Jaywalkers, Zealous Cops, and The Scientific Method

Jaywalking is the example you give for the most minor offense possible under the law; it ranks up there with the “no spitting on the sidewalk” ordinances.

Jaywalking is a “summary” offense, like getting a traffic ticket, less than a misdemeanor, and carrying no jail time. If you get caught jaywalking, the worst that can possibly happen is that a cop will give you a ticket and you’ll pay a fine of $25 or so.

Well, unless you’re a young black male.

A few days ago, I posted the above video on my Facebook page, which caused quite a commotion. A cop arrests a kid for jaywalking to catch the bus, detains him, and then is seen beating the kid, who apparently fights back (as would anyone who is being beaten). Even then, the kid doesn’t run away, and the cop then calls over 8 more who surround the kid and harass him.

That’s all I know, based on the video. So I formed an opinion that the cops had tremendously overreacted over the most innocuous “crime” possible.

Some of my Facebook friends took me to task over this, complaining that I didn’t know the whole picture, and then they proceeded to come up with a bunch of possibilities that could have caused the officer to act this way.

Well, geez, I could do that too. What if the kid had fought the officer? What if he was seen with a weapon? What if the kid was actually a lizard space alien who had hypnotized the cop as part of a vast conspiracy to overthrow the planet Earth and steal our women?

Making up stuff to justify your already-held position is really easy to do.

Still, I was accused of being dishonest for making a decision about something when I don’t have all the facts.

Well, that’s how it works. You base an opinion on the facts you have before you. You don’t make up theories about stuff you have no evidence for. And if new facts emerge, you change your opinion to take those into account.

That’s the scientific method, usable in everyday life.

The problem is with people who make up “what if” scenarios to give them a conclusion opposite of all the facts before you. That’s a bit intellectually dishonest, if you ask me. While there is nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t have enough evidence to form an opinion yet” there is definitely something wrong with saying “I have an opinion but it’s not based on any facts we have right now.”

Then again, often these are the same people who will never change their minds when new facts emerge; they’re the ones who never let facts spoil their conclusions.

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2 thoughts on “Jaywalkers, Zealous Cops, and The Scientific Method

  1. I think it’s more a matter of “reasonable doubt.” I’m quite certain that the police are sometimes guilty of brutality, but before leveling the accusation, I want there to be no reasonable doubt. My motives have less to do with justice than with effectiveness. People invest a lot of energy in things like that, but you really don’t get results unless the case was airtight. And it’s terrible to get all fired up over something only to discover that it was justified all along.

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  2. As someone in said debate, my concern is putting more fuel on the fire. Most of these short video, eye witness accounts and unknowing of police procedure or what exactly started the incident – after all the evidence and comments are reviewed – turn out that the police acted in the way that they should have. That the short video didn’t include the phone calls made to the police beforehand, that there were outstanding warrants or issues with the individual and so on.

    So by once again including a short video with no other evidence on the incident, people show the evil, brutal and dangerous way police do things fuels the hatred and distrust of people whose job it is to come to the public’s aid whenever an issue arises. You now have police officers being targeted and killed outside of the line of duty – a statistic that I cannot find but would be curious to see over the last few years.

    As for the scientific method – yes, it is the way things go. You have evidence and make a conclusion on that decision. And when there is more evidence presented and it changes that conclusion, you make a change. The trouble is that everyone who has made a conclusion about a police officer abusing their authority, when presented with the evidence that the police officer did not in fact abuse it but followed proper procedures and polices, do not bother to change their mind on it – at least not publicly. For I have never seen a single person who thought Michael Brown was killed for no reason in cold blood, after other evidence was brought forth and it was determined that officer Wilson had operated in a proper way in defending himself from harm, have said “The new evidence has shown that he was in the right.” But instead consider to do what they can do discredit the evidence, continue with various ‘theories’ with no evidence to back it up and so on.

    So my response would be, if you’re going to use a scientific method, then take a page from scientists and when something happens, before announcing your findings, do more work, test your theories, find out if there may have been any outside variables that caused the previous evidence to be flawed and then report it.

    And since a quick knee jerk response to the immediate evidence isn’t that everything you rub on your hair and put against the wall will stick because it immediately happened with a balloon but instead is inciting and increasing the distrust of the police that people are outright calling for the hunting and killing of those whose numbers contain over 99% of people who do not abuse their power nor are swayed depending upon the color of their skin.

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