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Aftermath of Michael Brown shooting, Ferguson, St. Louis, America - 12 Aug 2014
By Patrick Hayes

I’m a Georgia Police officer with more than a few years of service under my belt. Unlike most of my colleagues, I’ve had riot training. But not much and not recently. Equally, my department doesn’t keep or maintain riot gear: shields, tear gas, etc. The responsibility for quelling civil disturbances – like the one in Ferguson, Missouri – lies entirely with the Georgia State Patrol. We call them, they handle it. Done. That’s not how it went down in Ferguson, before Governor Nixon called in the Highway Patrol. And from what I’ve seen of the situation since then, it looks like the Show Me State Police are making some major miscalculations . . .

The recent events in Ferguson have called into question police response to riots, generally. As they should. With live TV coverage of events, Americans have their first comprehensive, minute-by-minute look at police strategy and tactics for crowd control. What they’re seeing is disorganized deployment with knee-jerk reactions from the police agencies involved.

For one thing, I’m not a fan of police using large armored vehicles for crowd control. The vehicles send all the wrong messages, creating an “us vs. them” mentality. Instead of concentrating on the faces of human beings (police) the crowd sees a mechanized army, ready, willing and able to roll right over them. Literally.

But since the Ferguson police had armored vehicles, they should have used them strategically. They should have parked the rigs to block access to at-risk areas. The vehicles could help contain the crowd in a relatively safe place, protecting businesses and preventing the crowd from outflanking the officers. They shouldn’t be using them to patrol the streets.

When it came time to face the crowd, the police didn’t form a proper line. Some had riot shields, some didn’t. This left gaps. It’s a potentially dangerous situation for the police and a psychological signal to the crowd that the police are not well-organized and therefore unprepared to maintain discipline and create order out of chaos.

The police seemed listless, moving without obvious intentions or coordination, indicating a lack of proper command and control. They should have had a clear strategy: isolate the smaller number of people who were rioting, directing (respectfully but forcefully guiding) the peaceful protestors elsewhere. Away from the scene.

A sniper on an MRAP? Really? It looks cool, but it’s not very smart. It confronts the crowd with the possibility of lethal force, raising the stakes for all concerned, instead of deescalating the situation.

As for police wearing protective gear and carrying rifles, sure. Why not? Who wouldn’t in that situation? That is not militarization, that’s just common sense. (By the way, most of that gear is made for police agencies by private companies like 511 Tactical.) Those who think police shouldn’t have rifles have never done the job.

Most of the rifles I saw at Ferguson were standard AR-15 platform weapons. The same weapons gun owners have been saying are NOT military weapons for years. The same ones the anti gun folks have been going after for years. If we say the police don’t need them, then why would anyone else? It’s ammo we don’t want to give to the anti’s.

I question the OIS (Officer Involved Shooting) itself. Contrary to common opinion, cops are far harder on other cops than the general public. In principle, any time the police shoot an unarmed person it is a per se bad shoot until it is justified. Common justifications are a fight over a weapon or the officers life being placed in grave danger. Did this shooting meet that justification? Did the officers actions cause the situation?

These are the questions that will have to be answered. Here’s what we know and what we need to know:

– The suspect attacked the officer in or near the car and there was a struggle for the officers’ gun. A shot was fired that didn’t hit anyone.
– The suspect disengaged at this point and the officer exited his vehicle.
– The officer had his gun drawn and the suspect charged him.
– The officer fired several shots, killing the suspect.

My questions are these:

– Why did the officer have his gun out in the car?
– Why did the officer continue to hold his gun after the suspect disengaged?
– If the officer had re-holstered, could he have used less lethal force?
– Did the officer fear for his life from the much larger suspect?
– Did the officer’s actions lead to a situation where lethal force was the only option?
– Did the suspect take action that justified the officer’s use of force?

When a trained police officer takes an action and that action escalates a situation to a point where lethal force is used, the officer is judged based on what an average police officer would do given the same situation. In a deadly force use, an officer is judged by the same standard as everyone else. Did he fear for his life?

Time will tell. Sharpton, Jackson and Holder aside, the facts will come out. And that’s when we’ll know what kind of shoot triggered the civil unrest. Meanwhile, the Missouri state police would do well to talk to the National Guard about their crowd control strategies and techniques, before something even worse happens.

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    • Seconded. Thanks for the very thoughtful analysis and a rare moment of reason and maturity amid the din.

    • Agreed; outstanding commentary. I have a question about: “Contrary to common opinion, cops are far harder on other cops than the general public.” I would like to know more about this. I believe the public would greatly benefit from knowing the extent to which the police police-themselves.
      – – – I have long held the impression that governments in general – including police departments – “circle-the-wagons” whenever one of their members is accused. The audio/video following the shooting of the elderly motorist a few moths ago illustrates the mentality. The patrolman thought the motorist was going for a long-gun in the bed of his pickup. It was dark. The old man was getting his cain. After apologizing to the old man (wounded, but didn’t die) the patrolman was heartbroken. A fellow officer who arrived as backup is heard consoling the patrolman telling him “you did what you had to do”. The consoling officer did not see the shot; he had no basis to know whether the shooting officer’s shot was reasonably called. (I understand the sentiment to console the officer who made the mistake; nevertheless, it was chilling to hear the backup officer justifying a shot he didn’t see.)
      – – – I accept that a few mistakes will happen despite the best of intentions and efforts. I’m not seeking perfection.
      – – – I would like to be convinced of the validity of the quoted statement. To the extent that it may be true, we have no reason to fear our police. To the extend that it is NOT true – i.e., that a significant fraction of police circle-the-wagons to defend unjustified misconduct – we are ALL in trouble.
      – – – Of greatest concern is that community animosity for gratuitous abusive treatment will be projected upon ALL members of the class; i.e., the police. When tempers flair, the public who have suffered abuse at the hands of a few belligerent officers will express their wrath on the every officer called to quell the disturbance.
      – – – The best thing the police can do for their members is to scrutinize their fellow officers’ behavior. And, do it transparently. Make sure that investigations of officer misconduct are thorough and impartial. Weed out the few officers with a bad attitude before they taint public attitudes to the police as an institution.

