Guest Post on Policing in Problematic Times

I blogged last week about the police shooting of a black man in Florida. I’ve talked about Black Lives Matter as well, and I’ve been trying to follow the reporting and discussion online. Recently on a friend’s Facebook page, a commenter talked about how the police should be trained to shoot to wound instead of shooting to kill. Which…isn’t how that works. It’s hard to have these conversations if all you know about law enforcement comes direct from Hollywood.

A U.S. police officer named Griffin weighed in and offered his perspective and experience. I appreciated the knowledge he shared. We chatted a bit more after my post last week, and I invited him to share some of his thoughts on the blog. His friend Adán, a retired police administrator from a department in an urban area, also contributed.

Both men recognize that our nation has systemic problems with race and other issues. That creates very real conflicts for the police. (As a police officer, your job is to enforce the law. What do you do when the law itself is racist?)

I don’t expect everyone to agree with everything. But their post gave me more to consider, and is a good reminder that these problems exist on multiple levels, from the individual to the global and everything in between.

Thank you to Griffin and Adán for taking the time to write this. Please remember they’re guests on my blog. I’d appreciate if we treat them as such.

The whole thing comes in at about 4400 words.

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Another Pointless Police Shooting

“Just be more respectful to the police!”
“Comply and cooperate!”
“Black people wouldn’t keep getting shot if they stopped acting like criminals!”

A behavioral therapist and an autistic man. The therapist (black) was on the ground with his hands in the air. He identified himself to the police. He told them the other man was playing with a toy truck.

The police fired three shots. They hit the therapist in the leg. They handcuffed both men, and left the therapist bleeding in the street for 20 minutes.

When the therapist asked why he’d been shot, the officer allegedly said, “I don’t know.”

Later, he said he’d been aiming for the autistic man, but missed. (Three times.)

To those blaming unarmed black men for being shot by the police, how will you justify this one?

Yes, being a police officer is a difficult job. There are times when you have to shoot to stop the bad guy, to protect your life and the life of others. Apparently the police had received a call about a suicidal man with a gun earlier that day.

But if you can mistake a black man on the ground with his hands up and an autistic man playing with a truck for an immediate and deadly threat, maybe you shouldn’t be a police officer.

What will it take for this country to realize so many of these police shootings are unnecessary? To realize how many people are dead for no good reason. For no reason except our learned fear of black men?

And the fact that they’re trying to *justify* this by saying the officer was shooting at the autistic man? Horrifying. Frightening. Disgusting. And another example of our abysmal handling of psychological and mental health issues, both as a society in general, and in law enforcement specifically.

There are individual police departments working to do better. There are a lot of good cops out there. But it’s not enough. We need to do better as a nation. More training, accountability, and less-lethal options from the people we have empowered to enforce the law. (Better laws would help as well, in many cases.) We need to demand better from our elected leaders, and vote out those who refuse to push for changes that would help everyone, including the police.

Until we do, innocent people will continue to be shot. They will continue to die. And for what? The crime of being black? Of being mentally ill?

Stop making excuses. Stop letting people die while we look the other way. Stop pretending everything’s fine because acknowledging anything else might make you uncomfortable. Stop enabling a culture and a system that steals the lives of innocent people.

Did the officer consciously and deliberately set out to shoot an innocent, unarmed black man? I highly doubt it. He may be telling the truth when he says he was intending to save the therapist from an (imagined) threat.

But intentions don’t stop gunshots. They don’t heal bullet holes. They don’t bring back the dead.

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North Miami Police Shoot Black Man Who Said His Hands Were Raised While He Tried to Help an Autistic Patient

Hugo Voting Ends July 31

As you know, Bob, voting for the Hugo Awards closes at the end of the month.

I’m still working my way through the nominated material from the voters packet and online. Some thoughts on various categories…

Best Fanzine: I’ve been saying for about a year now that I think Mike Glyer’s File 770 earned this one, both for the ongoing coverage of last year’s Hugo mess — with links to a range of opinions — and for the sheer amount of fandom-related information the man manages to curate and present every day.

Best Professional Editor (Long Form): My own editor, Sheila Gilbert, is once again up for this one. I’m obviously biased here. Sheila has been wonderful to work with for the past ten years, and she’s made every one of my own books better.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): I struggled a bit with this one, but ultimately decided to go with The Martian for my number one spot. I love the pro-science, pro-intelligence, and generally optimistic and hopeful tone of the story. Plus, you know, poop potatoes and lines like “I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.” Mad Max: Fury Road was a close second.

Best Related Work: I haven’t finished reading the nominees yet, but so far I’ve yet to read one that isn’t crap.

Best Short Story: Naomi Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures, Please” is my favorite so far, but I’m not done reading this category yet either. “If You Were An Award, My Love,” goes below No Award, but is interesting if only because it shows how obsessed the Rabid Puppies have been with pissing all over anything they don’t understand or personally approve of, to the point of including a threat against the author at the end. I love Chuck Tingle’s persona and his ongoing counter-trolling of Vox Day and the Rabid puppies, but “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” is also going below No Award. (Though it will be ranked above “If You Were An Award, My Love.”)

