A feeling that police would not or could not do anything to help

Thanks for the help so glad you have infinite money and guns!

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The other day I asked if people had ever been helped by cops when they’ve been robbed. The consensus was lol no. They’ll probably just show up and shoot your dog many people joked which is funny because it’s true but also not funny because it’s true. Read all the other replies down below. First let’s talk about a recent police murder in LA.

Look at this press release put out by the LAPD about “an officer involved shooting” from last week. It reads in part:

As the officers arrived at the location, they began a search for the suspect. During that search, officers located a female who was suffering from various injuries and bleeding. They encountered the suspect a short distance away and an officer involved shooting occurred. The suspect was struck by gunfire and taken into custody. Fire department paramedics responded and determined the suspect deceased at scene.

Unbeknownst to the officers, a 14-year-old girl was in a changing room behind a wall, that was directly behind the suspect and out of the officers’ view. She was in the changing area with her mother when the officers encountered the suspect and the officer involved shooting occurred. During a search for additional suspects and victims, officers found the girl and discovered she had been struck by gunfire. She was pronounced dead at the scene. At this preliminary phase of the investigation, it is believed that victim was struck by one of the rounds fired by an officer at the suspect.

Police Chief Michel R. Moore commented: “This chaotic incident resulting in the death of an innocent child is tragic and devastating for everyone involved…”

Here’s how the media relations department initially described the incident.

Setting aside the standard exonerative tense always used by police to absolve themselves of agency in any situation the picture painted here is one of a highly dangerous and “chaotic” situation right? You might read this and easily imagine the officer intervening in the midst of a deadly attack during which a tragic but accidental death also occurred. Well you wouldn’t but one might read it that way.

Here’s how the NYT originally reported it for what it’s worth.

The fucking bullet did it.

What the police body camera video footage actually shows is that the chaos here was set into motion by the police themselves (no surprise there) and by one cop in particular who surveyed the situation for mere seconds then decided to fire off his assault rifle in the middle of a crowded store at a man who posed no threat to anyone else at the time. No warning was given.

It’s a hard video to watch but you should do so anyway.

The shooter the last cop on the scene barrels through all the other cops — a couple of whom seem to be wielding more appropriately non-lethal weapons — pushes them aside and immediately starts blasting.

The anguished screams you can hear after the shooting are from the mother of the girl who the cop shot to death through the dressing room wall.

Valentina Orellana-Peralta was trying on quinceañera dresses when she was killed by the police. She came to the States from Chile earlier this year and “she dreamed of becoming an American citizen and an engineer, and looked forward to seeing LeBron James play basketball in person,” the Guardian reported.

If you’d like to contribute to a fundraiser for her family you can do so here.

Here are some related numbers about police shootings in the country at large and Los Angeles in particular.

Here’s something that’s further maddening to think about although it won’t happen in this case because the cops murdered the guy. As Scott Hechinger pointed out on Twitter had the man lived he likely would have been charged himself with the girl’s murder.

“Shooting bystanders and then charging the people cops were trying to shoot with the bystander’s murder is unfortunately all too routine,” he goes on before referencing another 2018 police shooting.

“Here LA cops ‘shot into a Trader Joe’s, killing an innocent bystander—and the man they were shooting at was charged with that bystander’s murder.’”

I explained how this sort of thing works under felony murder laws in this Hell World piece from a few weeks ago.

The reason the two teens can be held responsible for something the police did is due to “felony murder” laws and a legal concept known as “transferred intent.” It’s not only the headline writers of our news outlets that are incapable of placing agency for a violent act in the hands of police our very laws have baked in absolution too.

In short felony murder laws state that if someone is killed while a person is in the act of committing a felony then they are responsible for that death as if they had murdered the person themselves. Most states in the U.S. have some form of this. Accomplices can also be charged with the murder as well such as someone driving a getaway car in a robbery although it is a net cast wide enough that sometimes a person simply sitting say in the back of a car while someone they know is engaged in a crime might be ensnared as well. (The Appeal has a good explainer here.)

