David Scott Ziants, 28, the Fairfax County cop who shot and killed David Masters in 2009 has been fired for improper use of deadly force. This is the first time a Fairfax County cop has been charged in an on-duty shooting. The action does give hope that the police department could be changing for the better.
There are no winners or losers in this thing, one young man is dead and another, Ziants, has lost his career over a tragic mistake made in a moment’s overreaction and it’s wrong to say that a cop should not use deadly force until he knows with absolute certainty that his or her life, or the life of a citizen, is in danger. To pin the cops down to such a narrow interpretation is dangerous and would only result in dead cops. We want change, not dead police officers.
It is also wrong to say that Officer Ziants should have been treated the same way anybody else would have been treated who shot and killed someone. It’s awful that Mr. Masters was killed. But before he is anointed to Sainthood, he needs to be placed in proper perspective. The cops had due cause to stop Masters. He was accused of blatantly stealing flowers from a planter. While flower stealing evokes smirks, a thief is a thief is a thief.
The day before the shooting Master was ordered by police to pull his car over due to a driving infraction. Masters decided he would evade the police for a while and drive on before he elected to stop. That he did this in a “slow and not particularly dangerous manner” and that he had mental health issues misses the point. No one likes being stopped by the cops but when the cops tell you to stop and pull over, we have to do it. It’s a common sense law we all agreed to when we took our driving test.
There was also a misunderstanding about Masters driving a stolen car.
The circumstances of the shooting were far different from the facts that usually surround a fatal shooting. Ziants didn’t fire in anger or out of revenge or even carelessness.
No, Ziants isn’t guilty of any of those things. Ziants is guilty of carrying around the thug- mentality that permeates the Fairfax County Police Department. And that’s what we need to get rid of, not the young man who bought into the department condoned Zeitgeist of “Us-them” but the obnoxious punk mentality that is the Fairfax County Police.
In that, firing Ziants was right, but right for the wrong reasons. There is a growing tide of resentment against the very expensive Fairfax County Police Department, the brass sees it and offered up Ziants as an appeasement.
However, as unfortunate as it is, the firing of Ziants the sacrificial lamb, shows that in a very small way that the department is finally starting to get it. There might be, I stress the words might be, a glimmer of hope that the department wide mindset that the citizens are a nuisance to be tolerated could be ending and with it the attitude that no matter how badly a Fairfax County cop behaves, they’ll get away with it.
A very large part of the “they can’t touch us” mentality is Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney Raymond Morrogh who filed no charges in this case, or for that matter, has ever really done anything to rein in the cops. Firing Morrogh or cutting him out of all police cases will go a very long way in fixing the relentless, deadly and expensive social problem that is the Fairfax County Police.
The current chief of police should also be shown the door along with his good friend Raymond Morrogh. It isn’t that the chief has done a good job or a bad job. It’s that we are at an impasse because the chief is stuck in a position that despite the evidence against the police, everyone is wrong about the cops and no change is needed. Perhaps we should bring in a chief who wasn’t born and raised in the Fairfax County Police Department and might be able to see with better clarity where the problems are and how to fix them. But instead of change, we get a massive public relations campaign by the police wherein they give each other awards on what seems to be a bi-weekly basis.
Aside from the “the citizens are the enemy mentality” and the punk-arrogance attitude that affects some of the police on the force, the most pressing case against the police is their odd, scary ultra-secret no transparency mentality which is nothing more than an extension of the arrogance that killed David Masters.
The Fairfax County cops simply fail to understand two things; that they are little more than government workers who are not exempt from examination by the media, by citizens or by the government that pays them so very, very well and that Freedom of information requests are not the enemy.
The police should have released the dash-cam video of the Masters shooting, the police and witness interviews and the internal report. But they didn’t and that has only added to the case against them and for decades to come writers will write about how the cops suppressed information to protect their department and may the public be damned. It doesn’t matter if it’s true, that’s what the ages will report and eventually, that legacy will cost another cop his career and a few years in prison.
What will help end the punk-arrogant attitude in the future is for the police to release the names of officers involved in shootings, beatings and other stupid behavior. That way, the small part of the media that actually covers this sort of thing will be able to report on the officer’s prior disciplinary measures or citizen complaints against him and allow us to know that the cops are in fact watching the cops and taking actions to rid the department of the loons that tend to slip into jobs like this.
The media, especially the electronic media, carries a great deal of the blame in bizarre “secret agent” mentality. While the Washington Post has been aggressive, consistent and professional in unveiling all those details the cops don’t want the public to know, the rest of the media is generally nowhere to be found when it comes to looking into issues the cops would rather have kept out of the news. In fairness, most of the media has been very much up to snuff on reporting on God-help-us-yet-another-another -cop-to- cop award and let’s not forget those death defying ride along feature stories….you can never really have enough of those.
