Social Question

Trillian's avatar

Are we all too prone to point the finger?

Asked by Trillian (21136points) August 24th, 2012

I just saw breaking news; a man shot and killed someone in New York, he fired on police, they returned fire and killed him. During the exchange, some others were injured. The news woman speaking to the guest went over the details. Her first question was something to the effect of “Were the collateral injuries avoidable, or were the police somehow at fault for over reacting?”
The guest corrected her and was nice about it. He explained how circumstances, crowding, etc. made it difficult for police.
It got me to thinking that this seems to be a common phenomonon in our country. After the bad guy is apprehended and everyone is nominally safe again, someone starts questioning and wanting to assign blame to the ones putting themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis to keep the rest of us safe.
Am I imagining things? Is it proper for people to immediately question the police?
Maybe it’s just me.

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40 Answers

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Please excuse my desire for clarification. Are you asking if the media is too quick to jump to a conclusion or if people in general are? In either case, it is worrisome that sensational takes on a news report, be it major or minor, influence the stance of others, no matter who is spreading the speculation.

This is why the police, at least in the US, have an Internal Investigations dept. Unfortunately, like in many civilian cases, the damage is already done.

whiteliondreams's avatar

Prone to point “the finger”, no. Have the inclination to point the finger – Absolutely.

Sunny2's avatar

We’ve certainly become more interested in suing anybody for anything and therefore more likely to try to blame someone. It’s unfortunate and sure clogs up the legal system. Example in the news is the woman who sued because the coffee she spilled in her lap was too hot. The first thought that seems to occur in any accident is, “Who can I sue and get some money out of this?”

Trillian's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer I’m going to have to say both. People in general and the media.

Coloma's avatar

Bottom line ” shit happens” and, I have long ago learned that finger pointing and obsessive seeking of “whys” is an exercise in futility. As the buddhist saying goes, ” if you understand, it is what is, if you don’t, understand it is what it is.

wundayatta's avatar

Funny that you equate asking questions with pointing fingers.

I have found that happens to me a lot around here. I ask a question and people think I am accusing someone of something.

No. I’m not. I’m looking for information.

But I was raised to ask questions. It is normal for me. In other families, people are told not to ask questions. They should be quiet and respectful, especially if they are children.

This could be a cultural thing. Question asking is seen as aggressive by some people. For others, it is seen as a way of gathering information.

For some people, the question is used as a a way of pursuing an agenda. It is seen as a sign that a person’s mind is already made up and they are using the questions as a way to pursue an agenda. For others, it really is about gathering information and trying to unearth as many facts as possible.

I don’t know how to explain these different styles of interaction. They might have some correlation with a liberal/conservative matrix. They might have something to do with authoritarian parenting vs child-centered parenting. Other than that, I really don’t have any good ideas.

LuckyGuy's avatar

According to the law firm of Shyster and Shyster, you need to point fingers if you want to collect on the inevitable lawsuit.

As proof, look how many people are now suing the university and theater in Aurora, not the nut job who did the shooting. The next lawsuit will be against the maker of the car Holmes drove to the site. ~

Coloma's avatar

@LuckyGuy Insane isn’t it?
WTF is WRONG with people?
Seriously, talk about blame shifting.
Right up there with criminals suing homeowners for hurting themselves in the process of a robbery attempt.

I lose ALL respect and compassion for these family members that just see dollar signs in the face of their losses and are so emotionally, psychologically, screwed up that they are filing lawsuits before the first daisy can push it’s way up on the grave mounds of their family members. Unbelievable!

LuckyGuy's avatar

Here’s a classic case of blame throwing for you. State senator Jim Alesi went uninvited into an unfinished house under construction “to look around”. He fell off a ladder and broke his leg. The couple who owned the house did not press charges for trespassing. Three years minus one day after the accident. Jim Alesi sued the homeowners!
This caused quite a scandal in this area. He will forever be known as the punchline of a joke. Jerk.

Coloma's avatar

@LuckyGuy Wonders never cease! Bah!

flutherother's avatar

I know what you mean but it is the job of the media to ask questions. It doesn’t mean they are taking sides or assuming things but they have to ask the questions the public would ask. It also gives the police or whoever a chance to defend themselves and explain the situation from their point of view. It is democracy in action.

