In an interesting (to me) discussion over at Jack Bog’s place, a commenter named “Sheef” posted the following:

The Blogtown post raises an interesting hypothetical. Imagine an industrious blogger nobly opining away at a local coffee shop on a laptop. A thief snatches the laptop and bolts out the door. A cop witnesses the theft and gives chase, but returns to the coffee shop empty handed. The cop tells the blogger, “I’m sorry, but the only way I could have stopped him was by pushing him down, and he could have been hurt. So he got away.”

Does the blogger:

a. Commend the cop for his restraint – it was only a laptop, after all;

b. Commend the cop for his restraint and, upon obtaining a replacement laptop, blog about the virtue of PDX cops;

c. Scream epithets at the cop for not shoving the thief down and stomping on his head in order to get the laptop back; or

d. Throw scalding espresso into the cop’s eyes while screaming epithets and, upon obtaining a replacement laptop, blog incessantly about the lazy PDX police who have no respect for private property?


Note: “The Blogtown post” that Sheef refers to can be found here.

Just taking the question at face value, without considering the presumptions Sheef may be making, is a bit difficult for me. I think that Sheef was trying to personalize the situation being discussed (a police officer injured in the line of duty while chasing down a suspect). If I can guess from Sheef’s tone, I think he may be assuming that I, or another commenter, would call for a different response from the cop for “someone else”, versus the response I (or another person) would call for myself (or themselves). I could be wrong, though, and I hope to hear from Sheef, or that he at least reads my post.

Obviously I had a first, gut reaction to Sheef’s post. But then I thought about it some more, carefully considered my underlying assumptions, and then realized (or, possibly, rationalized) my initial reaction was the correct one for me.

The answer, for me, both on first reaction and after considered thought, is B. I would thank the cop for his effort and commend him on his restraint, and upon getting to another computer, I would probably blog about it. I blog about everything else, after all…

My reasons for this are several, and just taking the situation as Sheef presents it without adding any new assumptions, the basics for me start with the fact that no laptop is worth someone, cop or thief, getting injured over it; and end with the fact that, in my view of police work, they serve the public, including some guy who snatched a laptop off a table. I’m just as uncomfortable with the idea of a cop who views a property theft as an excuse for violence, as I am with the assumption that I see in Sheef’s question that a suspect “deserves” a little roughing up.

You can argue that if the cop saw the guy take my laptop, that the suspect’s guilt is not a question. But I would argue that it’s not the cop’s place to make that determination. Our system of justice separates the judgement of guilt from those who enact the laws for a reason, and I see no reason to question that.

And to add a bit to the question (my assumption that Sheef was trying to personalize the situation, so bear with me while I picture myself in the scenario, with all that that entails), since my laptop is an Apple MacBook Pro, my chances of getting it back in one piece are greater if I report it stolen, the thief takes it, sells it for quick cash, and it eventually turns up in an Apple Store for service.

Compare that scenario with the idea of a cop knocking the suspect to the ground. What are the odds a fragile laptop is going to survive that?

Granted, that comparison might not hold for any other crap laptop (heh)… which is why I considered that separately from the basic, no-added-assumptions question. Just sayin’.