WHERE IS THE OUTCRY? WHERE ARE YOU APATHETIC, OBTUSE FOOLS WHO CLAIM “YOU WILL NOT BE SHOT IF YOU COMPLY WITH OFFICERS”?
I wrote that immediately after the Charles Kinsey shooting and have cooled down. I’m not angry, per se, but my heart is broken and—more importantly—calling for change. I’m not black. I’m not a police officer. I try to have empathy for both groups—as well as awareness that I cannot understand the difficulty of being black in our society… or waking up and doing one of the hardest jobs in the world—and I don’t have infallible opinions on current events. Still, it is clear that our country’s police forces need changing.
Here’s the rest of what I wrote in the immediate aftermath of the Kinsey shooting:
I lay in my bed stiff as a corpse, aghast and disappointed knowing that the man who shot Charles Kinsey will probably not be questioned, fired, or arrested. No. No. No. He will—as it tends to happen when officers abuse their power by unnecessarily shooting somebody—be placed on paid administrative leave, which means he’ll go on vacation while still making money and then he’ll resume work perhaps next week (without any repercussions for his actions).
This link explains what happened. Here is another article of the story. There are plenty of accounts, all of which being nearly identical since this situation is clear evidence of a broken police system, so I’ll briefly summarize for those of you who can’t read it all:
A “confused autistic man” runs away from a group home. He is holding a toy truck and acting very erratic. Locals call the police, claiming that there’s an “armed man threatening suicide.” Police arrive at the scene with Charles Kinsey, a behavior therapist from the aforementioned group home, trying to help the man. Kinsey gets on the ground and puts his hands in the air, explaining what happened to the police and trying to diffuse the situation. “All he has is a toy truck,” [as opposed to a gun, which callers thought he had] Kinsey shouts. “I am a behavior therapist at a group home,” he adds. He is undeniably calm, but you can tell by his rhetoric that he’s concerned for his life; [this itself haunts me, as roughly 100 civilians are killed by police in this country every month, and African Americans are endangered furthermore]. The patient rocks back and forth, bewildered by the entire ordeal. Kinsey is suddenly shot at three times, with one of the three bullets piercing his leg. Stunned, he then asks, “Why did you shoot me?” “I don’t know,” the officer replies. Kinsey is then HANDCUFFED and left to bleed on the ground for 20 minutes, before being taken to a hospital.
Update to the story: The officer in question claims to have been aiming for the patient [which is VERY concerning for a variety of reasons], and he expresses his remorse and regret for what happened. It also makes no sense that they would handcuff Kinsey’s body after shooting him if they had meant to shoot the patient; guess that’s what happens when you pick a lie and have to stick with it. [I feel bad for the officer, and I know he didn’t have any malevolent intentions, but he is another case of a failed police force—and I’ll explain why later on.]
I could rant for hours about how this case is a fitting microcosm for how awful our police system is at neglecting lives, being quick to use lethal force, escalating situations (when they should be downplaying them), and just flat out abusing power. But I think most of us can agree that this case is entirely unjustified, so I’ll use this post instead to talk about addressing and solving the issues of our entire country’s failed police system.
First, I’ll address racism, a delicate societal issue that media outlets love to toss around indelicately. It’s obvious that racism persists in certain people of every vocation—and thus police officers too. So it’s understandable, though awful of course, that blacks are far more likely to be shot by police than whites. But at the end of the day, solving racism won’t fix our broken police system.
Many are quick to say that our criminal, political, and bureaucratic systems are awful. Congress, the TSA, the NSA, Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry- it’s all “corrupt,” “ineffective,” or both (and I’m not conveying a stance… just observing). When we say those things, we aren’t directly victimizing those who works within these fields or agencies, and we certainly aren’t saying we don’t respect the hard work they do for our country.
Why can’t the same be applied for our police system? I have extremely high regard for police officers, and I’m not reluctant to say it’s incredible how many officers out there are laying down their lives for mine and millions of others’. But for the sake of all the incredible officers, let’s, like Jon Stewart said, acknowledge that police overreach is an issue and hold all of them to a high standard.
