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Call of Duty gaming community points to ‘swatting’ in Wichita police shooting (krebsonsecurity.com)
574 points by pjc50 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 617 comments



Two things can obviously be true at the same time: that "police officers"† are improperly keyed up as if they're shock troops preparing for a battle, and that calling in a false report with the hope that it will provoke an armed response is effectively an attempt at homicide.

To me, the (standard) overreaction by the police makes arguments minimizing what the gamer did here even harder. Unless you live under a rock, you're aware of the controversy about armed police response in the US. Surely this gamer knew that, and called a fake report in anyways --- one involving an active shooter and a hostage.

I'm with Ken "Popehat" White: what the gamer did here is homicide. We can argue about the degree.

really, in almost all cases in the US, "assault officers", and we should separate the two concepts, stop hiring new assault officers, and start hiring a new class of less-armed police officers

Later

It turns out there's already a concept in US law that captures this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depraved-heart_murder


> really, in almost all cases in the US, "assault officers", and we should separate the two concepts, stop hiring new assault officers, and start hiring a new class of less-armed police officers

I don't see police accepting this, and it is hard to not feel kinda hopeless about the situation, since it is linked pretty tightly with the 2nd amendment.

An incredibly difficult - but more possible - response is to raise accountability for police officers and their actions. As it stands now, it is virtually impossible for a police officer to face serious repercussions for shooting someone, no matter how bad it was.

Seven years ago, in Detroit, a SWAT officer threw a flash grenade into the wrong apartment and hit a sleeping seven-year old girl with it, then shot and killed her. He was cleared of any wrongdoing and is still a police officer. In the case of Michael Slager murdering Walter Scott, there was video evidence of him shooting an unarmed man who was running away, then planting evidence on him - jurors refused to convict him, and it wasn't until he pled guilty to other charges that he actually had to serve time.

It feels like these things happen on a weekly basis, and judges and juries are perfectly happy to side with police no matter how egregious the shootings are. We, as a society, have basically said the police can do no wrong when it comes to shooting someone, and the consequence is that a lot of innocent people are getting killed. Until that changes, I don't see how the police will change their practices at all.


That's the point: the police don't have to accept it. We probably can't disarm the existing police force, but we can disarm most of them through attrition, which is something we need to do anyways because of the public pension debacle.

Disarm most police:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12057079


I don’t think the solution is to disarm the police. The reality is that it is facing an armed and rather violent population. The problem is rather that they behave like a bunch of trigger happy cowboys. The solution is rather better training, a change of culture and real accountability in the case of unlawful shootings.

Even in countries where the police doesn’t carry guns, the equivalent of the Swat will always do.

But Swat teams must be aware that Swatting is a thing, and should have no expectation when they break into a house to find fully rational people. It’s not a crime to be drunk at home, or to have taken sleeping pills and to not respond quickly to a bunch of guys shouting orders at you in the middle of the night.


I think that disarming the police would improve things even with no changes to civilian gun laws in the US. The US obviously has a severe civilian gun problem, but things are nowhere near bad enough to justify the trigger-happy attitude of police. The danger police face is drastically overblown, and homicide is a tiny portion of the danger police face on the job (more police deaths are from traffic accidents, health conditions, and suicide).

Policing is also becoming a lot safer, despite the rhetoric that things are getting worse and police are increasingly “under attack.”


For starters, we could reinforce the Batson rule [1] and mandate that any jury selected must mirror the racial and sexual makeup of its community, +/- 10%.

Having to prove racial discrimination in jury selection is an absurdly high bar, and usually impossible.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batson_v._Kentucky


I understand what you're going for, but I think this idea would just reinforce the imaginary walls we use to group humans. The underlying idea is that X-people understand X-people, where X is some arbitrary group, but non-X-people lack the perspective they need. For example, we consider people with black skin to be a group, but not people with blue eyes, or people who can curl their tongues. Let's just work our way toward thinking people are just people instead.


The problem is that juries without a minority on them absolutely find minorities guilty at a higher rate than when one or more minorities are on the jury.

As the thread below noted, it's not fair to have historical conditions that produced winners (white men, countries with colonies, etc) and then make things more equal by saying "That's all over" and failing to recognize the results of previous injustice that are still embedded in our lives.

I could have offered other suggestions. I specifically said 'juries that roughly reflect their communities in racial and sexual senses'. I don't feel that's an unreasonably burdensome ask in pursuit of Justice.

http://repository.cmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi%3Farticle%3D13...


Sure, but let’s not pretend the last millennium didn’t happen or shape the present in critical ways.


How is that in any way relevant? How does that at all mean that black people better understand black people, or justify explicitly selecting a jury on the basis of something arbitrary like skin color?


[flagged]


So build a post-racial world by building up racial barriers and continuing the "other"-ness of people with different skin colors? I'm not trying to be a dick or strawman you, that's the only thing I can get from this comment.


Build a post racial world by acknowledging that racial barriers exist independently of your thoughts, seek to weaken them and repair ongoing harm. The most powerful group playing pretend isn’t going to fix a damned thing. Trying to pretend that everything is better now... please explain how you see this working?

Edit: Or just downvote and move on, that says something too.


Note about HN down voting: when replying to a post, the parent poster cannot down vote you. The down vote you were awarded came from another commenter.

At this time, this comment has positive karma. At any rate, complaining about down voting distracts from your very good point.


Fair enough, I’ll keep that in mind going forward. Thanks for taking the time to teach.


You might have difficulty empaneling juries if this were a requirement. What makes a good jury goes well beyond racial or sexual makeup. Also, in many places the jury pools don't match the community at large. This approach would therefore have the effect of jeopardizing the right to jury trial without really alleviating injustice.

A more fruitful approach might be to try to make the pools more balanced. Getting more community participation in the justice system seems like a very good thing at multiple levels.


I think we'd do better to, at least at first, start solving some of the reasons why our jury demographics are so skewed. Stronger protections for workers that need time off (there should be no work hardship exemption and employers should be forced to give jurors full pay for the duration of the trial) would be a good start to not discriminate against poorer people who can't take off from work without struggling financially or getting fired. Also, criminal convictions shouldn't disqualify someone after they've served their sentences. The current system disqualifies a disproportionate number of minorities and that leaves predominantly-white juries to convict even more minorities...a self-reinforcing cycle. Also, the SCotUS needs to recommit to the Batson doctrine to prevent prosecutors from dismissing minority jurors based on race.


A right to a trial by a racially biased jury isn't much of a right in my opinion.

I'm all for throwing people in jail if they don't want to serve on a jury.


Fair enough.. It is definitely an idea with a lot of merit. I guess I have three questions:

1) Do you think this is politically feasible? Being seen as "tough on crime" is almost never a bad thing in any kind of election, and what you are proposing feels decidedly the opposite of that. Further, even if you aren't disarming existing officers, they have unions and a fair amount of political clout.

2) Do you think you could find enough people willing to do this job unarmed?

3) I definitely see how this would lead to less escalation in a lot of situations (escalation seems to be the default behavior of police now), and it could prevent some of the high-profile police shootings that have been in the news lately. But it also seems like a high percentage of them (the one in this SWATting situation, Michael Brown, the 6 year old in Bexar County last week, Aiyana Jones) would be handled by armed officers anyway, so that only solves part of the problem, right?


I want to be clear that this idea doesn't have much to do with SWATting. What makes SWATting so evil is that it's deliberately designed to place officers in the scenario most demanding of readily deployed lethal force.

Having said that:

1. Yes, I think it's feasible. Not in DFW or Maricopa County, but test cases in places like Madison and Columbus? Remember: big cities already have people like this --- parking enforcement, traffic direction --- and most cities are facing pension problems due to the assault forces they already have.

2. Clearly we can find the people to do the work. TSA staffs unarmed people at checkpoints designed to catch armed terrorists. Big cities already put unarmed officials in adversarial contact with citizens.

3. It only solves part of the problem. But I'd hope that by gradually relegating assault officers only to those scenarios where escalation was known to be required going in, we'd eliminate the kinds of snap-judgement mistakes police make in routine confrontations that end up with firearms deployed.


Those are all good points.

I guess the one part I remain a skeptic about is whether or not people are going to be ok with it, much less demand it. It feels like the underlying attitude towards policing is the sticking point - the same attitude that lets police literally get away with murder would also prevent people from demanding unarmed police.

Perhaps I overestimate how pervasive this attitude is, especially in big cities. It is definitely something I'd love to be wrong about.


Commenting on 2, yes, it shouldn't be a problem at all. In the UK, police don't carry lethal weapons routinely. In fact, knowing a few of them who are active and a couple retired, even the use of a baton is usually not required at any point in their careers. They rely more on teamwork and communication than physical weapons. I also know an officer from an armed unit. He says he's bored 99% of the time as he's only of use to a tiny amount of call outs and has never had to fire his weapon while on duty in the public.

As to 3, the UK police do escalate sometimes, and I think some of their behavior is disgusting, but at least it results in non-lethal harm (and hopefully disciplinary action) when there are no armed units involved.


The UK doesn't allow anyone to buy a gun, and certainly not a military grade assault rifle.


> would be handled by armed officers anyway

Exactly. Expecting police to go to an active shooter / hostage situation unarmed seems rather flawed. That said, I think many other situations police officers are in don’t warrant being armed.


"We" could do it. But "we" - as in, US population - don't want to. As to why, it remains a mystery to me, but this is clearly the case.


I think that the majority of the population considers that these types of events are very unlikely to impact their own lives and they therefore don't give it much thought. Maybe if a law was passed that required all adults in the county to serve 16 hours of jury duty for every instance of a police shooting and killing an unarmed person then that would be enough of an inconvenience to force a change in attitude.


That seems unlikely. The police have strong political support; they would have to accept it.


I think you're missing the point of the concept. Nothing changes for the police.


I think the police are smart enough to realize that Police 2.0, whatever you call them, are intended to replace them.


judges and juries are perfectly happy to side with police no matter how egregious the shootings are

Like many I watched Die Hard and Die Hard 2 over Christmas, and it struck me how deeply the rogue, trigger-happy cop is embedded as a folk hero in American culture. The real life John McClain is George Zimmerman or Mohamed Noor. You guys have got to stop making these movies if you want to make any progress


The average cop show also is a collection of civil rights violations, with some arguing that this makes people less likely to realize that when it happens in reality. (That's not just US series, but strong there too)


24h set the tone for torture acceptance according to http://www.e-ir.info/2014/01/06/torture-and-the-impact-of-24...


I remember an interview with a Vietnam veteran who said the most traumatic part for him was growing up with The Lone Ranger, where the good guys wouldn't do the things he was being told to do as a soldier.

Then I remember seeing 24 and thinking the entertainment industry wouldn't make that mistake again.


Don't blame it on movies. If movies disagreed with accepted culture, they wouldn't be popular. Qualified immunity and blue wall of silence exist not because of the movies.

Also note that Hans Gruber is not exactly an example of average citizen and was shown committing several murders (not to mention a row of other felonies including hostage taking) before McClane has even a chance to encounter him. This is exactly the case where police officer is justified to use lethal force - unlike, say, woman in her pajamas calling the police because she heard a strange noise in her backyard. Constantly confusing these two is exactly the reason why no sensible discussion happens in US public debate about it - it's either "police can do no wrong" or "always blame the police, even if the other side is Hans Gruber".


Those movies came out around 30 years ago. The first one came out while Reagan was president. We don’t really make mainstream movies like that anymore.


We don’t really make mainstream movies like that anymor

Come on, one of the main characters in the Fast & Furious franchise is a rule-breaking cop. The archetype is alive and well.


> judges and juries are perfectly happy to side with police

It is actually the entire society that is happy to side with police.

http://news.gallup.com/poll/196610/americans-respect-police-...


This got me thinking why police officers in the US tend to use gun as a weapon of their high priority choice.

Consider many people in the US owns gun, maybe it's because of those officers are fear of death (It's very normal) so they tend to act first to save themselves?

As an outsider, I don't think it's a good thing to allow people to own a gun. Because people are different in general, some easy to anger, some more likely to hurt other. It doesn't mean they are naturally bad, they may just need longer time to cold themselves down. And gun is too quick and lethal, ripped than chance from them.