“Since 2010, at least 22 people nationwide have been charged with felony murder for deaths directly caused by police,” a Buzzfeed story from earlier this year found.

In Phoenix in 2019 for example a man named Jacob Harris was shot to death by police after jumping out of a car they had pulled over. Police suspected the four people in the car to have been involved in a robbery so when Harris ran and they mowed him down it wasn’t their fault it was the three others in the car that made them do it in the eyes of the law.

“The officers didn’t face any consequences for the shooting. Instead, prosecutors laid the blame on Harris’s three friends in the car. Even though none of them had fired a single shot, 19-year-old Sariah Busani, 20-year-old Jeremiah Triplett, and 14-year-old Johnny Reed were charged with first-degree murder. More than two years later, they remain in jail awaiting trial.”

In another paid-only piece from earlier this week public defender Shane Ferro joined us to write about the surprising case of a man being released from detention at Rikers for an Eighth Amendment violation which is exceedingly rare. In her decision Judge April Newbauer described “squalid conditions, rampant violence among and to detainees, and a lack of essential services such as food and water,” as well as a situation in which more powerful inmates themselves were essentially in charge, and forced others to fight for their entertainment.

“Unfortunately, the news here isn’t actually the deplorable conditions, but that a lawyer was able to get enough proof of it, and a single judge was brave enough to actually release a person because of said conditions,” Ferro wrote.

Shortly after watching the video of the police murdering those people I went to the gym to catch Omicron and passed by an interesting sign in front of a store along the way. It read:

CALL A PROTESTER WHEN SOMEONE BREAKS INTO YOUR HOME I SUPPORT OUR POLICE

I posted the sign on Twitter and asked people if they had ever received any actual help from the police when they’ve been robbed. Probably not going to be a shock to hear that among the hundreds of responses the uniform consensus was lol no. They’ll probably just show up and shoot your dog many people joked which is funny because it’s true but also not funny because it’s true. Others pointed out that if you called a “protester” presumably meaning someone concerned about civil rights and police violence they’re going to be a lot more inclined to help with community-based remedies like mutual aid than the police who could not possibly give less of a fuck about whatever it is you’re whining about.

In the handful of times I’ve had my shit taken over the years I’ve never called the police about it myself because I knew they’d just send this guy if I did so I said fuck it.

And what’s the best case scenario in this instance anyway? Yes getting your laptop stolen or whatever fucking sucks but who wants to really point the police toward someone knowing they’re going to merely ruin their lives at best if they bother to try to catch them or kill them at worst? Pretty much the only reason to ever call the police at this point is that you need them to officially agree that you got robbed so your insurance company will believe you.

In fact considering the rate at which the police actually solve serious violent crimes it’s no wonder that people barely bother reporting property crimes anyway. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program only 45.5% of all violent crimes reported to police are cleared. Only 62% of murders and 33% of rapes are ever solved.

As Insider noted while writing on the stats “for property crimes, just 13.9% of burglaries, 18.9% of thefts, 13.8% of motor vehicle thefts, and 22.4% of arsons ended with arrests.”

Damn we gotta give these heroes more money they’re doing great.

Pew reported on similar statistics adding that most crimes aren’t even reported in the first place.

“Most violent and property crimes in the U.S. are not reported to police, and most of the crimes that are reported are not solved,” they wrote.

Fewer than half of crimes in the U.S. are reported, and fewer than half of reported crimes are solved

“In its annual survey, BJS asks crime victims whether they reported their crime to police or not. In 2019, only 40.9% of violent crimes and 32.5% of household property crimes were reported to authorities. BJS notes that there are a variety of reasons why crime might not be reported, including fear of reprisal or ‘getting the offender in trouble,’ a feeling that police ‘would not or could not do anything to help,’ or a belief that the crime is ‘a personal issue or too trivial to report.’”

