4 Reasons Not to Get Upset About Tony Robinson and Why They’re All Bullshit


In case you missed it, over the weekend police in Madison, WI kept up a growing tradition in the U.S. of not letting more than a few weeks pass without shooting an unarmed black teenager to death.

Tony Robinson, depending on who you choose to listen to, was either a loving son and attentive student on his way to business school, or a convicted felon and a danger to everyone you know and love. Only one of these representations can be true, because as everybody knows humans aren’t complex beings with multiple, even contradictory layers of behavior, personality, and beliefs, and of course we all totally had our shit together at 19 and never made any mistakes, so pick whichever one best fits your preferred narrative and discard the rest, as well as anyone who chose a different focus than you.

Anyway, as has become the custom after one of these tragedies, people on both sides of the cultural divide have taken to the streets and social media to make their opinions heard.  Here are some of the most popular arguments or statements made by the sorts of folks who tend to rally to support the status quo, and why I think they all fail on the merits.

1) Let’s wait for all the facts:

The main thrust here is instead of taking to the streets immediately, protestors should just hold their fire for days, weeks, or months until we know everything there is to know about the case and can form an educated opinion. Sure. Sounds reasonable, prudent even.

Here’s why it’s bullshit.

In the era of the 24 hour news cycle and viral content, nothing stays in the public conscious for very long. Days if you’re lucky, weeks at most.  As much as Mr. Spock would disapprove, it’s the initial intense emotional reactions to an event that captures public attention, not a dry reading of the news weeks after the fact. So to wait is to starve a story of the oxygen it needs to reach the public and create awareness of the issue at hand. Without awareness, there can be no change and the status quo remains intact.

I understand why otherwise smart, cautious people would want to hold tight before voicing an opinion when they don’t have all the facts. I certainly do under most circumstances. However, there’s a fault in this line of thinking, a tendency to try and see each individual case in isolation, separate and distinct from any similar cases that have come before, or will happen in the future. But in so doing, they miss the forest for the trees and effectively ignore the larger trends. And the larger trend is this shit keeps happening.

2) Officers have to protect themselves:

Again, here we have a perfectly reasonable sounding statement. In cases where the police meet physical resistance, or even violence, such as was allegedly the case with Mr. Robinson, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown, the police need to be able to protect their own lives and the lives of the citizens they’re sworn to protect. Obviously, right?

Here’s why it’s bullshit.

No one, anywhere, is saying the police shouldn’t be allowed to defend themselves from harm. That is not the conversation that’s being had. It is a strawman argument being forwarded by people who don’t understand something called the Use of Force Continuum.


This model of self-defense training has been in use among many Police and Department of Corrections groups at all levels of government since the 1990’s. Crucial to it is the idea of a proportional, phased response to the threat level an LEO is facing. An officer is, as a general rule, always expected to escalate to one threat level higher than they face. If somebody slaps you, shooting them dead is not a proportional response.

So, again as a general principle, if a suspect is trying to punch them, they can escalate to using their baton to neutralize the threat and force compliance. If they are facing a suspect with a baton, out comes the pepper spray or taser (if equipped). A knife or other potentially deadly weapon is met with a sidearm.

There are any number of exceptions, and the level of threat is entirely dependent on an LEO’s own perception of the situation. But here’s the problem. It is an indisputable fact that LEO’s across the nation apply higher levels of physical violence to minorities, especially African Americans, and apply it far more frequently than they do to white suspects.

For whatever reason or reasons, when faced with a black suspect, LEO’s perceive the threat to be higher, escalate to violence faster, and to higher levels on the continuum than they would otherwise. The end result is a far higher percentage of black suspects being injured or killed during their interactions with police. Nor does the state-sponsored violence stop there. Black suspects face longer prison sentences, and are disproportionately targeted for the death penalty, even when committing the same crime as their white counterparts.

Which is why the impulse to try and see each case in isolation is such a bad idea. It completely misses the larger trends, even if in a specific case an argument could be made that violence was justified such as in Ferguson. The folks who want to focus on the Justice Department failing to indict Michael Brown’s killer on civil rights charges have generally failed to read or appreciate the other bombshell the same people released that day; the DoJ report on systemic racism on the part of the Ferguson PD.

3) Why is no one protesting criminals:

I’ve heard this one a lot. Usually, it’s something along the lines of why aren’t people protesting black-on-black crime, or gang shootings, or criminals shooting police officers?

Here’s why it’s bullshit.

Because we should be holding police to a higher standard than criminals. I really have a hard time understanding why I have to explain this to adults, but here goes. When a criminal commits violence or takes a life, it is a tragedy, obviously. I would even go so far as to say that when a criminal takes the life of an LEO, the tragedy takes on a new dimension. However, the reason people don’t take to the streets to protest their crimes is because criminals are acting on their own. They do not represent anyone but themselves, and are acting without the sanction of the society they prey upon.

Police are an entirely different matter. When the police use violence, they are doing so as agents of a representative government. When the police take an action, it is our collective sanction that grants them the moral and legal authority to do so. We grant them exceptionally broad powers and discretion to work in our name.

When police kill, they do so as representatives of all of us. We all share in the responsibility for the behavior of the agents of our government. And since it is violence in all of our names, we have the responsibility as citizens to hold them to the highest standards of conduct.

4) People shouldn’t make it about race:

Usually this one comes across as a genuine concern that focusing on the race of the people involved will only stoke more racial animosity and ratchet up tensions unnecessarily, creating an atmosphere of mistrust. So we should just focus on the facts of the case and do our best to leave race out of it.

Here’s why it’s bullshit.

The fact white people across the country don’t seem to know there’s a racial problem within our law enforcement and justice systems is not a reason to pretend there isn’t one. What these cases have done is finally brought into the mainstream consciousness what black Americans have known for their entire lives. They are not treated equally by the police or the courts.

All of the statistics available point to the same systemic problem in municipalities across the country, even in ultra-liberal Madison Wisconsin. Yes, it’s an uncomfortable, embarrassing truth for white America to face, and it’s an even more difficult conversation to find ourselves in. But let’s be clear, protests, speeches and op-eds over the unfair treatment of the black community are not creating racial animosity, they are revealing it.

If you don’t like what the conversation is uncovering about America, the answer isn’t to stop talking. The answer is to do what you can to change our nation into the place you always thought it was.

Comments (138 Responses )

  1. Carlene Bechen - 03/09/2015 - 8:01 am #

    Thank you.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/09/2015 - 8:18 am #

      Thank you for reading it. Pass it on.

  2. Sheila Spear - 03/09/2015 - 8:28 am #

    thank you. This extremely thoughtful and to the point.

  3. Kathy - 03/09/2015 - 10:10 am #

    Thank you. This sums up my thoughts and feelings much more eloquently than I could manage myself. Okay to repost and refer to constantly in the next few days? I live in this community. Thank you.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 9:33 am #

      Of course. Thank you for reading it and feel free to share it liberally. No pun intended.

