Patterico's Pontifications


Radley Balko’s Night

Filed under: Blogging Matters,Crime,General — Patterico @ 8:11 pm

Radley Balko has an interesting story about a difficult night with some neighbors and some police officers.

My advice to Radley, which he didn’t ask for:

1) Move.

2) Cut the cops a break. From your perspective, the officer shouldn’t have burst into your house with his gun drawn. But try looking at it from his point of view. He probably thought you were really beating your girlfriend. What would you do in that situation as the cop?

(That ought to get you interested in his post.)

UPDATE 11-25-06: Reading this post years later, I have two reactions. First, I should note (as I did at the time) that my comment that Balko should “move” was too flip. As I explained in comments at the time, it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek; it sounded like he was living in a bad place. But, of course, as other people noted, moving is not always an option. Second, while I understand the cop’s thinking that this was a domestic violence situation happening right in front of his eyes, bursting into the house with his gun drawn was probably not the most appropriate tactic.

I can see how going through an experience like that would have a formative effect on one’s outlook, and it certainly seems to have had one on Balko’s.

18 Responses to “Radley Balko’s Night”

  1. […] 6:46 am Interesting story from Dafydd ab Hugh in the comments. […]

    Patterico's Pontifications » Interesting Comment (0c6a63)

  2. If there is a five day waiting period in Virginia ( which I haven’t bothered to look up ), its a state law, not federal. The current federal requirement is an instant background check.

    SPQR (56a273)

  3. Radley shouldn’t be such a wuss. Didn’t he know it is fun to shoot people you think are wife-beaters?

    Xrlq (c51d0d)

  4. I forgot about that. It’s a hoot!

    Patterico (756436)

  5. Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for targetting and assasinating that famous Iraqi TV female newscaster.

    What does CNN have to say about that, considering that the Eason Jordon CNN guy accused the Marines of targetting his reporters…

    Ladainian (91b3b2)

  6. Hm. Sorry, Patterico, my sympathies are all with Mr. Balko.

    (And sorry for the length of this comment; I was just going to say a couple of things, but it got away from me!)

    Have you ever lived in that sort of neighborhood? I did for eleven years, 1988-1999, in “the crumbling heart of the dying city,” as my friend Lee describes the Rampart District of L.A.

    I had many encounters like Balko’s in the first few years I was there. My neighbor and I embarked upon a campaign to paint out every scrap of graffiti on our block, including all the gang signs. The bangers were not happy about this, and since I was the enforcement arm (Tony was a limp reed in this respect), I got to explain the “new way” to all the animals.

    Unlike Mr. Balko, I got my guns a long time ago. I packed (illegally, no permit) for several years. (Note to Patterico: this is definitly outside the statute of limitations, so don’t reach for that lawbook, partner!) I never shot anybody, but I did pistol-whip one hard case who didn’t seem to get the point that it was no longer his block (he didn’t even live there).

    Where I lived, the cops just didn’t respond. I reckon you don’t really believe that; but there are a lot of places in this country where the cops just don’t respond. Maybe they’re overstretched, maybe they have bad morale (been reading the LA Dog Trainer too much, maybe); but for whatever reason, there is no effective police protection there. I called the cops exactly twice: once when a car was firebombed with a Molotov cocktail right in front of my house (maybe they thought it was mine?); once a few years earlier, when there was an accident, and one of the drivers, a drunk, grabbed the arms of the other driver, a young woman, and tried to forcibly drag her into his car, saying “you like, you like!”

    This last one was very early; I was naive enough to think the cops might respond to an attempted kidnapping in progresss. The girl was sceaming in terror, and like an idiot, I called the cops.

    They came. Forty-five minutes later. Actually, “she” came: one female cop, who stood in the street, hooked her thumbs in her belt, and (I rib you not) bellowed out “what’s going on here?”

    “Attempted kidnapping,” I grumbled. “Who? Where is everyone?” “The bad guy ran off that direction,” I said, pointing west, “followed by about fifty neighbors with guns. Of course, that was forty-five minutes ago, when I called you. By now, they’re probably in West Hollywood. But if you get up a good head of steam, you might catch ’em before they get to Santa Monica.”

    She started shouting at me, and I just went inside to avoid saying anything that would give her a chance to make me regret it.

    In the firebombing case, all the cops did when they arrived — thirty minutes that time… say, they’re improving! — was to threaten to arrest my neighbor Tony for not hanging up the phone while he ran outside with a fire extinguisher, saving the car parked in front of the one that was burning.

    So really, Pat, I just have no difficulty at all extending all my sympathy to Balko and not much to the cops. Here in Glendale, the cops are a lot nicer and treat us like human beings. I was the Neighborhood Watch guy for my condo complex for a few years, and I had occasion to interact with them several times; they were friendly, courteous, and professional. But then, we don’t have anywhere in Glendale like the mid-Wilshire area in LA., let alone Watts, Compton, and South L.A.

    As for moving, not always possible. When I married Sachi, she came with a condo, and I jumped at the chance to get the hell out of hell. One hopes that Balko will have the same opportunity if he marries that girlfriend. But most of the folks who live in those neighborhoods cannot just “move” when things get rough.

    What people need to learn to do is take care of themselves. There are more of us (civilized human beings) than there are of them (gangsters), at least here in the United States. And unlike the bangers, we spend some time at the range and can hit what we aim at, should the worst come to pass.

    Alas, thanks to the liberals, we have become a nation of weenies.


    Dafydd (df2f54)

  7. I’ve been arrested now about 5 times, but have always admired the cops, except once when I was arrested for sleeping in my car. I refused sobriety tests since I considered the whole thing an illegal search, which it was, and not due to the Patriot Act.

