Policing the Police
UPDATE: see end of this essay for my updated remarks after learning new information….
Few things are black and white, unless you’re talking about racism. In regard to gun violence and police shootings, there are solid arguments on either side of this contentious issue which tells me once again that the truth is most often found in the middle and that extremism of any kind is both dangerous and counterproductive.
Right out of the chute, let me say that I know there are good cops out there. In fact, I believe that MOST cops are honorable, compassionate people who really do believe they are there to protect and serve.
Having said that, I have a bone to pick with those good cops. In this sense, “good” is not just a noun–a person, place or thing; but a VERB–it shows action, and a state of being. In my mind, good cops no longer have any right to complain about how they are lumped into the same some with rogue or corrupt or trigger-happy cops. They lost that right within the echo of their own silence. The police is still an old-school frat; a good-old-boy network with a thick blue line, and police officers cross this line under pain of death or at the very least ostracization and the loss of a career. But ultimately, these are choices that speak to integrity and character, and those lofty ideals should never be dismissed, and indeed, we find ourselves in the environment we do because too many have chosen a career or paycheck over those principles. If good cops begin to mobilize and speak out, then police departments nationwide would move in the direction we need to go. In this case, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. It would take time and dedication, but the end result would place us back in a position of peace and trust between police and the communities they serve. There is no other way. The tumors of racism and self-serving authorities have to be cut out and discarded if we have any hope of reaching those better angels of our nature.
In tandem with the policing issues, are the gun-control issues. Just as a trigger-happy, racist cop has no right to hold a position as an officer of the law, citizens who pose a threat to the public at large, also have no business obtaining guns as easily as they do. The Second Amendment–let’s be clear–was intended as a way for citizens to defend the state, not themselves or their property. It was written during a time when the country was young, and the arms they had the right to bear were muskets, not AK-47’s. They were not anarchists, set on fighting their own government.
Things have changed. The United States has evolved into a different entity than it was when the framers of the Constitution set those words down.
Moreover, the President is the Commander in Chief of those militias, should they be called on. There is plenty of material to educate yourself with, and I encourage you to seek them out. Here are a few to get you started.
All that aside, if I feel I need a firearm to hunt for food, or protect myself, my property, or my family, I will have one. Or two. This isn’t me, enjoying a Second Amendment right. This is me, making a decision. That’s all. Having a personal firearm for those reasons is not part of the argument, as far as I’m concerned.
But all these petulant, authoritarian white men who walk around Walmart with their M-16’s–this is an aberration of both law and what this country was founded upon. Who needs an automatic weapon in the grocery store? What are they afraid of? Marauding melons? A bathmat blitzkrieg? And how are other members of our citizenry to feel safe when any person with one of those guns, feels he has a right to start shooting, as he sees fit? As such, i am not a proponent of open-carry, as if we are living in the Wild Wild West. And yes, there will always be those who carry firearms concealed, but at least they know they have to hide it and are less likely to use the gun, if they know it’s against the law. That acts as a deterrent for cavalier treatment of a weapon that can take a human life. And proper legislation further protects us from so many of those guns falling into the wrong hands. Once it’s accepted for everyone to walk around with guns strapped to their person, it’s that much easier to think that using that gun is also acceptable.
Regardless, I will not patronize any establishment that allows customers to parade around with guns.
This same I’m-in-charge-because-I-have-the-gun mentality leads to the sort of god-complex we are now seeing with such frequency in some of our police officers. The unfettered, unregulated ability to take the life of another human being can easily slip into a sense that you can pull that trigger by fiat, and that’s why training and education are so crucial to this situation. Keeping the guns out of the hands of terrorists and emotionally troubled and the mentally ill is only one segment in the plurality, but one that is a necessary first step in addressing the problem, notwithstanding the abject and egregious failure of Republican legislators who refuse to do so.
Another important segment of this issue, is making certain that The Dark Blue are not above the law, and are not performing their duties from a position of racism, fear or the inability to handle a crucial part of their jobs.
TULSA and CHARLOTTE
The recent Tulsa shooting of Terence Crutcher by Officer Betty Shelby is almost certainly a case of murder. The video shows that Mr. Crutcher was not being combative or aggressive, and in fact, was merely a motorist whose car had broken down. That’s when police should have rendered assistance, not fired a bullet. Protect and serve. PROTECT AND SERVE. What’s so hard about that concept these days, that officers have forgotten what their job is? A badge should never afford you a free pass when taking the life of another human being. While I was gratified that the officer in question was arrested for manslaughter, I have little faith that she will be found guilty and made to pay for her crime, as officers in these cases seldom are.
