuries long history of subjugation and terror, legal and social, that continues in both obvious and not so obvious ways today. So advocating for Black Kives isn’t about leaving anyone else out, but focusing attention where it needs to be directed. If Jews or Irish or Italians still suffered the systematic discrimination and social opprobrium that blacks do, maybe they should be included. But many groups have successfully made the transition from despised nonwhite status to being accepted as white. Blacks, needless to say, have not.

And what’s with this “innocent lives” thing? Do civil liberties and the Constitution only apply when a targeted person is not guilty of some offense? Stupid – that’s when civil liberties and constitutional protections are most needed, to ensure a fair trial and a just outcome. Rand Paul has always been a fraud, and now it’s becoming patently obvious.

And I very much love this comment:

“What I’m finding, when I’m on the south side of Chicago or I’m in Detroit, people are saying, ‘You know what, I’m not sure I’m ready to be a Republican yet, but you know what, the Democrats have taken me for granted, and I’m willing to listen to people who are interested in making my life better,’” Paul said. 

You know who told him that? I’ll bet it was Clarence Thomas and Ben Carson – who both have made it abundantly clear that having succeeded based on affirmative action and government assistance, they are eager to pull up the ladder behind them snd make sure that nobody else ever benefits in the way they have – a psychiatric condition that calls out for a better name than simply narcissism.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

In a maneuver that has been known to occur in Maryland a time or two, a bill banning the police from weaponizing drones was hijacked by the law enforcement lobby and turned on its head.

There’s a new sheriff on the high plains. Or rather, just above them.

North Dakota’s police agencies can fly drones armed with Tasers, tear gas, bean-bag cannons, and other “less-lethal” weapons, thanks to fierce lobbying from the law enforcement industry on a bill that was initially meant to restrict police use of the flying robots rather than outfit them with weapons. While other local police departments have flirted with weaponizing their drones, North Dakota is the first state to explicitly allow the armaments.

When State Rep. Rick Becker introduced H.B. 1328, the law both banned weaponized drones and established a procedure for law enforcement to seek a warrant before using drones in searches. Only the warrant requirement survived. After stiff lobbying and a multi-stage public relations effort by law enforcement and drone proponents, first reported by The Daily Beast, the version of the bill that ultimately passed authorized police to arm their unmanned aerial vehicles with sound cannons, pepper spray, and other weapons not designed to kill.

The U.S. military has a sterling record of massive “collateral” carnage and mayhem with drones.

Some 24 men specifically targeted in Pakistan resulted in the death of 874 people. All were reported in the press as “killed” on multiple occasions, meaning that numerous strikes were aimed at each of them. The vast majority of those strikes were unsuccessful. An estimated 142 children were killed in the course of pursuing those 24 men, only six of whom died in the course of drone strikes that killed their intended targets.

In Yemen, 17 named men were targeted multiple times. Strikes on them killed 273 people, at least seven of them children. At least four of the targets are still alive.
Available data for the 41 men targeted for drone strikes across both countries indicate that each of them was reported killed multiple times. Seven of them are believed to still be alive. The status of another, Haji Omar, is unknown. Abu Ubaidah al-Masri, whom drones targeted three times, later died from natural causes, believed to be hepatitis.

That’s a record that any corporate mogul trying to sell drones to police departments should be damned proud of. I’m sure the North Dakota police will prove superior in their restrained and cautious use of drones.

And I’m also sure that noted libertarian Rand Paul will be unavailable for comment when the inevitable catastrophe comes down the pike.

And finally, the company that sold the technology will prevail upon the same state legislators who allowed the drone use to pass a bill shielding them from liability. Just the way of the world. Nothing to see here.

This Is Big

Right now, in cities and counties all across the country, there are vagrancy laws against sleeping outside, camping in public spaces, and other similar laws that are used indiscriminately against the homeless. The number of homeless people has shot up since 2008, and there are nowhere near enough shelters to accommodate them all.