      • Police “circle the wagons” to protect the institution. Internally, Police are extremely critical of each other in every facet of the job, not that being the laughing stock of the department,or the guy no one wants to work with actually accomplishes anything. Results of internal investigations are not always made public and often don’t amount to more than a slap on the wrist. Punishments cannot be too harsh, after all you may be the next guy to screw up.The idea is to protect everyone in the public eye, good or bad, to preserve the integrity of the system. Often though, the opposite is achieved. The guy you call a retard in the locker room is still the guy you need to be able to back-up on the streets. Often the best you can hope for is that the retard will get promoted, or become a realtor and quit.

        • Sounds similar to how military units sometimes handle things. A troop can screw up pretty badly and not get UCMJ action, but the guys will never let them live it down. It’s actually not a bad way to correct problems, but it looks different when lives get affected by the mistake. There has to be formal accountability when people get hurt.

  1. All Valid points. I think in most cases people want to give LE the benefit of the doubt but the tactics have been poor and at this point ineffective.This officer laid out valid questions with regard to the use of force decision by this officer. People today, on both sides, want quick answers and resolution but that is not how our system works, nor should it.

  2. I’m also a cop, and have had riot training. To address the point on protective gear: the issue people have isn’t with “protective gear” for the police, it’s with “military” gear. Plate carriers with combat loads and MARPAT camo aren’t typical protective gear for a riot. The author is correct that police should carry patrol carbines, but carrying them for riot control doesn’t necessarily make sense.

    Also, I’m a lot more inclined to view the actual shooting as justified, based on what little I know about it. If the officer’s and one apparent witness account are correct (and I’m not saying they are, just “if”), then we have a 6’4″, 292 pound robbery suspect who assaulted and tried to disarm an officer, broke contact, then charged back toward the officer. If a suspect just tried to disarm me, punched me in the side of the face, broke contact and then charged back at me, I’m going to view deadly force as a viable and legal option.

    • Again, nice to hear from the real deal as opposed to the wannabe “operators”. You or Sgt. Hayes might correct me, but it seems to me that in a riot situation, a face-plated “crash helmet” would give better protection than a plain Kevlar “Fritz” (i.e. without a face plate).

    • Chris, was not mace, a taser, or a billy club to the head not equal less-than-lethal deterrents to the situation? I know cops up here in the Northeast carry all of the above, so that they have options. I think that is a good question to be answered as far as what capabilities did the police have. Clearly they have military gear. So if they don’t have basic community policing gear, and the tactics to use them, I say that says a lot about leading factors to this shoot. You don’t give the police options, and the tactical training to make good judgement calls, and stuff like this is going to happen.

      • A few tactical considerations. I’m 5’9 and about 175 pounds. Pepper spray doesn’t hurt me much unless I’m in bright sunlight and its hot outside. I’ve been hit with pepper spray multiple times, and I’ll use it occasionally to help clear sinus infections. Heck, I’ve put OC spray on scrambled eggs (hotter than Tabasco and tastes worse). Virtually anyone with a healthy amount of aggression can still fight after being sprayed.

        I’ve been Tasered as well. I was in training and had the event on video. I was shot from behind, and one of the probes struck my right buttock and was immediately dislodged by strong muscular contraction. The weapon used at the time was a single shot X26 with 25′ cartridges. That shot would have been ineffective in a combat situation.

        Regarding the 26″ expandable ASP baton, it takes a healthy swing or two just to break a car window. It may take more swings than that if you don’t hit the corner of the window. Expandable batons can also collapse when you need them.

        I’m not Jason Bourne (but look vaguely similar to Jeremy Renner), and I can fight off a variety of less-lethal weapons. Less lethal weapons are a nice option under certain circumstances, but also have dangerous limitations.

        • Yup and if you don’t have someone backing you up with lethal coverage (i.e. ready with a firearm) and you’re facing one large or even two opponents, you’re taking a huge risk depending on less lethal weapons only.

        • That shot would have been ineffective in a combat situation. [emphasis added]

          Um, you just said a magic word that betrays the underlying mindset.

        • Not all combat is military. MMA is a combat sport, as are some kinds of shooting competition. And really, would you want police to be tasing or spraying people if there wasn’t some kind of situation that could be called combative?

        • None of that stuff (pepper spray, mace, tear gas) works on heavy smokers. I’ve seen heavy smokers walk into the NBC chamber (gas chamber), pull their mask off and start doing push ups. The same exposure turns me into a sniveling, crying, snot-zombie.

          I can’t comment on professional use of less lethal weapons, because I’ve never been issued any. As a private citizen, I won’t own them. Because I don’t want a Democrat prosecutor playing the “you could have used your pepper spray to subdue the home invader” card.

      • TimB, in all likelihood, Officer Wilson had less than two seconds to make up his mind how to react.

        View it from his perspective: The officer just confronted a really big, violent guy in a clumsy scuffle while he was in his squad car. The guy even tried to grab his gun, leading Wilson to fire. Then Brown started to back off, shouting taunts. Getting out of his vehicle, Officer Wilson is yelling for the guy to get on the ground. Unsure of what the heck just went down, he’s fumbling for his radio, still holding his sidearm in the other hand.

        Suddenly, the guy comes charging back toward him! WTF! His gun comes up…

        It’s not hard to envision how things went south.

      • IF… Big giant IF… The details are as stated above there is another question here. Was it the officers DUTY to try using less than lethal alternatives against a much larger aggressor? If the officer believed he was capable of fending off the aggressor toe to toe he should have(my opinion) looked for a non-lethal solution.

        If, on the other hand, he felt he had no chance against the aggressor physically AND his life was in immediate danger then his duty as a human(and officer) was to defend himself with any and all means available or simply GTFO (if possible).

        It all boils down to details we will never TRULY know.

        • Shaun,

          If anyone, not just an officer, perceives an immediate threat to his or her life there is no duty to use nonlethal means to defend themselves. Imagine this hypothetical: a small-framed woman is walking from her car to her apartment at night. A large suspect unexpectedly steps out from around a corner, punches her and knocks her down, then starts dragging her toward a van. The woman has a pistol in her purse. Is she required to use her fists/hands/feet before engaging with her firearm? No, she’s not. She’s smaller than the attacker, the attacker has already assaulted her, and her life is obviously in danger.

          In a police officer’s case it’s more complicated because we usually have multiple nonlethal weapons at our disposal, but the principle still applies. An officer should respond with the level of force appropriate for the threat. Back in the old days LE used to talk about the “use of force continuum”, which was “officer presence – verbal commands – empty hand control – intermediate weapons (OC/CS/Taser) – impact weapons – deadly force.” Years back LE switched to “force options” because the word “continuum” falsely suggested officers have to go through every step before resorting to deadly force. Now we’re trained to immediately go to the appropriate option.

