Why Charles Eimers died
Public opinion punishes
those who admit they were wrong
Newly-arrived visitor Charles Eimers drove away from a traffic stop on his first day in Key West. Police caught up with on South Beach. In the process of apprehending him, he died. The process killed him. We are all part of it, and we share the guilt.
We have all seen the procedure police use to subdue suspects. They have them lie face down on the ground, and then they handcuff them. This procedure works in that it is safe for the police, while generally not injuring suspects. But when the suspect’s face is forced into a soft material like sand, it is a mortal error.
I predict no police will be found guilty in a criminal case, but that a civil case will award Charles’ family millions of our tax dollars. Rightly so. Because we the people are intimately complicit in the attitudes and procedures that killed him.
The police will not be found guilty for a myriad of reasons we admire. We give individuals the right not to testify against themselves, and spouses the right not to testify against each other. Professions like medicine, law, and the military forge bonds easily equal to those of marriage, probably with a lower divorce rate. We admire loyalty to our kinsmen. For the police, it’s “the thin blue line.”
When the police refuse to testify against each other, the next process that we the people admire is our criminal court system. Requiring a jury of 12 to unanimously convict police is almost impossible without their fellow officers’ testimony. It is a combination of the standard of “reasonable doubt” and our primitive, childlike yearning to believe that our authorities are benevolent.
None of us wants to live in a world where daddy or police are dangerous to us. Thus, every jury will have at least one who will refuse to convict. The police know this, and it is their perfect right to use our justice system as the system allows.
The saddest part of our societal process is our faith in “policy,” as in the take-down procedure that seems to have suffocated poor Charles. The Eimers’ lawyer quite rightly, in my opinion, asserts that this procedure should not be used in sand. We tend to prefer policies as opposed to human discretion or common sense. But bad policies and procedures need to be changed.
I called our police department to inquire about the process for amending procedures. That is, how do police in general change procedures based on bad outcomes, like the inadvertent death of a mild-mannered visitor? As usual, my emails and call were returned promptly by their administrators. But they would not let me talk to Chief Donie Lee, and the officer they referred me to in charge of policies did not in fact get back to me as promised.
I expected as much. The last bad process we are complicit in is that public opinion punishes leaders who ever admit they were wrong, and change their minds. We vote them out of office, or, worse, in a court of law, use it as evidence of guilt. What I would pray the police, not just here but everywhere, would do is amend their take-down procedure to NOT use the face-down method on sand.
But if Chief Lee were to institute such a common-sense amendment, it would be jumped upon as evidence of culpability. Again, that’s us. We the people do this to ourselves. It’s why doctors can’t apologize to grieving families, who oftentimes desire only that. Or bad medicines are not recalled sooner.
The last way so many of us are complicit is in a general scorning of the “homeless.” Charles’ car full of possessions—he intended to move down here in his retirement—made officers think he was living out of it. In my column saying we should indeed arrest homeless beggars for public drinking, I asked police only not to beat them up on the way to jail. But the general outrage inclines in that direction.
Of course, not all of us are guilty. But as a society, we revere authority enough not to convict authority-figures in jury trials, we respect group loyalty, we punish authorities that change their practices, and we have a sneaking desire to beat up a class of people we don’t like.
Standards of guilt are different at civil trials, and juries do not respect their own tax money as much as they respect the police. It is in fact fitting and just that our representatives on the jury judge ourselves guilty as they make us pay for poor Charles’ unfortunate demise.[livemarket market_name="KONK Life LiveMarket" limit=3 category=“” show_signup=0 show_more=0]
Please watch this video…and then decide if the problem was the sand.
Thanks, Truther2, for the link. What is profoundly disturbing to me is that this prone restraint procedure is still widely used nationally–the Oklahoma police say the fatal arrest was ‘by the book.” My column criticizes the fact that our law enforcement apparently does not have the organizational intelligence to correct mortally flawed procedures.
This happened only 7 days ago. The medical examiner’s report is not in. It may in fact be he had a heart attack. But it is more likely that Truther2’s point is correct–that having your face mashed into asphalt while five large men are crushing your chest and head down makes sand unnecessary as a causal agent. I wonder how many of this man’s ribs will turn out to have been broken.
Your articles are the main reason why I open up KONK Life news, thank you for your thoughtful and intelligent reporting.
Thank you, Shannon. Feedback like yours keeps me writing.
I have been victimized by law enforcement authorities on several occasions from showing off to a trainee to creating bogus charges to counter professional misconduct and embarrassment. I have friends who have had similar “super-cop” experiences as well. I have first-hand knowledge of how “the system” works and it’s clear by the much publicized KWPD saying, “You might beat the rap but you can’t beat the ride,” that the focus is not justice but intimidation. Notwithstanding, that attitude within the law enforcement community is more universal than local as evidenced by the plethora of videos and stories that abound on the Internet and national media.
That being said, my brother was a police officer so I have a unique insight into the childish “nanny-nanny-boo-boo” that officers delight in over their victims, both innocent and guilty. It’s clear that whistleblowers within law enforcement are ostracized for doing the right thing just as Frank Serpico was in NY. Those who stand on the righteous side of the “blue wall of silence” are victimized by their own, risk their careers (perhaps their lives!) and are even scorned by the public at times. Although the sad truth about law enforcement’s mission to “protect and serve,” some officers don’t. It’s impossible to tell which ones will adhere to professional standards at any given encounter and those who will press a nasty agenda to satisfy ego or something more sinister.
I am a common, law abiding citizen and seldom have dealings with law enforcement. However, if I extrapolate a ratio from being victimized or not during the few experiences that I have had, I figure I have a 50/50 chance of being treated with respect as opposed to being an enemy of the state. Though unofficial, this is an alarming statistic. Regardless, it is my life’s experiences that determines my opinions and behavior. Consequently, I have learned the hard way that the police are not necessarily your friends. For my own protection, I now have become apprehensive of ALL law enforcement officers. For the sake of the bad apples that are PROTECTED instead of IDENTIFIED by law enforcement, I now treat all encounters with doubtful reserve and a degree of mistrust. This is sad since it is law enforcement itself that has taught me to be wary, a 180 degree turn from my old-school values in this now all-about-me-screw-everyone world..
When you’re trained to deal with criminals, you treat everyone like criminals. When you have a big hammer, everything looks like a nail. Though I respect the tough job law enforcement does and have had laudable experiences with wonderful officers, law enforcement is a two edged sword to the common citizen. There needs to be a balance between how the guilty and innocent are treated by officers and judgment thereof is reserved for the courts, not by their “instincts.” I believe that some officers think that, since they are in the business of enforcing the law, they own it and take “liberties” that will ultimately be protected behind the “blue wall of silence.” This tends to embolden some to inappropriate conduct.
This hush-hush policy is not limited only to law enforcement. It’s everywhere in all facets of business, government and society. It’s the NORM! Nevertheless, we all go on looking at our world through rose-colored glasses. We are so bombarded by the ills and evils of our world that we become beat-up and apathetic enough to simply turn a blind eye. We circle the wagons around our own little world not caring about what goes on outside of it. However, not making a stand for what is right will eventually come back to consume us. Take heed to that bumper sticker that says, “If you’re not enraged, you’re not paying attention!” Be active, be vocal, and be assertive for what is right. On the other hand, be balanced, be respectful and be open-minded. We don’t live in individual bubbles. It’s OUR world. Let’s collectively make it a great place for everyone!
Jim, can I buy your book or check out your blog? I recognize a fellow writer.