Sunday, October 16, 2011
RLSH Community Reacts to Jones Case
Phoenix Jones in court.
For the last week I've been writing about Phoenix Jones, an incident I witnesses and the aftermath. Jones has always been a controversial figure in the RLSH world. Some love him, some hate him and some aren't quite sure what to make. Opinions on last week's incident have varied quite a bit. Some think it is no biggie, others have speculated it is the beginning of the end and could lead to a strong anti-RLSH campaign.
I asked a random group of RLSH to share their opinions of the Jones case based on my testimony of the event (which you can find in an entry from Wednesday.)
DARK GUARDIAN/ RLSH of NYC/ member of the New York Intiative
I believe he acted inappropriately in this instance. He rushed into a situation and reacted with very poor judgement. He maced a group of people who were not attacking him. He was not acting in self defense and the police have rightfully charged him with assault. This is an example of what not to do as a community crime-fighter. It should be a priority to de-escalate situations and work hand in hand with the police to garner the smartest and safest outcome. I stand with the police and want everyone to know he is not a true reflection on what others like myself do in our communities to help.
EON/ RLSH of California
Phoenix Jones was unprepared to deal with the situation and didn't handle it well. I don't think he's a bad person, I don't think he had malicious intent, I don't even think he did anything criminal. To be honest, I even kinda like Phoenix Jones at this point.
He just didn't handle it well... and I'm not talking about morality, I'm talking about skill. It was only a group of rowdy drunks. There's no reason for that to lead to running in around in terror thinking defenseless members of your group are going to get shot and ultimately to being arrested. There are SO many ways to avoid something like that: effective teamwork, a nearby vehicle, standing out of arms reach and issuing a verbal challenge before engaging, etc etc etc.
THE WATCHMAN/ RLSH of Milwaukee/ reallifeseuperheroes.org admin/ member of The Challengers
In regards to the recent incident in Seattle leading to the arrest of Phoenix Jones by police, I find it difficult to know just what to say. Much of my opinion must be based on speculation because I was not present and the evidence presented to me is not very clear. It is nearly impossible to determine the facts based on the video alone, and I know firsthand that the media does not always have the facts either, so I must also refer to what I've been told by my trusted friend, Tea Krulos, and try to filter through everything else.
I find this reminiscent of most other stories involving Phoenix Jones. There is a great deal of media coverage and heated internet conversations, and a lot of whispering to one another behind closed doors, but it is far too often based on speculation and biased opinions.
It is impossible for any of us to know with absolute certainty what we would do in any situation until we are in that same situation ourselves. However, I know how I have dealt with other situations in the past, and I do carry pepper spray on my own patrols, and I can tell you that I have not once used pepper spray to break up a fight. The analogy I have used in discussing my belief in the matter is this: trying to stop a crowd of people from fighting by spraying pepper spray on them is like trying to keep a forest from burning by dumping napalm on it.
I think it is great to have people out there trying to keep their communities safe, but they need to use their heads when doing so. Regardless of what was happening that night, Phoenix Jones and his aggressive style clearly seemed to make it worse rather than better. While it was likely a problem that needed immediate attention, I think it was handled poorly. It is important to keep your cool and be level-headed in situations such as these. People need to be cooled down, not have fuel thrown on their fire. Still, a call was made, which is better than to have stood by and done nothing.
I find the actions of the police that night to be even worse. Statements should have been taken from all involved, and evidence should have been viewed. All of the people there should have been treated equally. Instead, it appears that the police only cared about knocking down just one man, Phoenix Jones. As a proud supporter of local law enforcement, I hate to see things like this happen. All too often a few bad cops, or even just a few bad decisions made by cops, make cops look bad. I believe those police officers did a disservice to all police officers. It is reasons like that that so many people hate and fear the police rather than respecting and honoring them.
SILVER SENTINEL/ RLSH from New York State
Heroes in the Night: Did he do the right thing?
Yes. He clearly saw that there was more than one altercation going on and that several people were involved. At least one person was even knocked to the ground and kicked. There was NO TIME for verbal de-escalation (and I am a huge supporter of de-escalation). He had to break up the combatants immediately before the situation became even more violent- possibly leading to more injuries, or worse.
He did not hose people with the pepper spray, but directed it only at those involved in actually fighting. AND only after calling out warnings for people to break it up. These facts are not disputed by actual eye witnesses, or the video, only by people who were not there and who interpreted the video incorrectly.
Phoenix went out of his way NOT to spray, or engage, those not involved in the actual fighting.. Even to the point he allowed himself to be attacked multiple times. He assessed the situation, took immediate action to break up the violence and prevented further injuries. At no time did he intentionally inflict harm upon anyone not involved that I saw. Some people standing close by caught peripheral spray, but this wasn't harmful, and was a lot less dangerous than if he waded into the fight and started throwing people around on the ground to separate them.
This is going to piss a lot of people off, but in the same situation, I probably would have done the exact same thing.
HITN: What lessons can the RLSH take away from this?