          And as others have said, intermediate and impact weapons don’t always work as advertised. I’ve used an Asp on two suspects (separate incidents) who were trying to beat the hell out of me. One of them had already almost knocked out another officer, and wound up punching me in the temple. Both suspects were high, and both wound up in the hospital…eventually. At the time I was hitting them, neither one was really impressed. Pepper spray also works on every suspect…eventually. Some people can take a hit from pepper spray and not be affected for several minutes. Tasers are a different animal, it’s easy to either miss with one dart, get a dart hung up on clothing, or not get a good spread with the darts and therefore not get a good shock.

          I should also add, some reports out today say the officer involved suffered an orbital fracture from Brown’s assault. If the officer was already injured and was under attack again, his decision to fire becomes more reasonable in my opinion.

        • @ Chris

          I understand all of what you said above. I also agree that his duty as an officer to use less than lethal tactics ONLY comes into play if it doesn’t put his life at further risk. His duty to protect his own life as a human trumps his duty as an officer every time in my book.

          I’ll admit I’m no wordsmith but if you re-read my comment I think you’ll see that we’re in agreement here.

    • Its important to remember that the guys in deckedout gear were SWAT not RIOT. The Riot guys were being shot at and they made many arrest. These things are always very fluid events. Always changing and no, there is no time for the SWAT guys to change wardrobe and fall back in with the RIOT guys. From the reports there has not been a single day without gunfire directed at police, and to their credit, to date SWAT has not discharged a single round.

      • it is also important to remember that the SWAT team was STL County’s SWAT not Ferguson PD. Their officers wear blue/grey uniforms. STL County wears tan. BIG DIFFERENCE. STL County had the sniper on the vehicle.

        • AND MO State Police in the mix. And now MO National Guard. This has the makings of a first-class mess.

    • The original author seems about in the right direction, but strays somewhat toward the end. Your response gets it back on track. Thank you, officer.

    • The breaking news is that the deceased fractured bones around the officer’s eye. Why did he draw his weapon in the car? To prevent further serious injury. Why did he not reholster? I suspect he wanted to arrest a dangerous person who had just committed a felony involving serious bodily harm–against a police officer. Who wouldn’t draw his weapon in those circumstances–and keep it drawn?

  3. Always good to hear from someone who knows what he is talking about, especially on these police matters. Some folks might take note that you don’t have to “hate cops” to see the counter-productivity of the Bearcats and MRAPS in this case.

    • It’s interesting that I haven’t seen any MRAPs (source: DoD 1033), but plenty of Bearcats (source: DHS Block Grant $$$). I could be wrong, but look closely and draw your own conclusions.

  4. Good article.

    Maybe I’ve missed it, but I haven’t seen a call for the police to not have AR’s. Just calls for not EVERY dept, no matter the size, having armored vehicles/swat teams, and especially to not use those assets inappropriately

    • I have seen calls from the same people who think no one should have such evil dangerous weapons.

  5. Well written article. But must disagree with “Contrary to common opinion, cops are far harder on other cops than the general public.”

    With the large number of shootings nationwide…..that are obviously bad shoots, Albuquerque, NM. comes to mind. I would have to say, that comment is BS.

      • New Mexico LE as a whole is problematic because of their “maximum force” training philosophy. Remember the NM State Patrolman unloading on a van filled with kids?

  6. Exceedingly well written… Kudos

    Now about the original shooting. The much larget suspect attecked the officer in his vehicle and created a struggle for the officer’s weapon. There was a discharge apparently. This action goes to the intent of the suspect as just witnessed by the officer that was attacked. When the officer got out of the vehicle he, as a peace officer, cannot just let this one go. The guy robbed a store, then attacked a cop. The officer has a duty to apprehend the suspect. Once out of the vehicle you can’t help but believe the officer gave the suspect an order to stop. When the suspect turned and came back at the officer, who had JUST been in a life-threatening struggle with the SAME guy, it only made sense that he would feel danger for his life due to the recent behavior experienced and therefore defend it.

    Should he have used a less-than-lethal method? We can never know. Blame the victim? The original victims were the store owner an the officer themselves. This guy had just assaulted both, and, through his own actions, had threatened the life of the officer mere moments before. So yes, I do blame the SUSPECT for causing his own death. It’s simple really, don’t be a thug, don’t die a thug’s death.

    • Something that no one has touched on, there were two suspects not just one, so the officer was outnumbered and from what I can ascerain being assaulted, by one individual, with another close by.

    • See that’s where I disagree. He is not a soldier. He does not have a duty to engage. He can’t just let it go, but he can wait to engage the target until he can do so without killing him, esp considering that he is relatively sure the target is unarmed after him getting physical and trying but failing to take his duty weapon. I do not know IF he had the opportunity to disengage BUT many accounts and some of the physical evidence support that he did, after all the ME said brown had no powder residue so was likely shot at a distance of at least several feet.

  7. “Most of the rifles I saw at Ferguson were standard AR-15 platform weapons. The same weapons gun owners have been saying are NOT military weapons for years. The same ones the anti gun folks have been going after for years. If we say the police don’t need them, then why would anyone else? It’s ammo we don’t want to give to the anti’s.”

    Trying to use the same broken logic the anti-gun crowd does against them in this manner is silly. Does Saddam Hussein carrying a Glock 18 at the moment of his capture mean all Glocks are now terrorist guns? No. I say let the police use whatever gun they want.

    • I’m thinking the objection to the ARs here was more along the lines that the old 870s might be more appropriate for crowd control situations. But I tend to agree with your point, police should be able to carry the same personal weapons as any other law-abiding civilian.

      • …and it should go the other way: Non-LEOs should be able to own AND CARRY any device used by the local cops, state police, INS, DEA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, ETC.
        I fully support LEOs carrying “patrol rifles” in their vehicles…but only if I can, too. (Their choice: semi- or full-auto.)
        Same with 15-round magazines, body armor, and every other piece of equipment in the cop shop.
        P.S. On helmets: A helmet designed for motorcycle use in inadequate for use in a race car and vice versa. (See Snell Foundation: My point: A helmet designed to stop shrapnel or protect in a motorcycle crash would, I suspect, be far from ideal for bottles, rocks, and clubs. Inventors?)