When a homeless person – or anyone – gets charged with breaking one of these laws, the impact is enormous, it cascades consequences upon consequences, and has a devastating effect on the future prospects of the homeless to get jobs and housing.

In Montgomery County, criminalizing the homeless has been a growth industry for years. Disorderly conduct, trespassing, you name it, they charge it, in hundreds of citations per week, tens of thousands in a year. Or s county that prides itself on its progressive ways and welcoming attitude, our treatment of the homeless stands in stark contrast to our self-image.

This obscure case in Idaho may change all that. The federal government has filed a “statement of interest” in a case I federal court in Idaho. In that case, homeless people in Boise are suing the city, claiming that enforcement of that city’s vagrancy laws is unconstitutional as being in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

The statement of interest is a remarkable read, setting forth the government’s argument on behalf of the plaintiffs in the case on the constitutional issue. Go read it all but here’s the gist of it as set forth in the Post article.

When adequate shelter space exists, individuals have a choice about whether or not to sleep in public. However, when adequate shelter space does not exist, there is no meaningful distinction between the status of being homeless and the conduct of sleeping in public. Sleeping is a life-sustaining activity—i.e., it must occur at some time in some place. If a person literally has nowhere else to go, then enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance against that person criminalizes her for being homeless.

I’d add another paragraph to highlight as well.

Issuing citations for public sleeping forces individuals into the criminal justice system and creates additional obstacles to overcoming homelessness. Criminal records can create barriers to employment and participation in permanent, supportive housing programs. Convictions under these municipal ordinances can also lead to lengthy jail sentences based on the ordinance violation itself, or the inability to pay fines and fees associated with the ordinance violation. Incarceration, in turn, has a profound effect on these individuals’ lives. Finally, pursuing charges against individuals for sleeping in public imposes further burdens on scarce public defender, judicial, and carceral resources. Thus, criminalizing homelessness is both unconstitutional and misguided public policy, leading to worse outcomes for people who are homeless and for their communities.

All true. If the federal government’s position is adopted, enforcement of vagrancy laws against the homeless – at least those who have no place else to go – will be outlawed. If states, counties and cities – like Montgomery County – want to do something about homelessness, we should take all the money we now spend destructively arresting, incarcerating, prosecuting and sentencing people simply for the crime of being homeless, and use it affirmatively and proactively to provide more and better housing options for the growing numbers of people who are homeless in our community.

Police Use Of Force

Right now, Maryland is one of only nine states that has no law on the use of deadly force by the police. This is one of several issues identified in a new Amnesty International study discussed in a Baltimore Sun story on the deliberations of the joint House-Senate task force studying police issues.

Instead of a uniform statewide policy, each jurisdiction has created its own policy.

A review of use-of-force policies provided by the Maryland State Police and county police and sheriff’s departments in the Baltimore region, however, showed general similarities but also substantive variations in language and guidance to officers.

State troopers are permitted to use deadly force “in self-defense, or to defend another person who is being unlawfully attacked, from death or serious injury.” It may also be used “to prevent the escape of a felon” under certain circumstances, including when it is a last resort and the office has a reasonable belief that the individual “poses a significant threat of using deadly force against a trooper or others if not immediately apprehended.”

In Baltimore County, deadly force “may be applied in immediate danger situations, where present peril or jeopardy exists and the officer has a reasonable belief that action must be taken instantly or without considerable delay.”

In Howard County, deadly force “may only be used in self-defense or in the defense of others when an officer is confronted by what he has reason to believe is the imminent threat of death or serious physical injury,” or “as a last resort” to prevent the escape of a suspect who officers believe presents an imminent threat of death or serious injury to others.

The policies in Anne Arundel and Harford counties are similar.

All of the policies elaborate on the circumstances necessary for the use of deadly force in substantially different ways — discussing the use of vehicles by suspects, the use of canines by police and the amount of information an officer has about a suspect at the time of the incident.