If people need to protect themselves, maybe allowing them to own a taser instead?


You don't understand how culturally deep the 2nd Amendment is for many Americans. The right to bear arms is a foundational freedom, enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The country was founded in violent revolution and then expanded across a wilderness frontier. Firearms are a key part of that history. The view is also that people aren't truly free unless they have the ability to resist government tyranny. The 2nd Amendment has actually expanded pretty dramatically in the last two decades-- many states have expanded concealed carry and the feds have rolled back so-called assault weapons bans, and the courts have strengthened the 2nd Amendment as an individual right. You'll literally have a civil war if you tried to disarm the population.


It's ironic how little a gun helps in resisting actual tyranny. There isn't anything emperical about those gun beliefs.

All my friends who have guns own them because they hunt, like shooting them as a hobby, and/or like the feeling of power it affords.


Apparently you've never been to Iraq or Afghanistan. It's also interesting your empirical research methods have a terrible fear of analysing history..

Besides the above, how did that recent uprising in Catalonia work out...

Tweet, hold signs, vigils, hashtag whatever.. Without the blood of sacrifice and guns to make it painful, those people were really just pissing into the wind.


It's also important to remember that police go into what they understand to be life or death situations.

When we look back on these incidents they seem horrible, but if you give someone a gun and give them a reason to believe their life is in danger you're probably going to get deadly consequences. It's obvious to us that the cops life wasn't in danger in the instances you mentioned, but people are fallible and they may have brought past trauma or prejudice to the incident. It's probably extremely rare that a cop actually wants to murder someone and is looking for the right opportunity.

That said, if cops had better non-lethal alternatives to guns, we could save lives. Something that is more effective than tasers and works immediately at a distance. The cops objective in a potentially deadly situation should be to immediately incapacitate rather than kill.


I think there's an analogy here with banking, around the idea of securing transactions rather than securing identity. The police need to be a lot more sure that the information they're working with is solid before they take drastic actions, just like a bank should take a lot more care that what they're doing is correct when a transaction appears suspicious.

"Standard overreaction" by the police is to my mind a bigger problem than the homicidal intent of the fraudulent calls. That kind of overreaction is a force multiplier for anyone with ill intent towards the US, never mind immature, violent and mentally ill people within the US.

I don't disagree with the idea that there is culpable homicidal intent for the prank caller, of course.


All sorts of things are force multipliers for violently disturbed people: guns, cars, explosives, and yes fraud and deception. We should treat people who employ fraud to harm others the same way we treat people who use pipe bombs.

Police violence does seem like the "bigger" problem --- not that the difference tells us anything about how we should handle the ostensibly "smaller" problem. But I'll suggest that there's a "big" problem behind SWAT-ing, too: the way technology intermediates between agents and consequences, abstracts away externalities, reinforces the rationalizing techniques our brains use to salve themselves when violating fundamental inhibitions. In some circumstances, we even celebrate these effects, which seem to me far more menacing than a lot of mind-altering drugs.


> But I'll suggest that there's a "big" problem behind SWAT-ing, too: the way technology intermediates between agents and consequences, abstracts away externalities, reinforces the rationalizing techniques our brains use to salve themselves when violating fundamental inhibitions

At this point, I am not sure the people who go all the way to make the phone call to SWAT someone are somewhat detached from the consequences. I would put it on the same scale as loosening the bolts of someone’s ladder.

The intentions and consequences are clear, even if the “accident” might or might not happen and there is some indirection. The very fact they have to choose specific channels to make the call, or spoof caller id makes them explicitely cross the boundary of the “joke”.

Also I believe a sizeable fraction of Us is not beyond wishing someone’s actual death during a long enough period to act at least partially on it. I see it as human nature. But up until now we didn’t have a button in our hand to press it to kill any random person within some probability.


> guns, cars, explosives

all of which are regulated, unlike calls to SWAT..


That's obviously not true (calling in false police reports was illegal long before SWAT-ing was a thing), but, what's your point?


I believe his point to be that there is zero oversight on when SWAT is deployed, remember the police made the choice to go in guns blazing ready to shoot people. The fact that a choice like that can be made without strong justification is pretty horrifying.


Not only are murdering people with guns illegal, so are guns themselves regulated wrt possesion; ie the mechanism is regulated.

In what sense is a call to SWAT regulated?


I can't understand why this is down-voted. Maybe this is just an emotive issue; somebadguy's aggressive comment makes me think so.

Guns, cars explosives etc are things, and it is possible to regulate their possession wrt individuals that may misuse them.

A call to the police is a service, and is not the same kind of thing since anyone might witness a crime and need to call the police, even unreliable individuals; whereas few people need explosives (esp without a demonstrable need or credentials), and depriving an unreliable individual of e.g guns or a car, is unlikely to be as harmful to third-parties as limiting access to the services of the police.


In the very real sense that laws are regulations. Calls to SWAT are regulated through the law and backed by the force of the state. The mechanism is regulated by punitive measures after the fact, rather than some sort of regulatory filter, due to the nature of emergency telephone services.


Punative after the fact isn't regulation of the same kind. If this is due to the nature of the thing, then the thing is unlike guns explosives etc.


Well, there are many kinds of regulation, as not all things are alike.


> In some circumstances, we even celebrate these effects

The gang mentality that gets trained into police is problematic. They are told they are "warriors", they're told to use lethal force quickly, they're told that the sex they'll have after killing a human being will be the "best sex of their lives". It's sick:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2016/09/30/...


> All sorts of things are force multipliers for violently disturbed people: guns, cars, explosives, and yes fraud and deception. We should treat people who employ fraud to harm others the same way we treat people who use pipe bombs.

You've conflated employing fraud with direct use of force.

Fortunately, the law draws a fine line between the two. You must prove that swatting somebody presents the same probability of death as detonating a pipe bomb. The truth is there is far more successful SWAT operations that doesn't result in death of innocent lives. Out of the SWAT pranks, only a few results in death. Therefore, it does not pose the same direct harm and high probability of death that a pipe bomb would.


> You've conflated employing fraud with direct use of force.

He's conflating employing fraud to harm others with direct use of force. Put another way, should it matter whether you caused harm (and I'm assuming that means physical harm for this argument) using fraud or whether you paid someone to inflict it?

I think perhaps you interpreted the harm from fraud he was referring to as financial harm, but this specific issue is all about fraud that caused bodily harm.


> should it matter whether you caused harm (and I'm assuming that means physical harm for this argument) using fraud or whether you paid someone to inflict it?

I think it does matter, for the simple reason that people who are willing to commit violence, up close, with their own hands, have a very different psychology than people who are willing to do harm but still (presumably) have the normal human instincts that make them not want to do it personally.

It's one thing to kill; it's quite another thing to be willing to (or take pleasure in) literally get your hands bloody. The latter is the mark of an dangerous psychopath.


It does not in fact matter at law: arranging to have somebody killed will net you the same murder 1 charge as the person who pulls the trigger.


That doesn't seem obviously true to me?

The manner in which a crime is committed affects all stages of the legal process, including sentencing, jury deliberation, and those considerations will certainly also affect how a prosecutor decides to charge someone.

If you're saying that someone hiring a hitman has the exact same probability distribution of getting charged (let's say, given airtight evidence in both cases) compared to someone who pulls the trigger, that seems like a very strong and surprising claim.

If you're saying that 'in theory' both crimes would rate a certain type of murder charge, that sounds reasonable. Even then though, the prosecutor would certainly be able to tack on other charges (e.g. assault with a deadly weapon) that tangibly affect the outcome, from plea bargaining onwards.

And that seems correct? One of the goals of the criminal justice system is to prevent future crime, so to the extent that the manner a crime is committed reveals information about the future threat level of a criminal, society (and by extension, the legal system) should take that into account.


No, calling SWAT for the 100th time doesn't mean somebody is trying to get you killed. The victim was shot because he failed to obey orders:

> The cops didn't shoot soon as he opened the door. They commanded Andrew Finch to put his hands in the air, he did then put his hands down. They tell him to put his hands up again. Then he drops his hands by his side again. The cop that shot him thought he was going for a gun. Andrew Finch wasn't following directions of the police and the officer made a mistake and Andrew died, but he would be alive today if wasn't for those two morons on the internet that started the whole thing. The Cops legit thought a dangerous situation was happening and I believe they had good intentions. The amount of time to react to someone pulling a gun and killing you is milliseconds. It's bad that they shot him but the weight of all this falls on the people the winded up the machine and sent it to an innocent family.

If it was indeed homocide, the prosecutor needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the guy who called SWAT would be able to predict the course of events. The fact that he swatted others before and walked away will point to the fact that this was indeed a prank gone horribly wrong.

I'm just looking at the facts and the more they come out, I get that you are emotional but I'm not defending the guy, but that it's a stretch to say the person swatting was trying to get him killed, rather than say using pipe bombs or hiring hitman which show intent to kill.

It's clear there was no malice aforethought here which you repeatedly claimed without any examples or arguments to back it up.

I'm sorry but this is just how the law works in America or any developed country anyways. We can't have populism and mob mentality run the courts because they are not based on logic, evidence and impossible to separate bias from the truth. Am I happy that these guys will probably walk away? Absolutely not, but I am speaking from a place of clarity and reasoning, not turning to angry blood lust.


I'm not sold on that analogy. After all, fireworks are recreational explosives and we could count up a lot of destructive but non-malicious explosions as well as malicious but ineffective explosions (pipe bombs defused by robots or blown up in controlled fashion by bomb squads).

In the case of SWATting, the fraud is obviously meant to jeopardize the liberty of the targeted subject, and the jeopardy of their life at the same time is highly predictable, even that doesn't let the police officers off the hook.


I'm pretty comfortable with the company of expertise my argument keeps on this subject.


I appreciate what you're trying to say but banking is not a great analogy for an emergency response situation. Banks do not face the same element of time pressure or lives being at stake.

How would "being a lot more sure" help here? If you mean the police should verify information more thoroughly before responding, then that comes at a direct tradeoff in response times. If instead you mean police should respond swiftly but not bring out the SWAT teams without more verification, then that could pose a (different kind of) safety issue for responders and potential hostages.

The issue here is more one of militarized police tactics. When you're trained to respond to any threat, any sudden move, with overwhelming deadly force, then deadly outcomes will happen.


When SWAT is deployed, the chances of someone getting injured are increased. Some gamers are calling in more SWAT false positives, leading to an increased likelihood of injury to the public.

To begin, talk of swatting someone ought not be sanctioned on these communication channels. Mod down the comments or suspend their privileges/account.

We agree, use of force is far to casual in the US, especially with the reduced rate of violent crimes.

In the time being, we could also start dealing with the false positives directly. For example, while SWAT is gearing up, the operator could ask who is calling and how they learned of the issue. Without that information, the odds of a false report go up and the trigger bias should be going down.


> For example, while SWAT is gearing up, the operator could ask who is calling and how they learned of the issue.

How exactly would that help? Swatting is by definition fraudulent callers claiming to have firsthand knowledge of an issue -- in this case, he pretended to be a hostage taker.[1]

Better hoax detection training is a fine idea but swatters are determined adversaries. It's going to take more than just asking a couple basic questions. And since real emergencies are often signaled by imperfect and limited inbound information, there is only so much that can be done to filter out false positives. I agree with Krebs that this is primarily a matter of police use-of-force training and stronger action against swatters.[2]

[1] 911 recording starts at 10 minutes: https://www.pscp.tv/LJSNicholeManna/1lPKqponlzQxb?t=9m10s

[2] https://krebsonsecurity.com/2017/12/kansas-man-killed-in-swa...


Shouldn't it be possible for the police to trace calls to 911? Sure, a serial swatter would use burner phones to hide their identity, but you can at least find out their position. If the phone is not in the same cell as the caller claims to be, that should be a huge red flag against deploying a SWAT team.


>>If instead you mean police should respond swiftly but not bring out the SWAT teams without more verification, then that could pose a (different kind of) safety issue for responders and potential hostages.