        • ^^^ This.

          I believe that LE should not carry any weapon, or have access to any armor not generally available to citizens. If the situation calls for more than that, call out the national guard.

  8. Since the moment the boy was in the store and took the cigars, this whole situation has been one unnecessary escalation after the other, by both sides, right up to the present. People are so stupid, regardless of race, education, social status, etc.

    • Ah, the old moral equivalency in action. Did it ever occur to you that the gangs took advantage of the situation to loot and destroy? Given the gangs’ control over the community and their relationship to the local political establishment, I would not be surprised to find out that the “peaceful protests” were organized to distract the police and make the looting easier.

      • Protesters are occupying the police so gangs can loot? From what I’ve read the police aren’t even trying to stop the looting.There is no moral equivalency, that’s my point. Both sides are wrong and acting stupidly.

        • From what you read says it all. You only know what someone else has told you which given the multiple agendas in play may not exactly be accurate. Even our favorite gun site has misreported events and shaped it coverage to emphasize its own agenda.

        • tdiinva, when did you become privy to exceptional inside information? Did you not read and see what we all did? Isn’t anyone’s opinion as good or bad as anyone else’s here?

        • I have no more information that you do. I just wait for it come in and be verified before make a judgement. I note the latest posting from a boots on the ground person stated that the bad actors intermingled with the protesters. What does that mean to you?

    • Sorry, Bob. But an 6’4″, 287lb, 18-year old MAN is NOT A BOY!
      He gets to VOTE, so we have to assume that he IS a MAN, responsible for MAN behavior, not child behavior.
      He is not a “kid”, “teenager”, “youngster”, or a “boy”!

      • I’m only surprised the media hasn’t trotted out Brown’s class pictures from fifth grade as representative of him on the day of the shooting. Maybe he was truant that day.

      • Yes, by age and size he is an adult. I have a habit of calling men and women who act like children “boys and girls”. I guess I shouldn’t do that because it’s an insult to fine upstanding boys and girls across the nation who act with morals and decency.

    • the little punk with Mike Brown (Dorian Johnson) needs to face felony murder charges as the death was a result of the strong armed robbery

  9. “Contrary to common opinion, cops are far harder on other cops than the general public.”

    Where’s Col. Potter when you need him?

  10. I feel as if the innate adversarial nature of a line of riot police squaring off against a line of protesters causes the transition from “protest” to “riot”.

    There will be bad people who take advantage of the anonymity and distraction of a crowd to loot and do bad things. When the police deal with that by treating the crowd monolithically as the lowest common denominator, (or even show up broadcasting through their gear and posture that they are prepared to do that), then the good people in the crowd become rightfully pissed off at the state.

  11. I agree that the police are genarlly poorly trained to control a riot of this magnitude. However, it is once in a career event and with limited budgets and time it is bound to be dropped off the training syllabus. Riot training is not like SWAT training. Your entire deparment has to be proficient because these are usually “all hands on deck” events. I am sure that now every department in the country is going to doing riot training but as Ferguson becomes old news everyone will soon move on to day-to-day police work.

  12. I received riot training in the Canadian military (we borrowed shields and clubs from the RCMP). The guys in the front line would NOT have firearms, just clubs and pepper spray. If you get into a tussle with a rioter, you want to be able to concentrate on winning the fight, and backing up your buddies, not defending a gun from someone trying to grab it.

    Lethal force (auto rifles and MGs) is the responsibility of roving 5 or 6 man reaction teams, each under the control of at least an E6 equivalent. They are behind the lines, free to move and not generally indirect contact with rioters.

    The key is to maintain a solid line, and when the line moves forward, to move as one solid mass. That takes significant drilling to achieve.

    • Is there a role for undercover officers within formal riot strategy? On the one hand, groups may be too local and insular for an outsider to infilitrate. Then again, ongoing civil unrest events tend to attract outsiders, anyway, so maybe not everyone will have grown up with everyone else?

      Perhaps specific events of looting happen spontaneously and any intelligence from UC work would be almost instantly outdated? Or would undercover operatives reveal that such looting is actually planned and can be disrupted, for only superficially appearing to be spontaneous and disorganized attacks?

      • I think there’s a real danger of UCs getting caught up in the crowd mentality and formenting events. If an agency plants UCs in the crowd, the first thing that springs to mind is “agent provacateur.” Now you have two problems on your hands: A PR problem and getting your UCs out uninjured.

        You’re probably better off using drones and sensitive microphones. And monitoring social media.

  13. Thanks for the insight. In your department , it may be true that police are more critical of other police than anyone else, but it would be the exception. I would refer you to the article here a couple of days ago:
    the issue of militarization is one of attitude., more than equipment . the equipment is a visible sign of the attitude.
    clearly the furgeson PD have spent HUGE on equipment, Why no dash cam? they cost little and give the public a sense that the police care about the truth.

    In my area all the police are unionized, and union culture is ” nobody Sniches” . Unionization makes accountability difficult.

    • “the issue of militarization is one of attitude., more than equipment . the equipment is a visible sign of the attitude.”. You nailed it! It ain’t the gear. It’s mindset and not the gear. Tactics and not tacticool!

  14. I enjoyed this article. I think the author is right about a lot of things here.

    One thing that I think was glossed over…

    “As for police wearing protective gear and carrying rifles, sure. Why not? Who wouldn’t in that situation? That is not militarization, that’s just common sense.”

    I don’t think anyone has issues with Riot gear when there is rioting and I don’t think anyone has issues with protective gear. The issue, for me at least, is the camouflage. It’s completely unnecessary and I believe it is yet another thing they are using wrong that escalates situations. BDUs colored the same as the normal uniform with a matching or black, basic plate carrier, IMHO, would greatly reduce the Us vs Them mentality.

    Cops across the US should be minimizing their tacticool-ness. I think it will go a long way to appear, at least, less militarized. If you dress like you are going to war, that is exactly what people are thinking you are doing.

    Another question for the Ferguson PD or anyone who knows, do the cars have dash cams? If not, why not? If so, where is the footage?

    • Agreed. Whether a cop is going to be walking a beat or quelling a riot, he or she should be readily identifiable visually as a cop.

      • +1. Even SWAT teams have no business using military camo patterns. Stick with the well-proven and respected blue and everyone will know exactly what you represent.

