Citizens’ Lives Matter
July 24, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — According to the British newspaper, The Guardian, as of July 22, 2015, a total of 637 people have been killed by the police in the United States.
Out of that number, 139 were unarmed. That’s just over one in five.
The First Rule of Policing is to go home alive at the end of your shift. All cops know this, and the focus on officer safety is high. Believe it or not, that’s a good thing. We should all want police officers to go home every night, to be safe and make sure that they are not hurt. I’m all for officer safety.
But I’m also for citizen safety, and every single individual out there, criminal or not, victim or not, innocent or guilty, good or evil, every one of them have that same right to go home at night. They have the very same right that a police officer does to remain alive.
Most of the time, the two sides can both go home safely. Sometimes the two sides cannot. But we need to do everything we can to minimize those times, and we need to make sure that when police have to kill someone, that (as the lingo in Texas goes) it was a righteous shooting (all that means, for my northern friends, is that it was justified). When it is not righteous, then the officers need to be held accountable for the unjustified taking of a human life. Every. Single. Time.
On July 5, Los Angeles County deputies shot and killed Johnny Ray Anderson, a homeless grandfather. Witnesses state that Anderson had his arms up to surrender. The deputy said that Anderson tried to take his gun. Luckily, the deputy was able to shoot him and make it home for supper.
In June, Spencer McCain violated a domestic protective order and was beating a woman. When he took a “defensive posture,” Baltimore County officers fired 19 shots. No weapon was found.
Also in June, Ryan Bolinger was shot and killed after “dancing erratically,” led police on a chase that complied with the speed limit, and then approached an officer’s car at the end of the “chase,” so she shot him. Des Moines police policy on the use of deadly force “shall rest solely with the employee’s individual judgment.” One of their sergeants said:
It all has to do with how an officer is perceiving the situation and what they are feeling at the time. It’s what they are seeing, it’s what they are experiencing. There’s not a hard fast, this is when you shoot this is when you don’t.
Yeah, that makes it so much better.
On May 6, Brendon Glenn was shot and killed by Los Angeles police. Chief Charlie Beck, who has viewed the videotape, stated that he did not see the extraordinary circumstances which would justify shooting an unarmed man. According to the Orange County Register, “[a]fter joining the struggle, one of the officers stepped back and fired two shots at Glenn, [who was] unarmed.”
Coming from the police chief in Los Angeles, it is saying something that this is being questioned publicly. Historically, it’s almost unheard of to go after police officers who have shot someone. In the last two years in Chicago, police have shot (though not necessarily killed) 208 civilians. Not one was found to have been unjustified. Not one. Not even the one that the city paid out a $5 million settlement to the family of a 17-year old boy who was shot 16 times. Nine times in the back.
In earlier posts on Fault Lines, I commented on the Gardena shooting, as did Ken Womble. It was an execution, in my opinion, not a justified shooting, but none of the officers were charged. Had a federal judge not ordered the release of the video, that’s all anyone would have know — except for the $4.7 million settlement. Their chief, Ed Medrano, said “our position is that everybody who needed to see the videos has had the opportunity to do so.”
That doesn’t include the public. Nor, based on past statistics, does the public need to see the officers defend their actions in a criminal court.
Even though more than one in five who are shot by the police are unarmed. Even though a police officer kills a citizen in the United States every nine hours.
Because even though the citizen did not get to go home, the officer did.
Isn’t that all that matters?
Main image via Flickr/Christian Matts