I think you're getting close to someone people don't like to talk about; we (as a society) seem to value the lives of police officers far higher than we value the lives of innocent "civilians". This seems entirely backwards to me - I'd strongly prefer that police officers effectively never fire first. Let the SWAT teams be very highly armoured and lightly (or non-lethally) armed.


You have it backwards. SWAT police move aggressively, at great personal risk, in order to save civilian lives. The idea is that there is a hostage situation and hostages are being actively killed.


How often is that idea close to reality, and how often is it a fake call, a no-knock warrant, or some other bs?

And are they actually taking great personal risk? Police killed a bit under 1000 people in the US in 2016 and had around 150 officers die (with lots of this vehicle related). Seems like it's riskier for people interacting with cops than the cops themselves.


Wikipedia sugggests that the bulk of SWAT deployments are to serve search warrants. This suggests to me that they're not acting at "great personal risk, in order to save civilian lives," and instead that they're acting as a deadly threat for compliance.


What the prank caller did the equivalent of unleashing a dangerous dog on an innocent citizen. That the police in the US is a dangerous dog is a problem in itself, but unleashing a dangerous dog to harm someone is a crime.


Bank will freeze funds indefinitely until they can make a decision.

It's not applicable to what the swat has to deal with: hostage situations, armed fights, bombings, etc... they can't hold on the phone forever and do nothing.


Is this even controversial for anyone beyond the most die-hard blue liners? Of course this is homocide, both for the caller and the shooter. If it’s not, then it’s hard to imagine anything is.


I am terrified to live in the US. The acceptance of illegitimate aggression is absurd.

The sanctity of saving innocent lives from state abuses is a hard fought lesson of history that we should not take lightly. Any time the state abuses this there should be serious consequences. Not a civil lawsuit paid out by taxpayer money.


> I am terrified to live in the US. The acceptance of illegitimate aggression is absurd.

That's a bit extreme.

First, because illegitimate aggression isn't just accepted by quite a lot of people, there is vocal debate and public outcry over it. Which is good.

Second, confirmation bias may be amplifying your fears here. According to the Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/...), there were about 1100 people killed by police in 2016, and almost 1200 in 2015. And some portion of those were likely justifiable (and maybe even saved lives).

To get killed by police is not quite as unlucky as getting struck by lightning, but the odds are about 1/295,000 for the former.


You're both right. While it's extremely unlikely that OP would have any kind of injury at the hands of police in the U.S. (just like in any other country), it is not a secret that the U.S. suffers from an exceedingly disproportionate likelihood of dying at the hands of both fellow citizens and police.

It's hard to overstate how completely alone the United States stands when the stats are compacted: [0]

Australia had 94 fatal police shootings between 1992 and 2011. The U.S. had 97 in March of 2015.

England and Wales had 55 fatal police shootings in the last 24 years. The U.S. had 59 in the first 24 days of 2015.

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/09/the-counted-...


>While it's extremely unlikely that OP would have any kind of injury at the hands of police in the U.S.

Illegitimate violence from the state (the police) is actually common enough that I have seen it many times in my life; and I am a White, law-abiding person who makes a point to stay out of trouble.

I feel extremely safe and have always had friendly encounters with police in both Europe and East Asia.

Note the official stats don't include scenarios such as the ones around Gary Webb or Ian Murdock. We won't ever know what really happened, but they're extremely suspicious.


(Note: Australia has 1/13 the population of the US; England and Wales, 1/6.)


This doesn't take into account beatings, getting shot and not killed, the police stealing from you (civil forfeiture), etc. Plus, police almost always get away with it. Terrorism is a smaller threat, yet we spend billions on preventing it and it's a major political issue.


Great point. I think we ought to raise hell about all of these issues, and spend as many resources as we have to, to change things for the better.

How we calibrate our personal fears and existential anxieties in light of all these bad things, is a different matter.


In Germany, a country with more than 80M people and over a dozen cities with a population of more than half a million, that number has been around 7-10 per year in the last few years. The US number seems insane in comparison. Extrapolating by the population of the US (of course thats a simplification), the US number is still a factor of over 200 higher.


Draw the timeline out to 80 years, when the German government murdered millions of unarmed civilians.


Sure, but then you also need to count the only use of nuclear weapons against the mostly civilian population by some other government, I forgot which.


I fully support questioning the wisdom of that move, but the fact remains that the government that dropped the bomb(s) was not the aggressor in that conflict... in a world war where the stakes were ridiculously high. I think thats an extremely important bit to contextualize that event, when compared with say... Nazis, Hitler, and Auschwitz.


> in a world war where the stakes were ridiculously high

The context of a World War - even more so than that of any other war - makes it much easier for any government to do what it likes. Which most often means to kill lots and lots of people.

What I argue is that such context is very different from a time of peace. It's not really fair to include WW2 atrocities when talking about the number of deaths caused by guns in a peace-time.

The GP tried to do exactly that, which I disagree with in itself, and moreover forgot to include any other "government [that] murdered millions of unarmed civilians" in their argument. I don't have a strong opinion on whether Hiroshima and Nagasaki were a good or bad idea, I just pointed out that, in that single operation, the US government effectively "murdered hundreds of thousands of civilians". Again, that's nothing surprising, nuclear weapons are designed to do just that.

So, again, it was war. People die in wars. That's what the wars are for, basically. Now, since then, we're at peace (here in Europe, at least). The number (and rate) of deaths caused by guns during this peaceful time is overwhelmingly higher in the US than in Germany. That's it, I don't mean anything else, just that this is a fact and that mentioning Auschwitz is not a valid counter-argument for this.


You might want to reconsider these assumptions. There's a lot of history and economics to cover, but I don't believe it is fair to say it was so clear-cut who the aggressor was. When the US had economically ravaged China and then sent Perry to open trade; the Japanese had refused, so Perry went and fired a shell in Tokyo (Edo, then) Harbor. The Japanese then went through trials of trying to play along: one Japanese diplomat put it, 'When the West won the game of poker at the world's table, they then as the victors declared the game immoral,' which describes Japans geopolitical situation. There was economic warfare against Japan, first.

Germany also had economic warfare waged against them and this should not even be controversial--even mainstream "modern-day priests" like the hugely influential economist Keynes had said this.

That said the Japanese empire was an evil one, like most empires, but when the bombs were dropped on civilians the war was already over--that is why Eisenhower said "there was no reason to use those things."



Having had US police (unjustifiably IMO) aim guns at me[1] and having lived in a third world country, I'll take the US hands down any day.

Police violence is an issue but way overblown for most people -- violence from other citizens far outweighs the police risk.

Compare to third world countries where you can easily be murdered in broad daylight surrounded by people, over a few hundred bucks, and the murderers face very little chance of being caught, let alone convicted.

Of course the best solution is to move to a country with great demographics equalling no crime or police violence, but those are becoming hard to find.

1: Turns out if you report (online with no followup) one of your licence plates as having fallen off your $300 car, cops might do a "felony takedown" on you, your 100 lbs wife, and 1 year old daughter. This apparently includes aiming handguns at your head while giving instructions like "lift your shirt up from the top".


Of course the best solution is to move to a country with great demographics equalling no crime or police violence, but those are becoming hard to find.

Canada, The UK, Australia, New Zealand - those are the english speaking ones that meet your criteria. After that, most countries in the EU, Nordic countries, most countries in Asia would also be considered to have less crime and police violence than the US, while having comparable or superior social services and demographics (most but not all, countries in Asia - Duterte isn't making any friends recently).


Can either of you define "great demographics" in a way that is not overtly racist? I mean really, move to Sweden to get away from the criminals?


Careful. As mentioned before in previous discussions (or really whenever someone implies nordic countries are monoculture) Sweden is not a monoculture. New Zealand, as an example (and my country), has a lot less crime (or at least, less violent crime) and it is approximately as diverse as the states. For my part, superior demographics means a similar melting pot society.


> 1: Turns out if you report,...

Wait, what? That's the kind of statement that just begs for a followup. Did they say what they thought was going on to justify that response?


I have no idea what happened to the OP, but I have had my plate stolen and I did report this to the police. When I reported it stolen, they warned me that anyone caught driving around with it was going to get pulled over at gunpoint, so I'd better report it if I somehow found that it had fallen off or whatever.

I got new plates soon after that, I never found out what happened to mine.


Ah. Perhaps it was standard practice to replace plates on a stolen car with stolen plates from a non-stolen car prior to major crimes such as bank robbery at some point.

But if so you would think the criminals would learn to swap plates instead, as who looks at their plates that closely?


In my case, I reported it via an online form. I figured I'd get some sort of confirmation or response to take to the DMV. Found out what the standard operating procedure was the hard way.


This might be the wrong place and time to comment, but last year there were more than 37,000 motor vehicle deaths in the US. That's more than a hundred every day on average. It's reasonable to fear the road a lot more than police killers (or killers of any kind) in the US, even in light of this horrific event.


This isn't the right place for your fallacy of relative privation, and 1/3 of people killed by strangers are killed by police.


Unfortunately, calling this homicide requires acknowledging the fact that calling the police on someone is likely to result in them getting killed. And however obvious that fact may be, it's probably not something that the justice system (of which the police are a part) will be willing to acknowledge.


>Unfortunately, calling this homicide requires acknowledging the fact that calling the police on someone is likely to result in them getting killed.

Telling the police someone has murdered several people and is armed and has taken hostages is likely to result in SWAT responding with potentially deadly force, because that's what they're supposed to do.

That's not at all equivalent to a proof that "calling the police on someone is likely to result in them getting killed."

I understand the anti-police contingent in these threads tends to be strong, and the feeling is often justifiable, but let's not pretend what happened here is a typical police response, even in the US.


Wow. Let me take a breath here.

I'm British and the words you just wrote sound insane to me.

The key point here is that the threshold for the use of lethal force by the state should be much, much higher than merely an anonymous call. If that makes me "anti-police" then I'm very happy not to live in your great nation.


What do you think happens in a real scenario where someone has shot someone and is holding a group of other people hostage? You think they get some agents on a jet from Quantico to start collecting evidence?

That's what makes this crime so evil: the people doing it are deliberately trying to put the police in the worst possible scenario. Police need more training and better procedures and they are certainly abusive, but it's this exact situation --- when it's really occurring, and isn't just some troll --- that drives most of those abuses.


While SWAT should respond, shouldn't they cordon off the area and try to make contact? Actually going inside seems like it should be the last resort, after there is no response or there is observable probable cause or imminent threat.

Especially if the call is anonymous with few concrete details -- the police should consider why does this caller know the info they know? Why is the call anonymous or otherwise untraceable?

How many times have lives been saved by SWAT entering after a call like this vs an innocent person getting injured or killed? How many anonymous, untraceable calls to 911 have even turned out to be legitimate?


Not in the active shooter scenario. The standard approach now is to not even wait for SWAT, but to go in as soon as at least two officers are on the scene. The rationale is that active shooters usually stop killing people as soon as they get any kind of resistance, so timing is very important.

Of course "going in" does not mean shooting indiscriminately.


"Active shooter" scenarios usually only apply to areas with more than a few potential victims, e.g. not a single household.


It definitely seems like some simple heuristics could help a lot in giving police a sense of the probability that it's a false alarm. They will of course still need to assess the situation, but systemic police accountability issues aside, harming completely innocent people is still no picnic for the officers involved, so knowing when the fraud likelihood is particularly high should help them calm down and take a more measured approach.

Apart from call tracing, I'd expect simple things like whether the caller stays on the line and cooperates with the dispatcher (vs hanging up immediately) to be quite predictive.


  Actually going inside seems like it should be the last resort
and they did not go inside to shoot the victim.


> when it's really occurring, and isn't just some troll

I don't know how often hostage scenarios as extreme as you describe actually occur in the USA, but I read about instances of 'swatting' constantly. Given the false-positive rate of such reports, it's no surprise that sending military-style squads to 'shoot on sight' ends in tragedy again and again.


> I don't know how often hostage scenarios as extreme as you describe actually occur in the USA

Often. Mostly domestic violence barricading scenarios, which are usually handled by front-line officers with sidearms and negotiation. SWAT deployment is usually discretionary at such a scene, predicated on an active shooter, and anticipates forced entry. In an active shooter scenario, front-line officers will typically defer to SWAT to force entry, given the risk.

