It is absolutely the worst kept secret that police officers are our own worst enemies.
For whatever the reasons are, we not only look a gift horse in the mouth, but we question it, frisk it, shake it down, and run it for warrants just in case.
Another black man is dead, and what I’ve been reading all day is that he was killed at the hands of “the police.” This time, it happened in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It seems we can’t take two or three baby steps forward with rebuilding public trust before we take a giant, grown man step backwards.
All I’ve seen all day online line is that we, “the police,” are awful.
“The police” are racist.
“The police” are blood thirsty.
“The police” are violent.
“The police” are vengeful.
“The police” are acting as judge, jury and executioner on the streets of America.
“The police” killed this unarmed, well, I guess armed man, but not armed in the sense that he was a threat, no. He just had a firearm in his pocket while he sold music illegally at 12:45 in the morning.
Killed for selling music? That seems harsh.
Wasn’t there a call that this man had threatened another man with a gun? Whether that’s true or not, wasn’t that how the call came out? Is that what responding officers heard?
I’m not making apologies for the officers involved in this shooting. I’m not saying they’re right by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m also not going to sit idly by and let people, most of whom have never in their lives answered a 12:45 AM radio call for a man with a gun, denigrate the reputation of “the police” without being taken to task for their overly broad assertions.
You see, as most of my regular readers know, I am who you are talking about.
I am “the police.”
On Wednesday morning at 12:45 AM Baton rouge time, however, I was sitting on my couch in Missouri, hundreds of miles away, drinking chocolate milk with my dog while deciding whether or not to write a blog post or just go to bed. I was completely oblivious to this shooting.
I’d just gotten home from working secondary at the Cardinal’s baseball game and must have missed the meeting where it was agreed that we, “the police,” were to be in Baton Rouge to kill another black man.
I clearly suck at being “the police,” because I’ve missed every other such meeting and have killed or criminally assaulted exactly zero other black guys in my nearly eighteen years of urban policing.
I was going to write a blog post about the bloody holiday weekend here in my fair city. Six or seven people were killed over the course of about twenty-four hours, none by “the police,” but now I see that there is more interest and outrage locally at this killing hundreds of miles away than there is about any of these or the dozens of other non-police related killings in St. Louis this year.
“The police” are working in trying times, for many reasons, some of which are admittedly our own fault.
Below are still shots from video provided by our police department to the media from just one of the killings in St. Louis on July 4th.
This is one of multiple suspects, in the middle of the day – a holiday mind you, who is literally hunting down his victims in the middle of an urban neighborhood with an assault rifle.
He looks very carefree and confident.
He looks to me to also be wearing a bullet resistant vest.
People don’t wear bullet resistent vests unless they’re expecting to be shot at. I have to wear one when I go to work, because I have to expect that I can be shot at whenever I’m on duty.
The man in this picture could have very easily been wearing the vest because he also expected to be shot during the course of his work. Perhaps he considered that he would have an encounter with the police during his attempt to murder his victims. Maybe that was even his hope.
Fortunately for him, and potentially any police officer who may have crossed his path, it didn’t happen, probably because many of the would be police officers in this neighborhood were working a 4th of July detail on their days off.
The funny thing is, or sad thing maybe, depending on your point of view, is that had he been stopped by police prior to murdering anybody, this man would have been in more trouble had he had bottle rockets in his possession, than he would have been for carrying around this firearm in plain view.
That’s not even a little bit of sarcasm, that’s the truth.
That’s Missouri and the current state of gun culture here for you.
Griping aside, I do get the frustration.
The little yellow markings above are just some of the many shell casings found at this singular murder scene. The lack of human decency for each other and the violence is completely out of control, and “the police” aren’t any more immune to it than the rest of the world.
I get that we want to have faith in our sworn protectors. We want to believe that “the police” aren’t unfairly targeting minorities, and we especially want to believe that “the police” aren’t killing minorities disproportionately, for reasons outside of anything but the defense of their lives, or the lives of others.