    • As to dashcams…

      Many police departments do not have dash cameras in all or even any of their cars, though that is changing. It presents a significant investment not only in the cameras themselves but in the IT system to run them, policies to involve them and time needed to review them.

      Even if you have a dashcam it often only records a certain amount of time and then, if nothing happens, loops over it. Not everything is saved. So if this officer did not activate his emergency lights (one way to turn on the saved function) and didn’t anticipate a jaywalking issue turning into a fight to the death he may just not have had a chance to do so.

      That’s one reason I’m skeptical of all the calls for transparency in videoing. It’s the CSI effect. People come to expect certain things in terms of evidence and don’t understand why they aren’t there. Well cameras don’t work the way people would like and we’ll always have folks thinking there’s some sort of conspiracy when the camera wasn’t turned on or got garbled audio…

      • Great Points! Dash cams are only activated two ways: Activation of the emergency lights or manual activation. They only look forward.
        The newest trend is body cams. These record video and audio from the officers view. My department is going to them…..slowly…budgets you understand.
        This is the best invention yet. No lies, no BS…just pure fact.

      • I call BULLSHOT on the dash cam cost. when your officers are all sporting thousands of $ in swat gear and calling out $500000 kitted up MRAP’s for response , you can afford a few hundred per car for dash cams.
        look at all the cop footage on youtube. It just isn’t that hard.

        I pass no judgement of this shooting. How could I ? I dont have access to the facts.
        but the response to it has been a cluster.

      • Cameras can be made to work that way quite easily. A dashcam in my car can record 5 hour straight video in Full HD, and will automatically overwrite old data as it records the new one. For another perspective, the bitrate necessary to store Full HD video in H.264 is about 10 Mbit/s, or 1.25 MB/s. This means that a single 64Gb SD card can store 14.5 hours of video; and, of course, there’s no reason to limit to just one.

        Battery life is another concern, but it’s not actually a big one for dashcams, because they can run constantly powered by the car itself, and only need battery for when ignition is off. Even then, something like a 20,000 mAh battery pack (which is about the size of three iPad Minis stacked together – quite easy to fit in a car) would provide for literally hours of recording.

        So, technologically speaking, we have everything we need, in form of off-the-shelf components, to make 24/7 video recording from all police vehicles a reality. For that matter, we also have everything we need to do the same for cameras mounted on the officers themselves. It’s not even particularly expensive – I’d say less than $200 for a quality unit.

        • You forgot remote viewing and remote backup. Those things are needed to make the dash can really a killer app. Remote backup and you CANT turn it off without pushing the off button on the camera and then at the remote location. This prevents cops from turning off the camera to beat or shake down a person then claiming some BS story, or smashing it and claiming it was damaged while a suspect resisted to hide their bad actions. Remote viewing so we can use it as a tool to help officers with safety and training conserns.
          Also imagine if we had multiple angle views of every incident to look back at. It would help proscicute some crimes. It would help us develope great training methods. Remote viewing of cameras could GREATLY reduce ” blue on blue ” shootings which happen more frequently than you think.

  15. “any time the police shoot an unarmed person it is a per se bad shoot until it is justified.”

    I can’t help but feel, anecdotally, mind you, that shootings are found justified too often even in the face of dissenting evidence.

    I’m inclined to believe that the Officer’s account in this case is most plausible, however most of the accounts and evidence provided are of a he-said/she-said variety. Hopefully we will know the truth.

    • Autopsy exam and similar physical evidence has helped sort out some of the he saids as being blatantly false.

      Hopefully that trend will continue…the trend of physical evidence telling the proper tale.

  16. Thanks for this, Patrick. Clarity always helps. Your comments about needing to stage manage the protests are spot on. From the start, it looks like the local cops, county cops, and highway patrol, were way over their heads. Hopefully, the national guard can do better. What’s sad is that the official amateurism shows that there doesn’t appear to be many people on the scene (maybe even nobody) who understands the dynamics of public demonstrations and riots. In the St. Louis area there are probably 20 sociologists and psychologists who have expertise in in collective behavior, urban protests and riots. This is a common area of study and they’re probably looking on in dismay at the official grab-ass going on in Ferguson. This ain’t rocket science. Thank their phones are ringing? Probably not.

    • Astute observation. It’s always amazing, but it shouldn’t be, that the government screws up and has no serious plan in place when emergencies hit.

      I remember as a kid and even through to today seeing “hurricane evacuation route” signs posted around Houston’s major highways. You’d think that was more than just an obvious designation and that a more detailed mass movement plan lay behind it. As Hurricanes Ike and Rita revealed, it wasn’t . Everyone was on his own and the government was impotent.

      Those events and these today just underscore an individual’s responsibility to develop a sound plan for himself and to prepare for it, because his will be the only relevant plan to rely on when the SHTF.

  17. I am not a LEO. Never had riot training. What I saw on TV last night gave me the same impressions of police. When they “advanced” toward the crowd, it was a ragged line like some were scared or not sure what they were about. This only served to add confusion to the dynamic. This morning I hear two more shootings occurred. Obvious to me that the officers are in over their heads and suffer from weak administrators. Someone could get killed if…. Yeah. How bout that.

  18. The police there no doubt have some things to learn about how to handle this sort of situation… luckily the kind of situation most municipal police forces don’t deal with often.

    I’m not as confident that the facts will come out. Look at the way the federal government (and state government to some degree) tried to coerce the police department not to release that video of the ‘victim’ committing a violent robbery minutes before. Without that video the narrative that he was just a big ol’ teddy bear scared of the mean cops would have been much easier to sell.

      • How does one positively identify someone? The police report identifies him as the same, but if you don’t believe one officer’s report I suppose you might as well not believe another. He was certainly wearing the same clothes as the suspect in that video and had the same body shape.

  19. Good commentary but Ferguson Missouri is DEAD.
    You can second guess the cops all you want. My opinion is nothing good will happen with outside agitators on the scene. No justice-no peace-no kidding. And now I see the KKK is raising money for officer Wilson’s defense…

    • You are right about Ferguson. Before these events, the town appeared to be on its way to a comeback. There was revitalization underway in the downtown area and new stores were being built, but that’s over now. Sadly, as you noted, the town is now dead.