  4. Patricia J - 03/09/2015 - 10:12 am #

    Excellent article Very well written good explanations Thank you !

  5. Ted Torgerson - 03/09/2015 - 10:24 am #

    Well, at least you are honest that the truth is entirely irrelevant when you protest these incidents. Case in point: you acknowledge that Eric Holder’s Justice Department, out for blood, with essentially unlimited resources and every motivation to justify the Michael Brown protests, had to admit all evidence exonerated Darren Wilson. None of the testimony that formed the basis of the “hands up don’t shoot” myth was credible or consistent with the forensics. The entire Ferguson protest was based on a lie! Yet instead of being chagrined, learning from the mistake of destroying businesses and looting because of fabrications, you urge people to continue to leap to conclusions and protest regardless of the facts. I understand leftists believe the ends justify the means. The end of destroying the system justifies lying about its endemic racism. But I wonder how your protesters won’t get tired of your protests. After a few nights of chants and marches and then reading in the morning that the story they had been told by their march leaders was all a lie. People won’t march very long when they learn they’re being lied to. Soon there will be no more marchers.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/09/2015 - 7:47 pm #

      Ted. You are confused on several important points. First, I did not say that facts don’t matter. If you could have been bothered to read the entire piece, you would have understood that the facts of individual cases need to be considered within the context of larger societal trends. Understand those trends and you’ll understand why people of color are so upset every time this happens.

      Secondly, The DOJ did not exonerate Darren Wilson. They simply found insufficient evidence to charge him. Not exactly the same thing. Further, you appear to be precisely one of the people I mentioned later in the article who’s focus on the guilt or innocence of Michael Brown is blinding you to the rest of the story. Which of course was the DOJ report outlining systemic racism in the Ferguson PD against its black population, which of course were what the grievances and emotions underpinning the protests were actually about, even if Michael Brown’s shooting was an imperfect rallying point for them.

      There will be many more protesters in many more communities until people like you stop finding ways to miss the point.

      • Eric - 03/10/2015 - 12:28 am #

        “people like you”

        I hate this phrase in arguments. Attack the argument, not the person.

        • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 12:29 am #

          I’m a comedian. We attack everything.

          • Eric - 03/10/2015 - 12:39 am #

            Normally I’d agree with you, but there are no jokes in this article for good reason and everything on this page is a serious discussion about a serious topic. You can’t fall back on being a comedian when it isn’t applicable.

          • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 12:43 am #

            You are entitled to your opinion. But, since the post in question wasn’t forwarding a serious argument, I don’t see the need to provide a serious answer.

      • White guilt makes you stupid - 03/10/2015 - 4:33 am #

        Your white guilt makes you stupid.

        • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 4:51 am #

          I’m sure that’s the problem. I’ll go to Gander Mountain and buy some bass fishing equipment to atone.

        • douglas - 03/10/2015 - 5:17 am #

          a brilliant retort. anything else?

      • Mister E - 03/10/2015 - 6:58 am #

        But that doesn’t fit the narrative of denial Ted wants to tell himself! Just hush up so he doesn’t have to face the problem and it goes away (for him and his white privilege at least).

    • Nancy Vedder-Shults - 03/10/2015 - 12:17 am #

      I don’t think you read this article. Or your viewpoint overrode listening to what the author was saying. He was describing institutional racism, which underlies the statistically relevant fact that many more blacks are killed or injured by the police. This is what needs to change.

      • Brady Shackelford - 03/10/2015 - 7:10 am #

        I once did some time in the Norfolk, Va., City Jail. The jail population was at least 85% black while the Norfolk population was around 43% black. What does this statistic tell me? It tells me that blacks are committing way more crimes than whites. The same logic applies to the statistic that more blacks are killed or injured by the police. If more blacks are being killed or injured by the police, then one can infer that blacks are committing more crimes than whites.

        • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 9:07 am #

          That is one of two possible inferences. The other one, which you’ve conspicuously missed, is that blacks and black communities are disproportionately targeted by police for arrests, disproportionately charged, disproportionately convicted, and handed disproportionately longer sentences.

        • Kelli Larson - 03/10/2015 - 9:14 am #

          Have you heard of racial profiling?

      • Mark Bunnell - 03/11/2015 - 2:56 am #

        Hi Nancy,

        I think activist should hold awareness rallies when there isn’t an incident. When we react to a killing without knowing the details it makes us look bad. Hold teach ins and make documentaries, use media. Engage the black community. George Soros spent 33 million planning Fergusen. Should we have grassroots or astroturf?

    • Gretchen - 03/10/2015 - 5:28 am #

      It’s Madison honey.. there will ALWAYS be us leftists to “march”

    • AMina - 03/10/2015 - 9:15 am #

      Unfortunately you don’t know what you’re talking about. Same old excuses for NOT facing the truth of systemic racism in this country and the marid of lies that this country is built on. You’ve bought it all, WE HAVENT. REALLY DOESNT MATTER THAT YOU DONT GET IT AND PROBABLY NEVER WILL! Just go somewhere and READ!

    • Alison S - 03/11/2015 - 3:55 am #

      Except that it WASN’T based on a lie. A young man was shot to death. That’s not ok. The specifics of the incident may have been misunderstood or misquoted or missed. But that doesn’t subtract death from the situation. You can’t — well, you can but you shouldn’t — jump on the inaccuracy, like “HA! That proves the police were right!” as though it were victory. No one wins. Darren Wilson doesn’t win. Michael Brown sure enough doesn’t win. Ferguson doesn’t win. And You don’t win, either. Someone died needlessly in the streets of a town that has been proven to be plagued by bigotry and disgusting racism. I prefer to verify what I’m protesting, but at the end of the day, I pray, God: let there be marchers from now and for as long as it takes to bring justice to our nation, to see young black men clearly. That, Sir Torgerson, will be the point of a Win. And nothing short of justice and righteousness in our application of the law is a win.

  6. Dude - 03/09/2015 - 12:39 pm #

    Tony had previously been convicted of armed robbery. He is not as innocent as the media is trying to drum him up to be.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/09/2015 - 7:48 pm #

      So you didn’t even read past the first paragraph.

      • Josh Duncan - 03/09/2015 - 10:23 pm #

        I see you have a habit of using that line to evade defending your thesis.

        • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/09/2015 - 11:26 pm #

          No, I use that line to point out that you aren’t saying anything that I haven’t already addressed in the original article. If you want me to say something new, so should you.

    • Kio May - 03/09/2015 - 8:24 pm #

      How does that matter? He deserved to die? At the end of the day, he was unarmed. And you should read the whole article, it goes deeper than that.

