Why it Matters the Dallas Police Used a Drone To Kill Someone in America

The Dallas police ended a standoff with the gunman who killed five officers with a tactic that is unprecedented: it blew him up using a robot.

This represents the first time in American history that a drone (wheels for now, maybe wings later) was used to kill an American citizen on American soil.

I get it, I get it.

The Dallas sniper had killed five cops. He was prepared to kill as many more as he could. He was in a standoff with police, and negotiations had broken down. The Supreme Court has made it clear that in cases such as this, the due process clause (i.e., a trial before execution in this instance) does not apply. If not for the robot bomb, the Dallas police would have eventually shot the sniper anyway. They were fully in their legal rights to kill him. None of those issues are in contention. I am not suggesting in any way the cops should have invited the sniper out for tea.

I am suggesting we stop and realize that in 2016 the police used a robot to send in an explosive to blow a person up. I am unaware that such a thing has happened in Russia, North Korea, China, Iran or other places where the rule of law is held by the few in power.

Weapons of War

The robot represents a significant escalation in the tools law enforcement use on the streets of America. Another weapon of war has come home from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. In the isolated case of the sniper, dead may be dead, whether by explosive or rifle shot. But in the precedent set on the streets of Dallas, a very important line has been crossed.

Here’s why this is very bad.

As in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is clear that an escalation in force by the police can only serve to inflame a situation, and trigger a subsequent escalation among those who will then seek to defend themselves against robots sent against them. In America’s wars, the pattern of you use a drone, I plant an IED is all to familiar. Will person being blown up by the cops likely soothe community tensions, or exacerbate them? Did the use of other military weaponry calm things in Ferguson, or encourage the anger there to metastasize into other locations?

More Force Sooner?

And will robots increase or decrease the likelihood cops will employ more force sooner in a situation?

“The further we remove the officer from the use of force and the consequences that come with it, the easier it becomes to use that tactic,” said Rick Nelson, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former counterterrorism official. “It’s what we have done with drones in warfare. Yet in war, your object is always to kill. Law enforcement has a different mission.”

Who is Responsible?

With a drone, it becomes easier to select the easier wrong of killing over the harder right of complex negotiations and methodical police work. Police officers sign up accepting in some ways a higher level of risk than soldiers, in that cops should be exercising a much more complex level of judgment in when and how to use force. Simply because they can use deadly force — or can get away with it — does not make it right. A robot removes risk, and dilutes personal responsibility.

For example, if an individual officer makes a decision to use his/her personal weapon, s/he takes on full responsibility for the outcome. In the case of a robot, the decision is the product of a long chain of command extending far from whomever has a finger on the switch. The same is true for America’s drone army abroad. The shooter and the decider are far removed from one another.

Who is responsible? What if we start to believe no one is?

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent. Reprinted from the his blog with permission.

  • aarky

    I understand your thought, but how were they to get this man? They could have sprayed away with their AR-15’s and hope one of the dozens of rounds would richochet and get him. One of their strong armed men could have tossed hand grenades and the fragments would have got him. Luckily they probably didn’t have anti tank rockets.

  • All frighteningly true. I just wrote a post on Dallas (http://exileinhappyvalley.blogspot.com/2016/07/dallas-blowback-and-pregnant-society.html) but I didn’t give much thought to the robot thing, I don’t think most people have but they should. It’s a scary precedent. Thanks for the warning. Terminator looks more realistic every day.

    • Janus

      It is scary, but so is the idea of the police being judge and executor. Like in the medieval times. Expect no mercy. Illuminati didn’t want to make the guy a spokesman for the true motives of the hit. Nobody speaks any more about the trigger, that police around US systematically kills male young innocent Negros.

  • El

    “…if an individual officer makes a decision to use his/her personal weapon, s/he takes on full responsibility for the outcome.” Wrong. Absolutely wrong. Where have you been? An officer hides behind the “magical” badge of “authority” granted by the god “the state” to kill at will, usually with zero consequence other than a paid vacation. If you disagree with this reality, you are simply not paying attention, or are a delusional worshiper of “government”.