But yes, it does happen. A lot of domestic violence ends badly.


A lot of domestic violence ends badly because police actions ensured that it would. E.g. instead of leaving the bastard the woman develops a sort of codependent relation with local cops so that every busted lip she suffers means the bastard gets a tag-team beatdown from everyone on duty. Nightly entertainment for the whole neighborhood!

I'm no fan of wife-beaters, but somehow every other nation on earth has figured out less violent ways of dealing with them. Yes, in many cases "the way" is to simply accept that wives will get beaten. Admitting this is no more an acceptance of police violence than admitting that not all nations are governed with perfect justice would be an acceptance of all of our damned wars. This is a "won't somebody please think of the children?!" level of argument.


I think a big compounding problem is the overall prevalence of guns. In most places domestic abusers aren't untrained gun nuts living in a macho wave-your-gun-whenever-you-want culture.

People can obviously do plenty of damage beating each-other with objects, slashing with kitchen knives, or whatever, but guns seem to lead especially often to escalation from shoving to instant death.

When police show up, if someone has a gun everything is a lot more difficult/dangerous.


Agents, jet, Quantico? No.

Collect some evidence? Absolutely.


I think part of the problem is a indirect result of the US gun policy. In pretty much any other civilized country is very, very rare that the police will encounter someone who is armed. In the US guns are everywhere. So the police constantly feels threatened for good reason. So to me lots of these issues are even more cost from the US not being able to move its gun policy into the same century as every other civilized country.

I get the point about guns being important to protect against a fascist government, but then I literally see a p protest march by Nazis armed with assault rifles...


> So the police constantly feels threatened for good reason

So should we take away rights so the government feels less threatened? That seems like the wrong reason.


I want to have the right to feel safe knowing that random people around me won't be carrying weapons made for the sole purpose of killing people.

"The government" - that's supposed to be the way we organize ourselves and stand up together to above things we believe in as a nation. While that's not always working well talking about it as if its given that it's a malevolent, suppressive regime is only going to make things worse. The US finally needs to do its wild West mentality and arrive on the 21st century with the rest of the civilized world.


That's a catch-22 isn't it?

Asking the most armed government in the world to eliminate gun violence, by using their guns?


I'd hope we can get away from both armed government and armed citizens


That’s the great thing about the USA. You don’t have the “right to feel safe”. I’ll keep my guns, thank you.


That's surprising since we are putting a whole lot of money on making people feel safe from much less dangerous things.


Respecting any right comes at a cost in human lives. We should think very carefully about which things we consider so important as to be worth elevating them to that kind of absolute.

The cost:benefit of the second amendment is way out of proportion, IMO.



It's ok, nationalism makes some people emotional, take a deep breath and calm down.

I don't actually disagree with you. The use of lethal force was the mistake here, but the presence of force was justifiable. The problem is how easily one seems to lead to the other. What should have happened is the police realizing their force was unnecessary and then standing down.

Also, if someone were to call in, say, a terrorist threat or a bomb threat in Britain, someone would show up with guns there as well. You know, because Britain also has their equivalent to SWAT teams. With guns. That they shoot people with.


The British 'firearms units' aren't trained to bring aggression to a situation. They're trained to properly identify targets before shooting, knowing that they will be required to justify their actions in court. Completely different to SWAT team training in the US. Here in the UK, an officer shooting someone dead as soon as they answer the door won't fly in court. The number of police killings in the UK vs US is relatively less controversial by a significant margin.


Just for the sake of accuracy, the victim here wasn't 'shot dead as soon as they answered the door[0].'

Not that 'shot dead from across the street as soon as his hand twitched' is justifiable.

[0]http://www.kansas.com/news/local/crime/article192111974.html


The article you reference currently says just this:

“A male came to the front door,” Livingston said. “As he came to the front door, one of our officers discharged his weapon.”

Perhaps it previously had some other claim about the circumstances, but if so it has since been revised to remove it.


Watch the body camera video in the same article.


UK armed police shot and killed and unarmed, innocent man in 2005. Nobody was charged or had to justify their actions in court. It happens far less often but when the situation does arise, it's not obvious British police are better trained and react better. What does work is the policy of restricting both firearms ownership and the number of armed police.


The fact that you didn't even need to know his name and most in Britain know who you're talking about says all you need to know about the scrutiny of it. Every time a British police officer discharges their weapon it is automatically investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.


No, that doesn't, in itself, say anything about the degree or quality of scrutiny. It just says the events are so rare, they're memorable. Officers discharging their weapons are reviewed in the US as well.


If you're referring to the Jean Charles de Menezes shooting, then there were weeks of hearings where the police and officers involved had to justify their actions.


Perhaps you misread the claim in the comment.

"They're trained to properly identify targets before shooting, knowing that they will be required to justify their actions in court."

Obviously, they neither properly identified their target nor did they have to justify their actions in court.


There was a very long coroners inquiry on this shooting. In this coroners court the shooters had to explain in details. Yes, they got the identifications wrong, but this was not after some random telephone call, but after four suicide bomber had filled dozens of people.

I think the balance is about right and nothing like the USA. More importantly the jury of peers, in the coroners court, thought the Met Police failed on Health and Safety grounds but not the individual shooters.


There are long inquiries and court cases in the US as well. Jury of peers, the whole lot. I'm not sure how the 'balance is about right and nothing like the USA'. When called upon in a moment of crisis, these people got onto a train and shot an innocent person in the the head half a dozen times, from close range.

The big difference is, there are fewer opportunities for armed police to screw this up. There are far fewer of them (heavily armed police are the exception, rather than the default) and they are not nearly needed as often (the citizenry is not as heavily armed). The policy that largely prevents the mistakes is what really helps, rather than having better armed police or better post-cockup inquiries (both of which, to me, seem fairly debatable).


American SWAT teams are also trained to "properly identify targets before shooting", and officers are held accountable through a variety of systems (even though we may not always agree with the conclusion).

We're not going to get anywhere with such silly caricatures, and they are dangerous in themselves -- just ask Dallas. May be something to keep in mind while we're on the subject of indirect culpability.


> nationalism makes some people emotional,

I'm not sure where you thought I was being nationalistic. I stated my nationality to make the context clearer. My country is an odious cesspool in many ways. We're just lucky not to have a fully militarised police force.


  The *use* of lethal force was the mistake here, but the *presence* of force was justifiable.
That is very well put.


> the threshold for the use of lethal force

That isn't the problem (at least primarily). Claiming that there is a serious hostage situation with the possibility of serious violence (perhaps even a potential murder) seriously escalates the risk and hostility of the situation. I didn't say potential hostility; the claim itself directly increases the perceived threat level of the situation, even if it isn't credible. A team of people responding en masse with weapons[1] at the ready further escalates the tension of the situation and the hostility of the room, even if their weapons are never used.

The end result is a very tense situation with everyone - on all sides - ready to jump at anything that might be a threat. Fortunately there is at least some evidence[2] that in "most" swattings, cooler heads eventually prevail and nobody gets shot. However, evaluating potential threats is always going to use the faster but less accurate "System 1"[3][4]. The higher the tension level, the greater chance that someone's mind will make a serious mistake, which can easily result in a cascade of everyone recursively responding in ways that probably compound the mistake, which is when people tend to get shot/stabbed/beaten/whatever.

The solution is that there needs to respond to situations that are less likely to escalate the situation to greater levels of hostility. Once it turns into a "charlie foxtrot"[5], it's too late. However, if a streamer's prior notification to the police that, should any threat be called in regarding their address, if the police pound on the door, they can expect the stream to walk outside peacefully to talk, maybe the dangerous escalation where they breaking down the door and pointing guns at everyone can be avoided. They can always fall back to that strategy if nobody comes out to talk.

edit: added [2]'s missing footnote and URL

[1] of any type - a bunch of people storming a room armed only with batons is still an escalation of violence.

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiW-BVPCbZk

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thinking,_Fast_and_Slow#Two_sy...

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBVV8pch1dM

[5] https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Charlie_Foxtrot


> someone has murdered several people and is armed and has taken hostages

Should this not be responded to with lethal force available? You're going to get a lot more people killed that way. Obviously the error rate should be reduced as much as possible, but a naive approach of ignoring calls without a lot of validation would be a disaster.

I imagine it would be really easy to fake some verification anyways, and coordinate a SWAT with two callers.


It would be negligent to respond with anything less than armed force to a threat like this. The police can and should be better trained, but that's different than failing to send an armed response. I would be surprised if a similar threat would be brushed off in the U.K.


You can't really think like this, seriously.

The way your police acts is retarded. No other country would respond with such backwards way to a simple single call.


  calling this homicide
"Homicide" simply means that a person died from an action of another, whether or not a criminal act was committed.


That fatal police shootings, regardless of justification, are homicide is uncontroversial. It's somewhat more controversial to characterized a false report leading to a fatal shooting as a homicide by the reporting party, because of the necessary intervening acts in the chain of causality.

OTOH, some codes specifically address false reports of emergencies producing death, avoiding any need to address indirect homicide.


Assuming that the SWAT call itself was a felony, there could be justification for charging the guy who made the SWAT call with felony murder. I'll leave it to actual lawyers to determine the actual facts of this case, I'm just trying to point out that committing a felony due to which people get killed can, in some cases, lead to felony murder charges.

There's a pretty good description of how that works here - http://lawcomic.net/guide/?p=1320


The judge and the jury care for the circumstances and the intent.

This case, a repeated offender (he did many calls like that) who made highly specific buggy claims (armed hostage taking with already dead hostages) with the intend to arm or kill the target (see his message) and a trace of everything (see twitter messages and recordings).

It's a perfect school case. It makes perfect sense to charge him for murder. Everything is the worst it could possibly be with the worst possibly aggravating circumstances.

Can't wait to see the proceedings. Won't be surprised if they make an example out of him.


> That fatal police shootings, regardless of justification, are homicide is uncontroversial

Justified police shootings are not homicide by any definition.


> Justified police shootings are not homicide by any definition.

Yes, they are; they are pretty much the textbook example of justifiable homicide.

They aren't criminal homicides, but not all homicides are criminal.


The first dozen or so dictionaries I checked disagree with you.


Which dictionaries are those? Here's the Google result:

> the deliberate and unlawful killing of one person by another; murder.



"Homicide is the killing of a human being due to the act or failure to act of another. Criminal homicides include murder and manslaughter. Non-criminal homicides include killing in self-defense, a misadventure like a hunting accident or automobile wreck without a violation of law like reckless driving, or legal (government) execution. Suicide is a homicide, but is rarely prosecuted."

from definitions.uslegal.com


Actually, homicide can even be accidental. It sounds like you’re describing manslaughter or murder.


Yes, I think I misused the terminology.


How can you call a swat call homicide unless the entire swat team is charged with accessory to murder, being wielded like a weapon?

If you're just charging the officer and not the entire swat squad, then you're admitting that that officer stepped out of line of what the swat call should have done. In that case, there's no homicide case against the caller.

In this case, ONLY the officer should be charged with homicide.


What is the evidence that the shooter (the officer) committed homicide? The article didn't give any--it only said the reason the officer discharged his weapon was unknown.


Words have meanings. You can call it accidental homicide if you wish, but any killing of one person by another is homicide.


Here's the Google definition:

> the deliberate and unlawful killing of one person by another; murder.


I am fond of the aphorism that "blame is not a zero-sum game."

Two people can be equally and severally responsible for something.


Like a mobster who orders someone killed. A hitman does the killing but the mobster is equally responsible.

But what about the Muhammad cartoonists in Europe? Drawing a caricature of Muhammad is not a crime in Europe, however it will result in angry reactions in the Muslim world, and people (often Christians) getting killed there. The cartoonists know that but proceed nevertheless. Are they in some way responsible for those killings? I’d argue not but many disagreed then. But drawing the line of where responsibility stops being shared is non trivial.


I'd have thought that drawing a cartoon depicting Muhammad and signing it "drawn by Christians in <insert target Muslim country>" would be a better analogy. Then yes, I'd say that the real authors were responsible for the resulting violence (along with the people inflicting the violence of course).


