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Should We Give Cops 'Benefit of the Doubt' When They Kill Unarmed People?

04/12/2015 07:47 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2015

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By Mark Green

After the spate of white cops/black deaths -- and planted evidence in the Scott case -- should we continue to take police at their word when making life-death decisions? Matalin and Reagan debate the Slager killing and whether this time it'll be different. Also: We discuss kickoffs of Rand, Hillary, Iran-Nuc.

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On Slager-Scott shooting. Ron thinks there are "layers of issues raised by this incident -- of course race but also police training about fleeing suspects." (In fact, Slager had only nine weeks of generalized training, not the 19 weeks average of other states.) Mary hopes the discussion isn't largely political (i.e., "racial") but looks at broader solutions such as body cameras and better training and pay.

The two agree that this shooting was murder, that North Charleston acted smartly by immediately firing and then indicting the officer involved, and that Giuliani's go-to argument that we should first discuss "black-on-black crime" is an unworthy dodge since one doesn't excuse the other.

There's consensus on these smarter approaches because no one wants the continuation of tensions that undermine community-police cooperation and effective law enforcement. Ron adds that ideally police would also have some college education since many of them are undereducated and that martial arts training is desirable since it could preempt the use of tasers, pepper spray and guns.

Host: One clear way to better police the police is to convict and punish Slager to the fullest extent of the law... deterrence being a pretty effective way to stop other police officers from killing fleeing suspects who endanger no one. Indeed, instead of the knee-jerk assumption that we give "the benefit of the doubt" to cops in these situations, we should consider a different proposition - viz., if we give police public benefits, pay, pensions and the power to use lethal force, they need to affirmatively defend their shoot-first judgments in return, with a scale of sanctions if they cannot -- from desk jobs without guns to suspensions to firings to criminal punishment in egregious cases. Such investigations must include colleagues who cover up excessive violence. Planting evidence or lying about "he reached for my gun" should be a crime.

In NYC in the 90s, when the NYPD with Mayor Giuliani's acquiescence rarely punished officers with substantiated Civilian Complaint Review Board complaints, as Public Advocate I sued to uncover this pattern of leniency and pressured for more punishment -- and prevailed. Punishments went up and complaints went down. Those who coddle cops undermine good police-community relations.

On Rand Paul's Announcement OK, What IS "libertarianisn" and is it -- along with Rand's eccentric father -- an asset or an Achilles Heel? Nat Cohen of the NYTimes says libertarians are too few and young to enable someone like Paul to win the nomination, much less the presidency.

Mary defines it as "being able to do what you want so long as you don't hurt others", which she acknowledges can be taken to extremes. But she adds, "Cohen is wrong. These folks are very intelligent, active, and well-organized -- look how well Ron Paul did" (though no President Ron Paul). As for Paul's Day One testy exchange with Savannah Guthrie of the Today Show, Mary thinks it shows him as feisty and unwilling to put up with "gotcha journalism." But won't Neo-Cons like Cheney veto Paul if he gets competitive? Mary, artfully, defends Cheney but also notes that "there's a generational change pushing both parties" and that Paul's non-interventionist foreign policy views -- and liberalized views on marijuana reform and felony disenfranchisement -- might find appeal among younger Republicans and moderates.

Ron, to the contrary, thinks both that "the war-mongering branch of the Republican party" will stymie his candidacy and his more exotic views on government and isolationism "means that he'll never be the nominee or president."

Host: We agree not to harp on his "inexperience "as the GOP is doing to this day about Obama even though Paul's a freshman senator with only six years of pubic experience by 2016 - unlike JFK's 12 years and Obama's 12 years (counting Illinois). His real problem is that he's taken shifting positions because of his libertarian extremism and now has to square being against the '64 Civil Rights Act, now for it; against all foreign aid, now excepting Israel; for negotiating with Iran, then signing the Cotton letter; against more foreign wars, then speaking in front of a battleship to show he's tough on terrorists. He often twists himself into a pretzel when facing reporters. Media-bashing can work in short run in GOPLand but he looks unready and expedient because he is.

On Clinton's 'announcement' Ron worries that she's "rusty" and would benefit from a tough primary. Mary thinks that she could be vulnerable to the meme that she's an entitled Queen who won't connect to average people and can be "done deaf" ("we were broke"). (Two days after Both Sides Now taped, she announced in a brief video that could be called The Sotto Voce Video. The message - Not "HILLARY!" but rather "US!"

Host: Question: Who won the most delegates and the most votes in the 2008 Obama-Clinton contest? Obama of course garnered the most delegates -- and nomination and presidency -- while Hillary got 17.9 million votes to Obama 17.6 million. So when the odd couple of Pat Buchanan and Maureen Dowd think she's politically like Nixon in her campaign skills (or lack of them), folks should appreciate that she nearly tied one of the most talented candidates in recent history.

Also, given the lack of significant opposition so far, watch for the media to convince themselves to be in effect her opponent overscrutinizing her every mistake or alleged "scandal." From Priebus to Fox to Jonathan Karl, she'll be periodically pummeled for something that'll be called "Hillary-gate"...then those headlines will fade until the next 'scandal.' Then in the Fall of 2016 it won't be Hillary vs. Hillary according to the media but Hillary vs. X, another human being presumably with some flaws

On the Iran-Nuke Debate. Mary denounces the Obama-Kerry deal as essentially unverifiable since, among other things, "Iran cheats. Time is on our side...let's wait as the mullahs die off and sanctions continue to work." She acknowledges that no option is perfect and there are risks with any approach.

Ron counters that no deal means that Iran can then try to race to a bomb and that the other P5+1 nations may drop their sanctions if we walk away.

1. While it's reasonable to hope that young secular Iranians caring about the economy will outlive and push aside militant mullahs, isn't that actuarially more likely to occur in 13 years when the agreement expires than in the next few months?

2. Who should American public opinion trust more on the details of the deal - our Commander-in-Chief, Secretary of State, nuclear scientists, other great powers and the Pope...or the Bolton-Cheney crowd who got Iraq so spectacularly wrong?

3. Is it simply unpatriotic for Senator McCain to argue that he gives more credence to the Ayatollah's interpretations of the agreement than our elected administration since what's-his-name lost in 2008 - and what would he have said if a Democratic senator embraced Brezhnev's position in a nuclear negotiation over say a President Reagan?

Are Women on the Money? They are not but there's a growing campaign to bump Andrew Jackson from the $20 and replace him with a woman. Thoughts?

Ron thinks any of those mentioned -- especially Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks -- should replace a "genocidal racist" like Andrew Jackson.

Mary's down with it but would like to bump ALL politicians from all currency and replace them with adventurers, artists...so what woman on the $20? "Amelia Earhart!" Or should we wait and put Hillary on it in nine years? "Absolutely not! Never!" Duly noted.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

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