  • BrotherJonah

    The pigs do street executions all the time. That’s the stated reason for the shooting, or at least the reason the pigs gave to justify them killing him. The why is as important to find as the How. Why do the Dallas and other pigs beat people to death in jail cells? At that point, and I’ve experienced it, when you have 4 p.. oh, I’m supposed to say “police officers” so I guess I better, but when 4 of them are holding you down in a 5 point, (2 on the hands, 1 holding your legs and one dancing around saying ‘don’t move motherf.. don’t move” and the 5th one kicking you in the head… it’s very easy to believe they are mindless drones, trying to kill you, and their lame-ass excuse is they were ‘just following orders’ It’s really a pissoff when you’ve survived. one that stays with you forever. If that didn’t happen to Johnson personally, maybe he had seen it done repeatedly. And sometimes that kind of beating kills. Street executions the same way. At the very least something in the man resonated, a sense of common humanity perhaps. In the streets of Dallas you witness things like that all the time. And if the person being beaten, perhaps to death, looks like you, and his physical aspect is a big part of the reason he’s receiving such a beating, yeah. When other people who look a lot like you get repeatedly abused when they Lawfully congregate to protest illegal actions, and you know that the reason they’re getting that treatment specially ordered by their and your physical appearance, well… Psychology tells us that we have more empathy for those who look like us, and that altruism isn’t really doing right even to death, but both are a matter of survival not of your own body but your genetics. Especially if the attackers look radically different from you and your family or tribal group…. Get used to it because that’s the most answer you’ll get from official sources. So we know superficially why Johnson went ballistic on them, literally. We know superficially why they chose to use a drone. My thought is it was just cowardice on their part. Just like the reason they shoot unarmed people in the back, and sometimes while the person they shoot is already handcuffed. It’s the same reason they use force primarily when their victim is vastly outnumbered, usually when there are no civilian witnesses. The drone operators are the same sort of coward. And now, their usual method of displaying their cowardly murderous tendencies, hitting somebody with out having to view the persons face, is given official sanction. Now it’s blue on blue. Now it’s Americans doing it not to some foreign person who doesn’t look or speak or worship God the same way, but remember the bit about altruism and empathy occurring more often toward people who look like you? Yeah. The uniform helps you to identify who you are permitted to like or ordered to dislike, to accept orders to kill another human being, without question. They told us in Basic that if we were ordered to kill our own mommas we would do so, with no question or hesitation. He had worn similar tactical clothing in Afghanistan not just because it’s armor, (basically, I once showed a picture of a roman legionaire and a modern SWAT or riot police officer. Form follows function. The use of a drone over-rides even that level of anonymity of both friend and foe. It’s an ultimate expression that, to the Dallas pigs, nobody outside their organization is equal to them, deserving of the protection they say they provide, Or even human.

    • BrotherJonah

      We the Peasants can buy drones, and customize them as we wish my vote is for surveillance but they’re being weaponized all over the map. You can buy one at Bass Pro Shops and Cabelas for about 50 bux complete with ways to control it from anywhere else in the world with your cell phone. Customize the software with about a hundred different Artificial Intelligence apps like Jeannie, Alexa and Ciri.And the chipsets are made in China, Pakistan and India, none of which have much reason to love the Corporate Government and all targeted by the PNAC.

  • Douglas Bonham

    They could have tried gassing him. But then he’d be possibly be alive, and talking. It probably ties in with this narrative they’re trying to run out, of a lone demented killer. It may tie in also with the confusion on three additional suspects still in custody, about which they won’t give information, this reported in the most recent stories I can find, in the very mainstream Washington Post. I distinctly remember as this unfolded, the news media reported three suspects in custody, who had driven off from the crime scene in a black Mercedes, which the cops caught. The early reports also said that they put a camou bag into the vehicle before driving off. This sounds like accomplices, if not actual shooters,
    and destroys this narrative of a lone crazy demented killer, with no real connection to an organized group. They really need to clear up this matter of the three additional people in custody, right now.