Not only that but the perpetrator is crowing about it on YouTube and other social media. He was more concerned about having to change his Twitter name. Absolutely no remorse. I'd call it 1st degree murder nothing less.


I'll double down on that one by saying most gamers know SWAT are trained killers that are more likely to use force than regular police. This is features in shooter games a lot. Especially in Call of Duty, the players have to regularly do "breaches" that hit a room SWAT-style with bad guys shot as quickly as possible. Many breaches also simulate chaos that happens where player initially has trouble identifying friend or foe.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5wjHeUS1ZE

A CoD player who isn't mentally impaired or something specifically sending in a SWAT team on a target who is shot by the team should be charged first degree at the start. Similarly for anyone else that clearly knew what a SWAT team does from games, movies, or other media. Prosecution might act mercifully from there depending on the circumstances. They better know they can do first-degree, though, with enough locked up to hopefully be a deterrent.


He apparently goes by SWAuTistic, so yeah, throw the book at this creep. I hope he gets to learn what the words 'felony murder' mean.


I like your idea of hiring fewer 'assault' officers but we've got to stop giving the police the benefit of the doubt for being so keyed up in the first place, not least since the avalanche of video footage in recent years suggests that large numbers of them are also straight-up lying.

I do fully agree about the person who made the call also being culpable, but it's dangerous to buy into the idea that cops don't have any moral agency when they're on a call.


I don't give them the benefit of the doubt and do have a problem with how ineffectively they're prosecuted for their conduct. But it's worth bearing in mind that in these SWAT-ing scenarios, they're deliberately put into the one uncommon circumstance that drives practically all of the rest of their abuse. It's a singularly evil thing to do.


We’re going to hold strangers on Xbox live to a higher degree of accountability than highly trained officers. Sadly this makes perfect sense. These officers are the equivalent of trained killer dogs and this is what we should expect.


We're going to hold strangers who use their Xboxes as an excuse to attempt to kill people accountable, independent of anything else we do. Respectfully: this is pretty simple grown-up logic.


I can pick up the phone and have the police kill you, and you don’t think that’s a problem? Explain that logic.


Trying to kill someone because they beat you in a game is significantly more evil than trying to kill someone because you mistakenly believed they posed a threat to human life.


There’s a ballot initiative here in Washington called I-940 that will do exactly what you describe if passed. It’d be great to see it replicated across the country: http://www.deescalatewa.org/


That's very interesting! I hope it signals the start ofa trend.


There was a story a few years ago around my area where a kid who was in trouble with his parents took his father's work truck without asking to get cigarettes. His father called it in as stolen to teach his son a lesson. Well, he ran from the cops and they shot him.

If you're going to send a group of people armed with guns into a harmless but tense situation there's at least a chance that something really bad is going to happen.

And for sure it shouldn't be like that, where cops can and will shoot you given any justification. But "swatting" isn't a funny prank at all and it's sickening that it's even a thing.


Why did they shoot him though? Isnt a human life worth more then some car? This behavior from the police is unheard of in Western Europe, and there would be a public outcry if something like that would happen here. I dont understand americans...


The police cannot shoot someone to save a car, even in America. They would however be allowed to shoot if they had a "reasonable fear" that their lives were in danger.

The question is why are American cops so much more likely to find themselves in these situations?

I think first and foremost Americans are just a more wild and criminal people. Our murder rate is much higher in general. So there are going to be many more situations that really do justify the use of force. You can't change this easily.

But the police take the real threat and hype it up. American cops do have to fear someone shooting them. But the police take that fear and train as if they are going to be under fire at any moment.

I've seen a police training simulator made by a major weapons company. The simulator had a scenario where the office spoke to a homeless man with his hand in a bag. You were supposed to make him show his hands. At the end the man points the bag at the office and shoots a gun hidden in the bag. It's a ridiculous scenario and it is designed to teach the office to fire his weapon because someone MIGHT have a weapon.

The cops are basically taught to shoot first and ask questions later.

The public isn't outraged because most of the people who get killed where already playing with fire. It is taking the publicizing of these instances were innocent people die to get people to notice.


Of course the scenario features a homeless man, rather then some well dressed white male in a suit. Gotta teach the police to enforce based on stereotypes, right?


Is "white male" just the catch-all for "privilege" now? You can be white, male, and homeless. In fact men are more likely to be homeless than women.


America is very large, and within it there are disparate groups with very different opinions on the level of force required by police. Sometimes I think that America would be better off if it weren't so large. Then there might be more of a consensus on this kind of thing. As it is, there are just too many different levels of government (local, state, federal) and people with all kinds of backgrounds and viewpoints setting up these enforcement bodies (for example, FBI is federal, there are likely to be many people from out-of-state in that enforcement branch, also, those SWAT police officers were probably trained out-of-state, just a guess on that though).


> really, in almost all cases in the US, "assault officers", and we should separate the two concepts, stop hiring new assault officers, and start hiring a new class of less-armed police officers

The reason that cops are so nasty in the us is because there are so many guns. It's a different environment than other Western countries, and calls for different police tactics.

Unless guns are removed from the equation somebody is going to die. Either use a heavy handed police force, and civilians will die, or use a police force with a lighter touch and police will die.


Or,

1. use expendable police materiel to scout out the situation of a dispatch in advance of sending in any actual police bodies (e.g. police drones with fancy optics.)

2. send people in heavily armored rather than heavily armed. If you can make your SWAT team immune to bullets (such as by, say, encasing them in an Armoured Personnel Carrier), then they're not going to be feeling threatened and shooting anyone.

#1 is pretty universally useful. You can figure out who has guns and who doesn't.

#2 is more situational, because our best solution for heavy armor right now—APCs—have no good way of entering your tenth-floor apartment. This is why I'm constantly checking up on the progress of military robots and powered armor: the more invincible you can make something, the less it needs to actually kill anybody to do its job. The ideal here is a combination of robot-police and human-in-exosuit police that don't even need guns, because nothing they are sent to deal with is ever really that dangerous to them.


>>2. send people in heavily armored rather than heavily armed. If you can make your SWAT team immune to bullets (such as by, say, encasing them in an Armoured Personnel Carrier), then they're not going to be feeling threatened and shooting anyone.

It's way easier to figure out ways to pierce armor than it is to develop it. Green-tipped ammunition is more than good enough to pierce all common and easily-worn body armor today.

Besides, if you send people in heavily armored, they are going to feel threatened by nature and will be more trigger happy.


Here is a video of a cop getting shot while trying to apprehend a man on a motorcycle (maybe NSFW): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXqoYMOkuYc

The motorcyclist has a gun in his pocket, and shoots the cop without warning.

How will your proposed solutions are going to do anything in that situation?

Sorry to rant, but this attitude of an amateur thinking they know better than all the professionals who have been doing their job for many years, and can propose quick fixes that will solve everything, is ridiculous.


I have a real hard time caring about cops' fears in such a scenario. Innocent until proven guilty is a time-honored maxim of the U.S. justice system, and a cop deciding to kill you completely invalidates that.

Is being a cop scary? Hell yeah and I feel bad for those folks, but if you don't want to constantly be in fear of your life, get another job.

Put cops who murder innocent civilians in jail. End of story. This shouldn't even be a debate in the U.S.

EDIT: Since I had the goal posts moved on me, I want to make it explicitly clear that a cop should be allowed to kill in self-defense, just like any other lawful citizen.


The thing about guns is that there's basically no moment that exists between "in fear for your life" and "dead." Either you shoot the other person while you think they're pulling out a gun (i.e. kill in purported self-defense), or you {get shot and die, nothing happens}. There's no moment, with guns involved, where you can know that someone is trying to kill you, without already being dead.


> Innocent until proven guilty is a time-honored maxim of the U.S. justice system, and a cop deciding to kill you completely invalidates that.

Consider two civilians. If A shoots at B, and B shot back and killed A, should B go to jail for murder?

Now just because B happens to be a cop, does he lose all his rights?


> does he lose all his rights?

You've just created a pure strawman. Cops should never lose their rights! I am not making such an argument, and I don't see how you got there from my points. I would never argue such a claim.

The cases I'm talking about are not self-defense. They are like the story above. If A murders B, and A is a cop, then A should go to jail regardless of the fear A had in that situation. But this is not what happens in the United States. Cops don't go to jail for shooting perfectly innocent people because the cop can claim they were afraid for their life and thought that B had a gun.

If I'm a civilian, that defense doesn't fly. But if you're a cop, then it does work. That is a flaw in our justice system that needs to be corrected because a perfectly innocent man can be killed by the state and no repercussions are felt.

The state should never be able to kill an innocent man. If they are shooting at you, they aren't innocent. But if you think they have a gun (especially in an open-carry state like Kansas or Texas) then they are innocent and should not be killed.

EDIT: I am saddened by the downvotes. Does the state have the right to kill innocent people if those people own a gun? Doesn't the second amendment protect against this? I simply do not see the legitimate argument for allowing such behavior. This just seems like rabid tribalism for police.


I don't think I understand what scenario you're talking about. If you're talking about the scenario I posted a video of, I think you are completely off base.

If you're talking a cop straight-up murdering someone, and it getting covered up, then, of course, that's wrong.

I think there is a lot of gray area between these two scenarios, however. I also think if there was a ban on guns that would solve most of it.


The scenario at hand in the OP, where a cop murders a completely innocent man through mistake. I agree that a ban on guns would likely solve the problem in the video that you posted.

My point was that your video seemed out of place since the actual issue is that cops in the U.S. are held to a different standard for murder. If cops were held to the same standard, then they could be held accountable for their crimes and some of the public outrage would be alleviated.

If (for the sake of argument) the amount of guns in this country were significantly decreased via a ban and the police still held to a different standard, police would still be able to kill an innocent person out of fear for their life. Racial biases could also cause a cop to be more fearful in a situation and still kill an innocent person without consequence.

I also think that changing how police are prosecuted for crimes is much easier than repealing the second amendment in the U.S. (although both would face fierce opposition).


> My point was that your video seemed out of place since the actual issue is that cops in the U.S. are held to a different standard for murder.

That video was part of a specific response refuting the idea that if the cops just used drones and body armor, there wouldn't be a problem anymore. I did in no way intend to imply it was a counterpoint to the main story. I don't know why it's being perceived in that way.

> I also think that changing how police are prosecuted for crimes is much easier than repealing the second amendment in the U.S. (although both would face fierce opposition).

Yes, but that runs into the trade-off I was talking about. Either you have a heavy handed, "shoot first, ask questions later" style police force, or one with a lighter touch. In the first scenario, more civilians are killed. In the second, more cops.

Only by banning guns can you reduce casualties on both sides.


How would take the guns out of circulation already? There are millions of them out there and a whole tribe of diehards who will never give them up, and on top of this an entire industry around it -- the amount of people that die from this problem isn't worth the political capital and sustained decision maker attention needed to push this through compared to everything else that could be done using the same limited bandwidth.


Just because an approach isn't applicable in literally 100% of situations doesn't mean it isn't applicable in most everyday situations.


And it may have unforeseen consequences or it may take away funds for something else equally or more important, etc., etc.


That's not true. Guns are expensive. By far most of the guns are owned by people for whom they are a relatively expensive hobby, and the more guns you own the less likely you are to commit a crime. Note that concealed weapons licensees have a lower rate of crime than police officers.


Guns are an expensive hobby. You'll want to have several different nice guns, and lots of ammo, and some targets, and a safe, and time at the range. It's easy to spend thousands a year.

If you just want a gun for self defense or murder, they are cheap. Buy a Hi-Point or a Ruger LCP for $175 and a box of 50 9mm and now you can kill more people than you'd ever have a reason to.


Do you have numbers on the amount of cops killed during house inspections in the us and other countries?

Do different us states invoke SWAT teams with different rates, so it's known how many policeman are hurt?


Thing is police are people too and afraid to get shot/die.

Unless you can remove the guns from criminals, the cops will need guns.


