On the Water, and Police Brutality

This is kind of a long post so bear with me. There are two main themes: one is my experiences sailing for the first week, the other addresses the recent death of George Floyd and subsequent protests and violence.

First, the sailing. In any new endeavor, one is bound to make mistakes. Since I left the marina I’ve had a number of issues: I ran aground, I almost sank the boat, and I got caught in a severe thunderstorm in the Atlantic Ocean.

I ran aground in what was charted as 8 feet of water at low tide. My draft is 5 feet so I figured I should have at least three feet below my keel, even at low tide. But as I went over a shoal I watched in panic as the depth indicator went from 8 to 7 to 6 feet. Just as I started to slow down and back out the boat ran into mud at 5 feet and stopped. Nothing was damaged but I was stuck and had to wait an hour for the tide to come in and lift me away. So, I guess I can’t rely 100% on charts. That’s disconcerting.

Another problem I had was a water hose ruptured while I was in the cockpit handling the boat. All the 42 gallons of fresh water leaked out into the boat. Fortunately the bilge pump did its job and pumped the water out. I fixed the hose and now shut off the fresh water pump when I am in the cockpit.

One day I went out for a sail in the ocean near St. Simons sound. The weather report said chance of thunderstorms. I decided to risk it and went out 3 miles, practicing a number of sailing maneuvers. On the way back the “chance” of thunderstorms hit hard. Howling wind and rain, heavy seas, lightening and poor visibility. Learning? Be prepared for anything, the forecast may be wrong.

So what’s a typical day? I wake up at dawn, check to make sure I haven’t dragged my anchor, have breakfast, check the weather report, check the tides and current where I want to go, check the route to see if there are any obstacles, bridges, etc. I have to navigate, check the engine, and when I am satisfied all is well I start the engine, raise the anchor and head on out. Then it is just a matter of following the gps route I have programmed. Here I am in the cockpit and my view ahead. This was on the St. John’s River.

Here’s something funny I came across. It’s true. Slap “marine” on anything and double its value. There’s a business opportunity for you.

Did I mention $6.00 for 4 rolls of “marine” toilet paper?

One of those pesky crab traps. You’ve got to watch out for them. If you wrap one around your propeller it will ruin your day.

Our Racist Past

In this time of Black Lives Matter and the George Floyd death, I couldn’t help notice the following item on a nautical chart I was studying. These are US government charts produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Can you believe that in this day and age, they still show on the chart a place called Runaway Negro Creek? Check it out:

That’s real. It is on the NOAA chart 11512 of the ICW in southern Georgia. To be fair, Georgia did rename the creek Freedom Creek in 2019, but really? 2019? It took that long before someone suggested a change? And NOAA still has not updated their charts. Look it up.

Mr. Graham and the Reasonable Man

I listened to a Radiolab podcast some time ago which examined the question of police brutality. They go into depth about how difficult it is for juries to convict police officers of excessive force. The reason is a 1989 Supreme Court case known as Graham v. Connor. The Court determined that an objective reasonableness standard should apply to a civilian’s claim that law enforcement officials used excessive force in the course of making an arrest, investigatory stop, or other “seizure” of his person.

The ruling established the standard for judging police use of force to this day. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, writing for the majority, held that any claim of excessive force against law enforcement had to be weighed against an “objective reasonableness” standard:

The Fourth Amendment “reasonableness” inquiry is whether the officers’ actions are “objectively reasonable” in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation.

The Court also cautioned, the “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must not be judged from the perspective of 20/20 vision of hindsight.

So what this means in practical terms is defense attorneys slice up the testimony, or video if it exists, to show jurors only the instant where the officer decided to use force, forgetting everything else. Then they ask that in that instant, what would a reasonable officer do? If you just take a slice of time and allow the jury only to consider that, many have been forced to conclude that yes, the officer acted in a “reasonable” way.