Best Fan Artist: This may be another No Award category. Thus far, I’ve got Kukuruyo at the very bottom, thanks in part to his penchant for drawing naked/sexual cartoons of underage SF/F girls.

Best Novella: Right now, Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti is at the top of my list. (It’s also the only work that wasn’t on the Rabid Puppy slate. Coincidence?)

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For those of you reading and voting, any particular stand-outs you’d like to recommend from this year’s nominees?

Vacation Reading: Okorafor, Blake, and Kagan

One of many nice things about getting away for vacation earlier this month was the chance to catch up on some reading.

It began with Nnedi Okorafor‘s Binti: Home [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound], the sequel to her award-winning novella Binti (reviewed here). The new novella will be coming out from Tor.com in early 2017, but I got the chance to read an early copy and provide a blurb. The story has Okorafor’s trademark imagination and creativity and wonderful worldbuilding. Binti (the character) is once again caught in the middle of cultural conflicts, both between humanity and the alien Meduse, and among her own people and family.

I loved getting to see more of Binti’s home and family, as well as the additional background and history. In some ways, this felt a bit more introspective than the first novella. We don’t get the same level of world-changing conflicts and resolution. The focus is more personal, and I thought that worked well.

My one complaint is that this is part two of a trilogy, and had a bit of a cliffhanger ending. But that’s just more reason for me to put the third Binti novella on my To Be Read list, and to hope Okorafor writes and publishes it soon!

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Wickedly Powerful coverNext up was Deborah Blake‘s Wickedly Powerful [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound], the third book in her Baba Yaga paranormal romance series. “Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world.”

This book follows the third of the three U.S.-based Baba Yagas, a woman named Bella Young with a fiery temper and magic to match. An accident with her power when she was young led her to isolate herself so she wouldn’t hurt anyone else. Her only company is the dragon Koshka, who lives disguised as a Norwegian Forest Cat.

Enter scarred (inside and out) former Hotshots firefighter Sam Corbett, who works the fire watch tower in a forest plagued by magical blazes. Blazes Bella has been sent to investigate.

These books are fun. I read this one in about two days. Bella, Sam, and Koshka are all quite likeable, even as their insecurities lead them through the usual romantic stumbles and misunderstandings. The villain is unapologetically evil. It’s a nice wrap-up to the three Baba Yaga books, and a good bridge into Blake’s next set of stories.

My only minor complaint is that the confrontation with the villain felt like it ended a bit too quickly and abruptly.

This one does rely a bit on events that happened in book two, so there might be a few minor moments of confusion if you’ve not read the earlier books, but you can still read, follow, and enjoy this one on its own if you so desire.

In short, I’d call this a good old-fashioned comfort read. With a cat-who’s-really-a-dragon. But then, aren’t most cats?

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Finally, my son and I finished reading Mirable [Amazon | B&N], by Janet Kagan.

I’ve talked about Janet’s books a few times before, but I’m happy to say my 11-year-old really enjoyed this one. It’s set on the planet Mirabile, in the early days of a human colony. The geneticists back on Earth really wanted to make sure the colonists had redundant copies of various species, so not only did they provide frozen embryos, they also backed up genetic codes in different creatures. So your dandelions might suddenly give birth to a swarm of bumblebees, or a cat might have a litter of raccoons. And then there are the Dragon’s Teeth — hybrids like the Kangaroo Rex or the Frankenswine…

The book is made up of six stories. We were reading the old print edition, which has bridge sections between each story, but I’ve been told the new ebook edition lacks those. Regardless, its a lot of fun.

Annie Jason Masmajean is a wonderful character, a gruff, fierce, loving older woman devoted to the people and wildlife of her new home. She also knows her way around a shotgun, gets a lovely romance with lots of making out, and is just generally awesome.

The secondary characters are great as well, and Kagan obviously put some thought into the cultural norms and makeup of the colony. And if some of the science strains credulity a bit, it’s all in the service of creating an imaginative, creative, and shamelessly fun world.

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Michigamme Fireworks Crew

I was snapping pictures of the fireworks in Michigamme, Michigan earlier this month, when I decided to zoom in on the crew setting them off.

Holy crap. I have a whole new respect for the folks who don protective gear, light their flares, and make sure everything goes off safely and according to plan.

Click for larger images.

Thoughts and Links on Black Lives Matter

I’ve been getting into a number of discussions and arguments lately, and wanted to put my thoughts and some links together in one place to refer back to.

Black Lives Matter was created by three queer Black women: Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza after the killing of Trayvon Martin. From the BLM website, “Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, Black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum.” BLM’s principles include diversity, empathy, and the affirmation of black women, black trans folks, and black families.

11 Major Misconceptions About the Black Lives Matter Movement. Including misconceptions like “The movement hates police officers,” “The movement hates white people,” and “The movement doesn’t care about black-on-black crime.”

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But Don’t All Lives Matter?