I think it's only fair for law abiding citizens to expect to survive an encounter with the police. If a police officer is going to bring a gun to a situation where one is not needed, then the onus should be on them to accept more risk of death than is expected of a law-abiding citizen. Generally speaking, they're paid to do a job, and that job unfortunately currently involves the risk of death in the line of duty. That risk cannot be reduced at the expense of innocent people dying needlessly 'just because' an office might be shot. There are many jobs a person can do if they're not up to the dangerous environment some police depts have to work in.


In what situations are guns not needed though? I wouldn't even dream of doing anything other than manning a booze bus in a place where people are allowed to legally carry guns if I didn't have my own one.

It doesn't seem like the choice for most American cities is between armed cops and unarmed cops. It's between armed cops and no cops. Why would anyone sign up and expose themselves to that level of risk?


Yea, that's what I mean by "remove guns from the equation", ie. repeal the second amendment.


I'm just the messenger here, but the canned counter argument is that criminals don't obey gun laws and won't be much deterred by an arms ban.


Yet it seems to work in other western countries.

In 2015:

Killings by officers in US: 1140 Killings by officers in England: 3

Deaths of police by shootings in US: 41 Deaths of police by shootings in England: 0 (about 1 every other year)

Population of England: 54 million Population of USA: 325 million

England has 7% of the deaths per capita compared to the USA. I couldn't find data on Germany, but I suspect it's similar.

In general, I think the idea of having people being able to defend themselves against the government is a good idea, and people having the right to have guns was a way to achieve that. But with the amount of power the government has nowadays, I don't think it's a justification anymore.

References: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_killings_by_law_enforc... https://www.odmp.org/search/year?year=2015 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_British_police_officer... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_killings_by_law_enforc...


> data on Germany

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police_firearm_use_by_country#... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_killings_by_law_enforc...

Overall, in Central Europe the differences in fatal police action per capita is essentially noise.


Millions of Europeans were murdered by their governments within living memory, with records of similar atrocities going back hundreds of years.

Just because there's a temporary lull doesn't mean that the problem has gone away permanently, yo.


> Millions of Europeans were murdered by their governments within living memory, with records of similar atrocities going back hundreds of years.

Once your country has been around for a bit longer, you will also have a long history with plenty of atrocities to point back at. How many native Americans were killed during the "colonization" of the American continent? Or do these not count because they hadn't been US citizens back then?


> Once your country has been around for a bit longer,

With the sole exception of the U.K., our government has been around longer than every other representative democracy on the face of the earth. Note that France is on its fifth attempt at a republic. We won't even mention Germany here.

> Or do these not count because they hadn't been US citizens back then?

They were mostly killed by European colonists operating under European rules, just like the atrocities that the European governments perpetrated on every other continent of the world.


> With the sole exception of the U.K., our government has been around longer than every other representative democracy.

I was talking about countries, not governments, these two are not the same, even tho the parent comment would like to pretend they are.

In that regard, it's still very dishonest to compare Europe, with its often centuries-old animosities between countries in a very small space, to the short history of the USA being a thing, in which it had mostly only had to deal with Mexico and Cannada in terms of "neighbor conflicts".

> They were mostly killed by European colonists operating under European rules

That's even more dishonest, it's not like all that changed and native Americans were recognized as such, as soon as the US got founded, and everything was perfect after that.

The US has the luxury of being rather isolated, thus the vast majority of conflicts can easily be externalized, usually to a completely different continent, with barely any real consequences for the US population. It's for that very same reason that the US been involved in some kind of "war" [0] pretty much constantly in its 200+ years of existence.

It's for exactly that reason that so many US Americans have been a-okay with these armed conflicts, as the vast majority of them never hit close to home. No US American alive today does know what it's like to have militarized conflict in, or at, their countries borders. Which probably also explains, in part, the massive overreaction to 9/11.

Now you can argue not all of them are "real wars" but rather "interventions" or "anti-terror missions" or whatnot, but let's be real here: That's simply schematics to keep on selling this state of affairs to a US population which is starting to be pretty fed up with sending their kids overseas to die for often very questionable reasons.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_Uni...


Protection from the government was justifiable before, but now that governments have gained so much power, guns in the hands of the citizenry aren't going to stop them.

So what's the point of still letting citizens keep them?


And those European governments don't exist today, do they ?Food for thought.


Well, apparently they still do summary executions in Germany:

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/bayern/polizist-erschiesst-mann-e...

https://www.innsalzach24.de/innsalzach/region-burghausen/bur...

Don't run away from German cops, they can legally shoot you!


Here's the thing: every time a questionable police shooting happens, it makes national headlines. It's something that happens every few years, not every other day. And just to be clear: that doesn't make it ok or not a problem.


Am I missing something, but do the wordings in this article not indicate that the German government considers it OK for cops to shoot a suspect that is running away?

My German isn’t very good so there’s a good chance I might be missing something.


"Defending from the Government" is a myth. As long as you don't have enough supporters you are going to lose. Remember American Civil War for example. Did the guns help South to defend their "rights"?


Now compare other restrictions on liberties those countries impose and might be causing co-linear effects. Start with immigration policies, drug trade, and bordering countries.


This is the worst argument against anything, because it only logically follows that criminals won't care about ANY laws and therefore everything should be legal.

It doesn't matter whether they care about the law or not, it's about making it harder for them to get a gun regardless, and being able to confiscate them if we catch them. It worked in Australia.


"It worked in Australia."

And it didn't work in Mexico, Honduras, or Nicaragua, all of which have more in common with the United States than Australia does, and all of which have a) strict gun control laws and b) breathtakingly high murder rates.


> And it didn't work in Mexico, Honduras, or Nicaragua, all of which have more in common with the United States than Australia does ...

...The things some people say to justify guns...


Yes but are those murders by members of crime organisations or by some random that had a mental breakdown and easy access to his or a family member's gun?


Most of those murders in the US fall under the former category, too.


Interesting admission that the US is more like a third world country there.


You really think that the US has more in common with countries where gangsters murder with impunity, and paramilitary police death squads conduct extrajudicial killings?


They can be deterred by an arms ban, just like how it's almost impossible to buy a kinder egg with toy inside the US. See China, Japan, and countless other gun-free societies.

However gun culture and the prevalence of gun manufacturers in the US may make it practically impossible in the near term, but it definitely is possible.


This is just fearmongering and falsehood.

Guns are not the issue. The issue is badly trained people and the idiotic mentality.


You might find this an interesting read: http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-28/fact-check-gun-homi...


What exactly are you using that article to argue?

"Whether you can say we're 20 per cent better off, 80 per cent better off, is subject to debate... But the bottom line is, if [the reforms] had the effect of reducing the number of guns that are available to Australians, it is strongly correlated with the gun homicide and suicide deaths on the wane."

"Data from the Australian Institute of Criminology shows the rate of homicide victims dying from a gunshot wound has dropped since the reforms came into force, but not consistently in every year."

"ABS data indicates the rate of assault by firearm causing death has also declined since the reforms, but not in every year."

The only credible argument against gun reform that article gives is that correlation doesn't imply causation, which is of course true. However, that's not an argument against the common sense position that gun reform decreases gun deaths, but an argument against this specific type of study (which OP didn't mention at all).


Depraved heart, aka depraved indifference is probably too mild here. Depraved indifference applies to situations in which the object is not murder, and may not even be gross bodily harm. It’s a matter of not caring that your actions have the predictable potential to end a life, such as firing into a busy club.

In this case there’s a clear case of premeditation and targeting of an individual, which is genuinely different from the depraved heart statute. At the same time however, it’s going to be hard to prove intent without relying on something like the statute in question. This really does feel more like murder one, albeit with a very unreliable weapon.


Eggshell Skull doctrine maybe. You can punch someone without intending to murder them but if they die, you're responsible anyway.


Yes - but lets step back and think about what we can do to prevent these things from happening.

TWO things went wrong here. Not one. The criminal who made the fake call was to blame and the police officer who shot an innocent and unarmed occupant is also to blame.

There will be always crazy pranksters. We have laws to prosecute them but they can be out of country, so we really cannot fix that.

But we can fix the second thing that went wrong. We can ensure that police is trained not to kill wrong person in hostage situations (i.e., it could be that there was some hostage situation but person going out was the actual hostage).


I'm with Ken "Popehat" White: what the gamer did here is homicide. We can argue about the degree.

In the history of media, there have always been a small fraction of maladjusted people who cannot distinguish the fantasy of the medium from reality. ( Here's an example from 1774. Search for "suicides" http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Storm_and_Stress ) These instances are rare, in the same way that instances of "swatting" are rare. There are multiple reports of such accounts, the damage each such instance produces is outsized for the planning and effort to pull it off, and the details are quite lurid. However, as a fraction of the general populace, the affected population is tiny.

I say this as someone who counts himself in the gamer camp. I have seen firsthand, adults who are gamers transfer the morality they learned in their online community -- where the consequences are only in the context of games -- to the running of real world organizations. People can be treated as fungible/disposable. Truth and morality doesn't matter -- if the system allows it, then it's all fair game. This is quite different from the false and long debunked notion that the fantasy violence in media can lead to real violence -- precisely because of the demarcation between fantasy game-world objects and real people and the real world. When you shoot a soldier in-game, people know full well it's not something real that just happened, and the object of such treatment is objectively not real. When someone "kills" a prostitute in a Grand Theft Auto game, there is literally no victim. However, when someone sh#t-talks another player, the human mind on the other end is quite real, and the emotional impact is intended to be every bit as real as if the event happened in person. The game is fantasy, but your fellow players are real human beings, and the moral experience gained through the interaction between fellow human beings is also real. So too, the moral experience gained through the running of an online organization of real human beings is also real.

It's widely acknowledged all over the internet, that the reality of the humanity of people on the other end of communication is somehow often forgotten. The real emotional toxicity of such behavior is widely acknowledged in the gaming community and over the general internet as well. These things aren't in question. The things that are in question are 1) what it means and 2) what we should do about it. Without question, the toxicity of online interactions is due to an online disconnect between communications and consequences. It is a failure of the mechanisms which regulate the social animal Homo sapiens. There are entire libraries of novels and nonfiction books about how the breakdown of aspects of the social fabric reduce human interactions to might-makes-right brutality. Perhaps it's progress that all of human nastiness moves onto the digital realm and away from the world of flesh and atoms. Certainly, the immorality and nastiness of even attempts to regulate/counter the general toxicity seem to devolve down to the same level as the general toxicity itself. Perhaps the existence of walled gardens is akin to the building of town walls and the rise of feudal lords. People in the real-world 1st world adhere to the rule of law and generally live by principles. People in the virtual 0th and 1st worlds are still in a feudal world of rule by force and of personal/tribal loyalties taking the place of principle. Perhaps it should be no surprise that the nascent moralism of today's online world often resembles medieval moralism in its acerbic irrationality and absolutism.


There's a lot here I agree with. For more than a decade, after "growing up" in what was essentially the computer underground, I've been grappling with discomfort about the way technology blunts and abstracts consequences.

A couple years back, some vulnerability researcher friends found a series of horrible security flaws in a very popular pacemaker brand. Does anyone here really doubt whether, if fully weaponized exploit scripts for those flaws made it to the wrong IRC channel, some depraved asshole would kill a stranger for "lulz"? I don't. Technology is amplifying something truly bad inside of us. Maybe it's worse than we think; see: the Fermi Paradox.

I think you probably underestimate how common SWAT-ing is. I have relatives with no unusual connections to the grimier communities on the Internet who have been SWAT-ed after disputes in video games.


>I think you probably underestimate how common SWAT-ing is.

It's easy to underestimate unless you've listened to it happen tens of times in a single hour.

The calls take two minutes or less, individuals have literally been competing on how many they could do within a single day.

"I'm at 725 5th Ave, I've shot a bunch of people and will shoot any police that come" Takes only seconds to say and would almost guarantee a heavily armed police response.

There must be thousands, possibly over ten thousand of these incidents every year.


>There must be thousands, possibly over ten thousand of these incidents every year.

It's a shame we can't have any reliable statistics based insight into exactly how often it happens because of the widespread policy amongst US police departments of not collecting and/or publicizing such data. The Obama DOJ was attempting to correct this trend (in a collaborative manner, which was the only available avenue) with many such departments, but cancelling that policy initiative was literally Jeff Sessions's first policy action as AG.