    • I TOTALLY AGREE WITH DUDE - 03/09/2015 - 9:46 pm #


    • Amanda - 03/09/2015 - 11:53 pm #

      Yes Punching someone definitely deserves a death sentence. And only those of us that are perfect and have never ever broken a law should be protected by the police.

    • AMina - 03/10/2015 - 9:19 am #

      Thats NOT the POINT. It is the excessive use of violence against people of color as opposed to that used on whites in similar circumstances. LORD, just READ!! There are hundreds of studies that will enlighten you. – READ!!! OPEN YOUR MIND & SEED TRUTH!!!

  7. Nira Scherz-Busch - 03/09/2015 - 12:45 pm #

    Thanks for posting this, Patrick! As a psychologist, as a soldier & veteran (of IDF) and a wife of a veteran (Vietnam); as a WI Dept. of Corrections (Ethan Allen Boy’s School) – I totally agree! Self defense is NOT killing unless you consider your job to be killing; unless you don’t feel that ANY life matters and unless you consider your weapon a means of self defense – not a killing toy!

  8. sb - 03/09/2015 - 2:25 pm #

    Any one who took the time out to write this is obviously stupid . The hell with opinions or statistics. The death was in humane we are human beings .leathal injection is not that brutal . And I need your job if someone this simple minded can do it go hug a tree get a job in s soup kitchen humble yourself

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/09/2015 - 7:50 pm #

      Anyone who took the time out to write this was probably black-out drunk. Come back when you’re coherent.

    • Antonio - 03/10/2015 - 2:06 am #

      .The hell with any one in humane

    • Peter B - 03/10/2015 - 10:25 pm #

      Inhumane is one word. Not two. Way to be an example of irony. 🙂

  9. Prescient Storm - 03/09/2015 - 5:14 pm #

    A testament to Lysol. That’s all!

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/09/2015 - 7:51 pm #


  10. David Couper - 03/09/2015 - 5:57 pm #

    nice piece here, Patrick. sometimes it takes comedy to speak the real truth.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/09/2015 - 8:38 pm #

      Thank you. It’s not easy to find humor in some things, but it’s my job to try.

      • Joseph - 03/10/2015 - 7:53 am #

        It would be a lot easier to take your points if they weren’t drenched in self-loving smugness.

        • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 9:02 am #

          If you want to see my smugness, come out to a show.

  11. Andrewk - 03/09/2015 - 6:15 pm #

    As someone who lives and works near Ferguson, it certainly would have been nice if you idiots would have waited for the facts to come out before you burned parts of my city down. You know, since you were in the wrong and Wilson was justified and Mike Brown was a violent felon who attacked the police.

    I also find it extremely cute that you have never been involved in a violent, high trauma situation yet your are sitting there trying to tell the people that do how it is supposed to work.Do you offer advice to nuclear physicists on how they should run their reactors too?

    “Black Lives Matter”? Oh really? For every one unarmed black kid shot by a police officer in this country, there are over 1500 black people shot by other blacks. Which makes your point #3 ridiculous. If “Black Lives Matter” then we should be focusing on things that would do the most harm reduction.

    It shouldn’t be about race. It is utterly ridiculous for people like you to look at criminal justice outcomes and claim that it is racist without considering all the other factors that led to those outcomes. You only focus on race. When you speak of “equality” you want equality of outcomes an not equality of opportunity. You want us to stop prosecuting black criminals unless there are an equal number of white criminals to go along side. “Sorry, we cannot arrest that black murderer because too many blacks have been arrested this year and people might start to look at the stats and think we a racist.”

    Now let’s see if you’ll allow this comment on your page or if you will hide it so people cannot see that there are other, less emotional, less biased opinions about this matter.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/09/2015 - 7:56 pm #

      Wow. You managed to repeat almost every single nonsense argument in the article. I don’t even have to waste time refuting them, because I already did. Thank you.

      And here’s your comment, right where everyone can see it and judge for themselves who is being emotional and biased.

      Btw, you know nothing about me or my history. You don’t know whether or not I’ve been in any violent situation or had my life threatened. Turns out I have, twice.

      I also know a thing or two about nuclear physics, but I’m not the guy you want running a reactor.

      • Mister E - 03/10/2015 - 7:05 am #

        I’ve had a gun pointed at my face by multiple home invaders. Guess what? I didn’t kill them, and the situation ended without violence. Wow! But then I’m not a police officer who’s supposed to be held to a high standard, being armed while the opposing party remains unarmed.

        • Mister E - 03/10/2015 - 7:07 am #

          So I guess since I’ve been in this sort of situation my opinion counts more than anybody else’s here. So therefore Tony Robinson shouldn’t have been killed, by your own logic.

    • douglas - 03/10/2015 - 5:25 am #

      “it shouldnt be about race” is most often uttered by white racists and fools who think denial will make racism disappear somehow

  12. Mike Smith - 03/09/2015 - 6:24 pm #

    Awesome! Well written.

  13. Aaron Goggans - 03/09/2015 - 6:48 pm #

    Great article though it should be noted that so called “black on black crime” is protested regularly. It is just not covered by the press but there have been several large conference, marches and summits on it in the past year alone.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/09/2015 - 7:56 pm #

      Good to know. I will look for them in the future.

  14. Judi Rubin - 03/09/2015 - 7:55 pm #

    I’ve not been aware of your blog or your writing before reading this. I’m beyond impressed with your scythe-like ability to cut to the pith of all the arguments you proposed and to which you responded so eloquently.

    Not only do you write/express yourself with exquisite precision but your content is clear, rational, believable and sorely needed.

    I look forward to reading much more of what you have to say about the issues affecting our lives in Madison and Wisconsin.

    I’ve lived here since 1959 and have witnessed many events and changes over the years. It’s so refreshing to know that you are here. And finally a clear-headed person is commenting on the things that really matter in our lives.

    Thank you.

    Judith A. Rubin

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/09/2015 - 9:44 pm #

      Thank you for reading it. Can’t do much good unread.

  15. Duffy - 03/09/2015 - 8:10 pm #

    I agree with you multiple points, although I’m a little skiddish when it comes to the 1st point. I’m reminded of the Duke Lacrosse players and the protests that followed them. They were tormented at school and there were calls from people in the protests castrate them or murder them. When in the end the evidence pointed toward them being completely innocent, not just insufficient evidence. The accuser is now in jail,for other crimes. I live in Madison and I have to say, Madison isn’t Ferguson. Ferguson had a large amount of racist issues going on with their police force and I will not argue against that at all. However Madison has a very progressive police force. It was the first one to allow dual partnership health insurance before homosexuals could get married, making it so they could be on each other’s insurance without being married. They have extensive training in use of force and there hasn’t been any incidents with violence previous to this. When something like this happens in Ferguson, or Florida, or any other state where racism is a huge problem. I would already believe yes racism was involved. With Madison, I just have questions because this isn’t the norm in this city.
    The only problem I ever had with Wisconsin police has always been the state troopers and that is a different story all together.