This is not the best way to get it done, says Amnesty.

Justin Mazzola, an Amnesty International researcher who helped compile the report, said department-level policies are insufficient to bring about change.

“It’s not accountability,” Mazzola said. “A violation of a policy is an administrative infraction. It’s not what meets international law and standards when you are giving the authority to police to use not only force, but lethal force. That has to be codified within law.”

Predictably, police organizations are resistant to a uniform state law.

Harris, the Pittsburgh law professor, said any attempt by Maryland to restrict police beyond the federal standard will likely meet resistance from police departments and unions, which have generally fought to keep limits on their use of power in line with the standards established at the federal level.

“What police department is going to want to limit its police officers in terms of what they are constitutionally allowed to do?” Harris said.

* * *

[Senator Catherine] Pugh [co-chair of the task force] said the panel will review the Amnesty report, but also plans to talk about existing use-of-force policies with police agencies — which legislators do not wish to further alienate.

“Let’s not make [any new standard] so restrictive that people feel they can’t do their jobs,” she said. “We want police in our communities, but we want them to respect our communities.”

When even the idea of a new law on use of force results in pushback, it becomes clear that this process is not going to end well.

Police And Guns

In the United States, heavily armed police shoot two people dead every day. In Britain, the vast majority of police officers patrol armed only with a baton and pepper spray, and there have been a total of two fatal police shootings in three years. Is there a lesson to be learned here? The Washington Post this week says yes.

As the United States reckons with that toll — and with the constant drip of videos showing the questionable use of force by officers — lightly armed Britain might seem an unorthodox place to look for solutions. But experts say the way British bobbies are trained, commanded and vigorously scrutinized may offer U.S. police forces a useful blueprint for bringing down the rate of deadly violence and defusing some of the burning tension felt in cities from coast to coast.

We have more guns here – shocker – but there are lessons to be learned.

Few here would argue that the United States should adopt Britain’s nearly firearms-free approach. But as increasingly horrified British officers and commanders have watched videos of American police officers firing on civilians, they say they hope that some of their strategies and practices can be translated across the Atlantic.

Sir Peter Fahy, chief of the Greater Manchester Police, commands 6,700 officers — just 209 of whom are armed. Those authorized to carry guns, he said, face extremely tight protocols governing when they can be deployed and under what circumstances they can fire. Shooting at moving vehicles, at people brandishing knives and at suspects fleeing a scene are all strictly forbidden except under extreme circumstances.

“It’s very controlled,” he said. “There’s a huge emphasis on human rights, a huge emphasis on proportionality, a huge emphasis on considering every other option.”

All officers, he said, are taught to back away from any situation that might otherwise escalate and to not feel that they have to “win” every confrontation.

“I constantly remind our officers that their best weapon is their mouth,” he said. “Your first consideration is, ‘Can you talk this through? Can you buy yourself time?’ ”

That mantra helps explain why, across England and Wales over the past decade, there has been an average of only five incidents a year in which police have opened fire.

So, too, does the stringent screening process. Officers must serve for years before they can apply to carry a gun, and the selection of those deemed worthy is intensely competitive.

Imagine that. Human rights? Who would have thought? De-escalation? Gibberish. I spent two decades among cops virtually every day. This is not how we train police officers to think. Here, it’s “get them before they get you. It’s a jungle out there.”

And five shootings per year? My guess is that’s a good hour’s worth of lead expended in the United States.

More than any particular law change, be it body cameras or other accountability measures, we have to change the culture of police work, to put more of an effort into the kinds of thinking that are routine in England. Talk first. Buy time. De-escalate. This is not a war, it’s your community. As we’ve seen even this week in McKinney, the racial problems run deep and won’t go away immediately or easily. But we have to try – the over 700 deaths at the hands of police waiting to happen this year, and the next, and the next, demand better answers. The sooner we start, the sooner the blood will stop flowing in our streets.