Snow bullets, Merry Christmas-eve-eve Wednesday

Merry Christmas Eve-Eve! I'm on the fence as far as if I'll be blogging tomorrow, but I do have a few things just itching to be posted today, so here we go.

Since it's the story that won't die, I want to put in my two cents about the snowball fight.

You know what wakes you up in the morning just as good as a cup of coffee? Reading a bunch of idiots on the MPD Third District Listserv. Some people know how to bring the stupid and they do so ALL CAPS subject lines and logic that makes the invasion of Iraq look like a proof for Fermat's Last Theorem.

Here's one such shining example, from "Wanda:"
Enough with the focus on the Detective who drew his gun. It takes two!

Has anyone considered charging the facebook and twitter organizers with breach of the peace (disorderly conduct) and others with simple assault? In a major intersection, disrupting traffic, during hazadous conditions! I am always amazed at how "certain people" can point fingers and blame others for their actions, but use being a "Washingtonian out just having fun," as an excuse to put others in harms way.
OK. Let's get a few things straight. It only takes one person to remove a weapon from a holster. This logic is wonderful, similar to "It takes two to lie. One to lie, and the other to listen." The only time a weapon should be drawn is when the possibility exists that deadly force may be required. Good examples of when an officer should draw a weapon is when confronting a suspect who may have a weapon, or when executing a high-risk search warrant. It's never acceptable to draw your weapon simply to intimidate someone. Come on, that's what showing your badge is for. You can even pull back your coat a little bit to show off the holster to say "I mean business." You don't wave the gun around like a lunatic.

Back to Wanda's point: Sure, it's inappropriate and illegal to throw snowballs at cars. In certain scenarios it can be dangerous to throw snow at cars. However, there's a difference between dropping chunks of ice off an overpass onto the Beltway and pelting a Hummer with some crappy unpacked snowballs. Are both illegal as per the letter of the law? Sure, but there's a little thing called judgment and it plays a huge role in law enforcement. I know by typing big words like "disorderly conduct" and subscribing to the MPD listserve, Wanda probably thinks she's an expert on law enforcement. However, does anyone actually believe that police officers arrest and charge everyone with every crime they ever see in progress? Absolutely not. Being a police officer does involve enforcing laws, of course, however the primary role is to solve problems and defuse situations so that ultimately arrests are not required.

Police used their judgment to decide that the group of people at 14th and U were not causing any serious problems. There was no reason and no point to detaining them or charging them with a crime. Doing so would only have caused more problems, taken up more time, and drained already depleted resources. Would the snowball fight been more appropriate in Malcolm X Park, for example? Sure, whatever, maybe. That's not the point. The point is that one particular police officer forgot that part of his job (whether on the clock or not, if he's going to be displaying his weapon and identifying himself as an officer) is to defuse situations and not pour more fuel on the flames. As MPD Chief Lanier has said, his first mistake was getting out of the car. Waving his weapon around was another big mistake. No one's life was in imminent danger, and by drawing his gun all he did was put himself in danger. Just imagine there had been another off-duty cop, maybe from Arlington County or the Federal government in the area. Imagine he sees this dude pulling out a gun in a snowball fight, and he draws his weapon. Next thing you know we've got a Mexican standoff at 14th and U and then the snow gets drenched in blood and it's a big mess.

So please, I'm as big of a supporter of law enforcement as you'll find. However, I'm not going to make any excuses for this guy. He lost his temper, and it's on video. I'm not going to come down on Chief Lanier for saying dude messed up. He did. Does it make sense that an experienced police officer would make this kind of, dare I say, rookie mistake? Not really. However, the man admitted to drawing his weapon because people were throwing snowballs. I believe "open and shut" are the words here.

We've also got "david" who felt like chiming in:
...at any time, did he point the firearm at anyone? No....he didn't.
Whether he had it holstered or out and pointed at the ground it was facing
the same direction....down at the ground. And since people were throwing
things at him....even if it was just snowballs, he didn't know what he was
walking into. Do you think he got a "Tweet" that there was a snowball fight
on? Or do you think.....just maybe.....that there was a big fight going on
and there are people throwing things at each other and there may be bigger
more dangerous things being thrown that could be a danger to him? Is this
what was going through his head.....I don't know. But neither do
you......yet everyone assumes that he just knew it was a snowball fight. And
it stopped being a "friendly snowball fight" when the idiots started pelting
cars and anyone who strayed into their path.
First off, david, you don't get paid by the period. Secondly, "RTFM." Or in this case, watch the videos. It's obvious to anyone with a clue that people were throwing snowballs at each other. It didn't look like a riot. People weren't fighting. He's a professionally trained law enforcement officer who, I should hope, can tell the difference between such things.

