- By Lt. Tim McMillan
Our Satisfaction With Ugly Truths
Hasidism is a branch of Jewish religious observation that is known for its ultra-orthodox religious conservatism and social seclusion.
Hasidic Jews are most notably recognized by their formal, Eastern-European, period-style dress, with men donning long beards, and long uncut curly side-locks referred to in Hebrew as Pe’ot. Technically Hasidism is considered a Jewish school of thought, as there are no separate denominations of Judaism. At least not in the manner that most people are familiar with when it comes to other religious faiths.
Now, in case you couldn’t tell from my pictures, I am not a Hasidic Jew. Rather, I am would be what is called a Reform or Liberal Jew. Essentially, the Reform school of thought can be summed up as being religious adherents to Judaism who don’t place emphasis on symbolic ritualism such as keeping Kosher, working or driving on the Sabbath, and adorning certain articles of clothing. Most Reform Jews keep variations of these traditional practices, for example, I like to say that I keep “Southern Kosher.” Or as a friend of mine, and the co-producer of the documentary film “Walking While Black” once told me, “So what you’re saying is you’re Jew-Ish.”
In light of my tattooed, shrimp-eating, car-driving on the Sabbath Jewishness, some of the most significant sources of personal inspiration for me come from the legendary scholars of Hasidic Judaism. One, in particular, is unparalleled when it comes to being my go-to source for insight and esoteric contemplation: Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.
Rebbe Nachman was a man after my own heart, who just so happened to have died 171-years before it started beating. In addition to being the great-grandson of Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic Judaism, Rebbe Nachman was the quintessential rebel with a cause. Rebbe Nachman's cause was to do good and change the world for the better.
I can name a number of examples where Rebbe Nachman has influenced my life. However, there is probably no more significant impact than his fable of the “Three Truths.”
“The truth is the boy stole an apple. The truth of truth is the boy stole an apple because he was hungry. The Truth of peace is no one is hungry. Now give the boy an apple.”
Rebbe Nachman’s fictional account of a boy stealing an apple ultimately is an allegory for the entire algorithm in which I go about trying to examine every single conflict or problem I consider. The underlying theme behind the parable is that for every interaction in humanity there exist three truths.
There is the truth of what happened; the truth of why something happened; and the truth that ensures something does or does not happen in the future. Rebbe Nachman coined the last truth, the truth of peace. On a deeper and metaphysical level, every single problem or conflict we see in society today can be summed up and ultimately solved, provided enough people desire to seek the truth of peace.
Ultimately, the lack in pursuit of truths today only represent a fraction of the problems we face. The more significant issue we have is that we are often collectively satisfied with merely knowing the truth. Seldom, do we desire to know the truth of truth, and even more rarely do we seek the truth of peace.
I assume most people by this point are familiar with the disturbing arrest of the nurse in Salt Lake City, Utah over her refusal to violate the law and hospital policy by taking a blood sample for a police officer on an incapacitated patient.
The overwhelming majority of the public was content with simply examining and rendering judgment on the first truth of this incident. The truth was the police officer did not have lawful authority to demand a blood sample from the patient, and he certainly didn’t have legal bounds to arrest the nurse. Both of these aspects are indeed the verifiable truth. Stopping at this first truth, many people felt that the easy solution was the officer be fired. Firing the officer would solve the bad behavior and poor judgment the officer displayed by eradication.
Indeed, excommunication from the profession would have solved this first truth. However, there still is a second truth or the “truth of truth.”
The truth of the truth was this officer’s behavior, and even his request for the blood draw in the first place did not occur in a vacuum. Rather, multiple tiers of individuals within that police agency bear some responsibility for what occurred. First, we know that a supervisor bears culpability because it was released that a Salt Lake City Police Lieutenant ordered the officer to arrest the nurse. However, the Lieutenant and most likely other supervisors along the chain of command also bear responsibility for that officer being at the hospital in the first place.
Effectively, that officer didn’t just up and decide to go in search of random stranger’s blood, like a vampire lawman. Rather, he was told to go to the hospital to perform the blood draw. Since the entire basis behind the desired blood draw stemmed from a fatal traffic accident pursuant to a police pursuit, it could be reasonably said that multiple law enforcement officials, from multiple law enforcement agencies, were in collusion with that particular police officer going to the hospital in the first place.
The truth of truths doesn’t stop there.
The officer being sent to draw blood on an innocent victim of a car crash, coupled with the fact that the officer was ordered to arrest the nurse, leads me to say it is virtually impossible that any of the varying law enforcement officers who were involved in this event were actually aware of the fact that the blood draw was against the law and a violation of the patient's 4th Amendment rights.
I know it is easy to settle on conspiracy theories, that the officer(s) were simply hoping to “get away with one” by knowingly attempting to unlawfully obtain the blood draw. However, that isn't how things work.
To be blunt, the only reason they wanted a blood draw on a victim in the first place was out of concern for civil liability. The driver was severely injured in an accident that began with a police chase by the Utah State Police. The concern that the agency could be held accountable for any violations of their pursuit policy or federal case law regarding due regard in police pursuits would be high. Therefore, if the victim of the car crash could be proved to have been DUI, that would drastically help out the agency, should they find themselves involved in a lawsuit. Remember, at the time, the patient was severely injured and so the potential for an innocent driver to also be killed was of grave concern. Suddenly, that lawsuit is racking up in the seven-figure range, should the agency be found civilly responsible.
