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Cops Gone Wild - Bates - Seattle Criminal Lawyer Blog

It’s a giant flood of bad cops, raining down from the internet skies. A veritable avalanche of bad behavior, much of it caught on tape. Bad cops on tape.

By bad I don’t necessarily mean dishonest. Just bad. Take the case of the Tulsa, Oklahoma reserve deputy, Robert Bates, an insurance agent who gave a lot of money to the elected Sheriff in Tulsa for his campaign. Voila. Like magic. Somehow at 73 years of age this guy is smack dab in the middle of a major sting-bust.

A bust for selling illegal firearms, no less. Really?? Could there possibly be a more inappropriate place to stick an old fat campaign contributor?


What gets me going on this one is the way this one first came in: I was driving in my car. On my way to court, ironically to represent a client charged on a major illegal possession of firearms case. You see, I know a thing or two about guns, like how dangerous they are. No, I didn’t learn that from my clients; I learned it from my Scoutmaster when I was ten, as he was teaching me how to safely handle a .22.

From that time on I knew one paramount thing about guns: that they were a blast (pun intended) to shoot. Sorry, that is sort of tongue in cheek. But not really. Because they really are a hoot to shoot. Just squeeeeeeze that trigger back, nice and sloooooow, with a fluid continuous motion, no jerky movements, zeroed in with everything you have, body and soul, on that target, and without even realizing it somehow a hole appears in the bulls’ eye.

I admit it – I love shooting. And guns. Makes my wife crazy. Not to mention all my liberal friends. What can I say? You can take the boy out of Illinois but you can’t take the Illinois out of… well, you get the idea.

Which brings me to the point: guns are fun. Which is exactly why they are so dangerous. Lethal. Especially in the hands of someone who is not qualified or careful enough to use one. That guy had NO BUSINESS being in the middle of a situation like that. Armed. To the teeth. Even a Taser in his hands becomes a lethal weapon

There is a real issue about training in this case. As usual, I have no idea what really happened there. Although his lawyer is gleefully painting his poor client into a corner, putting him out there on national TV to talk endlessly about what he did or didn’t do. Man, I feel sorry for a lot of other lawyer’s clients. Who on earth does that? Let their clients talk at will about their pending cases? Not anyone who knows what they are doing, that’s for sure.

The issue with training is that there is a reason for it – a good reason. It’s called muscle memory. I hear about it all the time from my military clients. The idea is that you train. And train and train and train and train and train. Until doing whatever you are training to do becomes as automatic as typing train and train over and over again. Automatic. You don’t need to think, and that way you don’t make stupid mistakes.

Unfortunately for some of my combat vet clients it can kick in at the wrong times, but that’s another story. One about PTSD. But in this case…

I’ve seen the mock ups. The Taser was miles away from the gun, the distance from your hip to your chest. Not likely that many people would mix those two up unless they were in the heat of battle and not trained to be there, so that mistakes could happen.

Because when you are not properly trained, you don’t automatically go into autopilot once the stuff starts hitting the fan; no muscle memory.

I don’t know whether there was a training issue here. But if there was, heads should roll. Starting with the Sheriff. The buck should stop with him. Whether or not he had something to do with personally placing Bates in the middle of this super dangerous situation, he definitely had the responsibility for making sure that such situations were not open to random civilians so they could run around playing cop.

That guy had no business being there.

I’m not sure whether or not those in power should be charged with a crime, but I’d sure take a close look at that. What is clear is that they should be held accountable, both in terms of their dereliction of duty, but also because a man is dead because they let some untrained rich guy be in a position to accidentally shoot him.

I also know that if I was suing them for incompetence for assigning Bates as a back up in the middle of this mess, the first place I would be looking for legal “back up” for my case would be in the emails and radio transmissions between the real cops, the guys decades younger, whose lives were also placed at risk by putting an old man in their midst. I mean, “I got your back” coming from a fat geriatric major campaign contributor does not exactly inspire confidence.

I can only imagine the stuff flying around back at the cop shop about this nonsense. Unfit to print, no doubt.

What really bugs me about this one is something that has been ignored by the main-streamers. When this story first broke, as I was listening to the radio while driving in my car to handle the big gun case, they said that the “authorities” in Tulsa had already publicly stated that no charges would be filed because it was just an accident.

Just like that. Almost instantly after this happened.


How does that work? In Washington you don’t just charge intentional premeditated murder or else it was just an accident. There are other choices. We have this thing called manslaughter, where you were so negligent or reckless that you caused someone’s death. If this is not manslaughter then what is?

I tried to keep down my screaming at the radio as I heard this, but I was pissed. Yet another white cop shoots yet another black man, regardless of whether he is a dangerous felon or not (he was), and the “authorities” are immediately determining that the white guy is innocent.

It is like the flip side of the instant trial by cop shootings we keep seeing, where the suspect, typically black, is gunned down on the spot, an instant trial, conviction and death sentence rolled into one.

Too bad they can’t learn to slow down a bit.  But really too bad they seem to be in such a hurry to clear the white cops and to shoot the black suspects.

Don’t blame me. I just repeat what I see.