    I’m currently still enmeshed in that one, and am about to go to court in one hour for “driving while suspended”. I am not suspended. It’s a somewhat long bizarre story. But even here the latest cop showed the most sense of anyone involved by not arresting me on the spot for the “crime” because I showed him evidence that I was not suspended. He had to cite me anyway because the “computer” said I was.

    In my neck of the woods, rural, it’s the law and zealous p.c. interest groups which are the problem.

    J. Peden (ffccb8)

  8. Dafydd,

    Interesting story. My “move” comment was a bit tongue in cheek, as I don’t presume how to tell anyone how to live their life. Balko might consider moving in with his girlfriend in the safer part of town, but that is of course his call.

    Your story is about nonresponsive cops. His is about *very* responsive cops. I still can’t blame the officer for thinking that a domestic violence situation was occurring.

    Patterico (756436)

  9. Can’t add anything to Patterico’s advice. But notice how quickly a bad encounter can turn the avid gun control freak into the second coming of Charlton Heston. And notice how Alexandria’s new housing policy has had the effect of transforming what used to be nice places to live into, well, not-so-nice places to live. Here’s my full commentary

    steve sturm (e37e4c)

  10. It is pretty much standard procedure to presume 1. a woman is being battered, and
    2. the man is armed and dangerous.

    It’s the way things are today. Sad but true.

    Trudy W. Schuett (cff2ec)

  11. Your story is about nonresponsive cops. His is about *very* responsive cops.

    Well, no, Patterico, not quite: Balko’s story is about very reactive cop, not a responsive one.

    A responsive cop wouldn’t have kicked in the door; when the cops pound on it and yell out “trick or treat, it’s the heat!” or whatever, nearly everybody will stop what he’s doing and open the door. If we can believe Mr. Balko, the cop already had his gun drawn when the door was opened.

    A responsive cop engages in at least some investigation before he points his weapon — an act that can escalate a misunderstanding into a negligent homicide (a fact that the cop himself admitted, assuming Balko heard correctly). Suppose Balko’s reaction to seeing the gun in his face had been to throw his hands up? This reactive cop might have thought that was an attack and squeezed off half a mag before realizing it was a mistake.

    (What would he say? “Whoops, I made an error?”)

    And why — again, assuming Balko is correctly reporting — why would the same cop come back again with drawn gun? And then a third time, this time not with a drawn gun? What was the point? Clearly there were no signs of abuse, and the couple would, I can only suppose, tell the same story about what the cop saw through the window. That should have ended the matter.

    An uncharitable person might conclude that the cop was nervous about his own response and was trying to gin up some probable cause after the fact. This is a cop who deserves the opportunity to try out his skills in a less demanding position… investment banking, for example, or perhaps as a senator. I hope Balko files a formal complaint.


    Dafydd (df2f54)

  12. I’m also not too happy with the officer’s actions…perhaps it might make sense to simply explain why you had drawn your gun after you did it and found no cause?

    Bad police work, alienating more folks, making it more dangerous to be a cop, making it necessary to be more aggressive, further alienating more folks, etc. etc.


    Armed Liberal (4ea92b)

  13. I’m lucky enough not to have had much to do with the police in my 30-mumble years. All right, I’m basically a big wuss. Anyway, it seems to me that if you see what looks like an altercation through a window, it’s fine and proper to knock on a door. But to draw a gun? That’s a whole ‘nother thing, isn’t it? The mere presence of an unholstered gun changes the whole timber of an encounter.

    All I really know for sure is that I’m glad I’m not a cop.

    Actually, I know two things. I’m glad I’m not a cop, and I HATE this live-preview thing that bogs down my browser and makes me feel like I’m typing while sitting in a shallow pool of cold molasses. But only one of those is strictly topical.

    Jeff Harrell (937967)

  14. The LAT does not help anything by conveying the message that the Police are not going to take an arrestee alive.

    On the other hand, thanks, Dafydd, even though the following case might not completely fit: I once saw a decrepted, old guy [looking a poor 60] in the E.R. who had been involved in a “domestic violence” situation where the police had managed to break 7 of his ribs. The officer in charge slyly suggested to me that this “criminal” had brandished a gun. But the perp was promptly unarrested when he had to be hospitalized because the County was going to have to pay the bill otherwise.

    Then the wife came in with unstable angina because she was so upset her husband had been arrested and beaten. So she had to be hospitalized, too.

    I saw the perp a few years later and found that he had settled for about $100,000. The couple had merely been having one of their routine fights.

    But yet another blow had been struck against the Patriarchy. It’s not hard to imagine that the violence involved was perhaps ignited by the wholly sexist spurred anti-domestic violence laws which interpret and convict men prior to court. Who was going to go to jail in Baldy’s case? Might he have “resisted”?

    I do still sympathize with the police, however.

    J. Peden (ffccb8)

  15. Sorry, “Balko’s”. My guy was not even bald.

    J. Peden (ffccb8)

  16. I HATE this live-preview thing that bogs down my browser and makes me feel like I’m typing while sitting in a shallow pool of cold molasses.

    Why don’t you just do what I do: type your comments with the live preview scrolled down below the bottom of your screen where you can’t see it. Then when you’re done, scroll down to see what your comment looks like. Saves you a click to preview, and you don’t have to watch it as you enter the text. What’s wrong with that?

    What is it doing to your browser? I don’t understand that. What browser are you using?

    Patterico (08c813)

  17. “Why should I have to wait five days to buy a handgun?”

    …as Homer Simpson memorably put it…

    “Five Day waiting period? But I’m mad NOW!


    furious (2e4887)

  18. […] But Dafydd has had bad experiences with police officers. He has seen, with his own eyes, police do irresponsible and overbearing things. […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Dafydd ab Hugh on the Atlanta Incident with the 92-Year-Old Woman (421107)

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