This would seem like the police would have all the more reason to try to “get over on one” right? Well not so fast…
See, had they actually obtained the blood sample, they would have been violating Supreme Court case law and the 4th Amendment rights of the victim. In essence, even the “Cash Me Outside” girl could have successfully got the entire blood draw and results dismissed in a motion to suppress hearing. Essentially, now the civil payout is going up and not down.
What this all ultimately means for the truth of truth, is that organizationally, and potentially across multiple agencies, there was a systematic failure to provide adequate training across the entire spectrum of the rank and file. You might at this moment find yourself thinking, “Well how the hell can an entire police department, or multiple departments, all fail to know the law?!?” I’ll tell you how…
The law regarding the needing of a search warrant for a blood draw on an unconscious person didn’t come into existence until a little over a year ago, with the June 2016, ruling by the Supreme Court in the case of Birchfield v. North Dakota.
At the end of the day, the demand for a blood draw and subsequent arrest of the nurse comes from the fact that laws and criminal justice procedure are not static. Instead, they are fluid states that can and will change constantly.
The truth of truth over the entire incident comes from a failure to provide adequate training on legal updates. Now, this wasn’t just an example of botched police training. The officers involved were either assigned to specialized positions of obtaining blood samples, supervisors, or traffic accident investigators. These are supposed to be highly skilled professionals and not just jack of all trade beat cops. Basically, this was a catastrophic breakdown in the effectiveness of the entire police force.
This failure is so significant, that even if the police officer was a raging lunatic and this incident provided the perfect opportunity to get rid of him, the failure to train legal updates, would have actually rendered the police department impotent when it came to dismissing the officer.
A 1989 ruling by the Supreme Court in the City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris, set the “deliberate indifference” standard. Under this standard, an agency that fails to provide adequate training amounts to deliberate indifference. As a result, the officer(s) are not held responsible for their actions. Rather, the entire agency is liable from start to finish.
This will ultimately be the outcome if the nurse in this incident does initiate a civil lawsuit. Should the officer himself lose his job, it will have to come as a result of some other action, mutually exclusive of the blood draw request. In fact, this is exactly what may likely happen. In this incident, there is an exclusive issue, which would be the officer’s unreasonable and extremely disrespectful behavior. Basically, he shouldn’t have handled himself the way he did, had the arrest been lawful.
Further evidence for this, can be demonstrated in the investigative report by the Salt Lake City Police Department’s Internal Affairs division. The scathing report was released this past Thursday and in the report, the officer was vehemently admonished for his behavior. Investigators found the officer violated five department policies: conduct unbecoming of an officer; courtesy in public contacts; department rules on misdemeanor arrests; the department’s law enforcement code of ethics; and Salt Lake City’s standards of conduct.
I am generally familiar with the overarching theme of all of those violations, with exception of the “department rules on misdemeanor arrest.” Because I am insane, I decided to download and take a look at the Salt Lake City Police Department’s 303-page Standard Operating Procedures manual. On page 59 I found the department’s rules over misdemeanor arrest, which indicated that the officer violated the policy because had the arrest been legitimate, the officer should have issued a misdemeanor citation with accompanying paperwork and released the nurse on a citation. If you happen to be bored or have some free time, you can read the entire Salt Lake City Police Policy manual here.
Given this specific example, the truth was the arrest was not good because the request for the blood draw on the patient was unlawful. The Truth of truth is that there was a breakdown in continued legal update training. Seemingly this occurred all the way across the agency level. So what is the truth of peace?
Well once you determine the truth of truth, the truth of peace becomes much clearer.
Ultimately, in the Salt Lake City Police incident, the truth of peace that ensures something like this never occurs again, means that the agency upgrades their training to ensure that their officers are well-informed on the most current laws and practices.
Now, there is a very powerful aspect of the truth of peace. In fact, this is the very incentive for everyone to desire seeking the truth of peace.
The Truth of Peace is truth at the most intimate level. Therefore, it is universal.
The truth of peace is an all-encompassing truth that applies to every police department in existence and not simply one particular department that has made the news. As a universal truth, the breakdown of one entity can end up being a fair warning for every other entity. Essentially, the truth of peace allows every person the opportunity to ensure that an incident like the arrest of the nurse doesn’t happen to them or in their specific community. This baseline truth provides a person with the opportunity to reach out to their own local police department and ask the question, “What is your policy or procedures to ensure your officers are being continuously informed of legal updates?”
A police department shouldn't just provide a person with this information, they should be more than happy to share it with their local citizens. This is the opportunity for an agency to increase credibility and positive relationships with a populous.
If an agency does not have a process in place for keeping their officers up-to-date with legal procedures, knowing the truth of peace, allows for both the department and the public to recognize that they should “give the boy an apple” to ensure they aren’t inadvertently being ineffective in the performance.
The same “Three Truths” process can be applied to any and every aspect of our lives.
Truthfully, being satisfied with just the truth is often nothing more than a feel-good Band-Aid. It doesn’t really solve anything in the long run. If we want to truly solve problems, we need to figure out how to always “give the boy an apple.”
The truth of peace reduces the ugly truths we have to deal with and provides us all with prettier truths to enjoy.
At the end of the day, it is better to have that apple and not need it, than it is to need an apple and there not to be one anywhere in sight.