That feeling that the police “would not or could not do anything to help” matched what everyone replied to me on Twitter. You can read a sampling of what they said below.

Before we get to that I want to be clear this isn’t me saying “the cops aren’t doing their jobs and therefore we need to get tougher on crime!” or anything like that. The last thing in the world I want is some guy being locked in a cage at Rikers in inhumane conditions like in the story above for stealing a car stereo or whatever. The idea is that we are giving these police departments nearly unlimited money and they do nothing with it to help us on even the most minor of things and instead they inflict as much pain as possible on the populace and almost always get away with it without any consequences. What if we shifted those resources we give to police into non-carceral solutions to address the root causes of crime!? Crazy idea right?

Or we could just keep doing what we’ve been doing.

Ok here’s what people said about calling the cops for help. Enjoy (?)

  • Both can show up an hour later and shrug. At least I’m not paying the protester.
  • When my place got robbed 2 rock stupid cops showed up 5 hours after I called 911 and refused to believe I got robbed. When I insisted they write up a report anyway they sighed and rolled their eyes and stomped around my ransacked apartment like Paul Rudd in Wet Hot American Summer.
  • My phone got snatched, instead of just writing up a report, they put me in the car, drove around and pointed at people minding their biz on their stoops asking “is that him?” (It wasn’t). They arrested some kid who didn’t match my description and I stopped taking their calls and the kid got off. They tried to tell me I should lie and agree that the kid they arrested was the one who stole my phone. So fucked up. It was Halloween so they were trying to hit their arrest quota. They thought that I, a 23 year old white girl without her stolen iPhone, would be willing to side with and vouch for them. I wasn’t. They were pissed. A colossal waste of time for me and almost life ruining for that kid. But the time someone tried to break into my house while I was home, they didn’t even show up after 3 calls. Cops are useless.
  • One time I got sideswiped by a car and was told to call the cops for my insurance company. Waited for about 3 hours before giving up and leaving. A cop eventually called me at like 1 am (8 hours or so after the crash) acting pissed that I wasn't still at the scene. Thanks for the help so glad you have infinite money and guns.
  • Never been robbed but I did find a literal baby crawling/walking in the street near a kind of busy intersection. They told me to knock on doors and find out who the baby belonged to. Super helpful.
  • Laptop got stolen out my apartment window. A cop showed up three hours later. When I pointed out there were fingerprints on my window the cop said “I always wanted to do this” and got out a little kit and had me READ THE INSTRUCTIONS OUT LOUD TO HIM. He fucked up and smeared them.
  • I was beaten in the street in front of a closed bank, jaw broken. After a few bounces of “oh, this goes to another precinct,” a cop told me I would have to get the camera footage from the bank to get a report filed. Called the bank and they only release footage to law enforcement.
  • I never got robbed, but once in college my roommate left a bar with a guy and we didn’t see her for 2 days so we called the police. They said “what exactly would you like us to do?” And “some people dig their own graves.” This was the beginning for me.
  • I've never been robbed but when my ex tried to kill me they didn't even look for him (he was in the carport), asked what I did to provoke him, and called me fat.

In college I woke up to a guy in my apt. Drove him off and then realized stuff was stolen. Called the cops and they pretended to dust for prints on a jar and then an hour later put me in a squad car and drove to the projects and tried to get me identify a guy from like a block away. Then they acted pissed when I told them I never saw the person that took anything and that I definitely couldn’t tell who the person was from a block away. After like five minutes of them trying to get me to say “yeah sure” they said “last chance kid” and then drove me home.

