You know it. We are talking about white police officers not being convicted of murdering black people.  The recent case of Philando Castile made me realize how much worse the situation can become.  Having Philando doing everything he is supposed to do, the police officer shooting at him 7 times with his daughter behind and still having this police officer let off does not sit right.  In case anyone may still have some doubts, here is another example: Off-Duty Officer ‘Treated As Ordinary Black Guy,’ Shot By Another Cop. NO that off-duty office was not a rookie, NO he was not under the influence of alcohol.  He was a veteran who knew police protocols.  My take away from these dramatic events:

  • Even when you know police protocols, you comply and you are part of the police department you can still get shot
  • Even when people witness you being shot, that the whole thing is being filmed from different angles policemen are not convicted
  • It seems that media coverage, public opinion, money to fight cases have zero impact on bringing justice

This is a terrible reality. An unthinkable reality that many black people must make sense of to survive.  How to rationalize acts that are not sensible?  I will try something new to contribute.  Applying reverse negotiation to the situation.  Think of it as a role play where you apply game theory (read our previous post on a practical example of game theory here).

1. What are bad police officers aiming for?

Their objective is to protect their life. Either during the event when they decided to shoot or in front of a jury who may send them to prison where they would share a cell with the very same people they sent away.  The stakes are super high.  In this type of situation forget about win-win. People will stop at nothing to get their way.

2. Who has the power?

Tricky one.  Common sense would say that the victim has the power but empirical evidence would show the opposite.  In fatal shootings, juries of your peers have the power.  They are the ones who, beyond reasonable doubts have to decide guilty or not guilty.  But, the jury is selected by the judge and the attorneys.  So they are the ones with the power.  Who they select to be on the jury may be the biggest predictor of the outcome.

3. Who are the players?

The attorneys are the game masters. They decide the evidence to show, the witnesses who testify. Important note: the policemen attorneys have high stakes, their client is still alive and their life is still on the line.

4. What are the potential tradeoffs?

Close to 0.  The verdict is guilty or not guilty. So not much room to trade concessions.

5. What else is at stake?

In the situation of Philando Castille, people think that it is about getting justice for that case.  But really, a guilty verdict would have bigger repercussions.  It may change how all future cases will be perceived

6. What does social proofing tell us?

Many black people are criminals – nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population. Black people shot by the police is less shocking for the nation than when white people are shot.  And some people must think that some of the people who got shot brought the situation on themselves.

7. The wild card – $$$ money $$$

I had no clue about this until I researched the topic.  There are multi-million settlements associated with the not guilty verdict: $6.4 million in the case of Freddie Gray for example.

Conclusion: The case is lost even before it is started

Combine all this together and it is easy to figure out why the number of convicted policemen was zero in 2014 and 2015. Actually, only 13 were convicted since 2005.

How to overcome?

If you follow the standard approach you will get the standard result. Break away from the conventional approaches.  Using the race card, appealing to public opinion, to the media does not seem to be a differentiating factor.  Don’t hesitate to use hardball tactics – state that you will not settle. Disrupt the status quo – hire non-conventional lawyers, hire some that are out of state, find a way to pay them that does not incentivize them to settle. And probably the most important, talk to the few families that got a favorable outcome in their trial. Understand what works well, how their lawyer approached the situation, get their lawyer on the case.  Just don’t get the lawyer that represented Trayvon Martin and used a knock-knock joke to open the case.