Friday, April 4, 2014

Mob "justice" threatens us all

Call it revenge; call it mob-mentality; call it street 'justice' gone awry; nevertheless, what happened in Detroit, after a young boy stepped off a curb into the path of an oncoming truck qualifies as brutality, criminality, impatient injustice and extremely dangerous.
The driver of the truck, while attending to the injured boy, obviously not having left the scene of the accident, and not having made any attempt to escape the disclosure of the full facts in the incident, and we might also assume feeling extremely distraught about what had just happened (most of us would, if we found ourselves in his shoes), was mobbed and beaten into critical condition with severe head injuries by a neighbourhood mob.
We found the story in the Vancouver Sun, obviously the editors of that paper thought and believed, as we do, that the story is another sign of the kind culture we are living in and, to be blunt, it is not, from this picture, a pretty scene. We include an excerpt here for verification.
A suburban Detroit man was in critical condition Thursday with severe head injuries after a neighbourhood mob beat and kicked him when he stopped to check on a 10-year-old boy who stepped from a curb into the path of his pickup.
The 54-year-old man, whose name was not released, was being treated at a Detroit hospital as police scoured the east side neighbourhood where he was attacked Wednesday afternoon. The boy, David Harris, was expected to recover from his injuries, according to Desmond Key, who said he was the 10-year-old's uncle.
The driver — who lives just north of Detroit in Macomb County's Roseville — wasn't at fault in the accident, said Detroit police Sgt. Michael Woody.
"A preliminary investigation shows the kid stepped off the curb in front of him," Woody said. "No way he could have stopped in time." (By Corey Williams, Associated Press, in Vancouver Sun, April 3, 2014) Read more:
Why would we include this story in our list of 'what we need to know' items?
Simply because any one of us could have been, and could easily become this driver. Compounding his angst over the mishap, the mob took control of the scene, and probably will never be discovered, charged and convicted of their criminality. Meanwhile, he remains in critical condition in hospital suffering from head injuries inflicted by those who seek "uber-justice", who seek to place their own imprint on the story from their misguided, jaundiced and dangerous need for power.
Their actions, those of the mob, come out of a social culture that places less and less trust in our institutions, including the law enforcement component of those public institutions, and 'takes the law' into their own hands. Impatient with a "due process" based on a social contract that withholds judgement of guilt, in fact suspends guilt until proven so through habeas corpus (everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty) by a process that includes a full investigation, a full review of the facts, a court-room presentation of those facts and a final verdict from either or both a judge and jury, they seek and impose their own 'sentence' of physical brutality immediately upon entering the scene, and impulsively upon making their own 'judgement' of the facts as they see them.
Once having taught a group of students in a program known as "police foundations" I encountered a similar mentality among the students when I attempted to present the issue of "keeping an open mind" upon entering a scene to which they had been assigned. Objectivity, detachment, neutrality and mental, emotional and physical composure being those qualities required of the law enforcement officers when entering any situation to which they have been called, were among the most difficult qualities to gain the comprehension, apprehension and emulation of those students in what has become known as a 'for-profit college'....where the students are much more funding sources than learners. These students, sadly and even tragically, were intent upon making an instant judgement of guilt, taking control of the presumed guilty and writing the most sketchy report, in order to establish their "credibility" with their future commanding officers that, if they were to hold to their view, would become more dangerous to public safety and security than if they had never entered policing profession.
There are important aspects of the "street culture" that warrant preservation; the good Samaritan archetype is a good example of the inverse of this story, and could well statistically outnumber cases like this; another example is found in  the many stories of reaching out to comfort victims by bystanders in a crisis to those in jeopardy, including fires, hurricanes, and even those heinous shootings where innocents are victims.
This story brings those empathy-compassion-comfort outpourings into even greater relief. And, in doing so, prompts the question, "What has happened to generate this story?"
Sociologists and criminologists will compile stories like this, including their frequency and severity, to determine if indeed we are moving toward a more callous and indifferent culture, and, in the long run, will likely find that we are not, based on the statistical data. However, to that man suffering in the hospital from those head injuries inflicted by those thugs, the academics' conclusions will be little comfort. Politicians will give another 'shout-out' to increased sentences, minimum mandatory sentences, and even more incarcerations of these young men (and we all know it was men and not women who committed this crime)...and the public will wring its hands, (in the manner we are doing here) and go on about their business without anything substantive occurring to prevent a future similar, if not even more dangerous, incident. A small few might take up the cause of public safety for people in a similar situation as this driver, but it will garner tepid support, if any. (Laws have been passed previously to exempt doctors from law suits if and when they assist in roadside auto accidents. They are known as the "good Samaritan" laws, made necessary by ungrateful recipients of such care, when something went wrong with the victims' recovery.
Stand-your-ground laws, in many U.S. states, make it both feasible and even encouraged, for people to carry weapons, and if and when they feel under threat, to shoot in self-defence. And rather than seeing the number of states in which those laws have been passed fall, the number is growing. So, while fighting terrorism around the world, the United States is fully engaged in encouraging and developing an armed criminal mind-set that seeks its own 'justice' outside the legal process.
When the courts and the legal framework that supports each person's innocence until it can be fully disproven, beyond doubt, are insufficient to satisfy this "mob" justice, and when one who tragically strikes a young child in an instant when the child steps off a curb into the path of a vehicle is not safe from mob violence, then who is safe on the public streets of this or any other city?
I once listened to a young man tell a story of having 'sent a message' to his friends 'on the inside' (of the prison system) to pound out every day an incoming person who had been convicted of a sex crime against a young girl (a heinous and indecent act in the first place) so that he would get another "message" from those among whom he originally lived, a sort of uber-justice inflicted by civilians who no longer believed in the integrity and the validity of the judicial system. I was horrified and frightened upon hearing the story, and remain convinced that these young men who inflicted serious injuries to this driver were "schooled" in the same street-classroom as the person telling the story just recounted. And as these stories grow, we all face a prospect of a society in which the mob takes more control, requires more public money to repress and to remediate, and one in which the safety of our "innocence first" principle erodes.

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