Response to “Any Good Cops”

Davis is correct in some respects, misses mark in others

By Ken K. Gourdin

This responds to BYU political science professor Richard Davis’s April 15 commentary. [See the following address, last accessed April 26, 2015:]. Davis leaves implicit some things he could have made explicit, and while he is correct in some respects, he is not in others.

A robust dialogue should occur about police-public interaction. Anyone with a reasonable proposal for reforming how officers’ actions are investigated, disciplined, and, if necessary, prosecuted, as well as for improving training, is welcome at the table.

Davis is correct in saying that much of the public perceives no difference between the Ferguson, Mo. police shooting of Michael Brown and the others he mentioned. However, a fair-minded examination and comparison need not be exhaustive for the differences readily to become clear.

For example, the reason why two exhaustive investigations of the Brown shooting both exonerated former Ferguson, Mo. officer Darren Wilson, while former North Charleston, S.C. officer Michael Slager quickly was dismissed and charged with murder is because those respective results likely were warranted in each case.

The Ferguson shooting was necessitated by the fact that Michael Brown struggled with Wilson for his weapon, and the “hands up don’t shoot” narrative favored by many was unsupported by eyewitness accounts and physical evidence. Conversely, Slager’s shooting of the fleeing, unarmed Walter Scott was unjustified, as Scott posed no deadly or serious threat.

Obey officers’ commands and don’t attempt to flee or to resist, and overwhelmingly, you will emerge from the encounter unscathed, able to dispute officers’ actions elsewhere, and free to complain all you like about unfair treatment.

The high incidence of stress-related physical and psychological diagnoses among officers militates against the proposition that they simply are trigger-happy. Most all officers don’t want to shoot anyone: they simply want to keep others safe and to go home safe at the end of their shift.

Intense media focus on rare exceptions skews public perception. However, the reason why most instances of use of deadly force by officers are deemed justified is because overwhelmingly, officers know the law and follow it.

Whether U.S. special forces should have captured Osama bin Laden rather than killing him will be debated forever, it seems. However, Davis ignores complications that likely would have arisen had we chosen to try bin Laden in a court of law.

One is physical security. While a major metropolitan force like the NYPD surely is better equipped to handle the security surrounding such a trial than are many others, that doesn’t change the fact that every resource dedicated to security for such a trial leaves one less resource for the agency’s primary mission.

Another is national security. While it’s easy to say that security always should yield to openness in a representative, participatory democracy with open courts, the results of even that seemingly-noble choice likely would not all be desirable.

One solution proposed by University of Utah law professor Amos Guiora is the establishment of a national security court, whose operation would be similar to that of the court established to hear cases under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Such attempts to strike a balance between security and openness are worth exploring.

Ken K. Gourdin, Tooele, is a certified paralegal, and has studied and written about law enforcement issues extensively.

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Unusual Deadly Force

Thoughts on an Unusual Instance of Police Use of Deadly Force to Neutralize an Armed Suspect

By Ken K. Gourdin

Much has been made of a Marana, Arizona police officer’s choice use his vehicle to strike gun-toting suspect after the suspect reportedly fired a round into the air in a crowded public area. See, e.g., CNN’s reporting on the incident here, last accessed today:

Generally, officers may use deadly force to repel another imminent threat of deadly force or of serious bodily injury. In other fora, I have noted that the adrenaline that kicks in (popularly known as the “fight-or-flight” response) enabling officers to respond effectively to such situations also makes them less accurate. Thus, they are trained to shoot at center mass (the torso) rather that at an extremity: better to aim for center mass, miss, and strike the suspect somewhere than to aim at an extremity and miss the suspect entirely, leaving him free to harm or to kill someone else.

In Fox News coverage of the incident on The Kelly File on April 16, 2015, Megyn Kelly guest (and former LAPD Detective) Mark Furhman commented on the incident. Fuhrman noted that officers often are taught that their vehicles are tactical weapons.

While an officer choosing to neutralize a armed suspect whom the officer reasonably believes poses an imminent threat of death or of serious bodily injury to officers or to the public in this manner may be unusual, there should be no impediment to officers using any means at their disposal to achieve that objective. As I have also noted elsewhere, an officer’s job isn’t simply to engage armed suspects in a fair fight: it’s to neutralize the threat they pose, and, by so doing, to ensure, insofar as possible, public safety.

Marana’s police chief apparently so concluded in publicly supporting this officer for his actions, saying the officer’s actions likely saved lives.