  • My insurance required I file a police report in order to replace my car window every time it got popped. All but twice the cops never showed up. Had to walk to the station to file a report to get my goddamn window replaced. Buffalo was great. Oh, someone stole my wallet and withdrew everything in my bank account from an ATM down the block from my house. Detective accused me of lying to cover for spending money, then said I needed to file my own subpoena with the bank to get security tape to prove I didn't rob myself.
  • Only time I ever called 911 was when my bike got stolen. He pretty much was like “wow tough luck” and left.
  • My blind dad got robbed of everything on him in broad daylight in front of a busy supermarket. After waiting 4 hours, had to call 911 to tell them he’s not waiting anymore and to go to his house instead. We waited over 2 more hours. Over a year ago and haven’t heard from them since.
  • I called twice after robberies. Both times they came out and told me how it was my fault.
  • Got mugged at gunpoint around 10 years ago. Drove me to the precinct so I could wait three hours to give a statement. Told me to stop crying like a f*g. Never heard any follow up.
  • My place got robbed and the robber left a knife in my bed because they dropped it to grab something. I flagged down a cop car in the street because I didn’t have a phone. They poked around, didn’t take the knife, and accused me of being “too calm.” Never heard from them again.
  • Given that the police accomplished exactly nothing when my house was broken into, I may just try this next time.
  • “Call a protester when someone breaks into your home.” People do that all the time, it’s what all those “oh shit someone stole/vandalized my stuff, please help” GoFundMes are about. The main thing cops do is give you a report for insurance and search your house for drugs.
  • As a protester I’d be happy to show up after the fact and log a report into a computer database where it will do absolutely nothing to stop crime, just like the real police.
  • The protestor will likely do about as much as any cop will in finding the burglar and will probably be less of an asshole about it. It's good advice.
  • When our car got broken into, the cops took over 2 hours to show up, laughed and cracked dumb jokes, and did almost literally nothing. We fed them more than enough info and they took weeks to follow up. Within months, the main cop assigned to our case died of Covid.
  • Someone broke into my apartment while I was out of town one time and stole a bunch of my shit. The cop who came 3 hours later told me I was wasting his time because I couldn't come up with a value for everything that was stolen on the spot. I also had my laptop stolen out of my car one time and I had a tracking app on it and called the detective when it popped up with a GPS location and pictures of the person who opened it. Detective begrudgingly took the info and then said “don't call me if you get more of these.”
  • One of the times our house got burglarized years ago the alarm company called us to let us know it was going off and I got there like 20 minutes later straight from work and had a cop show up five minutes or so after me and point a gun in my face.
  • If you find your house has been broken into, all the cops can do is make a report which you only need to file an insurance claim. Go down to the station and report it. Having a cop show up to your house does no good, and you'll avoid having them assume you did it or whatever.
  • Got robbed in college. Cops came, saw some ash on a table, and tried to get us to admit we were drug dealers.
  • Car taken for a joyride and brought back to the parking garage, window smashed, dashboard torn off to get the stereo, steering column busted up to start it. Key didn't work anymore. Cop just said “we never find any of this shit” and showed me how to start it with a screwdriver.
  • My friend had her bag stolen on the subway, it had multiple medicines, her notebooks and her laptop. She also had a GPS tracker on it that said it was across the street from a police precinct. They said unless she could prove it was worth $1000 or more they wouldn’t even check.
  • Two of my cars have been broken into and both times I called the cops it took them at least an hour to show up and they didn’t do anything but fill out a police report for the insurance claim. One of the times I had to badger the cop into even doing that.
  • Last time it happened my insurance made me get a police report in order to pay out. I called three different agencies and each one told me it was someone else's jurisdiction. When I told the first one I'd been sent back to them they never returned my repeated calls. I gave up.
  • I found a magazine of live bullets on a busy city street. I called the cops because I didn't want to touch them. They said they were really busy and hung up, but called me back an hour later and asked if I could pick them up and bring the bullets to them. I said no.
  • Security system went off when we were at least half hour from getting home. Made it back, figured out that wind blew open the back door but not the locked screen door. Sheriffs showed up an hour later while we were eating lunch and harassed us and made us prove it was our home.
  • My 2nd floor office got broken into and a bunch of my textbooks stolen. A cop showed up the next day and looked EXCITED at the idea thieves came in through a window. I said no probably the door and he looked so sad. Left and I never heard anything again.