    • Yep. You’re right. This is the hardest thing to watch. There are thousands of Fergusons around the country. It’s just a little town—not a particularly great place but not a particularly bad place either—and it’s just getting completely stomped into the ground. It’s also a town who’s citizens don’t fit the narrative being written for it. Sure it has a predominately black population, but that large black population elected a white mayor and supported a largely white police force. That same population isn’t at all happy with the professional race hucksters like the Revs Sharpton and Jackson, and the New Black Panthers trying to exploit them—all have been loudly condemned by locals. Watching the videos last night, the only people showing foresight and restraint were the locals. Their town is being wrecked. They deserve better than this.

    • About Ferguson, I don’t understand why the police force, city council and Mayor are all overwhelmingly white, while the city’s population appears to be mostly minority. Does anyone know?

      • Yes. People are free to vote for whomever they chose in this country. Ferguson has been majority black for a long time. The city’s government was elected in a town with sizable majority of black voters. Do you think it might be possible that those black voters decided that having a white mayor was a good idea?

        • The reason I asked the question is that the city’s police and elected officials do not seem to reflect their constituency either in racial makeup or in political makeup. It’s hard to fault the actions of the Officer Wilson without more information regarding his shooting. But you can fault the response of the Ferguson PD for their approach and effectiveness. The images that came our of Ferguson at the beginning looked just like military deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and I can’t image anyone wants to see the police conduct themselves that way in a town in the US. Also, it wasn’t effective. A number of businesses were looted and the town is coming essentially under martial law with a curfew and National Guard forces deployed.

          One thing that has stuck out to me is that the government here doesn’t really represent the political and racial makeup of its constituents and I haven’t read anything explaining why that was the case. Fortunately Raul had the numbers and it appears that the government of Ferguson is the result of low African American voter turn out. Thank you Raul.

        • Disinterest doesn’t automatically equate with a lack of representation, especially in a city with a black population of upwards of 75%. Of course that idea doesn’t fit the narrative others are writing for Ferguson, MO.

  20. Outstanding, well thought out commentary on the situation. Much better than the usual coplophobia (see what I did there?).

  21. TASR (maker of tasers and police body cameras) is up almost a $1 today (5%+). Silliness in Ferguson is driving this . . .

  22. Patrick Hayes seems to make a habit of writing excellent posts, and this one is no exception.

    Commenters who say that the police should be given the benefit of the doubt are missing the point that, as the author notes, “any time the police shoot an unarmed person it is a per se bad shoot until it is justified.” That’s the way it should be, although I’m not sure it ever is.

    I watched the “demonstrations” live last night and came to the same conclusions as Hayes. The police looked listless, confused and disorganized. As one of the reporters said last night, it was amateur night in Ferguson.

    Meanwhile, everybody has an opinion on the Brown shooting, and it is almost exclusively racial in nature. Bigotry is an ugly thing, no matter what side of the racial divide the bigot is on. That’s the only thing about this case that is crystal clear.

  23. Great response, too bad the pigs in Ferguson are removing their name tags and badge numbers so they are unaccountable for their actions.

      • Yeah, the New Black Panther Party (for one) seems to enjoy making threats against cops and Zimmerman. They love to saunter around in their tres chic uniforms sounding badass, but frankly, there’s never been a bigger bunch of pansies.

  24. Mr. Hayes is the same LEO that will draw his weapon and hold a person at gunpoint for open carrying a long rifle at the low ready. Exactly how many riots are you expecting in your tiny jurisdiction there, Mr. Hayes?

    I do, however, agree with the others that this is a “good post”. No need to prove otherwise…

    • Hopefully none….But we have the trained and equipped Georgia State Patrol at the ready if we do.

  25. As someone who’s had a basic amount of experience with firearms (i.e. I can usually hit what I’m aiming at given a few seconds) but a lot of experience with other weapons and unarmed fighting, I’d like to address the officer’s so-called less-lethal options. IF (IF) the situation was this “best case” legally for the officer (Brown charged him twice and tried to take his gun on the first go) it’s also highest danger for the officer.

    Someone that size charging is probably not going to be stopped by mace before he’s on you (we’re just talking inertia) once he’s close enough to be maced. The taser is iffy–I’ve seen them not work. Plus, in the given scenario, Brown had at least the one buddy, who may or may not have been willing to join in. Taser against more than one threat = not such a good idea. (One big question for later: Did the officer call for backup, did he have the opportunity, or was there no time for any to arrive? The answer to that could be damning.)

    As for the baton option: This isn’t a movie where you can land a nice neat little smack and the target takes a nap. With a beefy opponent, it gets worse. Batons–especially those telescoping ones–work best against boney bits–accuracy is important. Usually, the objective of baton striking is to systematically disable. The spots that could actually knock a person out in one shot would also be high risk to kill or permanently cripple (skull fracture, cervical fracture, ruptured carotid, crushed windpipe, CVA). And skill is required: Against a big, fast, determined opponent, the smaller defender has to move like a bull fighter and have speed, accuracy and power in their strikes (Escrima is really good at this). Or very smart technique: Batons are actually more effective in these situations when not necessarily used as a “club”, but as a prod (kubotan) or lever (telescoping batons have a few limitations here–I’ve bent several cheaper models into uselessness), as an adjunct to more global fighting skills (you need to be able to fight). But still: the techniques that would render an opponent unconscious could also accidentally kill him, even more so than an unarmed choke hold could. (Lever techniques are nice for pinning or subduing a stronger opponent, but if the officer was not confident in his technique or the size differentlial, then not so much. And if he needed to worry about the second guy, restraint is off the table.) Batons are “less lethal.” They are far from safe or kind.

    We’re also talking about an event that was probably very fast and very scary. Minimal-to-no think time made worse by adrenaline does a great job of erasing all of your training, unless you’ve ingrained it with a lot of experience. That’s going leave you reaching for the most basic (and most threat-effective and immediately available) responses. So unless the officer is a samurai with his less-lethal tools (which means he has to be a samurai without them), going for his gun is what’s going to keep him alive in a situation that’s as bad as described. (And anyone who would actually charge a cop who has his gun drawn? Dude…)

    And then there’s the legal and perceptual aspects (which shape training): Gun against unarmed man always sounds bad. But cop beats on “defenseless kid” with a club? Brown might well have survived (or might not–“Cop beats defenseless kid to death with a club”), but we’d probably still be where we are right now in terms of outrage, riots and looting. The use of lethal force unfortunately is often required to justify the use of force (just like shooting to wound is likely to nullify your self-defense claim). Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying it’s in any way better that Brown died (and I definitely want to know there was no other reasonable outcome), but the law itself bends self-defense toward lethality, and that sucks. (Case in point: In how many states can I get a permit to carry a gun for self-defense, but not a knife, baton, chain, etc.? Now, it’s probably just me, but If I had a determined 300lb unarmed attacker at close quarters and wanted to best ensure we both got to see tomorrow, I would use a knife, but the law would totally not understand that reasoning.)