    • Ed Ucation - 03/09/2015 - 10:23 pm #

      Duffy wrote: “there hasn’t been any incidents with violence previous to this” in reference to Madison police and use of force.

      That is simply untrue! Last year Madison police shot and killed two people and it has happened in prior years too.

      I believe the two last year were a Latina-American woman and the other might have been an African-American man who had stabbed two neighbors to death.

      The facts DO matter — but in the current situation we will have to wait for more facts to come out. What we know so far is that the police officer on Friday night was responding to at least two 911 calls reporting that the deceased young man had battered one person and entered another person’s home and attempted to strangle someone there. From reports to date, the officer arrived and heard sounds of a disturbance in the residence, entered, was struck by the young man and fired his weapon in return — all in a matter of seconds.

      In the meantime people are in the streets expressing raw emotion, pain, and hurt — and also there are a lot of folks making allegations left and right that may or may not be accurate.

      Which is the kind of thing that happened in the Duke lacrosse story and so many others…

    • justin - 03/10/2015 - 3:59 am #

      I also live in madison and agree with the above poster. I can understand the visceral need to make your voice heard, and the logical one to hold the police accountable. There have been protests around the clock here in town and community events to raise awareness of this. What more should we be doing to justify your proposed narrative for #1? Throwing tear gas and setting cars on fire?

      • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 4:55 am #

        Nothing. #1 is aimed at the people telling the protestors already in place shouldn’t be voicing an opinion on police brutality as a whole until the particulars of this individual case have been completely sorted. Keep doing what you’re doing, Madison.

  16. Herb Blake - 03/09/2015 - 8:17 pm #

    I agree with the article and have been stating such for quite some time now. I am in favor of the protesting (to a degree). Protesting helps get the issues to the table. The problem stems when these protests turn to acts of violence, destruction, and looting. This is when it no longer represents a voice of resolution, but leads to increased support of racial tensions. We cannot, as any race, express that we are good people and act out in this manner. As in the days of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we must express our discourse in peaceful protest, not in a manner that supports that all members of a race are evil.

  17. Lindsay - 03/09/2015 - 8:21 pm #

    My thought is, why are there no protests when a white officer shoots a Asian or someone who is Hispanic? Or when a black officer shoots a white man? The statement ‘Black lives matter” should be “ALL lives matter”
    This is why I feel everyone gets uptight about these issues.
    Yes, black lives matter, But so do white, asian, Hispanic, Latina (and every other race) lives.
    Someone I talked to the other day (who was military and spend a lot of time in a lot of different countries) make an extremely valid point, that the United States as a whole makes race out to be a huge thing.
    Other countries use more generic terms for race. In Sweden they are European, in France they are European, in Germany they are European… We are all Americans and that is how we should be labeled. We are all human and our graves will all be the same size when our time comes.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/09/2015 - 8:26 pm #

      We have to say Black Lives Matter because society already knows white lives matter. There’s no confusion on the subject.

      • andrea - 03/09/2015 - 8:47 pm #

        Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! It’s all about equality and people don’t see that. Just see and hear what they want. They don’t realize the constant double standard that is always held. Case in point the young white man pointing an armed gun at police got talked down a month or so here in the Madison area, But an unarmed black man gets shot and killed-because naturally you are more afraid or a fist fight then possibly being shot down yourself. I personally feel that my life would be more in danger when someone is pointing a gun at me NOT when someone is trying to fist fight me. Because I’m an officer of the law and should have been trained to take down an attacker in a non lethal manner. It bothers me to think that our police are afraid themselves so act irrationally in the heat of the moment

        • Irving - 03/09/2015 - 9:03 pm #

          In a close space, as was the case here, it’s possible someone without a gun can be life threatening. You don’t need a weapon to kill or critically injure someone.

          • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/09/2015 - 9:46 pm #

            While that is true, it’s expected of our police officers that they have received and mastered self-defense skills that will, if not ensure success in every situation, drastically tip the scales in their favor.

        • Bing - 03/10/2015 - 5:14 am #

          Lets all remember that a white unarmed man was also shot and killed by police in the same neighborhood a couple years ago. This white guy didn’t even hit the police just went stumbling towards them because he was drunk while his neighbor who called the police on him was yelling at the police to not shoot because she not recognized it was her neighbor.

          • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 5:16 am #

            If you look up and squint really hard, you just might be able to spot the point flying over your head.

      • Patrick J - 03/09/2015 - 9:07 pm #

        And that is why we continue to be divided with that generic answer. That is why I throw up every time I hear hands up don’t shoot and black lives matter. That is why racism will never go away because of answers like that.

        • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/09/2015 - 9:41 pm #

          Black lives matter. Sorry for the vomit. I hope you feel better.

        • douglas - 03/10/2015 - 5:29 am #

          just close your eyes and wish racism to be no more then

    • Sonja A. Brown - 03/09/2015 - 8:38 pm #

      Yes, it’s common knowledge that lives matter. No one will ever dispute that. Unfortunately, with the disproportionate number of black lives taken by the hands of those expected to “serve & protect”, we’re on a mission to remind the world that “BLACK LIVES MATTER” and if that offends you, you’re part of the problem.

    • Mr. England - 03/10/2015 - 2:58 pm #

      Actually, Europe is filled with racism. Just read about racism and soccer/football in Europe. Bananas are routinely thrown at black players along with racial epithets. Indeed, there are several new-nazi groups rising to power and other “keep immigrants out” political platforms that exist.
      Europe feels fancy and progressive but often their problems are the same as ours, if not worse.

  18. Josh Duncan - 03/09/2015 - 8:31 pm #

    How many weeks have passed since a black teenager has been killed by a black teenager?

    How many weeks have passed since an incident of black on white violence?

    How many weeks have passed since a preborn human child has been killed because it was in the wrong place at the wrong time?

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/09/2015 - 8:35 pm #

      I see you didn’t make it past #2.

    • douglas - 03/10/2015 - 5:31 am #

      oh shut up address the matter at hand . arent you supposed to be shaming someone at an abortion clinic or something?

      • Jeremy Oreskovich - 03/10/2015 - 7:13 am #

        So are you actually going to read the blog post or just comment over and over again demonstrating your complete lack of comprehension?

  19. Sonja A. Brown - 03/09/2015 - 8:33 pm #

    EXCELLENTLY written article. Sharing it now …

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/09/2015 - 8:35 pm #

      Thank you for reading it.

  20. USMA Mule - 03/09/2015 - 8:46 pm #

    Thanks for crystallizing some of my though so much better than I ever seem to be able to. I have shared via FB and Twitter.