> For more than a decade, after "growing up" in what was essentially the computer underground, I've been grappling with discomfort about the way technology blunts and abstracts consequences.

Me too. I often wonder how much worse the results of a modern-day Milgram experiment might be.

This is one of those things that keeps me up at night. I've instructed my wife and children that if police ever come banging on the door, get on the floor, face away from any entry points, call 911 immediately and negotiate compliance over the phone.


One of the few things left in a modern American home that can stop bullets from modern firearms is a bookshelf full of books. There are a number of experts who advocate creating cover from gunfire coming from particular directions and making sheltering and escape plans.


>call 911 immediately and negotiate compliance over the phone

I'm with you until that part. For one thing, many SWATings result in no-knock entries - even if you're prostate and facing away, holding and manipulating a phone, and/or continuing to talk through a phone instead of responding to the verbal commands of the assault officers are both Bad Ideas imo.


Not all of them do breach and entry as the first course of action. Depending on what's been reported they may knock, they may stand out in the street and yell at you over a bullhorn, or they may try to breach the door. A lot of factors go into considering which course of action they take. The idea is to establish contact and negotiate a course of action before they try storming the house with itchy trigger fingers.

In any case, my advice does not preclude obeying orders if an officer is pointing an MP5 at you and telling you to put your hands on your head-- it's too late then, so just comply and hope for the best.


I think you probably underestimate how common SWAT-ing is. I have relatives with no unusual connections to the grimier communities on the Internet who have been SWAT-ed after disputes in video games.

Perhaps I need to look into that more. However, also note that not all instances of SWAT-ing are equal. How often do they result in fatalities? I'm sure that Sturm und Drang novel readings resulted in quite a few more family arguments and morose journal entries than resulted in suicides. Maybe I should rephrase that to fatal SWAT-ings.


How do you even rank SWATing incidents and on what continuum? That’s the same as suggesting not all incidents of having a loaded gun pointed at someone are created equal. SWATing is the moral equivalent of that loaded gun. Just because no one has died before does not matter.


SWATing is the moral equivalent of that loaded gun.

No disagreement here.


>How often do they result in fatalities?

This seems to be the first publicized incident. Pets have had worse luck in the past though.


> the Fermi Paradox.

I think this applies to that theory only if we assume an evolution of strong small group tribal mentality of species in all cases. For all we know, that could be a requirement for intelligent high-technology using life, but there's not a lot of facts about that to my knowledge.


> the toxicity of online interactions is due to an online disconnect between communications and consequences. It is a failure of the mechanisms which regulate the social animal Homo sapiens.

> Perhaps the existence of walled gardens is akin to the building of town walls and the rise of feudal lords.

> People in the virtual 0th and 1st worlds are still in a feudal world of rule by force and of personal/tribal loyalties taking the place of principle.

I think those are the money quotes right there. It's important to remember that there are many people that can remember life before the internet, and had to learn as they went, and those are the people that the younger ones that grew up with the internet saw as elders and the people who set norms. It will probably be a few generations until we get to a normal cyclical situation where the pendulum swings back and forth between online behavior, privacy, etc. We're not even close to knowing where there center/average is on these issues yet.


I think those are the money quotes right there. It's important to remember that there are many people that can remember life before the internet, and had to learn as they went, and those are the people that the younger ones that grew up with the internet saw as elders and the people who set norms.

As someone who has been using the internet since before the existence of the World Wide Web, the younger generations who came along happily ignored many of the preexisting norms and groupthinked/made up their own.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_September

What's more, this sort of thing happened again and again in smaller, less global contexts. Programming is termed "half a field" by Alan Kay because it forgets its own history. There is a tremendous tendency for human society online to re-invent its own body of knowledge whole cloth, ignoring what has come before in a way that further propagates ignorance.


> As someone who has been using the internet since before the existence of the World Wide Web, the younger generations who came along happily ignored many of the preexisting norms and groupthinked/made up their own.

Well, nothing happened in a vacuum. It may have appeared they ignored it, but some behavior may have been specifically in rebellion of existing norms.

It's chaos currently, but I think we'll be able to identify trends in future decades.

> What's more, this sort of thing happened again and again in smaller, less global contexts. Programming is termed "half a field" by Alan Kay because it forgets its own history. There is a tremendous tendency for human society online to re-invent its own body of knowledge whole cloth, ignoring what has come before in a way that further propagates ignorance.

I think there are explanations for this. The main one being that Computer Science is much too large a field for areas people are expected to use it later. It's like not having Engineering as a Major, much less the subcategories such as Mechanical, Civil and Aeronautical engineering, and just expecting people to have a Physics or Mathematics degree.

Of course that results in a lot of people reinventing the wheel, because so much of what you actually were exposed to relevant to what you're doing comes from employees who happened to have interests in that area or your own research of whatever material you can find, of which it's all pretty new (relative to most other fields), and a lot of it may have been kept as trade secrets (or seen limited exposure which is why it's hard to find).

Of course this is all exacerbated by ungodly amounts of money being thrown at these people to develop something quick and get it out and iterate on it before someone else can.

Computer Science isn't half a field, it's the spoiled child of the sciences, where money smooths away all the problems and mistakes are never learned from. That doesn't paint a good picture for the future (and now I'm depressed, but at least feel I have some job security :/)


Yes, it's homicide for both parties. Considering that this is the first swatting death, I have to disagree that it's an _attempt_ at homicide, which would imply premeditation/first degree murder.

From the wiki page you linked:

>defendants commit an act even though they know their act runs an unusually high risk of causing death or serious bodily harm to a person.

That definition could apply to manufacturers and vendors of firearms and weapons.

Police (and soldiers) operate on unreliable information all the time. They should be held equally responsible. I've heard plenty of veterans deployed in actual warzones show more consideration for human life. Whoever makes the call to pull the trigger needs to accept the consequences. Being a police officer is extremely difficult and dangerous, and is compensated accordingly.

Of course, the police are not here to keep you safe but to ensure society keeps functioning for those who control their payroll. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_v._District_of_Columbia


> controversy about armed police response in the US

Worth a read, the excellent book: The Rise of the Warrior Cop, that goes at length to explain why we have reached this point and how bad it gets.

Here's an article from the author as well: https://www.wsj.com/articles/rise-of-the-warrior-cop-1375908...


If the act of SWATing someone is a felony, then 'felony murder' could apply here. And if the act of SWATing someone isn't a felony, it really should be.

From the video seen online, it appears that the victim made a sudden movement when blinded by the lights after being confronted by SWAT. I think it was too trigger happy, but we have the benefit of hindsight. I feel terrible for the victim.


> Two things can obviously be true at the same time: that "police officers"† are improperly keyed up as if they're shock troops preparing for a battle

Agreed. People with agendas seem to try to twist this into an either-or situation. But both the "swatter" and the cops who shot are in the wrong here.

> and that calling in a false report with the hope that it will provoke an armed response is effectively an attempt at homicide.

Since the guy was killed, I'd say it was homicide rather than attempted homicide. But I think both the swatter and the cops should be tried for homicide and both should be found guilty or neither should.


> I'm with Ken "Popehat" White: what the gamer did here is homicide. We can argue about the degree.

I disagree. I am not a US citizen but where I live there are two things to take into account before qualifying a crime: the consequences and the intent.

I am pretty sure US laws have something like that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intention_(criminal_law)

>> Depraved-heart murder is the form of murder that establishes that the willful doing of a dangerous and reckless act with wanton indifference to the consequences and perils involved, is just as blameworthy, and just as worthy of punishment, when the harmful result ensues, as is the express intent to kill itself.

So prosecutors will have to find out about the intent.


“”” The rule of felony murder is a legal doctrine in some common law jurisdictions that broadens the crime of murder: when an offender kills (regardless of intent to kill) in the commission of a dangerous or enumerated crime (called a felony in some jurisdictions), he/she is guilty of murder.

The concept of felony murder originates in the rule of transferred intent, which is older than the limit of legal memory. In its original form, the malicious intent inherent in the commission of any crime, however trivial, was considered to apply to any consequences of that crime, however unintended. ”””

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felony_murder_rule


Thanks ! Really interesting topic. It says almost all states (including Kansas) of america follow that rule and expand on how some CW nations don't. Law is fascinating.


If I were to threaten to kill someone if you didn't stop posting on the web, and you didn't, and I followed through, would you consider yourself to be guilty of homicide?


What? Is that equivalent?

Swatting involves sending anxious humans with military grade weapons to an innocent person's house. Those anxious humans are trained to kill. If you Swat someone, and that person ends up dead, you're the reason they died -- and I fully agree it should be treated as a homicide, manslaughter at a minimum.

In your scenario, you are a hostage taker. You've taken both me and the other person hostage with the threat of murder...


American policemen lack moral fibre. They are too anxious to be entrusted their duties


Anxiety likely has more to do with how dangerous their job is than their moral fiber.


Fair enough, but I read the previous post as saying that simply knowing that your action could lead to someone else committing a crime made you guilty.


The institutions of the state act a lot more like a machine, because the people in it are punished if they don't follow orders. While "just following orders" has been established in the past as no excuse, I think we've also shown through Stanford and Milgram experiments that human psychology does act that way. Thus, I don't think it's trivial to convert it into a moral agent problem. It's more of a systemic issue.

Ensuring there are consequences for people who act immorally may help address the systemic issues, of course.


"Unless you live under a rock, you're aware of the controversy about armed police response in the US."

Not an American here - what is the controversy?


>Unless you live under a rock, you're aware of the controversy about armed police response in the US. Surely this gamer knew that

That seems difficult to prove. I used to spend a shitload of time on WoW where I wouldn't watch what was going on with the world. Some people lose touch by immersing in games, and Trump has taken over the news anyway within the last year. Not that I'm defending the dude, but wouldn't bringing up something that's difficult to prove hurt your case overall (IANAL obviously)?

There should be more than enough to simply get the guy on calling in a fake hostage situation, or hopefully homicide.


If this guy isn't aware of what happens during an armed police response, why does he keep trying to provoke more of them?

Clearly, he's well aware of what happens.


> false report with the hope that it will provoke an armed response is effectively an attempt at homicide.

that requires malice aforethought which must meet the following criteria in some jurisdictions in US:

> Intent to kill

Just because they called SWAT doesn't show intent to kill. Hard to prove even if the accused has threatened to kill the gamer because calling SWAT is not like calling a hit squad.

> Intent to inflict grievous bodily harm short of death, Reckless indifference to an unjustifiably high risk to human life (sometimes described as an "abandoned and malignant heart"), or Intent to commit a dangerous felony (the "felony murder" doctrine).

So this is where the problem lies with your argument. The accused did not call or hire assassins which would suggest intent to kill. The accused could not physically hurt or threaten the life of the deceased by calling SWAT because that would mean its common knowledge SWAT are hired guns.

At best involuntary manslaughter makes sense. If there was a law in place before this event, specifically aimed at protecting people from getting SWATTED, then there's a small chance in escalating the charges.

I'm equally frustrated at the lack of laws and punishment to deter SWATing, but this is a side effect of the militrilization of local security apparatuses.

But like other tragedies in America, it will do little to deter the trend, as it is clearly divided on excessive force. Proponents will claim guns will keep the government in check....against a suite of surplus military hardware used to invade a few countries.

This is a systematic problem, charging one man will not fix the situation. Of course, after this case, people stupid enough to swat each other are going to find an increasingly less sympathetic jury. But it will happen and SWAT is not suddenly going to stop and ask if it's legit or not.

It's incredibly cowardly and shortsighted to traumatize using security apparatuses meant for true emergencies, over some ruffled egos, in a virtual, ephemeral electronic world.


No. Kansas recognizes depraved-heart murder, which does not require a specific intent to kill, as 2nd degree murder. Sorry. If the prosecutors find with any certainty who called in this fake emergency, they are going to ruin that person's life, that person will deserve it, and the ruin will serve the public interest.

Maybe they'll get manslaughter on a plea.


Good luck with that. Driving a stolen minivan wrong-way in a police chase and killing a pedestrian didn't pass depraved heart murder:

https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2014/07/23/new-yorks-top-court-e...