  • Ricardo Cabeza

    Tear gas is now reserved for peaceful student protests.

  • Sgt D

    Here’s why this article and mentality is dangerous: it excuses the behavior of the cop by reinforcing the idea that piloting a robot is somehow one step removed from responsibility, it’s not.

  • Skywalker

    There was no reason to kill the suspect by robot, by drone or by sniper. The suspect was contained. There were no hostages. The suspect was alone, barricaded in the building surrounded by cops. The robot could have delivered tear gas, knock out gas or the cops could have simply waited him out behind a safe perimeter. He would eventually have to come out. If he came out armed, lethal force would have been justified.
    We need to remind ourselves that the job of a solider is to kill the enemy. The job of a cop is to arrest a suspect and deliver the arrestee to the judicial system. A cop may only use lethal force to prevent imminent harm, not to punish a criminal.

    • lilbear68

      agree but then the same mindset was working at Waco, Ruby Ridge and against Dorner and anyone else that upsets the apple cart. its much cheaper to kill them than to let them show up in court to present a different side from the govt story, this was shown in the aftermath of the Ruby Ridge incident. by accident there was a survivor much to the govts dismay

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  • Skywalker

    The robot that carried the bomb could have delivered tear gas, knockout gas or a stun grenade.

    Or the cops could have waited behind a secure perimeter until the suspect came out.

  • Jul 8, 2016 – Death By Government – Authority Run Amok

    Public servants or public masters? Shepard Smith reports on the recent seemingly unprovoked killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling by police officers. Thanks to victim/witness video recordings, we capture a glimpse at the kind of treatment Americans, and particularly blacks, have come to expect from police. Former DA and defense lawyer Arthur Aidala provides analysis. Warning: graphic video.

    https://youtu.be/97Nfup9kFMc

  • Why

    …more importantly, what company made the drone? I want to invest.

  • “Jeff Davis Show” End killing drones/robots
    Soon US cops will use robots for
    “drug war” SWAT home raids and murdering
    “drug suspects”
    — Jeff Davis, Staff Sgt USAF Vet 80 – 92

  • de_janeiro

    This goes with mitigating risks and costs in terms of selling points, I think. The push comes strongly from companies making these products. How much clout these companies have over municipal, state, federal decision-making centers is another factor, but one which companies generously contribute their resources to securing.
    These products get their test runs overseas in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, locations throughout Africa, et cetera. From there these products are distributed stateside and sold as reliable given their successful or effective use in combat, e.g. selling point: they saved lives.
    The point I want to emphasize is not about ethics so much but that vested interests are a determining factor. Or there is an economic factor about these products which surpass a threshold so that it becomes difficult to turn back from their incorporation into daily routines.
    Probably people were saying the same things being said today about drones that were said at the arrival of gunpowder pistols, i.e. it becomes that much easier to kill someone. Probably it will happen one day that some folks will come up with a means to entirely vaporize a body to constituent, invisible particles. They will just point and push a button, like pulling a trigger, and there won’t even be bones left to put underground or ground to ash.
    How did this all start? Who is responsible? I say pretty much all of us are. Mostly because we accept that things are the way they are, i.e. we lack the intelligence to turn about and settle for less than our imagination(s) or desires compel us to achieve or to possess. The lack of intelligence is lack of foresight or outright neglect of foresight. A good example of this, I think, is A.I. and all the talk about its hazards. There is an obvious threat and yet A.I. is sold as if it is as inevitable as death. Who but fools can’t or won’t turn about from manufactured demise but instead hasten it? Even well-educated and intelligent people are hastening violent outcomes for lack or neglect of foresight or fear of being overcome. Really, fear is the culprit. It’s not even “some-one” as we say but more a kind of psychological state or condition.