The underlying issue in the police force, in my opinion, is that too many police officers go through their work days with a presumption that anything they do is justified. You can shoot and kill a homeless man under a bridge, drugged-out dude on the streets, suspect of a crime, or pretty much anybody else (in some cases) and get away with that under the hollow, subjective pretense that you “feared for your life.” As for the countless cases of police bullying civilians, the only hope that an officer will be charged for doing anything in such circumstances is if A) A civilian catches the entire situation on videotape AND B) the media fans the flames and gets the entire country hyped up about it; even then, whether or not the officers will get in trouble is a low chance at that point. Otherwise, the officer’s word always wins.
Many officers become desensitized to using their weapons because it’s what they’ve been doing for their career, and that’s why many—yet again—tend to start using them in unnecessary situations. Sure, it is incredibly difficult to do what they do, and I don’t think I’m good enough for the task, especially when it comes to making permanent decisions instantaneously. Nor are lots of you, but that doesn’t mean we should simply give officers a slap on the wrist and let them continue killing hundreds of people when they don’t have to. Being a police officer is a huge honor, and we should treat that honor as such (a delicate role that mustn’t be fulfilled by somebody who doesn’t consciously protect EVERY life when possible). With that in mind, the act of using a firearm to end the life of another individual is low on my list of ways to diffuse a situation; it should be emphatically low on an officer’s list too.
British officers don’t even have guns (which I’m not saying is good or bad), for example, and they’re still able to more or less control crime. If you’re an officer and a dog runs at you, don’t draw your weapon. If you really have to use something, use your taser. But don’t take deadly force. If there is a man with a criminal record that’s illegally selling cigarettes and doing other sketchy stuff on the street, confront him and use the taser IF HE RESISTS. Don’t gather a group of officers and choke him even after he can’t move or BREATHE (Eric Garner). Finally, if there’s a mentally unstable patient sitting in the street with a therapist—both of whom being clearly unarmed—don’t hide behind a car and fire shots for no reason.
Men will be murdered for unjustified reasons, dogs will be murdered for barking, children be murdered by SWAT teams who invaded the wrong, and millions of other cases of police overreach will continue to occur if the only people keeping the police “in check” are other “unchecked power-loving” policeman (in their sketchy little “investigations,” which usually consist of departments dragging them out for months—claiming that they need to gather all the “facts”, even when a five minute viral video can often show whether or not a policeman needed to literally kill another human—and then letting everybody go free once the progressive momentum against the officers in question wanes away). In essence, the departments purposefully hide their “investigations” in the self-imposed cumbersome nature of their bureaucratic structure, and officers—despite the good intentions that many of them have—are accustomed to getting away with everything, which is NOT a system we should be okay with.
Want to see where police reform is thriving? Look at Dallas. Despite the sad and awful shooting of five DPD officers on July 7th (which, in light of the media-hyped recent police killings of African Americans across the country, was aimed specifically at officers), police chief David Brown has some remarkable news about his—and my—city’s police department. Among many other statistics Chief Brown delivered in this article, here are a few significant ones:
As of July 9th, there have been four excessive force complaints in Dallas in the year 2016. Arrests have been steadily decreasing by the thousands each year. And in 2014, Dallas had its lowest murder rate since 1930.
The city is doing really well, and the police force is matching that excellence; I’m proud to be a Dallasite.
How did Brown make his department so safe and efficient? It’s simple, and this article explains it. He committed his department to being more transparent. He released an enormous amount of police data. He proposed that officers be subject to lethal force training every two months, rather than every two years. He declared that traffic citations should not be driven by the thirst for revenue. He dramatically increased the number of circulated body cams. He fired plenty of poorly performing officers too.
Perhaps all departments should commend Dallas and work towards progressing. Whether or not everyone acknowledges the problem of police overreach, it clearly exists and affects our country. Knowing the power of the people’s voice in the modern technological age, I am optimistic that we can soon come together and institute change. Let’s work on this problem together.
P.S. I compiled this perhaps incoherent compilation of thoughts a few hours before heading off to Kauai, so I apologize for not paying scrupulous attention to each paragraph on this post. I touched upon a lot of scattered issues in this post, and nothing I said encompasses my opinions on many of these matters. Still, I hope you got something out of it and would love to see your opinions in the comments section.
Also, I’m releasing another post immediately after this one that’s a bit more fun.
Thanks for reading and please squeeze those precious seconds of your day to like, comment, share, and follow if possible.