    • USMA Mule - 03/09/2015 - 8:46 pm #

      *thoughts… sorry

  21. Corinna - 03/09/2015 - 8:49 pm #

    Excellent and thank you

  22. Kokoa - 03/09/2015 - 8:51 pm #

    This is a fabulously written article. Straight to the point, supported facts and honesty. Thank you for writing this…I will share it with the masses.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/09/2015 - 8:58 pm #

      Please do, and thank you for reading it.

  23. MattyP - 03/09/2015 - 9:04 pm #

    Mr. Tomlinson: thank you for writing such a thoughtful article. Regardless of what side of the issue one identifies with, there’s no doubt that EVERYONE has strong emotions and opinions tied up in these incidents, and the greater issues at hand. The power of your article is that initially I was prepared to find fault in your arguments but you gave me a moment of pause. I have many friends and family in public safety, AND I also understand that insitutionalized racism has deep roots in this country. There is no easy answer. But until we agree on those answers, a civil and peaceful discussion is the best for all of us. Thank you for sharing.

  24. Bryana - 03/09/2015 - 9:40 pm #

    Thank you Patrick for this article, and even more so you responses to the people you were writing for. Much respect.

  25. shor - 03/09/2015 - 9:57 pm #

    thank you patrick. sometimes the words aren’t always easy to find to sum up some of the things you bring to light and you did it beautifully. in solidarity and struggle.

  26. John Hendrick - 03/09/2015 - 9:58 pm #

    Your points are very well taken.

    And I would add to #1. “Waiting for all the facts” will allow the other side to relentlessly slant and bias the message while reasonable people remain silent.

    They say that a lie will circle the globe before the truth has tied its shoes.

  27. Allen - 03/09/2015 - 10:22 pm #

    Wonderful article, Patrick, and I’m equally impressed by your calm and intelligent responses to comments. So many articles turn me off because they just spout viewpoints without any thought of ‘why’. I enjoyed reading this even though I think some of what you say leaves out important counter-arguments for why immediate protests can be a problem. I think immediate attacks and protests against LEO without facts are just as unjustified as immediate defense of them. Go ahead and protest racism in general, use these incidents to raise awareness of a systematic problem (such as what seems to exist in Ferguson). I see way too much, “hang the shooting officer” immediately in these protests without any evidence. That’s already happening in Madison, and it happened in Ferguson also. So if people want to protest immediately, that’s fine. But those supporting this should make it clear the protests should be about the general pattern of racism in law enforcement and not the specific incident, because there is not enough info to address the specific incident yet.

    I do agree with your underlying belief that this happens way too often and there’s good reason to get pissed about it ever happening. The concept of turning the story to be about the alleged victim is becoming too common in murder, rape, and many other crimes. I honestly don’t care what Tony Robinson, Michael Brown, or any of the others did in the past. I want to know why they were killed that day. If they didn’t do anything to warrant deadly force (or even if they did), their past is completely irrelevant because the LEO involved certainly didn’t know it and didn’t base the decision to shoot on facts related to the person’s past. In fact, bringing up their past is in a sense justifying racism. Almost like, “see, the LEO was right to be more afraid than justified.” That’s the problem we’re facing and it needs to be addressed.

  28. Bob - 03/09/2015 - 10:56 pm #

    Stop committing crimes
    stop having the police called to deal with you
    stop confronting the police

    It’s called taking responsibility. Something that I am sure none of you young people have ever had to do. It’s not your fault, it is the world you were brought into.

    One day, as you get older you will realize that what you are pushing now, is no the way the world works. But that is expected of young people. When you start paying bills, when you own a home, or you have to get a job that actually brings in an income for your survival and the survival of your children you will change.
    When you have to make sure your kids are safe walking to school, or playing on the play ground, or working in their first job, your attitudes will change.

    But for now, you can live the make believe world you have entered. Older more educated with life people know how this will all change.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/09/2015 - 11:29 pm #

      I’m 34, Bob. I’ve been paying bills since I was 16, and have held one job or another for that entire span. What does any of that have to do with the verifiable mistreatment and bias against black Americans by our Justice system?

    • douglas - 03/10/2015 - 5:37 am #

      I’m 50, so… .why dont you go take a nap or something

      • Jeremy Oreskovich - 03/10/2015 - 7:14 am #

        Don’t you have a klan meeting or something?

      • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 9:39 am #

        I rather like naps. But then I work pretty late most nights.

  29. Carson Hoeper - 03/09/2015 - 11:01 pm #

    Mr. Tomlinson: Though you’re article does bring up some good points, I disagree with it on some levels. The largest of these being number two. I don’t think you understand the use of force continuum. Firstly, a subject wielding a baton would never be met with pepper spray. A baton is considered a weapon and would be most likely met with deadly force unless there were multiple officers. The only reason a baton is not considered deadly force in the hands of an officer is officers are trained to target knees and elbows with baton strikes.

    Also, the justification behind the use of deadly force is behavior that has caused or imminently threatens to cause death or great bodily harm to a person. At the top of your force continuum chart it shows assaultive behavior (causing serious physical injury/death) is met with deadly force. Is does not simply state an armed person. There are instances when an unarmed person could pose that type of threat. There are some wonderful documentaries on the science of fighting that prove that.

    While I do agree that officers do need to be held to a higher standard, your average citizen does not understand the training an officer goes through or what a potentially life threatening situation is like.

    (edited by moderator to merge split posts)

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/09/2015 - 11:33 pm #

      I am not your average citizen, Carson. And while I am not a LEO, I have quite a bit of training on self-defense in hand-to-hand, edge weapons, pistols, and have a CCW permit. I have twice had to fight for my life against armed opponents, (which is far outside the statistical norm, I understand), I understand threat assessment and use of force. And the one thing your comment does not address is by far the most important point; that police use more force, more often, against black Americans, even when accounting for all other factors.

      That is the problem. Ignoring or obfuscating it is no longer a solution.

      • Carson Hoeper - 03/10/2015 - 12:15 am #

        That is impressive as far as a threat assessment resume so based off your resume I would think in regards to the Ferguson shooting you would see that the officer was justified in the original shooting.

        I do agree that you are right that numbers of black Americans are involved in some form of the criminal justice system a extremely disproportionate amount than white Americans but I would also argue a lot of that has to do with socioeconomic issues just as much as it does with race. Are there racial issues in law enforcement? I agree one hundred percent. The DOJ report on race related issues in Ferguson proves that.

        Racism is alive today and to say otherwise is ignorant. Unfortunately, racism isn’t the only problem that these situations bring up.

        I did mention at the beginning of my comment that I agreed with you on some points. Unfortunately it’s difficult to type out a complete review of your article on my phone.

        Being an LEO who is training to be both a professional communications and firearms instructor, I look at these shootings critically and try to base them on a case by case basis. I realize that a major point of your article is looking at the big picture of racial inequality.

