Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

Miami shooting has errors on both sides of the police tape

Post by Brian O'Neill on June 11, 2011 at 12:33 pm with 7 Comments »
June 13, 2011 10:50 am
Like most work environments, law enforcement has its share of recurring circumstances. And like other careers, most veterans develop a sense of “how things should go.” I suppose that’s called experience. 

That’s what came to mind as I watched the video of a Memorial Day Weekend shooting during a raucous night in Miami Beach. If you failed to see the footage, aired on National News, it went as follows:A car runs a stop sign and officers attempt to pull it over; the driver strikes one officer with his car, nearly hits four others and continues driving erratically. When the vehicle stops, police surround the vehicle and shots are fired. The driver dies.

The focus of the national coverage was clearly the police actions, both the fact that numerous officers had surrounded the car and simultaneously unloaded a barrage from less than 20 feet away and that angry officers had taken away cell phones. Okay, I get that. Those questions deserve answering.

But what does it say about the media when the reporter seems to gloss over the fact that the driver, Raymond Herisse, had just ran over a cop, almost hit four others, and had a gun in the car? I believe I mentioned the lack of trust between cops and reporters in a previous column–this is a prime example.

Based on my experience, I think much of the actions of the cops speaks for itself.

When a large group of police officers surround a target, give the appropriate verbal commands over several seconds, and then suddenly all burst out shooting at the same time, there can really only be one reason: an imminent threat.  It’s not hard to imagine that those officers, most of whom were probably locked onto that driver with a nasty case of tunnel vision, all observed the driver make a deliberate and aggressive move.  Given the firearm that was later discovered in the car, it’s pretty easy to put it all together.

As cops approached the car you could hear their shouts to clear the area, and plenty of time was given to heed the warning for those actually interested in giving up their front row seat. Still, some of the onlookers were shockingly close to the action as they watched and, in some cases, filmed the shooting. Unfortunately, four were struck by bullets. It was a poor reflection on the police but it also an incredible act of stupidity on the part of those individuals remaining in harm’s way.

The reason the story of this particular shooting made national news appears to be the onlooker’s reaction to police confiscating their cell phone cameras. From the cops’ viewpoint there are several reasons for their reactions.  First, ignoring police commands is the crime of obstruction in most states, including Washington. Much of the purpose of this law is to prevent the type of  injuries that occurred in this very incident. The second issue is that making an audio and video recording of someone requires two party consent in some states, including Washington. Lastly, a major incident of this nature will require the confiscation of many items, including cell phone cameras, for evidentiary purposes.

From the public’s standpoint, however, none of the above reasons for confiscating a person’s property should override the need for police to provide a reasonable and polite explanation if time allows. Though the cops had just been through a chaotic and violent incident, the ensuing news story would never have created a national furor if it had been handled with a little tact and diplomacy.

In the rush of adrenalin, and even the tremorous aftermath of these stress-filled incidents, it is very hard to strike the right balance between defending the actions of a department and dealing with possibly legitimate complaints about police behavior. That is, however, the best time to get it right.

And I think we should all spend a moment considering such an incident from somebody else’s perspective.



Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. RCW restricts the recording of private conversations. I didn’t see a definition for private conversation in the RCW.

    I think it’s a stretch to think a police arrest made in public is a private conversation.

  2. Brian O'Neill says:

    Because Washington is a two-party consent state, recording a person’s voice without their consent is, at the bare minimum, inadmissible in court. At maximum, it can be a civil rights infringement.


  3. gogoDawgs says:

    Brian, yes WA is a 2 party state however, when concerning public officials (police) performing their duties it is not.

    “A party is determined to have consented to recording if he is aware that the recording is taking place.”
    Washington v. Modica, 149 P.3d 446 (Wash. Ct. App. 2006).

    “Statements made by police officers when effecting an arrest in their official capacity do not constitute “private conversations” within the meaning of RCW 9.73.030, which makes criminal the recording of private conversations without all parties’ consent.”
    STATE v. FLORA, 68 Wn. App. 802, 845 P.2d 1355 (Wash. Ct. App 1992)

  4. “Because Washington is a two-party consent state, recording a person’s voice without their consent is, at the bare minimum, inadmissible in court. At maximum, it can be a civil rights infringement.”

    That’s not totally true. RCW makes some exceptions. Again I think it’s a stretch to think a police arrest made in public is private conversation.

  5. And the other Brian is back….such high hopes for you with a few of your last blogs. Defend the indenfensible Brian is back in full swing.

  6. smokey984 says:

    We have an absolute natural right to watch and record police activity. After all the cameras at street intersections and everywhere else recording law abiding citizens daily activities isn’t this being a hypocrite?

    Read this short article for the other side of the fence.

  7. smokey984 says:

    Heres a prediction of what happens to our first responders. Another’s opinion of course:

    5. Police Crack Down
    Did you hear about that Iraqi War vet who was shot 60 times by a SWAT team in Tuscon, Arizona in an apparent drug raid? The only problem is that they didn’t find any drugs. SWAT first claimed that he shot at them, but his gun was on SAFE. So they are now saying that he pointed his gun at them. Afterward, the SWAT team refused to let the paramedics into the house for over an hour. I assume he was already dead, but why did they behave in this matter. Jose Guerena, 26, was only the one of many police victims. So I fully expect the police to get very aggressive after the politicians put pressure on them.

    6. Backlash Against Police
    There will be a call for “law and order”, but the police will go too far. They will kill too many innocent people and the heightened state of anger in the black (and poor communities) will lead to an epic backlash. Criminals will target cops and their families, while the angry masses remain silent. Recently, a Miami cop was caught waving a gun in the face of a law abiding citizen after his buddies shot a suspect to death in his car. The idiot cop pointed his gun at the citizen (holding the camera) and his family. It was the type of thug behavior that is becoming increasingly common from the law enforcement community. Now ask yourself, do you honestly think that the police are going to alleviate the tension by sending an angry community over the edge?

    Think about it, you’ve lost your job, your house, your wife’s respect and now these cops who have been disrespecting you all of your life are pointing a gun at you.

    Super criminals: No, I’m not talking about Superman’s Doomsday, but when you have millions of highly educated young people facing a bleak future with few economic opportunities, you end up with a new class of criminals. Traditionally, most criminals have been pretty stupid, but when you have people with degrees in chemistry, physics, accounting and engineering, you’re going to end up with smarter criminals.

    The rest of the article can be viewed here:

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