The police shooting in Charlotte is a bit murkier in the fact-department, but still smacks of police corruption and another trigger-happy cop with poor training.
My wife and I have been watching that video taken by Mrs. Scott, often stopping it and playing it slowly, frame by frame. The more I watched it, the more I felt that things just didn’t add up and certainly didn’t jive with what the police and other city authorities were reporting. Perhaps releasing the police video would help clear up some of these questions, perhaps not, but they should be released, and not doing so, only exacerbates the sense that police are corrupt and untrustworthy. Until some clarity can be offered, nothing is clear. In watching the video released by Mrs. Scott, I had lots of questions and concerns.
First, the police officers weren’t there to confront Mr. Scott, but to serve a warrant on someone else. Yet somehow, they were suddenly hyperfocused on him, as he sat in the car, waiting for his child to be dropped off from school, while his wife ran in the house to get her phone charger. Somehow, officers were all over his car treating him like a bank robber they had been chasing, and never took the opportunities to deescalate, or give Mr. Scott a chance. His wife told the police he had a TBI and had just taken his medication. It just seemed like the cops were determined to kill this man no matter what.
Also, since the first police vehicle was unmarked, it’s possible Mr. Scott thought he was being robbed or carjacked, or maybe he just didn’t know what was going on, at all. He was on medication that caused confusion, after all, which the cops were told quite loudly by Mrs. Scott as she approached the scene with her cell phone recording; they apparently ignored her.
By the time the second police vehicle arrived, Mr. Scott was probably afraid HE WOULD BE SHOT and didn’t want to get out of the car. UNDERSTANDABLE– look what happened.
Additionally, both police vehicles were far too close to Mr. Scott’s vehicle for cops to have safe and nonviolent options.
Also, before and just after the marked police SUV arrives on scene, (and I have yet to hear anyone else point this out) the cop in the red shirt is lounging nonchalantly at the side of Mr. Scott’s truck, with no gun drawn and no sign in his body language that there was any danger– and he was standing right there, able to see in the cab of the truck. If there was some issue of concern for the other police officers, they could have stepped back and spoken to Mrs. Scott, and cleared up any confusion. Instead, cops went directly into lethal force mode.
Then, after Mr. Scott was shot, he was lying on the ground in an inexplicable position that didn’t make much sense. How did his body get way back there, when dash cam and another police body camera reportedly showed he was obviously confused, and stepping backward AWAY from officers when he was shot?
Then, in the initial frames when cops were cuffing the dying Mr. Scott, there is no sign of the gun on the pavement. Then, the gun is reportedly (and if you look closely, visibly) being guarded by the cop in the red shirt, mostly hidden by that officer’s left foot, behind and to the right of Mr. Scott’s body; then the alleged gun appears in a different spot perhaps 4 to 6 feet away from its original location, directly in the foreground near Mr. Scott’s feet.
Evidence like that is never to be moved at a crime scene, so how come the alleged gun suddenly appeared and then ended up in a second location seconds later?
Also, it was a terrible decision for city officials to dispatch police in riot gear and the National Guard. This in no way showed they heard, understood or sympathized with what the people were protesting. Add to that, the police decided not to release the video from dash cam and body cams just makes them look like they’re hiding something. It’s entirely plausible that the gun was planted to cover up a bad shooting–this has been documented as a method used by police in order to protect themselves from responsibility. Some officers carry an extra unregistered gun for just that purpose.
This is not the first, and sadly, it seems, won’t be the last time another person of color will die at the hands of overzealous, untrained, careless and racist cops. When will the good cops speak out? When will our Republican legislators pass the reforms needed to stop this trend? When will voters do their civic duty and cast a vote against this sort of corruption?
I cling to the hope that at some point, those with power will step up and say no. No more. Until then, more innocent people will die, and more corrupt authorities will enjoy their positions of power.
UPDATE: since i wrote this blog, two more videos were released by police. It cleared up several things for me. First, Mr. Scott wasn’t in that white pickup, he was in the white SUV to the left of that. (Still doesn’t explain the red-shirt cop being so cavalier when Scott was supposed to be wielding a gun). The other elements i might mention fall away in favor of this very clear impression: Mr. Scott was murdered by police.
He was not being aggressive, he was walking backwards toward the officers, as commanded, and them BAM BAM BAM BAM.
No matter how police might try to spin it, there was no legitimate reason to shoot him. I have ZERO faith that the officer who pulled that trigger four time will face justice. Like all the others, if charged and tried at all, he will not pay for his crime. I’d love to be proved wrong on this, but i don’t expect to.
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