Now if we could all just stop talking about the snowball fight. I'm really dying to know what's up with those White House Party Crashers and Tiger Woods.


  1. Dave, very well put. Petula Dvorak also got it right.

    Yeah - the snowballers broke the law. And when someone complained (ironically, though, nobody was doing that - the only 911 call was when a gun was drawn) -- the police would have a responsibility to restore order and keep the peace.

    What the handful of "counterpoint" people out there seem to ignore while placing an equal helping of blame on the revelers is that the job of the police is to restore order first and foremost. This cop did the opposite.

    We are not a nation that believes the iron fist is the right way to rule. We don't want Judge Dredd. We want police to be able to evaluate a situation and figure out the best way to resolve it.

    I can accept that there are some people who perceive a snowball fight as a "situation that needs resolving." I am not one of them, but I concede that that opinion has the moral high ground.

    But o more than I want the police to bring in a swat team and arrest and lock up every single person involved in an illegal public protest, I don't want the police to solve a "problem" like this with the threat of deadly force.n

    It's not their job. Nor should it be. And obviously public opinion supports this notion.

  2. Dave, you are arguing on multiple planes, and you don't know it.

    "Old Timers" in Washington are behind Detective Baylor. "New Comers" in Washington have a major issue with Detective Baylor.

    A bunch of rowdy, mostly Caucasian, mostly young people controlling a major intersection in an historically black neighborhood that is currently afflicted by/benefitting from Gentrification (it depends upon your point of view) is at the heart of the story. The other central theme to the story is the police officer who, like most DC police officers, is black and suburban; and likely has generational ties to the city and perhaps even the neighborhood.

    Get it? Re-read what Wanda has to say, but filter it with a cultural lens this time. A more dramatic analogy would be the outcome of the OJ Simpson trial. Reason and logic were clearly defined along cultural lines then, just as they are now.

    DC is hosed.

  3. it's not like the black community in this city has some sort of undying love for the metropolitan police department.

    i do wonder, however, what the reaction would have been if the police officer had been white, and this was a group of black people? then the story would be completely different, the MPD monsters are oppressing people.

    people like wanda are probably upset because we have a group of white kids acting like they own the place. in reality, the dumb white kids do own the place and a lot of people don't like it.

  4. "it's not like the black community in this city has some sort of undying love for the metropolitan police department."

    God no. If anything it's exactly the opposite.

    I think there may be some truth in what @anon says, though I don't think it has anything to do with this cop or his response to this situation. The first guy he grabbed was white. The second guy he grabbed was black.

    "in reality, the dumb white kids do own the place and a lot of people don't like it."

    Like it or not, the white kids (or whoever) who live there paid to rebuild that place stone by stone over the last 20 years. When I moved to DC in 1991, three out of four houses down there were boarded up. I didn't see anyone crying about people buying their shells back then.

  5. exactly. trying to build this into some argument about race relations is too much of a stretch.

    this dispute could have easily happened in georgetown or some other area that's not historically black, and there'd still be people defending the detective's actions.

  6. Good points, but I'm thinking that Detective Baylor's race trumps his job when it comes down to it.

    No, there is no love for MPD. But he was surrounded and confronted by an unruly white crowd, and he was publicly criticized by the white Police Chief. Consider the fact that we're talking about DC; and we have yet another racially-charged incident making headlines.

  7. I think the police chief's race has absolutely nothing to do with the way the police response was handled. Had there been no photos, I suspect the formal statement would have looked very much like the initial response from Asst. Chief Peter Newsham:

    "There was no police pulling guns on snowball people."

    "We’re looking at any potential police misconduct," Newsham says. "It should be completed within a few weeks.... We have not taken a formal statement from him."

    Yeah... and a couple weeks later everyone's forgotten about it.

    Only later, after public outcry and irrefutable video evidence making denial impossible, did Lanier issue her statement.

    No sane chief, black or white, would have done anything else in the face of the video and photos. I don't care how strong you think the racial and cultural ties go, nobody would be that stupid.

    Nor would any police chief, black or white, do anything other than back up the cop unless they had no choice.

  8. I agree for the most part with Dave's assessment. But I fucking dare you to go to Det. Baylor's house and start a flash mob. I DARE you.

    "Throw ONE more snowball," the man says.

  9. "I think the police chief's race has nothing to do with it..."

    Uh, yeah. Just like the fact that DC "Old Timer" contempt for the Chancellor of Schools has nothing to do with the fact that the Chancellor is an Asian woman and a "Newcomer".


  10. Why did a bunch of white boys think it was okay to pelt a black cop in the face with a snowball?

    It's also a class thing because they've been taught their entire lives that police exist to protect and serve their class, and now they're disrespecting their servants.