“We’re not the problem here. Society is.”
Aug. 21, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — In 1968, Dionne Warwick recorded “Do you know the way to San Jose,” which talked about “going back to find some peace of mind in San Jose.” Back in the late 1960s, the city doubled in population, going from 200,000 to over 440,000 in ten years. In the 1960s, San Jose was considered out in the sticks, complete with it’s own “Frontier Village” amusement park.
Now, San Jose is in the middle of the city, part of the greater Bay Area and actually larger than San Francisco. But you won’t find much peace there, at least not now.
You see, back in March, San Jose Police Officer Michael Johnson was killed at the hands of a despondent 57-year-old man. Johnson didn’t have a chance, the killer, Scott Dunham, stepped out onto his apartment balcony, and shot Johnson with a rifle. Dunham was then killed by a shot to the head by Johnson’s partner, who was using an AR-15.
If the tone wasn’t already set, Johnson’s murder set it in stone. The police were under siege. They were the targets of their enemies, and must protect themselves.
In early August, SJPD shot and killed Edrian Riveria after he allegedly stabbed someone. After a short chase, Riveria turned, raised his arms, and cursed the officers. He was then shot by officers “fearing for their safety and the safety of the public.” After police provided information that Riveria was on parole for murder, they later corrected their statement to say “attempted murder.” For anyone unaware, this is a big difference.
On August 16th, two SJPD officers shot and killed Matthew Castillo after the homicide suspect reached in his waistband for a handgun. A police spokesman said:
Police are here to protect the public. But people need to understand that officers are on edge because there’s been an increase in attacks nationwide and locally on police officers.
So, in furtherance of the First Rule of Policing, that the officer goes home alive at the end of the shift, the police aren’t taking any chances. No chances at all.
On August 17th, just a day after Castillo was shot and killed, a second suspect in the same homicide was also shot and killed. Richard Jacquez, who had his next murder victim in the car with him, fled from the police, wrecked out, then ran, and once in an alleyway with just the officer, reached in his waistband for a gun, so the officer shot him.
Except, it turns out, he never reached in his waistband. The police have since retracted that statement, saying it was a mistake. No problem though, they said the fact that Jacquez was running away from the officers and was shot in the back, as opposed to reaching for a gun, does not make it a bad shooting by the officers. Six of one, half dozen of the other.
You think so?
Look, I’m all for officers being safe and going home. Maybe even a tad more than the next guy. I understand the argument the police department is making under Tennessee v. Garner, which prohibits the shooting of unarmed, non-dangerous fleeing suspects except when necessary for officer safety. I understand that officers are “on edge” and not going to take unnecessary chances after Officer Johnson was killed.
What I can’t support is bullcrap and cover-up. I don’t support other officers blindly supporting an officer-involved-shooting, just because there is a fellow officer is involved. When did lying and cover-ups become the second set of tools of the law enforcement trade?
This is a cultural problem caused by waging a “war” on drugs (a war that, I might add, we’re losing) and a “war” on crime. We are not at war and we don’t need warriors. One of the PoliceOne.com regulars and I were arguing in the private comment section of the site. He said-
“[W]e’re not the problem here. Society is.”
You see, that’s what officers think, that they wear the mantle of righteousness, and how dare society question them or their actions. And you are not going to be able to change their mind. They have a self-reinforcing mantra and they really do believe that they should not be questioned. You have no right to question them. Really, only a cop can question a cop, and even then, question but not challenge.
So maybe we should force them to look at it differently. Back in the 1960s, California still had coroner’s inquest, where evidence was presented to a jury and they determined if the death was natural causes, suicide, accident, or homicide. Police had to go through them when they did things like shoot a tear gas canister into a person, or when the thumb “slipped” off of the hammer and killed a doctor.
That doesn’t mean that the officers will be indicted or face trial, in neither of the above cases were the officers charged with any crime. It does mean that the public will see what happened and be able to evaluate the information. Because society can’t be wrong, as the reason cops exist is to protect it. But for society, there are no police.
That may bring society some peace of mind, without having to find the way to San Jose. And even if you find the way, you may not find much peace of mind there anymore.