Are minorities killed disproportionately by police officers? I think the answer to that is pretty obviously yes.
Don’t confuse disproportionate with unfair necessarily though.
Do minorities commit more of the violent crime in areas where these confrontations occur? Again, based on where I work, I’d say that’s a yes too.
How do we fix that?
I teach Constitutional Law to new police recruits. I don’t teach them how to use deadly force, I try to teach them when they can use it. When are they okay to feel like they won’t be killed because they waited too long to protect themselves, or be sued because they used too much force prematurely? Those are difficult scenarios to teach in a classroom setting, but they’re even more difficult lessons to learn on the streets for the first time.
I’m trying to teach new police recruits that the use of deadly force is a last resort. I show them that the provision in our police manual regarding the value for human life is the first thing they’ll read after the table of contents. It’s there because it’s important for two reasons.
It’s important that they understand that they are vested with the right to proactively take another person’s life, if they have to. Not many other people possess that power. If they’re put into a situation where deadly force has to be used, they must be able to use it, or they or another person will be killed, or suffer serious bodily injury. It’s also front and center as a reminder that, with that power, comes great responsibility. We are tasked with protecting life, above all other things. That includes everybody’s life, even criminals.
We, “the police,” aren’t in the business of killing people for no reason.
I’ve taught my classes that it’s okay to walk away from certain scenes, if your uniform is only making it worse. Can you imagine that? Police officers leaving scenes they’re called to by the public?
There are times when it may be the better option, especially if it means a deadly force encounter is avoided.
It HAS to be THE LAST resort. It should be the exception that a person die at the hands of police, and the ugly truth of the matter is that people dying because of the police IS the exception. When the number of police and citizen encounters is taken into account, the number of deaths, particularly wrongful or criminal deaths, is negligible.
While we’d like to never see a person die via a police shooting, that’s a pipe dream at this point.
There are violent people out there waiting to hurt you and your loved ones, and, if they could, they’d hurt the police.
Police officers are targeted like never before. I don’t need stats to know that I’m less comfortable now than I’ve ever been at work.
Just pay attention in your daily to commute to other people who drive straight through red lights or speed or change lanes without signaling or flip other drivers’ off. There is a general air of disregard for other people and the law nowadays, especially laws people perceive as trivial. Along with that disregard comes greater disrespect and animosity towards those who are sworn to enforce those laws, namely,”the police.”
I’m glad there’s video that exists with more and more of these shootings nowadays, both police shootings and otherwise. It’s easy to read about people being shot everyday, especially when it happens mostly in areas you don’t visit much, but it’s much less easy to watch it happen live. My hope is that the violence put in front of all of our faces will cause us to collectively gasp at some point and say, “What the fuck? It’s gotten to be too much!”
Maybe then, when we’ve finally had our fair share of real life violence splashed in our faces from all over television and social media, we can start to seriously consider how to fix what’s wrong with society, especially with respect to violence.
Until then, things will move along as they always have. There will be more conflicts and police shootings and finger pointing and people making a whole lot of noise to distract everyone from the real truth, which is that these noise makers are doing nothing with their actions to cause a change for the better.
They’re just being windbags.
Blocking highways and looting and yelling and screaming has proven ineffective, as has placating people with firings and policies and training for police that don’t address the true underlying issues, issues that are the giant elephant in the room that people with all the power can afford to ignore, and will continue to ignore, because it’s not their lives that are affected.
My hope is us little people, both black and white, police and non-police, can come together to figure out what to do to fix what so clearly ails us.
The cure will be found in the grass roots of what has become a decaying society. When citizens understand that “the police” shouldn’t bear the brunt of the actions of some bad police officers just as “black people” shouldn’t bear the brunt of the actions of some black individuals.
If we’re all unable to see the forest for the trees, with respect to each other, nothing will ever change. Ever.