        • max - 03/10/2015 - 8:35 am #

          “I do agree that you are right that numbers of black Americans are involved in some form of the criminal justice system a extremely disproportionate amount than white Americans”

          Thank you for agreeing with facts.

          ” but I would also argue a lot of that has to do with socioeconomic issues just as much as it does with race”

          Racism would be the term that you’re looking for. I’m not trying to piggy back on your comment, but the socioeconomic racism in Madison as well as the state is democratically supported by people who are happy with the way things are right now and don’t want anything to change. That, I think, is why the argument doesn’t budge, because of the larger issue at hand.

  30. Theron Ris - 03/10/2015 - 12:07 am #

    Patrick, that is a remarkable fine thoughtfulo piece. I think you may have spent a lifetime in thought to produce it. You perhaps give Madison too much credit as very liberal. Tony was killed this weekend and there was scarcely a word in the papers.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 12:27 am #

      Not a lifetime, but at least a couple of weeks. Madison is a bit of an enigma. I was born there, and I go back frequently to perform stand-up. The crowds can be, nervous about certain topics compared to people in Milwaukee or Chicago.

  31. Marc - 03/10/2015 - 12:21 am #

    Patrick –
    For your first point, do you worry that demonstrating before all the facts are in could also serve the interest of people looking for a reason to dismiss this cause? The more times a large demonstration occurs only for facts to later come out that perhaps support (or can be easily construed to support) the case of the police officer, the more emboldened those who hold the “these people are overreacting. Our police force doesn’t have a race problem” opinion become. A simple glance at a couple of the comments here show that I’m not totally wrong about that. Obviously, waiting the weeks and months until all the facts are revealed isn’t an option for reasons you stated, nor should we be waiting for the mythical “perfect case” to start taking action, but I worry that the impact of these demonstrations could become diluted if we follow your line of reasoning.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and whether you have any ideas to mitigate the potential drawbacks of instantly reacting to ever occurrence of police violence against black people.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 12:33 am #

      I think the folks who refuse to believe there’s a problem aren’t interested in facts at all. The sort of person who latches onto Officer Wilson failing to be indicted while ignoring the DOJ report on the Ferguson PD, for example, isn’t listening anyway. They were not the people protestors were going to reach, no matter what the circumstances are.

      • Bob - 03/10/2015 - 2:51 am #

        The justice department only did it because they had too. If Holder is the nations top cop, and his police departments are running amuck, than isn’t that his fault?

        • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 3:06 am #

          So the Justice Department only collected copious evidence of systemic racism in the Ferguson PD “because they had to?” Well, yes, I suppose that’s true. The Ferguson PD’s problem reach much further back than Holder’s time in office. And now that he knows about it, I think you can rest assured he will take responsibility, and take action based on what their report uncovered. Ferguson would not be the first PD to face the music.

  32. Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 12:25 am #

    My publisher would like me to point out that my debut novel, THE ARK, is coming in November from Angry Robot Books:


    This concludes the shameless self-promotion portion of the broadcast.

  33. Steve - 03/10/2015 - 1:31 am #

    I am a person that can be reached….or should I say could have been reached. I believe that police as part of gov’t is too big and too arrogant. However,I also believe there are people that have a special interest in creating victims either for political or economic self interest. When these people cry wolf, they do damage to the cause. When they embellish or twist things to fit a narrative it makes me question the validity of the point. Much of your thoughts are preaching to the converted…not the ignorant. The ignorant, after being burned time and time again, simply say “there they go again” and tune out.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 1:44 am #

      Steve, I hear what you’re saying, but I have to ask exactly who in this equation you believe is being “burned time and time again.” Any honest, critical investigation of the available facts doesn’t exactly point to white folks being the victims here.

  34. Steve - 03/10/2015 - 2:22 am #

    Me. That is, people that become emotionally engaged in a lie. We vote. We demand. However, when we feel we are lied to, we feel used. We tune out the messenger. We are the people that are needed to change a system. Your emotional appeal may work on the converted…but they do harm to the overall cause. Look no further than the Act 10 protests. They did more harm than good to the cause. They rallied the converted for sure, but also rallied the other side and lost the middle.

    There are many victims that are created when these emotional appeals are based on lies…including whites.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 2:30 am #

      The Act 10 protests are a terrible example. Were the protesters mad, absolutely. But as it happens, they weren’t the ones lying about anything. Act 10 has damaged the state in exactly the way the Act 10 protesters predicted. It has harmed public education, impacted consumer spending, slowed the state economy, and cost jobs. And if you’ll be so kind, please reread the original article. It is not an emotional appeal, it is a rational appeal backed by links to statistics and reports you can read for yourself.

      My emotions are a result of that knowledge, not the other way around.

    • Act 10 Activist - 03/10/2015 - 3:19 am #

      It sounds like you’re saying “When there’s an issue, do nothing.” If that’s true, you aren’t the solution, you’re the problem.

      Rise up. Speak Out. EVERY.SINGLE.TIME.

  35. Steve - 03/10/2015 - 2:48 am #

    “it’s the initial intense emotional reactions to an event that captures public attention”. Direct quote from your blog.

    I agree with that statement. However, when the initial intense emotional reaction is based on a lie, the opposite reaction is what you end up with. You seem to think people like forget and just remember there is a pattern. However, the pattern is that there are a bunch of people that got mad without all the facts.

    Again, I am the person you are trying to reach. You are not reaching me. Your choice is to say ” I need to change the way I a trying to reach him”. Or as I quote you. “I think the folks who refuse to believe there’s a problem aren’t interested in facts at all”.

    You can go with the latter approach. Blame me. However, how does that help the “victims”? It doesn’t. Act 10 is a perfect example. I will not debate the merits of Act 10 but the results of how the protesters acted. My feeling, is if there were no protests…no recalls…Scott Walker would have been a one termed Governor. The actions of the protesters, motivated the right and angered the middle. It doesn’t matter if the protesters were right or not. He won 2 more elections!

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 3:03 am #

      There is no reason to believe that. In fact, a strong argument can be made from the statistical modeling that Walker actually under-performed in the 2014 election when you compare his vote percentages to other GOP governors in similar states such as IN, MI, IL, etc. Off-year elections generally have lower turnout, which favors GOP candidates to begin with. Add in the incumbent advantage, the disadvantage the party in the WH usually experiences in mid-terms, and deliberate voter suppression tactics put in place by the Governor ahead of the election and you had a very steep hill for any challenger to climb. Yet Burke nearly got there.

      Without the protests and the recall, odds are good Walker would have won by an even larger margin and the rest of the nation would have no idea who he is or what his politics and policies are.

      I’m sorry, Steve, but if you really can’t be reached simply because you’re upset that other people are upset, I really don’t know what to tell you.

