Thursday, July 23, 2009

A very important lesson:

Don't run at the cops with a gas can in one hand and a lighter in the other. There is no possible good outcome to that situation.

Commenters elsewhere are discussing various aspects of it, but in the end, it seems like a situation that was destined to be a trainwreck from the start. Let's break it down:

An intoxicated man (funny how so many police reports start like this) does something that gets the heat called on him. The five-oh shows up (at this point we have now reached a statistical certainty that someone's going to jail or the ER) and, according to the police report, our soon-to-be crispy critter runs right at the cops, gas can in one hand and ignition device in the other. Now, in the old days, a particularly ninja-like cop might have attempted to get the lighter away from him with only a few broken fingers and a dislocated shoulder, and maybe given him a good hickory shampoo in the bargain. Or maybe they'd have just shot him.

But now we have given the police a magic wand! A 100%-safe, lawsuit-proof gizmo to prevent said hickory shampoos and shootings. Only this time there's a bit of a complication...

I don't know what can be done procedurally from the LE side of things to fix this. For my part, I'm going to avoid getting 'faced in such a way that someone feels compelled to call the po-po on me, because if there's one thing I've learned from watching COPS during baseball rain delays, it's that "Drunk + Cops + (no shirt/flip-flops) * nosy neighbors = Nothing good."


Joanna said...

One thing I learned from my dad making me watch COPS all those years:

"Make me" is never a good response. They will. And you won't like how they do it.

Matt G said...

I still haven't been able to figure out the dude's demeanor in this situation, and that's the important factor. Was he stumbling toward them, mumbling that he "wudn't doin' anythin' wrong, ossifer," or was he running at them, declaring that he would "take all you's with me!" Or somewhere in between? (Question: Why would someone have a lighter in their hand while carrying gasoline, if they'd just huffed the stuff? Would the cops have caught crap if he'd suddenly lit up his own face whilst firing up a fag?)

How many cops were there when this occurred? What's the size comparison? I get none of that from the story.

Problems with the old "Hickory Shampoo":
A: That is quite correctly considered lethal force. People die or suffer serious brain damage from being cracked on the head with a baton. This is not a maybe thing-- it is a certainty that injury will result, as opposed to the Taser, which is used without incident most times. (But we never hear about those.)

B: In this and other instances, getting within arm's reach of the guy wasn't too desirable.

C: With the new expandable batons, reach is not very long, and frankly, they're more designed to create pain compliance than really impact the arms (pesky lawsuits for broken bones, don't you know...), which means that you'll have only a middlin' chance of getting the bozo to drop the can or lighter if you managed to pop that arm with it. If he didn't drop it, well, hell-- now he's more inclined to use it.


Shooting the guy's an option, but not one he'd like. And if you're nice and close to him, you might ventilate him and spark off his petrol with your muzzle flash. What cheer.

FWIW, I think that the Taser, a superb tool, is gone to too quickly by cops and agencies who want to equip their way out of good techniques that must be sharpened by training. (You do NOT want to know how few hours of empty-hand control technique training that I've been given officially since graduating police academy in 1994. It would break your heart.) Such training is expensive, time intensive, and often results in someone getting injured during training, as happened to one person in my last class.

But I will say that I've sent many a drunk to bed without a scuffle or an arrest. The calculus doesn't HAVE to equal Bad Things, unless the variables point that way.

Anonymous said...

It's all about the footwear. This is why I refuse to wear sandals.

In black cap toes and a suit and tie, the cops may call me a cab or, at worst, take me to the county jug for the night but I won't be facing a horrible screaming death.

Shootin' Buddy

Tam said...

"Problems with the old "Hickory Shampoo":"

I probably didn't make my point on that well enough, in that there's a reason a lot of departments don't issue nightsticks anymore, and that reason is exactly what yo said: Vigorous application of a 2' stick will likely result in concussions and broken bones, and in comparison, the Taser is a lot safer.

In comparison.

As a related side note, it is good to see that beanbag and baton rounds are now called "less-lethal" instead of "less-than-lethal".

Buck said...

Instead of using the old hickory stick my uncle had a rubber hose with shot in it. Worked good on drunks. Just hit them hard enough to get their attention but not cause any damage.Did lose the shot out of it hitting a giant of a drunk onetime, he was happy it didn't take another hit. Oh, this was in the 60tys can't do that to day.

Michael said...