The level of culpability, not least the causal connection here is hundred fold weaker. Casual reading of the law rarely lines up with established case precedence.


You left out the reasoning.

At the precinct, defendant admitted that he stole the minivan, exceeded the speed limit, and swerved into oncoming traffic as he fled the police. In explaining his driving, defendant said he tried to avoid hitting cars and pedestrians, and that he did not know the neighborhood well and drove down the one-way streets by mistake. Defendant said he was lost when he ended up on Manhattan Avenue, and that he was avoiding cars as he evaded the police. According to defendant, he was going against traffic and looking in his rearview mirror for the police immediately before he struck the victim. When he looked forward again, defendant said he saw the victim and that he thought he "hit the girl in the hand or something." When he saw more people and traffic two blocks later, defendant decided to crash into the parked car to avoid hurting anyone else. He also expressed remorse for his actions.

It's easy to make the argument that SWAT-ers do the opposite of what this person did and are in fact more culpable: they deliberately, competitively, and with care create circumstances optimized to put lives at risk. They don't just call the police; they call fake active shooting incidents to the police.


The whole point of depraved heart murder is to put intent aside and refer back to mere actions. I can already read the statement of the swatter claiming his intent was to pull a prank on a loose friend. Follow the reasoning in Maldonado and you are not getting anywhere near depraved heart murder.


No, that's not the point of depraved heart murder. It's a culpable state-of-mind standard that requires the prosecution to prove that the defendant acted with "utter disregard" for human life. The predicates are (1) a set of reckless actions that were likely to put lives at risk and (2) a total indifference, unmitigated by any actions whatsover to prevent harm, to the prospect of causing harm.

Read the case you just cited. It overturns a depraved indifference conviction and so goes deep into the details on this.


Here's an excerpt from a case in Kansas specifically mentioning depraved-heart murder. Important part in italics.

> "Depraved heart second-degree murder requires a conscious disregard of the risk, sufficient under the circumstances, to manifest extreme indifference to the value of human life. Recklessness that can be assimilated to purpose or knowledge is treated as depraved heart second-degree murder, and less extreme recklessness is punished as manslaughter. Conviction of depraved heart second-degree murder requires PROOF that the defendant acted recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life. This language describes a kind of culpability that differs in degree but not in kind from the ordinary recklessness required for manslaughter."

So yes, you still need to show proof beyond a reasonable doubt that this was a prank gone wrong. Unless the accused called assassins, it's going to be hard to argue intent.


Ordering a pizza to someone's house is a prank.

Ordering armed people who expect to fight an armed murderer with multiple hostages is not a prank.


So, having begun your argument with the claim that only "involuntary manslaughter" would be available to prosecutors, because (not that I follow this logic) they'd be missing "malice aforethought", you've now become an expert on how Kansas evaluates gross recklessness?


I'm approaching this with no emotion and pre-judgement but based on facts. Let's take a look at what really happened:

> According to the article, allegedly two Call of Duty players were threatening each other over a $2 bet. One call of duty member gives the other a fake address when the other threatens to SWAT him. Police go to the fake address and shoot somebody. Guy who got shot couldn't have possibly prevented the situation and is ironically the least at fault of anybody involved.

There is no proof that the accused party intended to kill, in fact it was a random address that another third party had posted, and somebody decided to pull a prank that went horribly wrong.

Involuntary manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought.

Of course I'm not a lawyer but I refrain from allowing emotions to taint the lens of truth. I've yet to see any constructive counter arguments from you, instead you've sidetracked the debate by attacking my character.


This is logic that says that if I point a gun at a crowd of people and shoot blindly, I haven't "murdered" anybody, because there was no one person I intended to kill, and, in fact, I might just as easily have gotten lucky and killed nobody, so what intent could exist to prove against me?


> This is logic that says that if I point a gun at a crowd of people and shoot blindly, I haven't "murdered" anybody, because there was no one person I intended to kill, and, in fact, I might just as easily have gotten lucky and killed nobody, so what intent could exist to prove against me?

No, in the example you've presented, that is directly demonstration of intent to kill using a device (a gun) that has high probability of death. That is not the point I've made and you are attempting to bend what was said.


Did you even read the section you italicized?

Conviction of depraved heart second-degree murder requires PROOF that the defendant acted recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.

"There is no proof that the accused party intended to kill"

It does not require that they "intended to kill." It just requires that they "acted recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life." You find it hard to believe that anyone could consider it reckless (and indifferent to the life of the victim) to send a team of gunmen, who you've explicitly instructed to be on high alert?


Prosecutors will get to describe the crime in any frame they choose, and a jury of humans will get to decide whether it's murder.

Assuming this player is in an extraditable country, I predict he's going to rot in jail for the rest of his life. It's not like he was playing CoD through TOR. He won't be hard to find.


People already have the gamer tags of the two people involved in the shooting (the swatter and the person he was intending to swat, but who gave a false address) and even have tweets from the alleged perpetrator (now deleted) who claimed he wasn't responsible.

So yes, it's a very short matter of time before police start knocking.


> There is no proof that the accused party intended to kill

Who are you trying to fool here?

Trying to get the target "accidentally" shot is the entire point of SWATting. If it weren't, they would have called family and child services to fraudulently report child sex abuse, animal control to report an escaped rabid panther, or any number of other government bodies that don't show up to the party with fully-automatic assault rifles.


There is no fooling just sequence of facts and events you are denying.

The victim was shot because he refused direct police order and endangered himself by making the SWAT thinking he had a gun.

The guy calling the SWAT is an effete asshole but there's no way he could've predicted the endangerment that the victim put on himself by directly refusing orders to keep his hand up (he didnt and he was shot thinking he was pulling a gun).

So if you wanted to prove intent to kill, you'd have to

1) Show the probability of getting killed by SWAT vs Hitman is the same, which the judge will throw out as intent.

2) Show that the SWAT caller could've predicted that victim would put himself in danger by disobeying a direct armed officer.

3) Retrospectively show intent to kill in previous SWAT calls the perpetrator has been charged for.

This is just the harsh realities of court. It's very hard for prosecutors for cases like this, especially when the public is so skewed to one version of the story. It's ironic that such zealous energy from the mob crowd will only hurt the case, the internet and the mob mentality doesn't prevail against examination of facts and evidence....

Hence this is why I stopped pursuing a legal career...because I realized that true justice will rarely be delivered. To convict someone, you need more than just conjectures and emotional response, you are up against highly intelligent defense lawyers who are expert in raising doubts in those that react with emotion, not logic.


>Trying to get the target "accidentally" shot is the entire point of SWATting

Nonsense. The point is to cause incredible inconvenience to the victim, not to kill them. Most of the time the cops will probably waste a few hours of your day, and make you look pretty bad in front of your neighbors.

This is quite possibly the first death after thousands of swattings, it seems unreasonable to assume that the perpetrators wouldn't be aware of how rarely this actually happens.


So then, you're pretty sure SWATting is going to stop pretty much completely now that everyone knows someone might get killed when it happens?

Didn't think so.


Of course not. There's no lack of people who'd commit murder over the internet if they could.

I simply believe that the vast majority of the people engaging in this activity do not do so with the intention of actually killing the victim.

I don't expect there to be a significant decline in swattings.

I believe deaths caused by swattings are far too rare for that to be a common motivation.


Yeah, you're right. It's usually only people's pets that get killed. Or their kids that need to go to the ER with blown eardrums from flash bangs.

Just a "prank", for the most part... An entirely unforeseen circumstance and byproduct of merely trying to "inconvenience" the victim...


I'm not trying to play down swatting, I'm just saying that this:

>Trying to get the target "accidentally" shot is the entire point of SWATting.

Is usually not correct.


I agree: they literally don't give a shit whether someone is going to get shot or not. It's entirely abstract to them.


It seems like you've just completely blocked the possibility that this case will not go your way. You've repeatedly denied facts and evidences present in this tragedy, that a) calling SWAT will never be accepted as calling a hitman therefore no intent lies in itself other than pranking b) the victim was killed because he disobeyed an armed officer c) restrospectively prove intent to kill in all previous swat cases, which will have wide reaching political ramifications that go beyond just the individuals involved. d) the victim was unknown to the accused therefore impossible to claim any sort of aforethought and intent which both requires evidence.

So when you react with such vulgar statements and continually attack others who present facts and evidences against your conjecture, it's hard to take you seriously.

You keep thinking the accused somehow had blood lust without even looking at all the pieces. It's so easy to jump on the bandwagon, but there's always those that choose logic over passion, this is what the legal industry is about.


Sending armed officers to someone's house under the pretense that the resident is an armed threat does not result in 'inconvenience.' Inconvenience is a hundred pizza guys being sent to your house delivering stuff you didn't order.

This may be the first death as the direct result of a prank call, but it is far from the first accidental death as the result of a swat team being deployed.

If inconvenience were truly the goal, a prank call to child services that launches an investigation would work much better. But that's not the outcome the caller actually wants to see happen.


Sending in armed officers with the assumption that the victim will disobey direct police orders and get himself killed is a mental gymnastic that only lies within your head. It does not belong in the courts because there's no way to prove intent without evidence. Conjectures are not accepted in court.


Of the many and varied lies that could be told to cause incredible inconvenience through the medium of misinformed police, only a few will trigger a SWAT team.

SWAT teams are not deployed by the police when they think that it is likely that they will need to behave inconveniently to someone, they are deployed when the police think that it is likely that there will be a need for overwhelming deadly force.

The point of falsely triggering a SWAT team is not to cause inconvenience through police.

The point of triggering a SWAT team is to deliberately risk someone's life.

Great white sharks rarely eat people.

However, if I admit to having deliberately pushed someone into the water with a great white shark to see what would happen and then they get eaten, quoting the probabilities is not going to impress a court very much.


> The point of triggering a SWAT team is to deliberately risk someone's life.

Unfortunately, it wasn't as if the SWAT team were going in guns blazing. The victim specifically chose to put his hands down when ordered to keep it up. He failed to do so and that resulted in his death.

Seeing the huge number of SWAT cases, this is the first time that I'm aware of, where a person has been deceased. To make the argument that calling SWAT team to somebody's house is akin to calling a hitman to your house is ludicrious.

The case falls further apart because the victim was unknown to any of the parties involved, there's no way they could've predicted the victim would disobey police orders that put himself in danger.


> There is no proof that the accused party intended to kill

“malice aforethought”, as noted uphtread, isn't the same thing as “intent to kill”. Gross recklessness/depraved indifference is also malice aforethought.

> in fact it was a random address that another third party had posted, and somebody decided to pull a prank that went horribly wrong.

SWATting is a “prank” which inherently involves the mental state of depraved indifference; the fact that the target endangered is different than the one the “prankster” expected is fairly immaterial.


Intent to kill was used as the original reasoning from parent's post which I refuted with logic and reasoning that was met with an attack on my character and "malice aforethought" which still requires proof that calling SWAT == calling HITMAN, was thrown without understanding the full sequence of events that led up to the event.

The victim was killed because he disobeyed direct orders from an armed officer. At the end of the day, this is what boils down to, not what he said or she said.

As I said, calling SWAT to somebodys house is not the same as calling hitman to whack somebody. Even in cases involving spouses calling hitman on their estranged lover, it takes an awful lot of evidence to get a malice aforethought and even more damning evidence to get intent to kill.

This is just the reality of working under a legal system that relies on evidence presentable to a neutral third party. If anything, the internet mob mentality will hurt this case as the judge will throw out anything related to the notion the prank caller technically called armed hitman, because the prosecutor will need to show evidence that the accused knew the target victim would willingly disobey armed police officer, which is impossible because the victim was unknown to any of the parties involved.


The twitter messages and recordings should be well receivable evidence.

An intend to kill might be far fetched but an intend to harm is not.


Plenty of people that had no intention to kill someone end up in jail for homicide after they do something that they didn't believe was going to kill the other party. SWATing wouldn't be a threat if there wasn't some (small) chance that someone gets hurt. Kind of like how pushing someone at a bar doesn't always end in death, but when the guy you push hits his head on a barstool on the way down and cracks his skull open, it's homicide.

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