  36. Zephyr - 03/10/2015 - 3:15 am #

    Any sources to back up these claims?

    “LEO’s across the nation apply higher levels of physical violence to minorities, especially African Americans, and apply it far more frequently than they do to white suspects.”

    “All of the statistics available point to the same systemic problem in municipalities across the country, even in ultra-liberal Madison Wisconsin.”

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 3:17 am #

      You do know what links are, yes? Click on them.

  37. um hold on - 03/10/2015 - 3:18 am #

    First of I did read the whole article. For an opinion it was very well put together. However the use of force does not go step by step. It may suddenly jump up or down levels. The use of most limbs( knees fists head feet) of the body is considered a deadly weapon don’t believe me look up some of the recorded fights that have ended in death due to a single blow. Also studies are showing that police are more likely NOT to use elevated force on black Americans because of the fear of being prosecuted unjustly by the community. Don’t believe me look it up. In the end it is a tragedy no matter the race to have a human die.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 3:24 am #

      I am aware of the fact unarmed strikes have the potential to be deadly. I said clearly that the threat level assessment is based entirely on an officer’s perception. The problem is their perception is skewed when it comes to black Americans. As for your claim that police are less likely to use elevated force against blacks, I’m sorry, but that’s simply untrue. Not only untrue, but diametrically opposed to the truth. I have linked to the relevant statistics in the article.

  38. Steve - 03/10/2015 - 3:23 am #

    Again you are proving my point. It is easier to stick your head in the sand and blame others for not understanding you. Living in the bubble so to speak. YOU need to change YOUR perspective and realize what YOU are doing is not working. You kind of sound like a marketing person that is blaming the customer for not buying your superior product. Even your Act 10 thought is proving my point. The protests rallied the right and angered the middle.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 3:33 am #

      Steve, you may believe that, but as I laid out in my last response, there is little reason to believe it is true, and several fairly good reasons to believe the opposite. If you want to blame the protesters for rallying the right, you can blame Act 10 for rallying the left. These actions don’t exist in a vacuum.

  39. Mary - 03/10/2015 - 3:28 am #

    Yes, we should be upset. We should be even more upset if the statistics are true that Wisconsin has one of the highest rates of incarceration of black men.
    But, being a citizen of Madison, WI, as far as I know the Madison Police force has been one of the better ones in the country with a good percentage of non white police. There are 2 investigations going on. I just think people making snap judgments on innuendos and gossip helps no one. It just makes the races dislike each other more.
    The last thing the lower and middle class need to feed into is another divide and conquer scenario. We saw how our governor used that successfully to divide the employees in the state.

  40. John Festa - 03/10/2015 - 3:44 am #

    I think your article made some very good points. We have a race problem in this country, and we have a police problem in this country. Our race problem isn’t limited to one race, or problem is that people of other races are always viewed as the “other”, different, suspect, scary. There are thousands of reasons for this, but what it boils down to is we are an acutely xenophobic society, and I have no idea how to change that.

    We also have a policing problem in this country. The vast majority of police officers are honest hard working civil servants who do a dangerous job. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the good are painted because of the actions of the few that are bad. The thousands of police officers that perform there jobs well as cool clear thinking professionals will never be noticed while the one who doesn’t will get news coverage for days. The few need to be dealt with, either gotten out of policing, or retrained. But, we should never allow the actions of those few to color the actions of the many.

    Where you lose me is your first point. Facts matter. Rushing headlong into protests and demanding action with out all of the facts will never get you the outcome you want. The average murder prosecution takes 18 to 24 months before the trial begins, the Trayvon Martin case began in less than 1 year, and we all saw the result. Witnesses for the prosecution were destroyed on the witness stand and were far more useful to the defense. Justice moves slowly for a reason. facts need to be developed, witnesses stories need to be investigated, and their accounts compared to those of other witnesses and to forensics. Medical examinations and toxicology reports need to be done. These things take time and clear thinking, and protesting for the sake of social media trends and news cycles will only get you an outcome skewed as the protests themselves. Ferguson almost self immolated because the truth of protests became more widely believed than the facts of what happened. The DOJ found that there are systemic problems in the police department, but found in the shooting of Michael Brown there was not enough evidence to warrant an indictment. But that has been lost in the truth that hasty protests created, and unfortunately that created truth is much stronger than any fact.

  41. Kassandra - 03/10/2015 - 5:11 am #

    While I thought all of your arguments are great, I really appreciate #2. I have heard the defense that “police need to protect themselves” and didn’t really know what to say. This was very helpful.

  42. Shantelle - 03/10/2015 - 5:30 am #

    I was very impressed with your logical and thorough approach to these issues. I have found myself hovering near the fence each time something like this happens and it is becoming ever more difficult to discern truth in our age of lightning reporting and social media. However, I think the issue of racial equality goes deeper than most realize or perhaps even guess, as it is not, in my opinion, just a social problem. It is an educational one. Racism is a learned behavior. Assessing differences is not, but, with proper guidance by mature adults, I think the vast majority of people will evolve beyond “King of the Flies” type inequality beliefs. Most of us do learn that throwing tantrums and kicking the floor is not the best conflict resolution method and even young immature adults often eventually learn that it is unwise and unprofitable to party until a couple hours before work. We are if nothing else, highly adaptable and learning creatures from infancy. However, most children spend a solid majority of their learning time with not parents but educators (teachers, coaches, daycare workers, librarians, etc).

    At this point I will be giving almost exclusive credit to John Gatto and his book “Dumbing Us Down” for bringing into focus many problems (including this one) in our educational system. Please read the book, I certainly do not have it memorized, but he describes how the current educational system was designed just after the civil war with deliberate intent to keep minorities suppressed to the lower class. These processes started so long ago, that even if some minor adjustments to the system are made, the underlying principles are reinforced in each generation, and each generation of students go on to beget another generation that looks and acts quite similarly. There are, of course, exceptions in any classroom, but these are not common and I fear our increasing reliance on objective testing does not increase students’ autonomy and independent thinking but merely fosters a standardized set of expectations (some schools are expected to pass while others will be expected to fail). It is terrifying to me how self-fulfilling a prophesy of worthlessness becomes and how prevalent it is today. Toward students, toward teachers, toward communities.

    I hope you forgive the length, but I am extremely passionate about this topic and I sincerely hope that, as someone with a larger audience, you look into this as an issue that could actually be our greatest hope. We were a nation built on strength of character, will, and mind; I hope we grow to that again.

  43. Daniel - 03/10/2015 - 5:56 am #

    I was very happy to read somthing meant to make people think It was refreshing…Media tells us Fk d Po Society crams seperation by Equality.Rascism goes both ways . There will be more incidents and it will escalate befor it improves.As Americans we somtimes need the suckerpunch to come together

  44. Susie Q - 03/10/2015 - 7:33 am #

    Very well written! Thank you so much! I sure hope it helps people understand. Although, judging by some of the comments I read, a swift slap upside their heads might be better.