That’s why so many cases have led to police acquittals. If I am a police officer and you point a toy gun at me, I could claim that a reasonable police officer would feel threatened and that gives me the right to shoot you.

My question is, if not this standard, then what? What standard should police be held to? Some advocate the police should be right “in fact”. In other words, if you point a toy gun at me and I think it is real and shoot you, it is murder, because I did not know in fact that you had a real gun. Think about how that standard would change the behavior of police.

So my fear is that these Minneapolis police officers, though they have been arrested and charged with murder, etc, may not be convicted. Then we will see violence on a much larger scale. Remember Rodney King? If not, look him up. He was filmed being beaten and kicked by several Los Angeles police officers in 1991, despite being unarmed and held on the ground. Four police officers were arrested and charged with brutality. What do you think happened? From wikipedia:

Four officers were eventually tried on charges of use of police brutality. Of these, three were acquitted, and the jury failed to reach a verdict on one charge for the fourth. Within hours of the acquittals, the 1992 Los Angeles riots started, sparked by outrage among racial minorities over the trial’s verdict and related, longstanding social issues. The rioting lasted six days and killed 63 people with 2,383 more injured; it ended only after the California Army National Guard, the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps provided reinforcements to re-establish control. 

This happened 28 years ago. Sadly, nothing seems to have changed.

Here is the link to the radiolab podcast on Graham v. Connor and also another link to a newspaper article if you are interested in learning more.



Ok, enough on social issues. Back to sailing. I will be following the ICW as I mentioned before, with occasional trips into the Atlantic Ocean. I am currently just north of Savannah, GA:

Next stop: Charleston.

2 thoughts on “On the Water, and Police Brutality

  1. Deirdreb June 16, 2020 / 12:54 pm

    Great adventures and super comments on courts and standards. I too have been saying that not only will policing have to change, but how the law is applied. This is a much greater challenge. Both need to change, and the chart.

    Thanks for the podcast link. I’ll be listening ASAP!

    Always love your posts. Stay safe. No more challenging the weather, risking it is risking it.

    Love ya – deirdre

  2. Steve June 19, 2020 / 11:25 pm

    At the start of the rioting, I thought I’d sneak a look at the on-line MPD policy manual. Interestingly and lost in the storm, so to speak, is the fact that the neck restraint used by the Minneapolis police officer is an approved non-deadly force option used to control a resisting subject.
    From Section 5-311 of the MPD Policy and Procedure manual:

    “5-311 USE OF NECK RESTRAINTS AND CHOKE HOLDS (10/16/02) (08/17/07) (10/01/10) (04/16/12)


    Choke Hold: Deadly force option. Defined as applying direct pressure on a person’s trachea or airway (front of the neck), blocking or obstructing the airway (04/16/12)

    Neck Restraint: Non-deadly force option. Defined as compressing one or both sides of a person’s neck with an arm or leg, without applying direct pressure to the trachea or airway (front of the neck). Only sworn employees who have received training from the MPD Training Unit are authorized to use neck restraints. The MPD authorizes two types of neck restraints: Conscious Neck Restraint and Unconscious Neck Restraint. (04/16/12)

    Conscious Neck Restraint: The subject is placed in a neck restraint with intent to control, and not to render the subject unconscious, by only applying light to moderate pressure. (04/16/12)

    Unconscious Neck Restraint: The subject is placed in a neck restraint with the intention of rendering the person unconscious by applying adequate pressure. (04/16/12).”

    However, it will have to be determined if its use was appropriate in this particular case, because…

    “A. The Conscious Neck Restraint may be used against a subject who is actively resisting. (04/16/12)
    B. The Unconscious Neck Restraint shall only be applied in the following circumstances: (04/16/12)

    1.On a subject who is exhibiting active aggression, or;
    2.For life saving purposes, or;
    3.On a subject who is exhibiting active resistance in order to gain control of the subject; and if lesser attempts at control have been or would likely be ineffective.”

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