    My favorite quote on the subject from Massad Ayoob: “It’s a lot easier to justify why you had to shoot someone six times than it is to justify hitting them with a nightstick six times.” Very sad, but very true.

    So you shoot because to have to, and you keep shooting until the threat is completely done. Anything less implies you didn’t have to.

    Okay. Done rambling. I hope I at least provided some decent intellectual ammo the next time someone asks “Why didn’t he use his nightstick?”

    • Excellent points. And remember, the officer had a damaged eye, may have been slightly disoriented from the punch to the eye/head. Sorry, I’m totally unimpressed with this article–armchair quarterbacking without all the facts. I’m much more impressed with the Canadian guy’s commentary on anti-riot tactics.

    • And we have a case and riot to show that. When did the use of nightsticks on Rodney King switch from being justified to unjustified?

  26. I think it’s great that the police killed a stupid, violent thug. They should shoot more of them and their hipster enablers too.

    • The problem with this is that the owner of said store says that the guy who robbed it didn’t look like Brown to him.

  27. Question…. Did Michael Brown make himself a threat to the officer involved by attacking that officer?

    If so, Michael Brown bought and paid for his own death by his own actions….. period.

    If not, The officer was in the wrong for using lethal force to detain.

    Therein lies the problem, Unless some previously hidden evidence surfaces we’ll probably never know the truth.

    • From the accounts I’ve heard of the shooting, there seems to be one crucial point: Whether Brown was charging Wilson. The events relevant to whether the shooting was justified are numbered in order of occurrence, with decimals used for areas of disagreement.

      All accounts agree on the following:

      1. The altercation starts with Brown and Wilson jostling around the window of Wilson’s patrol car.
      2. Brown removes himself from the window of the patrol car.
      3. Brown and a companion run down the street away from the patrol car for about 35 feet.
      4. Wilson exits the patrol car and issues a command to Brown.
      5. Brown turns around toward Wilson and the car.
      6. The companion continues on.
      7. Wilson fatally shoots Brown.

      Most of the accounts more or less agree on the following:

      1.5. A shot was fired within Wilson’s car.

      The pro-Wilson and pro-Brown witnesses differ markedly on some points. First, the pro-Brown witnesses say the following:

      4.5 Wilson shoots and injures Brown while Brown is running away.
      6.5 Brown raises his hands and stops after he turns toward Wilson and the patrol car.

      The pro-Wilson witnesses say the following:

      6.5 Brown charges Wilson after he turns toward Wilson and the patrol car.

      It all comes down to 6.5. If Brown stopped and raised his hands, Wilson murdered him. If Brown charged Wilson, Wilson acted in self defense. You can fill in whatever information you want about what Brown did before the shooting, whether Wilson got punched in the car, whether Brown taunted Wilson after he stopped and turned, etc., and it doesn’t change whether the shooting was ultimately justified. If Brown charged Wilson, Wilson had reason to shoot. If Brown did not charge, Wilson should not have shot.

      So far, I have seen two witnesses who say they saw Brown stop. I have heard one account from someone who supposedly talked to Wilson that said Brown charged. It pretty much comes down to that one disputed fact.

  28. How do you know there were no select fire weapons being carried by law enforcement? They all look the same on the outside. There is no way to determine this in light of the different departments and number of weapons involved. I do apologize, if you were there and was able to verify this.

    Law enforcement is an occupation. The question of what law enforcement needs to do their job is a term of employment, not a Constitutional right. The greater selection of firearms and tools for law enforcement as opposed to what is readily available to US citizens is backwards. The police must not be entitled to any weapon or tool that US citizens don’t have ready access. If there is a diparity of force, it needs to come from organization, not merely tools. The arguments from the anti gun crowd are not relevant in this instance.

    No, I do not do this job. Nor should I have to in order to define the limits of government.

    Law enforcement is government. All government must be bound to the narrowest definition of the role they are assigned. Anything done outside of law enforcement is a kindness, illegal or mission creep. There are numerous examples in all facets of government in this country.

    Thank you for bringing up the discussion about escalation.

  29. Because not using armored vehicles enabled the LAPD to put down the Watts riots and the Rodney King riots in seconds flat. I doubt this guy is a police officer. In California, riot training is required for all police officers for Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) qualification initially and in-service. All agencies prepare and stock anti-riot supplies like helmets, batons, tear gas, and other equipment. They don’t wait for someone else to enforce the law in their jurisdiction. When rioters have guns, it is a good idea to have a sniper available, since it is a precision tool and much better than a non-sniper to fire into a crowd with one or more gunmen. I am surprised that this “police officer” did not suggest the officer shoot to wound as well.

    • You may be surprised to know that tactics, procedures, and training requirements vary across the country. Here in WA, we have no across the board requirement for riot training. My department shares a riot team with several others, but there’s probably a total of 40 officers on it across six agencies that contribute.

      Not saying it’s a bad idea, but if it’s not the way things are where the OP works, then that fact shouldn’t hurt his credibility.

  30. This is very good to hear, thanks for your input.

    OK, now for some questions/observations. I didn’t read all the responses; TL.

    They shouldn’t be using them [Armored vehicles] to patrol the streets.

    I think they learned that from Boston. All the DHS and “Big City” Police Departments applauded, as did the saps who were subjected to the patrols. I think St. Louis County expected applause instead of Molotov Cocktails. AMIRITE?

    When it came time to face the crowd, the police didn’t form a proper line. Some had riot shields, some didn’t. This left gaps. …a psychological signal to the crowd that the police are not well-organized and therefore unprepared to maintain discipline and create order out of chaos.

    I think you’re on the money there. Image is everything. But it’s hard to see what with the tear gas, smoke, and flash bangs panicked and angered everyone. That looked like totalitarian police. Reminiscent of the Egyptian riots. THAT is not an image you want to project.

