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Ex-State Trooper Convicted Of Involuntary Manslaughter For Tasing A Teen Riding An ATV At 35 MPH

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Former Michigan State Trooper Mark Bessner is going to jail. Bessner originally faced a second-degree murder charge for tasing a teen riding an ATV, but was ultimately convicted of a lesser charge. The details here are provided by the New York Times, which seems to be trying to further exonerate the former law enforcement officer with its reporting.

A former Michigan state trooper was convicted of involuntary manslaughter on Wednesday, nearly two years after he fired a Taser at a teenager on an all-terrain vehicle who then crashed and died.The teenager, Damon Grimes, 15, was illegally riding the A.T.V. in a residential area of Detroit in August 2017. State police officers followed in a patrol car to get him to pull over. When he did not immediately do so, the officer in the passenger seat of the patrol car pulled out his Taser and stunned Damon.Video footage of the episode showed the A.T.V. veering toward the side of the road. The teenager crashed into the back of a parked truck and died shortly thereafter.
If this is the only writeup someone sees regarding this incident, they're going to come away with a lot of wrong impressions.First, Bessner fired his Taser from his moving patrol car at Damon Grimes. Both vehicles were traveling at 35 mph when this happened. Earbuds were recovered from the scene, bringing into the question the assumed fact that Grimes knew he was being pursued by the troopers.At the point the pursuit was initiated, Grimes had only committed a traffic infraction. Trooper Bessner decided to punish this with an inadvertent -- but foreseeable -- death sentence. The pursuit was unnecessary. Bessner's decision to tase a person riding an ATV at 35 mph by firing out the passenger window of his moving vehicle was beyond idiotic. It was psychopathic.Bessner retired while under investigation. His former employer has attempted to exonerate itself by stating Bessner's Taser deployment fell outside of department guidelines. Inarguably, this is true. But what the agency won't own up to is its continued employment of a trooper who should have been fired long before he took someone's life. According to public records obtained by the Detroit Free Press, Bessner was a liability to the force for years.
Bessner has a history of using excessive force and has been reprimanded before for using his Taser inappropriately, including using the device on handcuffed suspects. The investigation into Bessner's conduct shows that over a four-year span ending in 2017, he had 40 use of force incidents, 17 pursuits and five car accidents.
The last stat possibly explains why Bessner was in the passenger seat. The rest of it explains why Bessner felt justified firing his taser at a teen riding an ATV -- a teen whose unprotected body was hurled headfirst into the rear end of a pickup truck, resulting in multiple deadly injuries, including a dislocated skull.The Times article also skims right past Bessner's attempt to change his story during the trial. None of the records obtained by the Detroit Free Press contain anything indicating Bessner believed Grimes was carrying a gun. Multiple body camera and dashcam recordings contained zero statements about this CYA theory, as did the paperwork related to the incident and its subsequent investigation.Nevertheless, Bessner tried to save himself by claiming -- months after being charged -- he thought the teen on the ATV was trying to pull out a gun.
“He had slowed down and he had looked back several times,” Bessner testified. “There was one very, very crystallizing moment where his left hand reached down towards his waist.”He later said he “absolutely” believed Grimes had a gun and that his life was in jeopardy.“It was a deadly force situation, is what I thought, and I used the tool I had available to me,” Bessner said.After Grimes crashed the ATV, Bessner said he and his partner tried to help the teen. He also searched the victim for a gun.“I was shocked that he didn’t have a weapon. I was shocked at the magnitude of what had happened,” Bessner testified.
Every cop who kills an unarmed person is "shocked" when they don't have a weapon. Some shock is legitimate. Some of it isn't really shock, but rather dismay that the "feared for my safety" defense may only be as bulletproof as the dead body at their feet.State Trooper Bessner screwed up and it's going to cost him a few years of his freedom. But he didn't screw up by making a bad judgment call on force deployment. He screwed up by assuming he could act like a vigilante rather than a law enforcement officer and get away with it. His history with the state troopers shows it was a safe bet to make. But sometimes the bet doesn't pay off and the constant underdog -- police accountability -- scores a rare win.

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Evil Video Games Great At Detecting Early Dementia In People

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We cover a fair amount of video game news here, with much of it revolving around either intellectual property concerns or the common claims that video games are responsible for all the world's ills. The latter posts can be separated into two categories: one in which the violence in games is blamed for violence in the real world and one in which those who do not enjoy the medium blaming games for producing young people who those same people decide are deficient in some way.It's enough to make you think there are really only two camps. One camp thinks video games are evil in all of the possible ways. The other camp thinks video games are great in all of the possible ways. But this isn't how the real world works. Like any other artistic medium, some products are good, some are not. Some are wholesome or thought-provoking, while others are empty calories. Even the notion that video games are solely an artistic or entertainment medium is a false premise, as demonstrated by a recent use of gaming to help identify Alzheimer's Disease before serious symptoms show up.

Sea Hero Quest was built as a way to identify people who might be at risk of Alzheimer’s but who aren’t yet suffering any major symptoms of the disease and according to a study recently published in the journal PNAS, it seems the game is effective. In Sea Hero Quest, which is a VR game, players have to navigate and control a virtual boat. They are given a map and shown checkpoints, then the map is taken away and players must navigate to these checkpoints in the game world without the map.According to researchers, every two minutes spent playing the game is equal to five hours of lab-based research. Because Sea Hero Quest has been out for a few years and downloaded and played by over three million players they’ve collected the equivalent of 1,700 years of research data on Alzheimer’s.
As the technology grows, perhaps particularly VR technology, applications like this will likely only grow along with it. And, while the equivalence figures sure sound like marketing material, it's also likely true that there is indeed an efficiency in using the game in this way versus traditional research methods. That kind of boon in gathering statistical information, not to mention the ability to use it to alert those who would potentially suffer from the disease en masse, is the kind of thing digital technology is built for.The question becomes where those who decry the gaming industry would come down on this. I'm certain they would argue that these types of games used for these types of things are just fine. Except that we would never have gotten here if not for the gaming industry existing as a whole. That is the very reason that generalizing an entire medium, or an entire technology, as inherently bad is never a smart look. There will always be examples such as this, in which that "bad" tech is used for a noble purpose.And the validity of the output in using this games appears to be fairly strong.
“We found that people with a high genetic risk, the APOE4 carriers, performed worse on spatial navigation tasks. They took less efficient routes to checkpoint goals,” said Professor Michael Hornberger, a member of the team.Using data gathered from thousands of players who downloaded and played Sea Hero Quest, researchers were able to create a baseline that their test results could be compared to. In the future, the team hopes this data and the game will help identify people who need treatment for dementia before they begin suffering from some of the worse later stage symptoms.
At the very least, this should be an indicator to the "get off my lawn" crowd that it might be time to take a breath.

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