People need to stop pre-judging and armchair quarterbacking. So many people have been waiting for Phoenix to screw up that they howled in delight and mis-interpreted the evidence even when they looked at it in slow motion.
This situation also shows how dangerous what we do is. For some it's not so hairy, but for Phoenix and his team it was a nightmare that could have ended worse. Preparation is key, and having a clear head and calling out directions during the whole thing showed leadership and tactics. People forget that several of Phoenix's team have military backgrounds. They didn't go haywire and bash people which is something that sadly many people in the current community might have done when confronted and attacked.
Mr Jones didn't run in seeking glory. He went in to stop a potentially volatile and violent situation. Nobody who wasn't there knows what might have happened had he not stepped in. And his team backed him up. It wasn't one man, but a TEAM effort, with their leader out in front where he should be.
SKY MAN/ RLSH of Seattle
HITN: If you were in that situation what would you do differently?
Me personally? I dabble in street patrolling and am still studying the, well, for lack of a better word, “proper” ways of going about it. I started out my career as an RLSH focused solely on charity and humanitarian work... I have no previous fighting or self-defense experience. This is why I set up the rule for myself of never patrolling alone. I'm glad PJ doesn't practice this either a whole lot, though I have heard that he does from time to time and I'm concerned for him.... no matter how much self-defense training of personal protection devices you carry with you you can't prepare for every situation or eventuality. This ain't Adventure Comics!
I wouldn't have rushed in and gotten in the middle of a fight that I was outnumbered in... straight up! Would I have intervened if my approach and presence hadn't stopped it? Of course, just not with the “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality.
HITN: What do you think of him being charged with assault?
Ridiculous!Though bear mace is potent stuff and once sprayed its trail is quite lasting! When the main defendant was interviewed by KING 5 news, which I made my feelings known about on FB, I wasn't surprised to hear that she and her friends were standing around WATCHING a fight take place. So she felt the aftereffects of the bear mace... I consider her apathy and non-interventionist philosophy more wrong that what PJ did.
Also, the arresting officer may hold a grudge against PJ, for whatever reason... but he doesn't hold that grudge against PJ alone! I remember a few months back in the summer the same officer criticized me and my associates for doing a homeless handout and calling in the cops to notify them of a situation across the street from where we were doing our outreach.
BRIDGES/ RLSH of Seattle
In a nut shell, I think he did the right thing for the wrong reasons.
I also think that what he did has repercussions for all of us. In addition to having to deliver reality checks to the guaranteed crop of newbies that pop up in response to all the media attention (only now instead of being influenced by Kickass, they're going to be following a real person's example and think that they can get away with way more than they actually can), I'm also worried about even worse RLSH relationships with SPD (and possibly other police departments) and possibly even a reevaluation of current legislation. I would not be at all surprised if the future holds changes in self-defense/citizen's arrest laws or judicial management of those laws that make doing what we want to do harder. These laws are intentionally a little grey so that ordinary citizens don't have to be experts to feel safe in doing the right thing - recent (and probably inevitable future) abuses of these laws might cause a shift towards more strict rules.
Time will tell.
The one thing I know for certain is that this incident demonstrates a critical problem for the RLSH - being able to admit making a mistake. PJ may be the most egregious offender, but there are definitely others who are hot on his tail. Hell, I struggle with it.
Keep in mind, I'm not saying that everything PJ does is bad. Far from it. I've met/patrolled with/ and argued my fair share with the guy. I can tell you that he is very passionate about what he does, as well as charismatic. I'd be completely remiss to gloss over the massive public and financial support he has developed that allows him and the RCSM patrol as much--if not more than, the most active members of the community. Finally, he has given this community/movement/clusterfuck an immense amount of media exposure.
This last contribution is what makes his denials of and attempts to cover up his flaws (and other's lack of recognition of those flaws) so dangerous.
As someone who's been wrong about more things than I like to admit (part of the territory of being headstrong and fond of being "right") I fully understand how hard it is to admit fault, or to justify and trivialize other's criticisms because "I've done so many great things!" The thing is, even the most brilliant, accomplished people make mistakes. What separates the good from the great is their ability to adapt and learn from their mistakes.
Like most other aspects of growing up, learning to admit faults is a long, painful process that often looks really damn ugly. It's also necessary.
Hopefully that's somewhat useful to someone.
Comedian Seth Meyer, on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update: "Phoenix Jones, a self proclaimed costumed vigilante was arrested in Seattle after he allegedly used pepper spray on a group of people leaving a night club. Jones apparently became a superhero after he was bitten by a radioactive idiot."
Former Seattle mayor Paul Schell (on The John Curley Show):"I think you don't need vigilantes. I think you need to make it clear you need police to do a police job otherwise you have chaos. I'm sorry but- and there are always characters like you remember, John, there was this guy who came to every press conference convinced that police had killed Kurt Cobain...so there are characters and that's fine but when someone is taking law into their own hands acting like a vigilante and actually doing that, then it is no longer funny."
You've read these reactions, now I hope you'll add your own in the comments section.