I’ve seen murder.
I’ve seen dead bodies in cars, hanging out of cars, holding phones and other items in their hands even though they were dead, inside homes, on the street, in yards, some alone, some with loved ones nearby, murder just everywhere.
Dozens of dead bodies, all strangers, over the course of almost two decades of policing one of the most violent cities in America will forever haunt my thoughts and dreams until the day that I breathe my last breath.
I don’t recall every person who met their demise during one of my shifts, but many I do, and their last resting place before being zipped into a body bag remain vivid in my mind.
Murder is heinous and cold and brutal and unnecessary. Murder is unforgivable.
When we charge somebody with murder, we are, for all intents and purposes, ending their lives as they’ve known it, because conviction will mean a good chunk of their life behind bars, if not the rest of it completely.
Police officers are charged with protecting people and property, and in doing so, we’re allowed leeway to use force, even deadly force.
Let’s repeat that.
Police officers can use deadly force, if necessary, to do our jobs. I was given a gun by the police department to wear on my belt. I HAVE to wear it to work. It’s expected, in fact. If an officer can’t be trusted to pull the trigger on a person who threatens their own life or the life of another officer or civilian, then that person should find other work.
They will get somebody hurt or killed.
Yup, police officers can and sometimes must use deadly force. That’s just a fact. A reality of policing in America.
But we can’t murder.
It’s rare that an officer’s use of deadly force is deemed murder, so I was curious about what happened in Chicago. I wanted to see what that “murder” looked like, so against my normal habits, I watched a police related video.
I normally dislike watching police videos.
I never liked watching COPS, and I don’t enjoy police related videos on YouTube, though I’ve felt more inclined to watch them for use in my classroom. They can sometimes be useful training tools.
I watched a video of the Chicago incident.
I watched for several minutes as a police officer traveled in his car to the scene of a call with his lights and sirens on, indicating there was some sort of urgency to the call.
I’ve been there before, lots of times.
Lights and sirens on a police car mean something is going down.
I don’t know what the call was for, but the young man was clearly doing something disruptive, because at one point, when the officer gets near the scene, a resident points him towards where the problem was. People don’t normally do that, unless they’re aware of a serious problem.
The officer and others arrived at the scene where an agitated, armed man is clearly not following directions, and then he is shot, many times.
He was “murdered.”
That’s what the state of Illinois says, anyway.
That’s also what thousands of people online say.
Thousands of people who have never put on a uniform and badge or carried the weight of a bullet resistant vest on their body for the duration of an eight or ten hour shift get to spew their opinions without knowing all the facts.
They will say that the police murdered this kid. They don’t have all the facts, outside of a seven minute video, but they will get on their Facebook pages or Twitter feeds and say, “Chicago police murdered an innocent boy,” and they will be wrong.
A human being who worked as a Chicago police officer used deadly force to end a person’s life.
That is what we know right now.
Chicago probably employs roughly ten thousand police officers. If that department is anything like mine, and I have no reason to think otherwise, then many of those officers are black and Latino and many are gay and then of course, many are white. Police departments are probably most large, urban cities’ best employer of minorities.
Ten thousand police officers from so many different walks of life didn’t murder that boy. The hundreds of thousands of officers in the United States not on that scene that night didn’t murder that boy.
No. Stop saying that.
One Chicago police officer used deadly force on that boy that night. And while we’re at it, let’s not pretend that he’s an angel. Be fair and admit that he was breaking the law.
He was armed, not with a firearm, but he was armed and on a dangerous drug, so he wasn’t an innocent boy shot on his way home from school or work or whatever. He was messed up on that night.
Did he deserve to die?
That is the question of the day for not only Chicago, but every city and every police department across the country.
It looks like a bad shooting to me, but I’ve not heard what the other side has to say about it. What was the officer’s reasoning?
If he says he was in fear of his life, who are you to say that he wasn’t?
Have you ever answered a call for a person high on PCP and armed with a knife? How did you handle it, if yes?
I’ve answered calls for people high on drugs or otherwise mentally out of it. They’re scary calls.
Maybe he knows this kid from prior encounters. Maybe this officer just took a training class and learned how fast a person with a knife can close a gap and put a blade into another person’s neck before the other person can react.
I’m just playing devil’s advocate here, but the truth is, I don’t know, and neither do you.
Same on the other side of the argument as well. Well intentioned people who support the police are doing the same thing, spouting off that the kid had a knife and was on PCP, etcetera etcetera. They’ll say he deserved to die because he didn’t listen to the police. It’s not that simple either folks.
Hell, I’m doing it with this blog post. I don’t know what happened to a full enough extent that I should be taking sides, but I guess I am.
I’m on the side of justice. I’m on the side of the law.
It’s my hope that we don’t start seeing police officers prosecuted to assuage the masses, because that’s bullshit.
Murder in the First Degree is pretty harsh.
There is a difference between grabbing a gun and intentionally finding a target to kill and then killing him and being thrust into a tense situation because it’s your job and using deadly force because you thought you had to.
This man will have to answer for what he did, and I’m okay with that. I am glad that there was video, the police department’s video I might add. He will have to go through what he was thinking and convince a judge or jury that he didn’t murder that kid, and honestly, he might be able to, because it’s a tough case to convince a jury that a police officer murdered an armed person.
It’s not impossible, but don’t be surprised if there’s a hung jury or acquittal.
I don’t want any of this to sound like I’m justifying what the officer did either, I’m sort of thinking out loud and hopefully, giving you something different to think about as well.
At the end of the day though, I don’t want to read that police killed this person, because I am police, and I didn’t kill this person, nor have I ever killed any person.
Remember that the next time you read or hear that the police are murderers. That’s a pretty insulting comment, and I’d appreciate your support in correcting that person’s train of thought.