Jeruba's avatar

@LuckyGuy, that is so totally nuts that it caused a little fuse in my brain to blow. My lawyer will be in touch with you.
Just kidding.

flutherother's avatar

It’s never a good idea to sue your constituents and Alesi has now seen the error of his ways and withdrawn his action. But why did he wait 3 years to file it. Perhaps because there is a three year statute of limitations on complaints of trespass. Anyway thanks for that @LuckyGuy it brightened up my day.

Trillian's avatar

“chance to defend themselves and explain the situation from their point of view”

So… I guess where we differ then, is this statement. I don’t feel like they should have to “defend” themselves. They did that already when the guy was shooting at them, They defended themselves and all the civilians. There is an IA department to whom they have to report and answer. I don’t expect to have to explain to complete strangers what I’m doing while I’m working, I have a boss to whom I answer.
I think that you and I must have different ideas of “democracy”.

wundayatta's avatar

@Trillian You are a civilian, though, not a public employee. Public employees generally have to answer to the public about their behavior. Civilians only answer to the boss. For public employees—well, they have an awful lot of bosses.

rooeytoo's avatar

In Australia they have solved the ladder problem. I just learned yesterday that in a school where a ball may land on the roof, someone in the school, in this case it was the principal, must go to a ladder school for a day, be issued with a ladder license and that principal is the only one who is qualified to climb the ladder to retrieve the ball. It is a wonder they don’t have to put up scaffolding around the edge of the roof first. It is now required by law that roofing contractors do that so their employees don’t fall off the roof. The world is nuts.

I think questions should be asked and the media should observe and report. That is their job. The problem arises, I think, with too much editorializing that is thought to be reporting of fact.
But let’s face it, sensationalism is what sells and attracts the audience. But I do agree, in the climate of the day, the cop always seems to end up being the bad guy. Realistically there is always the potential for a “bad apple” in any sector, in the police force, their actions have more potential to cause harm, but I believe that most are good guys who do their best in a really shitty job and get very little appreciation for their efforts.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Jeruba I am sorry you blew a brain fuse. But that is not my fault. It is the fault of: Bill Gates for promoting the Windows operating system on my PC, Dell who manufactured the PC, Time Warner Cable for providing the internet service, Jim Alesi for being a jerk, and Fluther for… nah..skip Fluther… You want to make money on the lawsuit. Go after those with big pockets – not for money, of course, you are doing it to protect the children.

@flutherother You are correct. He filed the case one day before the statute of limitations ran out. Slime.
You can be sure he will never get a professional courtesy break again.

Coloma's avatar

Hahaha, yes, I am going to sue @LuckyGuy for emotional duress incited by this topic.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Coloma You’re getting it wrong. Sure, I’m responsible, but that’s not the point. You have to sue the party with the deepest pockets.
I can be a star witness – for a fee.

Coloma's avatar

I’ll be the court heckler for hire.

Trillian's avatar

“Funny that you equate asking questions with pointing fingers.”
No I don’t. The first and only questionthis woman asked was accusatory. She didn’t ask how the injured people were, how the police were handling having to kill someone, or anything neutral. She immediately asked if the injuries were preventable.
I have no problem with questions designed to gather information. My problem starts when I hear an agenda.
I don’t consider myself to be one of many “bosses” the police have. As I said. IA handles all shootings, and they’re infinitely more qualified than I am to “police” the police.

tinyfaery's avatar

We have a lot of problems with our local police departments. A lot. It’s hard not to consider their actions in such dire situations.

DaphneT's avatar

Actually, @Trillian the IA may not be the most qualified to police the police. An independent review would be more qualified. As a person with an education, you may be qualified to ask the right questions and you may have the moral compass that allows you to judge whether the situation could have gone down differently. The fact that you question the reporter’s competence in conducting an on the spot interview with the idea of re-directing blame suggests to me that you have all the right qualifications to judge whether the police were doing their job or exceeding their authority.

I do agree that her questions were phrased in an accusatory manner, and all of us are being conditioned to enter into conversations in just such a manner. Pointing the finger has become very ingrained. My sister does it to me all the time, she really hates living with me and can’t get past that its by her choice so every thing that goes wrong for her must be my fault. Until she started speaking to me in such a manner, I had not realized how ingrained such speech patterns have become.