Sure. And nobody has suggested otherwise. It seems like when (mostly white) people hear “Black Lives Matter,” they imagine a silent “Only” at the beginning. Or maybe they’re imagining a silent “More Than Others” at the end, I’m not sure. But these sentiments are imaginary. Perhaps they’re a projection. Perhaps it’s simple fear. Perhaps it’s just a lack of understanding.

When I say fundraising and research for diabetes matters, I’m not suggesting that other diseases don’t deserve research and funding. But as a diabetic and the son of a diabetic, one who’s seen diabetic friends suffer severe complications from the disease, this is something I think it’s important to work on.

The problem with “All Lives Matter” — one of the problems, at any rate — is that it came about as a response to Black Lives Matter. Here’s a Google Trends search showing the popularity of the phrases “Black Lives Matter” (in blue), “All Lives Matter” (in red), and “Blue Lives Matter” (in yellow):

* Lives Matter Google TrendsThere’s no Google traffic on “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” until after the BLM movement began gaining popularity. In other words, the evolution of “All Lives Matter” hasn’t been as a simple affirmation that yes, all lives do matter — something nobody has been arguing. Instead, it’s a direct response to the BLM movement.

To be blunt, it’s people who hear someone saying, “Black lives matter!” and rather than agreeing that yes, this is a true statement, people try to change the focus of the conversation. I don’t know where this knee-jerk attempt comes from, but the effect is to make it harder to talk about the problems facing black people. In other words, you are making yourself one more obstacle to progress.

Because right now, in our society? All lives don’t matter. We don’t treat all lives as equally important. Hell, even our judicial system is more likely to execute a black defendant than a white one, when all else is equal.

If you really want all lives to matter, then you need to join the effort to make black lives matter too. Otherwise, your cry of “all lives matter” is just empty words.

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What About the Police? Blue Lives Matter Too!

Again, nothing about the Black Lives Matter movement states or suggests that police lives don’t matter. From BLM’s official statement after the shooting of Dallas police officers, “Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it.”

There’s a narrative that we have a war on the police here in the U.S., but the data don’t seem to back that up.

Data on Police Deaths

Preliminary data show that we’ve seen the exact same number of police deaths in 2016 as we had by this point last year.

None of this means those deaths are acceptable, or that they shouldn’t be mourned. None of it means police lives don’t matter. They do, and Black Lives Matter isn’t saying or suggesting otherwise.

There’s a great deal of fear, distrust, and anger toward the police in this country. That’s not equivalent to a war on police. Nor is it a suggestion that police lives don’t matter.

To be a good police officer is a difficult, stressful, and at times dangerous job. I think it’s possible to acknowledge this, and to mourn those officers lost in the line of duty, without coopting or undercutting another movement.

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But Racism is Over!

2015 Data on Police Killing of Blacks. “Whites make up a disproportionally smaller portion of those killed by law enforcement compared to their portion of the general population – 11.3% less. Blacks on the other hand make up a disproportionally larger portion of those killed (26.5%) compared to the general population (13.2%) – 13.3% more or double!”

Analysis of Racial Bias in Police Shootings at the County-Level in the United States, 2011–2014. “The results provide evidence of a significant bias in the killing of unarmed black Americans relative to unarmed white Americans, in that the probability of being {black, unarmed, and shot by police} is about 3.49 times the probability of being {white, unarmed, and shot by police} on average … the racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates.”

Two Thoughts on Ferguson. A blog post I did two years ago, gathering data to show that the percentage of people killed by police in the U.S. is significantly higher than in other countries, and that from 1999 to 2011, the statistical likelihood of being killed by a police officer in the U.S. was about three times higher for black people than for whites.

Black and White in the U.S. Another blog post with additional data. Here are some highlights:

These problems aren’t new. It’s just getting harder for us to shut our eyes and plug our ears and pretend it’s not happening.

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Misc:

All Houses Matter: The Extended Version – This comic by Kris Straub does a nice job (in my opinion) of creating an analogy to help people understand why the “All Lives Matter” response can be so frustrating.

BLM

BLM Tweet

I obviously don’t know first hand what it’s like to be black in America today. I’ve been working to read and better understand, but that understanding is always going to be imperfect and second-hand. There’s a lot I didn’t get into here, and there are doubtless many things I’ve simply missed or overlooked.

I reserve the right to come back and add and update this post as my understanding evolves, or as I discover new data and resources.

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Back From the U.P.

We got back from vacation late last night. It was nice to get away, but of course now I get to spend the next few days catching up on email, going through mail and paying bills, unpacking, cleaning up the house, and processing some of the 500 pics I took while we were in the Upper Peninsula.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Zoey
Zoey took her first boat ride. She was a little freaked out at first, but I think she ended up enjoying it.

Bald Eagle
We had a pair of bald eagles hanging out at the lake. This is one of the better shots I managed to get.

Sunset
Sunset over the lake.

Raft
We stopped at the Kitch-iti-kipi spring on the ride home. This is the raft you take out to look through the water.

Bridge and Statue
The Ironworkers Statue and Memorial at the Mackinac Bridge.

Larger versions over at Flickr. I’ll be adding a lot more over there, and probably blogging a few more of my favorites here as well.

Jim C. Hines