Response to the Law

The story I am writing about is old news. It has gone past the initial incident and into the hands of the courts.

I am talking about the shooting of Sammy Yatim. [Fair warning: The link leads to a video of the shooting.]

For those who missed it, allow me to set the scene. Yatim is a knife-wielding teenager on a street car surrounded by police officers with pistols drawn, pointed at the aforementioned teenager. After repeated calls to drop the knife, Constable James Forcillo fired 9 shots at Yatim. 6 shots are reported to have been fired after Yatim had fallen to the ground.

My Take

I believe this fiasco should spark a deeper discussion about police training. Police constables are not simply given a utility belt and then thrown into the community. They are taught how to do their job, and part of the job is making split-second decisions to protect their own lives and those of the public.

Yatim pulled a knife in public, but did not harm anyone on the streetcar. This video shows the streetcar emptying, and there has been no news report of any passengers being harmed, so he was not feeling murderous. The video also does not show Yatim advancing on police officers. It did not appear that the teenager was a danger to anyone other than himself.

Because of that, I do not understand why the officer began to fire his pistol. It is possible that Yatim began moving toward the police officers in a threatening manner, but there was another officer standing next to Forcillo and he did not fire even after Forcillo had opened fire.

Clearly, something has gone wrong before the incident; some training was ineffective or Forcillo was the wrong man for the job. Shooting an individual who poses no danger to the public or officers-on-hand is a decision that defies logic.

Two Questions

Are police being trained to make sound decisions in the face of ambiguity? The rash of violent police actions across Canada and the United States says “no”.

Are recruits being screened for personality traits? A person who is comfortable and calm in a confrontation is one thing; one who goes looking for a fight is another.

There are many questions being asked, but I believe those two drive to a cause. Police around the world are tasked with a difficult job, so being 1) trained appropriately and 2) the right person for the job are critical to successful policing in the modern world.

Futures

To me, the worst part of this whole situation is that it is now impossible to tell why Yatim acted the way he did, and he cannot be helped. His potential is lost forever, and that is the greatest tragedy.

Justice for that loss is one thing; preventing tragedy in the future is another. The only way to prevent mistakes is to learn from them, so I hope that the right lessons are learned from this horrible situation, and that those lessons leads to necessary changes.

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Control

While driving on the two-lane Fraser Highway, hundreds of feet above a frothy river of the same name, I was given sagely advice from the car’s back seat.

The only thing you can control is yourself.

Do Unto Others…

…what you would have them do to you. That’s an old cliche, but it makes a good point.

I got into an argument with my father two weeks ago, right before I left for vacation that would take me well outside cell phone range. I pushed too hard to make my point, and after we stopped talking, I knew I had been the aggressor. I hesitated to say anything, and missed the chance to be leaving the city.

My mother and I discussed it (she was on vacation with me). I thought about it myself. In the end, I wasn’t happy with how the situation had ended, but for a while I was unwilling to admit that I should be the first to take action.

On the way back from that vacation, I was given the piece of advice that at the beginning of this post. I realised that if I expect an apology, I would have to take control of myself and apologise.

Aftermath

I decided to take control of myself. When I got home, I apologised. It was the first thing I did after depositing my bags.

The words of the earlier argument melted away and became immaterial. All the tension that had built up over my week-long vacation disappeared.

Do you expect people to apologise to you when they do something wrong? Apologise when you do something wrong. Do you expect people to solicit your feedback? Ask them for theirs.

I took control and did what I had to. I chose to act, and the needle moved.

Assumptions and Optimism

So! I am disappearing to the middle of nowhere for 10 days. When I return, there will be new content, but there will be nothing new here next Friday.

Now, on to assumptions and optimism.

Where It All Started

Since my parents purchased our first home computer, I have played video games. I can’t say that I come from the same pedigree as gamers that began with large machine in an arcade, nor can I say that my first gaming console was one of the classics (Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, etc). My first console was a Nintendo 64 that I bought in my teens. A friend of mine has the machine now, and it still runs.

Anyway. This post is not about video gaming or consoles. It is about a phenomenon I have noticed in online multi player games. It is the tendency to leave when the going gets tough (or before, in some cases).

Playing the Game

In a single player game, leaving has no consequence. When the game gets frustrating or pointlessly difficult to play, the player can stand up and go do something else or play a different game.

Some multiplayer games function in a similar manner: the game is hosted on a server and runs perpetually. Players can come and go as they choose. If there are players on the server who are too good for everyone else, one can simply find another server to play on. The only time a game ends is based on how the game is scored or if a time limit elapses, and even then, then server usually just changes the map or restarts the match. Once again, there is no consequence for leaving.

Other mutliplayer games function in a random match format. The player hits the “go” button and they are matched with enough other players to fill the space on each team. This method usually employs some form of “matchmaker” that uses parameters such as player skill, how far they have advanced into the game, and/or other relevant measurements.

Win/Loss

A pair of games that I have been playing recently, World of Tanks and War Thunder fall under second category of multiplayer game. Interestingly, they are also free-to-play. Any user with a good enough computer can play these games, and the system requirements are not high.

Zero entry price for the game and low computer requirements mean that the level of player skill will vary wildly. Some players will exceptional, many will not be.

That also leads to interesting matchmaking. The matchmaker in each of these games does not use win/loss ratio, average damage per game, or any statistical measure associated to any one player’s account. Instead, the matchmaker uses the rank of the vehicle being used by the player.

Beacuse of that, some players to acquire user-made modifications for the game that allow them to see the win/loss ratios of players on each team and calculate the percentile chance each team has of winning, based purely on those numbers.

Assumptions

Now let’s get into the meat of this discussion.

The modifications I mentioned lead some players assume whether or not their team will win. There are more factors than statistics to a win/loss equation, but some players seem to rely entirely on the numbers, and then leave a match if there is a low chance of victory.

About a month ago, I was playing World of Tanks and noticed something strange. Using the in-game chat system, a player on my team, let’s call him JoeBob stated “win chance too low. bye”. A system message came up: “JoeBob has left the game” and his tank exploded.

That situation is not unique. I have seen the same thing happen several times. It is annoying from my perspective because my team is at a disadvantage: one less player, one less gun, one less bullet magnet.

Optimism

Absence from a game is like lining up a shot and then not taking it. At least taking the shot gives one the chance to hit the target. It’s like saying “It looks too tough” without knowing whether or not it will actually be tough. Raw statistical calculation does not account for every variable possible.

That kind of negative, “can’t do, won’t do, might fail” attitude is usually called “pessimism”. Most, if not all, of you have heard that word before. Giving up before you start is the ultimate definition of pessimism.

To get back to the game I mentioned earlier, I go into every match without a mod that tells me the chance of victory because I don’t want to begin a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. Like Han Solo once said: “Don’t give me the odds!”

I don’t have the keys to the Millennium Falcon (I wish I did), but I do like Solo’s optimism. Despite facing overwhelming odds, he chose to ignore them and bet on his skills (and a little bit of luck). Just like Han, I would rather make the best of the situation than back out based on an assumption.