    When will you be performing standup again in Madison? I am definitely attending!

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 9:04 am #

      I’m hoping to appear at Comedy on State again relatively soon. Keep checking my comic page for updates.

  45. C.P. - 03/10/2015 - 7:54 am #

    Excellent piece. I have read, digested, and shared for further conversation.

  46. Noelle - 03/10/2015 - 8:05 am #

    You make some valid, thought provoking points, but I have to wonder: Do you kiss your mother with that mouth? I’m not a prude, by any means, but your overuse of profanities takes away from the merit of your arguments.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 9:01 am #

      Go fuck yourself.

      • Matthew Bennett - 03/10/2015 - 8:18 pm #

        Rude, man. Low class.

        • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 9:25 pm #

          I’m sorry, but if your biggest contention with the above post is the use of the word “Bullshit” four times as a rhetorical device, and the mild word “shit” twice out of a 1,400 word post, then I cordially invite both of you to please go fuck yourselves with pineapples.

  47. Tom - 03/10/2015 - 12:41 pm #

    I liked this article, I liked it enough that I ventured into the comments; a rookie mistake…

    Since a lot of it has been nasty, I just have to say: Well done, Patrick.

    You’ve responded to almost all commenters, good and bad. I agree with you on all counts, but I’m truly awed by your willingness to fight through the trolls, tooth and nail.

  48. Shane D - 03/10/2015 - 9:02 pm #

    I read your article and was somewhat onboard until you referenced an outdated eplaination of what the force continuum is.

    The graphic you included is indeed the continuum as defined by FLETC, however the one plus one theory of force has been rejected by the courts many many times.

    A better and more realistic description of the use of force is to say that force is used based on the totality of the circumstances. It must be reasonable based on the tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving circumstances. It must be applied in good faith and stop when resistance has stopped. So to you your examples, pepper spray may be a response to a baton so is a gun, so is a fist, so is a chair.
    The use of force continuum itself is only a visual representation of the the possible levels of resistance and levels of control.

    There are so many factors that have to be taken into consideration by the officer using force in the face of resistance that the court has declared that there cannot be a mandate by law or policy as to what type of force is to be used in the case of a specific type of resistance.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/10/2015 - 9:18 pm #

      Keep reading. If you’ll complete the section, you will see that I’m very clear about the 1+ theory being a general guideline, not a hard and fast rule, that there are plenty of exceptions, and that the level of threat is entirely dependent on the officer’s perceptions of the situation. Don’t get hung up on one line and tune out of the entire post.

  49. Roxane Gorbach - 03/10/2015 - 10:25 pm #

    well written article! Thank you. And I agree with your point one but do think it is important if somehow the protesters can make it clear that they are expressing grief at the loss of a young person in our community and at the continuing trend of the loss of young lives at the hands of our police force.
    As a mom of recent graduates of Madison High school kids, I want to add some issues here. I had two of my own(white kids), and then I took in a black boy and a Mexican-american boy who were friends of my son. They were both about 14 when they unofficially joined our household. We never involved the system (social workers,etc). Both is them had families who really let them down and they would have been basically on the streets if I hadn’t taken them in. When they became part of my family, I saw how poorly they were doing in the school system and the many ways the schools were not meeting their needs. With some help from me and other caring adults, both got highschool diplomas and are doing really well. My points are this: I felt that both of these kids were good people who were just as deserving of opportunities as are my own kids but the system was set up so they would not be getting those opportunities. Their families were also negligent in their responsibilities and that has to be acknowledged too. I also however, felt that the police were a danger to be Afraid of, not only because I thought my kids of color would end up in prison with any potential police interaction, but also because my own white kids were very much hassled my police and brought into an overly harsh “justice system” for petty crimes. I kept my kids of color home more…I was even more afraid for them. My white kids both have a record of stupid tickets and are afraid of police. The few times we actually needed protection, we felt let down and basically we all came to see the police as a force whose role seems to be mostly to hassle citizens. I wish they would figure out how to do their job and keep us all safe and protected. I think they hassle youth too much and hassle everyone too much about stupid, petty infractions…to raise money from tickets, etc. And the way they interact with people (acting all tough and powerful) is insulting and rude. They should act like public servants. So, we really have multiple problems…a system that is racially unjust and a community that has not figured out how to provide equal opportunity to all kids (not jus “TAG” kids….don’t even get me going on that subject) in our schools. And a police force who clearly treat black kids differently (look at Dane Cty rates of incarceration of black youth!!), but also a police force that brings out fear in all of us and feels like just a weapon of big brother. Sorry for the lone winded comment without a final conclusion! Fight The Power!

  50. Kaitlin - 03/11/2015 - 2:12 am #

    Very well written. Thank you!

  51. Richard - 03/11/2015 - 9:07 am #

    Get back to me when you are attacked. If you think an “unarmed” man can’t kill you, you are sadly mistaken. Does anyone claim he wasn’t attacking the police officer? Why would anyone, who’s “unarmed” attack someone they know has a firearm?

    Why are ALL criminals such wonderful people and would never hurt a fly?

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/11/2015 - 10:12 am #

      I’ve been attacked, Richard. Twice. Both times by armed men. All three of us are still alive. I am very well aware that an unarmed man is still capable of killing. However, your post, just like all the others like it, fails to address the second half of that section of my article. Why, all else being equal, do the police use force more often and at greater levels with minority suspects? If you don’t have an answer to that, you’re avoiding the real issue.

  52. Brutus - 03/11/2015 - 10:22 pm #

    The most unfortunate thing of this incident is how it distracts from THE REAL PROBLEM in the black community of fatherless homes and the destruction of a core family structure. All else is tiny in comparison, including a teenager on a suicide mission to beat up a cop.

    • Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/11/2015 - 10:45 pm #

      And why do you suppose that is? Could the astronomical incarceration rates of black males in pursuit of our prejudicially enforced and utterly failed “war on drugs” be in any way connected?

  53. Patrick S. Tomlinson - 03/11/2015 - 10:50 pm #

    Thank you all for your comments and the lively conversation. But after three exciting days trying to keep on top of this avalanche, I need to return to the day job and the work of writing the next novel.

    Comments on this thread should be considered closed, and all future comments, pro or con, will be deleted unread.

    Again, thank you for all the likes, shares, and comments, both for and against. See you around the internet.


  1. Rhetoric and Sense-making in the Death of Tony Robinson | Rhetorically Speaking - 03/11/2015

    […] day, analyzing common arguments made in the wake of events like Robinson’s killing. His piece, “4 Reasons Not to Get Upset About Tony Robinson and Why They’re All Bullshit” responded to 1) calls to “wait for the facts,” 2) arguments that “officers have to protect […]