Here we go again with a couple of killings of unarmed men by the cops, and riots starting up before the facts are in. At this stage, we don’t know what really happened. The credibility of the cops is in the sewer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the police version of the events is wrong. The country’s professional racist busybodies, Al Sharpton et. al., are getting involved and speaking out, and it’s starting to spiral out of control.
There is no one who is more hostile to the cops killing innocents than I am. My memory goes way back and I am still rankled by the thought of Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark murdered in their beds by the rotten Chicago cops, and there have been many other examples since, like the killing of Eulia Love by the LAPD in January, 1979.
Most of these murders-by-cops were investigated by the police themselves, and thus have no credibility. The first step in any attempt to halt such killings is to get the cops out of the business of investigating their own. It must be done not by “blue-ribbon” panels, which are usually tainted by their establishment connections, but by completely independent panels. I understand that in New Zealand, when a cop shoots and kills someone, the officer is automatically prosecuted. Then it’s up to an independent jury to investigate and weigh the evidence. That sounds like a good start.
The point of view of the police on this subject is that non-cops do not understand the pressures on the officers at the time of such incidents and that the non-cops are thus incapable of rendering a fair judgment. That, of course, is self-serving hogwash! What the members of the community understand, and the cops evidently do not, is that the idea of “to protect and to serve” references the citizenry, not the cops themselves. That means that the police are trained, armed and paid to go one the streets and take the risks. They were never hired to protect themselves at the expense of the community at large.
I have a close friend who is a very progressive guy, and has a son-in-law who is an officer for an urban police force. The son-in-law is very well-trained, intelligent and of a mindset quite opposite to what we think of as the “bad apples” on the police force. My friend has gone on numerous “ride-alongs” with his son-in-law and has gained an inside look at how officers do their jobs. He has seen several incidents in which officers have been in do-I-shoot-or-not situations. In all that he has told me about, the cops used great restraint and didn’t shoot, although in one case, they probably should have. In at least one case, the person in the cops’ sights turned out to be completely innocent, but still came within a hair’s breadth of being shot to death by many officers on the scene. It was the great restraint of the officers that made the difference. My friend, of course, wants his son-in-law to come home alive at the end of his shift. He maintains that the officers would have been justified in killing the target, even though he turned out to be innocent, because they legitimately felt threatened by him. I, of course, disagreed.
In another case, not involving the son-in-law, but by the same police force, the victim was holding an object that could have appeared to be a gun, but wasn’t, but he was killed by the officers. My friend supported the action on the grounds that the officers should not have to wait for a muzzle flash in their direction before shooting, because one of them could have been killed. Again, we disagreed. I felt, with the officers trained, armed and wearing Kevlar vests, they should have been absolutely sure about the weapon before firing.
It ought to be obvious, all accusations aside about racism or any other type of discrimination, that there are (at least) two points of view on officer shootings, and that they come down to the role in which cops see themselves. That is, are they there to protect and serve themselves, or the community at large? To me, the answer is obvious.
This part of the problem is solvable. There needs to be a formal and absolute understanding that police officers are hired, trained and armed to take whatever risks necessary to assure that the innocent, especially those who are unarmed, are protected from being killed by cops. Officers not willing to accept that risk should be dismissed from the country’s police forces.
There remains the problem of shootings by virtue of prejudice, whether ethnic, gender, sexual preference, etc. Unfortunately, this problem has complications in both directions. On the police side, the cops close ranks and stonewall or lie to cover the actions of an offending officer. On the “victim” side, the person and supporters get all worked up before the facts are in.
I’m convinced that there are many instances of police shootings of minorities of one kind or another. However, that does not excuse the sometimes outrageous actions in supporting the “victims” before the facts have been established.
This case of a young woman, supposedly gang-raped by people that included a cop and a prosecutor, turned out to be totally made up. That didn’t keep the usual suspects from stirring up a hornets’ nest with racially-based accusations.
This was a case of a young Black male who attacked a community watch person who was trying to find out who he was, walking through a private gated community, and was killed by the watch person, George Zimmerman. Zimmerman had been attacked by Martin and was having his head smashed into a concrete sidewalk. Moreover, Martin was trying to take Zimmerman’s legally carried pistol from him when Zimmerman was able to subdue Martin by shooting him.
Legions of racists, Black and White, got involved by presuming that, since Martin was Black and Zimmerman wasn’t, there was racial discrimination involved. There was no evidence of that. The accusers, with the cooperation of a biased media, joined into a lynch mob that went after Zimmerman with a ferocity that eclipsed even the similar grouping that supported Tawana Brawley. Fortunately, the jury attended to the facts of the case and acquitted Zimmerman of charges that should have never been brought against him.
Currently, we see another killing of an unarmed Black youth by the cops in a suburb of St. Louis. In this case, we have two sets of explanations of the incident, one from the officer doing the shooting, another from the relatives and friends of the deceased victim. All of the killings-by-cop in which the cop obviously got away with doing something evil weighs down upon the police version of the events, giving them low credibility. Nevertheless, the facts are not in. That has not stopped the Black community in the city where it happened from erupting in violence, with looting and destruction of businesses which had nothing to do with Brown’s killing.
This harkens back to the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. King was a victim of a vicious beating at the hands of LAPD officers. When the officers were acquitted by a jury (chosen in a change of venue to a suburb heavily populated by police officers), Black neighborhoods around LA erupted in violence. They also started looting and burning structures that had nothing to do with King’s beating. (I remember watching on TV looters coming out of stores carrying TV sets, radios, Coca Cola and potato chips.) Even worse, a racist gang of Blacks dragged an innocent White truck driver names Reginald Denny from his vehicle and gave him, also, a vicious beating.
Racist solutions to problems that might have a racist origin solve nothing. They just sully the reputation of the responders with their racist acts. Do we want this country to degenerate into a mob culture in which some folks justify their own racism because of someone else’s? I don’t think so! The problems are often real, but solutions first involve waiting for the facts to become known. Political solutions are necessary, as mentioned above, to remove the cops from investigating actions in which they themselves participated. Investigations must become open and independent, with the police officers involved being able to present their views, but with no greater weight than any other views presented.
As to the problem of killings by cop of innocent, unarmed people, especially with a prejudicial animus, I unfortunately see only one solution, a solution that I sincerely do not advocate. One of these days, a community or group thereof is going to awake to this solution with the possibility of stopping the problem, and it goes like this: when some innocent, unarmed person gets killed by a cop, some cop (any cop!) will get killed, perhaps an innocent for an innocent. That will mean to police officers that they will have to police their companions on the force to be sure no innocents get shot, lest some random cop gets killed in retribution.
Do we want this? Assuredly not! It would be yet one more sign of the degradation of American society. Nevertheless, if the cops do not reform themselves, it’s only a matter of time before this radical solution becomes fact, to the dismay of all of us.