From the tone of the article, you would think the author is going to start calling for the ban on tasers. First we ban then Guns, then we ban the 'less-lethal' options... Next police won't even be aloud to use strong words or raised voices.

Anonymous said...

Buck, it's not quite that simple. Your uncle was, like many guys of his time, a master of the cosh, or sap. You can kill someone dead as the proverbial doornail with too vigorous a stroke.

TV and movies got folks assuming that you can hit someone over the head with something hard, and they'd go to sleep, and wake up fine, just like in the script. Much tragedy ensued.

"In black cap toes and a suit and tie, the cops may call me a cab or, at worst, take me to the county jug for the night but I won't be facing a horrible screaming death."

Damn straight Shootin' Buddy. Many folks have I counseled to do this. And I still get arguments, until folks see me "interact" with the constabulary.

For the folks that haven't been there, when a cop has to respond to a call, he/she/it looks at the situation as a problem to be resolved. Given the powers we grant to cops, I want said cop to view me as the most reasonable person in the area. And the most likely to be an upstanding citizen. I'll do whatever I can. Which is Shootin' Buddy's point, in far fewer words.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

I love this:

"They suggested the cigarette lighter started the fire."

50KV arcing when the electrodes hit the guy, and they try to blame it on the lighter...riiiiight.

staghounds said...

1. It was Australia.

2. Before Oklahoma City, the largest U. S. mass homicide was the Happyland Social Club- a can of gas and a match.

Tennessee's largest was the Columbia jail, no gas just a mattress and matches.

3. I've been tased and I've been hit hard- tase me again next time.

4. When he was near death in the gasoline soaked wreck of Eastern Flight 21, he had to scream at other injured, gas soaked people not to light cigarettes.

5. This character is just as smart as Henry Louis Gates!

williamthecoroner said...

Thanks for the traffic, Tam. I appreciate it.

Chris M said...

[quote] ...because if there's one thing I've learned from watching COPS during baseball rain delays, it's that "Drunk + Cops + (no shirt/flip-flops) * nosy neighbors = Nothing good."[/quote]

This is the age of youtube. I'd look for those videos on the interwebz. You'd be even more famous.

Buck said...

James your right. no wacks to the head. The meanest fighter in the county(who wasn't a cop, just a good ole boy) said never hit someone in the head you could kill them. But my uncle very seldom had to get physical. One who knew how to handle a situation. Wish he was still alive so I could get his take on how he handled Mr. matchstick.

buck said...

I meant would have handled Mr. Matchstick , my hand is still in a brace. hard to type.

Anonymous said...

What about those paintballs filled with pepper spray? They take a few seconds to take effect after impact, which is no use if the guy is coming at you. Given a chance though it might be a way to incapacitate the guy without knocking he on the head or letting the smoke out.


Anonymous said...

"In black cap toes and a suit and tie, the cops may call me a cab or, at worst, take me to the county jug for the night but I won't be facing a horrible screaming death."

Amen, brother. Clothes make the man.

And, of course, the gender equivalent for women. Though I'm guessing women would have have to escalate quite high before getting the same treatment as a guy.

Tam said...

Anon 9:47,

Best Bet: Instead of bowing up or yelling, show contriteness, and maybe cry.

Anonymous said...

Whether the police handled the situation appropriately or not, there is one inevitable way to avoid:

Don't shamble/walk/run/gallop/speed towards the police with potentially lethal weapons. If getting shit faced causes you to do these things, stop that!

To paraphrase Chris Rock, it was wrong that Rodney got the shit beat outta him... but if you should know that if you make the police chase you, they bringin' an ass whippin'. This is something like that.

rickn8or said...

I'm beginning to think the chief edu-tainment value of Cops is seeing all the creative ways people have of talking themselves into jail.

("Ooooh. Bad answer. Waay more information than the cop asked for.")

Matt G said...

Shootin' buddy knows the power of real Urban Camo.

markm said...

I don't see any good ways to handle a situation like this, but firing a taser at a guy soaked in flammable liquid is just guaranteed to start a fire. That has got to be one of the two stupidest cop tricks ever.

(The other one: Using a taser because a man wouldn't climb down out of a tree. While standing right where the tree-climber would just naturally fall when all his muscles contracted. Both of them hurt somewhat, the cop more than the "perp".)

A night stick is inherently much more dangerous (except to walking firebombs - not that I'd want to get close enough to use it), but anyone who is at all qualified to be a cop will understand stick weapons at a gut level. Evidently, at least some cops should take a class in basic electricity before they're issued a taser.