    …(respectfully but forcefully guiding) the peaceful protestors elsewhere.

    How could they be separated, since any one of the “peaceful protestors” could turn violent at any time?

    As for police wearing protective gear and carrying rifles, sure. Why not?

    Because, as you pointed out, it gives ammo to the antis. Again, totalitarian-looking; not the image you want to project. Especially to parts of the world where the memory of AR-carrying troops taking people away in the night is a recent memory. Stay with your issue sidearms and carry batons. Yes?

    In a deadly force use, an officer is judged by the same standard as everyone else.

    THIS I really take exception to. I wish it was universally true, but it isn’t almost everywhere from what I can gather. That’s all I’m going to say about it; I defer to others here.

    • Yes, on your last point, agreed. Police seem to get away with very questionable shoots. There isn’t supposed to be a double standard, but there is. It is almost as if there is this unspeakable perception that a police officer’s life is worth more than a non police officer. If I had been the one to shoot Brown with identical circumstances, I would have been arrested and charged and my name would have been released immediately. Cops are not exempt from the law and the people must ensure to enforce that condition.

  31. Sorry, but the points you make as being ‘known’ are not known. There is considerable disagreement on these points by various witnesses. By the way, if a cop entered my home without a warrant and aimed his sidearm at me or my family, I would be well within my rights to eliminate the danger by any means necessary.

  32. If I were attacked by an unarmed assailant who outweighed me by 130 pounds, was 9 inches taller and 50 years younger, I would defend myself using everything I had and pray that it was enough.

  33. To Patrick Hayes: (particularly after mark 0:50)
    Atty. Elizabeth Ritter shot with rubber bullets at Miami Free Trade Protest Rally

    If you want to understand how the public feels, it’s because of idiots like these being allowed access to firearms and all the latest chic implements of control du jour. They all show up in their tactically fashionable caps, do-rags and wrap-arounds and think this is all humorous, while the joke, as we are now seeing today, was totally on them.

    While these douchebags were busy laughing it up, they were unwittingly participating in setting this country up for the globalist takeover we are now seeing the effects of. And while some people like Ross Perot, Ron Paul, and no doubt this female attorney had enough brains to see beyond the governments promotional hype for NAFTA, etc, there will always be a plethora of uniformed slopeheads who never question anything until it’s too late for them to do anything about it. By then, their job will be in question, and of course their pay, and their children will be having to deal with a far less stabile political and economic climate ……. but they can’t see that far into the future or grapple with too many abstract concepts; that’s why they are, after all, police.

    I realize that not everyone in uniform is as stupid as the those in the video, but unfortunately for this country, it doesn’t appear that there are enough intelligent ones to keep their moronic counterparts at bay.

  34. >> Contrary to common opinion, cops are far harder on other cops than the general public. In principle, any time the police shoot an unarmed person it is a per se bad shoot until it is justified.

    Why don’t you tell it to this guy:

    “In 129 years since police and fire commissions were created in the state of Wisconsin, we could not find a single ruling by a police department, an inquest or a police commission that a shooting was unjustified.”

  35. “Contrary to common opinion, cops are far harder on other cops than the general public”

    I don’t believe that for one,single second. The blue wall goes up and the cover up, er “investigation” begins, surprising clearing the shoot as “good” 99.9% of the time.

    The rest of the piece is well written but I question why the cops need to run around with select fire M-16s

  36. My questions are these:

    – Why did the officer have his gun out in the car? The criminal was assaulting the officer. My guess, as others have stated, is that the officer didn’t realize that he may have been confronting the suspect from the robbery until he pulled up to dissuade them from jaywalking. The criminal figured the stuff was going to go down so he attempted to assault the officer who responded by making an attempt at presenting his weapon, and in the process it was fired by the officer, either as an attempt to shoot the criminal or negligently during the draw or struggle.
    – Why did the officer continue to hold his gun after the suspect disengaged? The suspect might have disengaged but the officer had not searched him. He was still unaware of any weapons the criminal might have possessed and even if none were present the need to stop the threat of a very large man who was intent on visiting violence upon other humans required the officer to remain ready to end the threat immediately.
    – If the officer had re-holstered, could he have used less lethal force? The officer did not know if the criminal possessed any weapons and did not know if the witness, I mean other criminal, possessed any weapons. Not enough information was known to justify a change to less lethal force.
    – Did the officer fear for his life from the much larger suspect? I would. Human size = disparity of force.
    – Did the officer’s actions lead to a situation where lethal force was the only option? Since the officers actions in the car amounted to allowing the criminal to run away to a distance of 35 feet it would seem the criminal had numerous other options available to him besides, allegedly, charging the officer.
    – Did the suspect take action that justified the officer’s use of force? If the criminal charged the officer? Yes.

  37. The worst thing about this shooting is that just like the Trayvon Martin case, by the time we have established what the facts are, they won’t matter anymore.

  38. A clarification on the Missouri Highway Patrol. Some people have referred to them as the MO State Police, which they are not and the distinction is important. If you read the MO statute that sets up the legal framework for the Patrol and visit their website and read their strategic plan, it is clear that their #1, overriding mission is traffic safety on MO highways. They give out speeding tickets.

    They do have full police authority, but they are not trained, equipped or organized for riot duty. Furthermore, riot duty is not listed as part of their duties in the statute and the statute says that the patrol may not be used for law enforcement activities not in the statute. This was intentional. MO did not want a state police. Missourians are very parochial when it comes to law enforcement. So the governor’s deployment of the Patrol was on the edge of being not legal. Also, FWIW patrol troopers are some of the lowest paid LEOs in the state.

    As a long time MO/St. Louis County resident, I thought bringing in the patrol to Ferguson was a PR stunt by the governor. They are traffic cops!!! But they have cool uniforms and from a PR perspective, they are not linked to anything to do with this case. If a bigger riot had broken out the patrol troopers would have not been that useful and may have taken an inordinate number of casualties.

    The proper agency to handle a situation like that is the St. Louis County Police, who are very capable. There is also a mutual aid arrangement that allows Ferguson, or the county, to utilize officers from other county PDs and there are some very good, well trained departments in the county. If that were not enough, the MO National Guard has one of the best MP units anywhere. All of these were called in to an extent, but Ferguson was still allowed to go “special ops” with their military gear and the Patrol was put in a bad situation. St. Louis County should have been the lead agency and Ferguson should have been forced to stand down.

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