I’ve become more aware of it, and now my own speech is fraught with phrases cut off in mid speech and revised to make them sound better. I can’t seem to think it through before it leaves my mouth.

Coloma's avatar

Okay, flipping the finger at this Q. now.
Horse dead, lay down your whips. haha

DigitalBlue's avatar

I believe in questioning the police, absolutely. The police did shoot those people, so blaming them for shooting those people is completely fair. I also think that it is fair to find out if a death or deaths could have been prevented, I don’t see anything wrong with that question. I’m not the news media sensationalizing anything, and that is exactly what I wanted to know, too.
If the people who have the job of protecting us end up killing us, I think it’s a good idea to find out why and how it happened. Is there nothing they could have done differently that would have saved lives? That’s always good to know, but to not question it or to just give them the benefit of the doubt because they’re supposed to be the “good” guys? No way.

Trillian's avatar

“suggests to me that you have all the right qualifications to judge whether the police were doing their job or exceeding their authority.”
Not at all. As I stated in my Q, it just seems to me like the first knee jerk reaction is to accuse someone of negligence, regardless. It just happened. The blood hasn’t been washed away yet.
You were closer in your second paragraph. It just seems like we, the American public, immediately look for someone to blame something on.
I think it’s good that you are aware of this. It’s been brewing around for me for a while, and today it crystalized. I certainly intend to be more aware of my own speech patterns in the future.

CWOTUS's avatar

I haven’t read all of the responses yet, but I got to @wundayatta‘s and stopped there for now, to agree with him strongly.

After shooting incidents with the police it is always necessary to ask questions. The police themselves will do that with an internal review board. It’s standard policy for American police forces to question themselves on the use of deadly force. It’s how policy gets developed and training is constantly improved: What could we have done better? What could we have done to avoid the shooting? What could we have done to avoid the necessity for shooting in the first place?

Not asking those questions – thinking that we know all there is to know, have done everything perfectly and have no room for improvement – is the way to stultification, complacency and eventual disaster.

I’m not certain that the journalist on the scene needs to preempt the police functions that will do the same thing later (and it’s unlikely that the officers on the scene will give the answers that the journalist wants at that spot, anyway – part of their training is to avoid making statements to the press in the heat of the moment or in any way to “represent” the force; they have PR people who do that professionally). But I didn’t see the interview, so I don’t know if it was “an officer on the scene” who was being questioned, or the PR person at a later press conference or briefing.

Trillian's avatar

@DigitalBlue Here you go. The shooter caused the first death, and brought his own on himself when he shot at police and they returned fire. No one else was killed.
This is what I wanted; a general idea of how other people saw this. So everyone who answered the question, whether I agree with you or not, thank you for taking the time and for your courtesy.

DigitalBlue's avatar

@Trillian OH, yes, I know the police didn’t kill anyone, but the shooter. I had a brainfart when I was typing before and thinking about circumstances in which people are killed by police officers. Oops.

wundayatta's avatar

A boss doesn’t have to be qualified to do work they can delegate to others. They just have to be able to cause the work to be done.

Internal affairs, or external review boards or others may be qualified to investigate police activities. That doesn’t make them qualified to supervise police activities.

The public is qualified to supervise the police. We hire the police. We are the reason they exist. They exist to serve us, and we get to say whether they are serving us well or not. If we don’t like what they do, we complain to the mayor (who we elected) and the mayor tells the police chief what to do.

The press helps the public oversee the police. They provide us with the information we need (some of it, anyway) to know whether the police are doing what we want them to, or not. But the police need to understand they serve us, not their police chiefs. Yes, the chief can hire or fire them, but in the end, they need to keep us happy. A police force that doesn’t understand that (and many don’t) is a police force that will be in trouble and cause a lot of social friction.

In Communist countries, the police don’t serve the people. They serve the party bosses. This causes a lot of problems. We do not want to emulate that system in democratic countries. Not nohow!

