“They are the kings ’cause they swing amputation
Lose your arms, your legs to their miscalculation
I can prove it to you watch the rotation
It all adds up to a funky situation.” — Public Enemy
I thought long and hard about folding this over into this morning’s piece. After all, I already references the Minnesota police shooting in that piece. Yes, that situation did involve a gun, so maybe I could just rant against guns and call it good. I also could have waited until tomorrow to write the piece. Heck, sitting on the perfect song lyric and story idea is a luxury these days.
Yet, it just didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel right to rail against guns and somehow let this situation go another day without comment. See, here we have another situation when an unarmed person of color gets killed by the police. It’s enough to make you wonder what in the hell is going on,
I could simply refer you to my earlier post, but for those too lazy to go that one, I have another article to reference the event. It might be just a horrible coincidence that this shooting happened in the shadows of the George Floyd murder case going on just ten miles away. Who knows what one has to do with the other. It certainly is fair to claim that racism is a systemic problem in that police department and yet we cannot know for sure whether this particular officer was motivated by racist attitudes or not.
In an earlier post, I commented in detail about an encounter that I had with local law enforcement. The encounter didn’t go well and yet I came away unharmed. That could be because I am white. It could also be because I didn’t pose a threat to the officer. Each scenario is equally viable and yet one cannot deny the possibility that each of those are intertwined somehow.
If we take the officer in Minnesota’s testimony as gospel then we have to conclude that it was not murder. She intended to tase him. Of course, that begs the question of why. He was supposedly being pulled over because he had an expired car registration. From there, it was discovered that he had a warrant for a missed hearing on a misdemeanor gun charge.
We can set aside how genuine the blue lives matter crowd really is after the capitol attacks on January 6th. Even assuming they are coming into the discussion in good faith we would have to ask whether it makes sense for someone to lose their life in a routine traffic stop following a bench warrant on a misdemeanor charge. The usual course is to point out that the victim comes in with unclean hands. Yes, he had a misdemeanor charge on his record. However, is that horribly relevant to this particular situation? Did he pose a threat in the moment? Why was it necessary to tase him?
Herein lies the point. We can have discussions over qualified immunity and how armed we want police to be. I certainly have no problem discussing choke holds and other common sense and quick reforms we could make to policing. Something tells me this isn’t a quick fix. This goes back to the attitudes and typical responses from the officers themselves. Why exactly do their instincts drive them to this place? Imagine if this had gone as it was “supposed” to have gone. The victim would be tased instead of shot. Great. At least he wouldn’t be dead.
Is this something they are taught at the academy? Is it something they are taught by older officers that might have outdated and out of touch opinions on who they are policing? Is this a jaded opinion that the officers have themselves in more cases than we would like to admit? The bottom line is we have to find a way to respect the balance between keeping officers safe while they do their jobs and keeping the public safe.
I hate to make these parallels because I know situations are not completely analogous. Yet, when I talked to the officer’s superior in my personal situation, I pointed out that as a teacher I had to go through extensive training before I could put a student in restraint. That was primarily for my safety and the safety of the student. It is also because if we handle the situation correctly there will never need to be a restraint in the first place. I’m proud to say I’ve never had to restrain a student in 24 years of teaching.
I’ve certainly had to discipline students. So, it’s not a situation of just letting them do whatever they want. However, it is about building a relationship with them. They trust that I won’t hurt them. So, they return that trust by not hurting me. So, we both get what we want. It’s hard to couch that in a policy or in legislation. It’s simple common sense that comes from the realization that you sometimes have to let go of certain things in order to gain more control. The alternative is to keep reading stories like this in the news.