As long as the cops don’t have to worry about the media, they can pretty much do whatever the hell they want……and, generally, they do. Oversight won’t cure that ill.
Citizens, no matter how good their argument is, will never beat the cops on the cop’s home turf, and their home turf is the Fairfax County Government building. Citizens with a weak argument against the cops are lucky to get into the building at all but a few nights ago a group of people with a poor argument to reform the police through the formation of a citizens oversight committee did in fact, make their way into the building and then proceeded to shoot themselves in the foot.
Citizens, untrained and perhaps with an agenda, reviewing police complaints by fellow citizens against what is, admittedly, a dangerous and hostile police force, is a bad idea, almost as bad an idea as not having any citizen input into oversight police misconduct.
That the Fairfax County Police are essentially a group of roving thugs can’t be disputed but tossing together a bunch of folks with an axe to grind against the cops and calling it oversight isn’t the answer. It borders on vigilantism. Do that and your no better than the cops.
Conversely, leaving the decision on how to rein in the cops in the greedy little hands of the unscrupulous air head County Chairman Sharon Bulova is another bad idea. A very bad idea. Bulova, whose family lives off the public dole, takes campaign contributions from law enforcement lobby groups and in this matter lacks the ethics and the distance to make a decision that is in the best interest of the county.
The plan that county government workers in the Board of Supervisors have come up with to review the practices of other country government workers in the police department is to bring in another county government employee to look into the situation.
Take a wild scientific-ass guess what his conclusion will be…….go ahead guess.
Here’s what’s going to happen. The good ole boy auditor will first find out if there is a problem, identify what the problem is and then give the cops time to lie about how the problem doesn’t really exist. Then the good ole boys auditor will examine police management practices and look over the system handling complaints against the cop’s that is currently in place but not before giving the cops time to perform disappearing magic tricks with all the evidence against them . When he’s finished the county supervisors will table a decision to do anything to fix the problem because the results of the finding are “in dispute” and nothing will change.
The cops win again, the people lose.
If we absolutely must go through this silliness, then the best way to handle this is to bring in an outside auditor. If we can afford to give the cops a navy and an air force and almost $200,000,000 and sweetheart retirement deals, we can sure as all hell afford an outside auditor, someone who isn’t a member of the ole Dixie crowd from Fairfax.
As bad as this suggestion is, it’s still far better than bringing another good ole boy from Fairfax to examine the system and tell us nothing is wrong. You know that’s gonna happen and I know that’s what’s gonna happen, so why are we doing this?
Currently, the police department handles complaints internally with no option for appeal. The lack of an appeal "is the only gap we have," said Police Chief Rohrer proving how dense and out to lunch this guy is.
Nothing at all will change within the Fairfax County Police force until two things happen; the very invested angry people who are demanding police oversight smarten up and build a political platform to replace the pro-police abuse members of the board of supervisors and Chief Rohrer is released with a nice pension. Of course this could all be done in one swoop by firing the pro-police abuse members of the board of supervisors.
You want change? Stop working from the bottom up. Work from the top down. Form a voting block and fire the bastards who hire the cops because trying to effect change by forming a committee of five or six people and fighting the cops on their own turf is just plain stupid. For the cops and their political hack friends this isn’t about right or wrong, this is about power. The way they see it, you want their power and they are not going to give it to you.
You want change? Expose the cops for what they are. Create a media list and open web sites. Six months ago 2 people looked at this blog spot for less than a minute. Last month and this month, 3,700 people read it for an average of five minutes or long. In six months those figures will be tripled.
You want change? Take your argument to the people and go door to door for two hours a day, seven days a week. One field worker can cover ten houses with leaflets in 15 minutes. Five people can reach 75 homes in 15 minutes. That’s about 3100 a week who will hear your argument.
Since there seems to be some sort of election every two and half weeks in Fairfax county, draft candidates and appoint people to work in districts to make sure police misconduct is a political issue in this county.
One answer to improve things is to force the cops to live here. The Fairfax County affordable housing program needs to be expanded and not ripped apart as “subsidized luxury.” There are two reasons for this. One is that not all of us are fortune’s son. Our fathers didn’t hand us careers and a plush house in the suburbs. But they did teach us to give a man a fair chance and to have compassion for those in our society who can least afford to withstand a misguided assault by ner-do well’s.
We are not doing enough to insure that our teachers and cops and fire fighters can afford to live here, one of the most expensive places in the country. We need to set aside more subsidized units in new, well-located and desirable settings not less.
The second reason is that the overwhelming majority of the cops on the Fairfax County Police Force live outside the county because they can’t afford to live here, and those are the senior members of the force. The newer cops who are on the low end of the payroll are forced to live further and further away from the place where they work and serve a vital role in the very likely event of an act of terrorism or other national emergency….we are a stone’s throw from the White House after all. But more than that, if the cops lived here perhaps they’d drop their occupying force mentality and be less apprehensive and hostile to the people who pay them.