Trillian's avatar

^^ You’re not really addressing my point, but I’m not really trying to argue, or get anyone to see it my way. Just wanting to know if others think we’re too apt to immediately “blame” someone. You keep justifying something by making statements that really don’t address what I was asking. I get it that you are a questioner, and the fact that you’ve offended people by the tone of your questions lessens the weight of your arguments here, I think. No offense intended, just… you do have a habit of sounding like the questions you ask have an agenda to prove a point that you’ve already made up your mind about.
Your suggestion that we would be like a Communist country if we didn’t immediately blame the police for overzealousness and question their every move is absurd.
You’re entitled to your opinion. You haven’t actually come out and just made a statment, but I must infer from what you say that you favor what the woman said, and the readiness to lay blame before we know if there is any blame to be found. That’s really all I was looking for.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

It got me to thinking that this seems to be a common phenomonon in our country. After the bad guy is apprehended and everyone is nominally safe again, someone starts questioning and wanting to assign blame to the ones putting themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis to keep the rest of us safe. The blame game often starts well before the truth comes out. The media venues want sensational headlines in order to draw attention and citizens often want to play judge and jury from their armchair.

Am I imagining things? Is it proper for people to immediately question the police? Maybe it’s just me. Of course it isn’t proper. Sure, there are pockets of corruption, but to assume that is the case by the media or citizens without reason just mucks up the investigation process..

wundayatta's avatar

We are not prone to pointing fingers. This is because asking questions is not pointing fingers. It is gathering information. The police should operate in a transparent way as possible, as should all public servants. If a police person does not answer all questions immediately as openly as possible (except where protecting privacy of people involved in investigations), this is cause for immediate concern. The police should welcome scrutiny of their operations. If they don’t, we have big problems.

Trillian's avatar

^^ I’m not sure why you are so unable to stick to the point and stop arguing against a position that I have not taken. The event happened on a city street crowded with people. Fairly transparent. And as someone pointed out earlier, the police are not supposed to talk to the press; they have designated people who give press conferences. Your opinion that they should answer all questions immediately is just that. An opinion. The very idea is insupportable. When should they answer all questions put to them? While they’re working? Off hours? Are you really so willing to obligate the time of others?
I am very aware that directing a person’s attention away from the original topic and distracting them is a tactic. A conflict tactic. What I don’t know is why you do it. Can you live with the idea that I disagree with you? I can.
No one said the police didn’t “welcome” questions or scrutiny. That wasn’t part of my question.
I asked if it didn’t seem like we jump the gun in assigning blame. I wonder how you would feel if the police answered simple straightforward questions by going off in other directions the way you do.
If you want to answer my original question, I’ll rephrase it, because I did not say that asking questions was finger pointing. I said that I heard in the woman’s choice of wording an accusation of negligence and did it seem like we are prone to blame without even knowing if there is blame to be apportioned?
If you want to go on with your opinion of how someone else should do their job, I got that bit already.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@wundayatta There is a lot of finger-pointing. If this is not in your nature, then I applaud you for this ability. Even here on Fluther, it feels like not a week goes by where some sensational case is brought up and members chime in with their guilty or innocent verdict before all evidence is made public.

The police shouldn’t have to answer all questions. They may need to withhold some evidence in order to use it when questioning suspects. It can also be helpful in sorting through all of the leads that come pouring in from concerned citizens. If I call in and say it was Professor Plum in the Billiard Room with the candlestick and the police know that the murder weapon was the rope, then they can rule that lead out (although it might lead to another case). :)

Leads can be helpful. Assumptions, speculation, and the blame game of finger-pointing don’t.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer – this idea of complete transparency in all aspects of law and government strikes me as ludicrous. Theoretically we should have some confidence in the people we elect or hire.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@rooeytoo I agree….as long as proper checks and balances are in place.

wundayatta's avatar

@Trillian Just so you know, you are making up all kinds of things I didn’t say.

As to specific instances of behavior that someone or another calls “finger pointing,” I guess it would help to have more accurate descriptions of what we are talking about so we could all be on the same page. I suspect I have no clue what is meant when people say “finger pointing.” But I think it’s kind of like what happens when we use that rhetorical technique called setting up a straw man. You put words in someone’s mouth and then shoot them down, because it is real easy to shoot down ridiculousness.

Sure, police need to keep some things secret for a while, but eventually, they must be completely transparent, or they may lose the trust of their bosses (the public).

Trillian's avatar

Um, I used specific exact wording of what you said. ^^

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