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Jazz Odds and Ends

Odds and Ends About Coverage of the Utah Jazz

By Ken K. Gourdin

In response to a feature story by The Salt Lake Tribune’s Gordon Monson about the Utah Jazz’s laid-back and easygoing, yet surprisingly talented, Australian, Joe Ingles, I commented, “So … if Mr. Ingles were featured on an episode of Spike TV’s Pros vs. Joes [a show in which ordinary people (regular ‘Joes’) compete against former professional athletes] which side would he be on? Would he compete against himself? (Just wondering …)” Monson’s piece can be found here (last accessed today):

I commented in response to a Salt Lake Tribune story (as originally reported by ESPN, or, as I often call it, SPIN) in which former Utah Jazz (and current Brooklyn Nets) guard Deron Williams’s competitiveness was questioned by his former Nets teammate Paul Pierce. Pierce said that he considered Williams to be MVP material before Pierce arrived in Brooklyn, but said he realized Williams “didn’t want that” after Pierce’s arrival. The story can be found here, last accessed today:

Here’s my comment:

This is rather different; interesting to hear. Not for one second have I ever questioned Mr. Williams’ competitive fire. Frankly, I’d have to hear it from more than one source (and probably more than just a few) in order to be persuaded to believe it. Rather, Mr. Williams’ problem (at least while he was here) is that he wanted to be player/coach/GM/VP of basketball operations. I wonder how much input Mr. Williams had into operations (read, “personnel”) decisions after he left here, and whether (and if so, to what extent) unwise deference to him in that regard played a role in the fact that Brooklyn has underachieved relative to expectations.

I responded to a comment on a photo accompanying a Salt Lake Tribune story about the Jazz’s improved performance on the road since the All Star Break, which the Dallas Mavericks’ CJ McCollum is shown attempting to defend the Jazz’s Rodney Hood. Another commenter asked if readers thought McCollum was called for a foul on the play. The photo can be seen here, last accessed today: My response was, “Well, McCollum only grabbed Hood’s off arm and shoulder, and he probabably didn’t knock Hood down on the play, so …”

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Spiritual Witness

Secular Evidence vs. a Spiritual Witness: Though the Latter is Indispensible to Believing the Truth Claims of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Does That Make the Former Irrelevant? Why I Don’t Think So

By Ken K. Gourdin

A poster at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion, who is, happily, making his way back to full fellowship in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints despite having strayed for a number of years, recently posted (essentially; I hope my brief paraphrase does his position justice) his opinion that the answer to the question posed in my title is, “Yes.” I respectfully disagreed. I wrote (endnotes and explanations in brackets have been added):

I agree with your premise that God’s purpose is for us to walk by faith rather than by sight. However, while it may not be relevant to a spiritual witness, we diverge in our thinking about whether any secular evidence tending to validate the Book of Mormon will be (or has been) discovered. There are, to borrow a book title, “Echoes and Evidences,”1 but how much weight any particular inquirer gives to each one of these (or to all of them taken together) is up to him. If one is determined to believe, no amount of secular evidence is necessary; if one is determined to doubt, no amount of secular evidence ever will be sufficient.

I believe a spiritual witness is most important (indeed, that it’s indispensable), regardless what evidence ever is or is not found for the Book of Mormon, and I believe the Book of Mormon is true because I have applied the test given in Alma 32 and have found that its good seeds bear abundant good fruit in my life. I believe that the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith are what they claim to be because, while such an experience is not reducible to purely logical terms, a witness of those facts has been imprinted upon my soul.

Conversely, to quote Farrer, “While argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief.”2 While, ultimately, no amount of secular evidence ever will form an adequate basis for a testimony [how members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints refer to a witness of the Church’s truth claims], it still can provide room for belief in the mind of someone who is of a more logical, analytical bent. I don’t know if any road signs such as, “Now Approaching Zarahemla City Limits” or “Zarahemla 10 km,” [Zarehemla is a city written about in the Book of Mormon] ever will be discovered. Still, it seems to me that God and His servants have gone to an awful lot of trouble to create ad hoc (but ultimately unnecessary) artifacts such as plates, a sword of Laban, holograms of an Angel Moroni and of other purportedly-Heavenly messengers, and so on if physical and historical evidence supporting the Book of Mormon is now (and forevermore will be) totally irrelevant.

Personally, once the Book of Mormon’s purpose of persuading us to walk by faith has been accomplished, I look forward (eventually) to some really cool historical, archaeological, and other discoveries supporting it. Several of its writers were not only crystal clear, but also were very pointed in telling their readers, “Someday, you’re going to stand before me, and at that day, you will be held accountable for your reaction to what I wrote.” As strong as my spiritual witness of the Book of Mormon is, I also believe those folks were real people who lived real lives, with all of the history, archaeology, and so on, that such living entails.

Where so many people err is at the elementary misstep where they say, “No evidence of [x] ever has been discovered; thus, [x] does not exist.” Au contraire! Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. (We’ve had that discussion before, you and I.) Line upon line and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, I believe that at least enough historical, archaeological, and other evidence has been (or will be) found to provide room for belief, if not to make a definitive case. Were it otherwise, at least some historians, archaeologists, and other professionals would (unfortunately) have wasted an awful lot of time.



See Donald W. Parry, John W. Welch, and Daniel C. Peterson (Eds.) (2002), Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (now the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship), available on line at the following address, last accessed April 11, 2015:


Austin Farrer, et al. (1965) Light on C.S. Lewis, New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World, quote as reproduced on line at the following address, last accessed April 11, 2015:

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Christ Knows

Christ: “Man of Sorrows” and “Touched With the Feeling of Our Infirmities”

By Ken K. Gourdin

I must confess no small difficulty in understanding people who think that the All-Knowing, All-Loving, Lord of the Universe couldn’t possibly understand their problems. (Although, to be fair, in fleeting moments of weakness, sometimes I do wonder, how mindful He is of me).

Isaiah called the Savior “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3 KJV). The Apostle Paul wrote of Him that “we have not an high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15 KJV).

Writings accepted by Latter-day Saints as scripture are even more explicit. In Doctrine and Covenants 19:16-19, the Savior Testified:

16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.

Similarly, the Book of Mormon prophet Alma the Elder prophesied of Christ in Alma Chapter 7, Verses 11 and 12. He said:

11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

In response to another poster at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion Board, who talked of the difficulty Christ experienced in carrying his own cross (“I’ll bet it was no barrel of laughs,” he said), I added:

Or being scourged, or wearing a crown of three-or-four-inch thorns, or being mocked, or having people tell you that you cast out devils by the prince of devils (or that you have a devil yourself) or having the people in your own home town (many of whom were probably friends and family) reject you, or bleeding from every pore, or suffering, both body and spirit, for the sins of every man, woman, and child who has ever been (or ever will be) born, or having the religious leaders of the day continually oppose you verbally and try to trip you up (not to mention plotting to kill you), or being hailed by the masses and then being rejected by them in favor of a robber (all in the same week), having most of your disciples abandon you after you declare hard truths (you mean, like, that God cannot approve homosexual behavior?) and asking your apostles, “Will ye also go away?”, or having no permanent residence …

Christ didn’t do anything to deserve any of this, but He got it anyway.

But, hey, I’ve got it really hard! I don’t think He can possibly understand any of my trials!

Christ can. Christ does. Happy belated Good Friday, and Happy Easter, everyone.

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Living With Oneself

Living With Oneself: “The Abundance of a Man’s Life Consisteth Not in the Things Which He Possesseth”

By Ken K. Gourdin

I read the following story on line at on April 3, 2015 (last accessed today) about a man who returned a giant bag of money that had fallen onto the freeway from a Brinks armored car: In response to another poster who wrote that someone who finds a sudden windfall still has to live with himself, I replied, “Yeah. No matter how much ‘stuff’ one has (or doesn’t have), life isn’t worth much if he can’t look himself in the eye in the mirror every morning.”

And I posted a link to Edgar A. Guest’s wonderful poem, Myself (last accessed today):

In response to another poster who said he’d be afraid to spend the money for fear it could be traced, I said:

You know, what does most people in when they come into an ill-gotten large sum isn’t the fact that they spend the money: it’s how they spend the money. First, the neighbors start asking themselves how someone who (unbeknownst to them) has come into possession of such funds can afford what he buys, then it’s usually not too long before police get wind of the conspicuous consumption and start asking the same thing. I cannot, of course, say that someone who does nothing more than pay his typical bills with such ill-gotten gain will never be caught, but I do suspect that it would take much longer for that to happen if he didn’t drastically alter his typical spending patterns.

For that matter, the same thing gets so many lottery winners into trouble, even though, in their case, the gain is not ill-gotten and does not come to law enforcement attention. Why do so many lottery winners (including those who win more than once, and who, one might think would thus learn their lesson) go broke and file for bankruptcy? They can’t say “No,” either to themselves, to others, or both.

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Ends, Means, and Harry Reid

“He Didn’t Win, Did He?” Do the Ends Justify the Means for (Soon-to-be-Former) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid?

By Ken K. Gourdin

Offered the chance to moderate the comments he delivered on the Senate floor (a forum he chose deliberately so as to shield himself from defamation) from his (conveniently anonymous!) source that 2012 Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney had not paid taxes in ten years, outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D – Nev.) asked the reporter to whom he was speaking, “He didn’t win, did he?” Mission accomplished! I suppose that, in Reid’s mind, the end of keeping Romney from winning the presidency justified any means necessary to do so. (For the record, Reid’s comments, standing alone, were not enough to torpedo Romney’s chances, but they certainly helped.)

In defense of Reid, I previously wrote on the Blog:

While I’m afraid I would be tempted to disagree with most every word that comes out of Harry Reid’s mouth with respect to politics or policy, his standing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is between him, his Heavenly Father, his Savior, and his leaders. If the latter three have concluded he’s in good standing, who am I to disagree?  As for any disagreements we might have politically or policy-wise, I’m reminded of the old saying that if two people are of exactly the same opinion on absolutely everything, one of them is unnecessary. As strongly as I might hold the opinions I hold, don’t have enough hubris to say that Brother Reid is unnecessary simply because we disagree. And I would hope we could disagree, without being disagreeable.1

I’m severely tempted to revise that assessment of Reid in light of his most recent comments. Though he’s certainly welcome to believe whatever he likes about the wisdom of the American electorate in not electing Romney, simply because he shortly will no longer face the possibility of any political repercussions for making such comments is not a sufficient reason for Reid to not moderate them. There are enough people who belong to both major political parties who are more than willing to believe the worst of their political opponents without anyone adding fuel to that fire.


  1. See Ken K. Gourdin (November 8, 2014) “Harry Reid’s Mormonism: Harry Reid, His Politics, and His Standing in the Mormon Church” (Blog post), last accessed on line at on April 2, 2015.
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