All Police Shootings Are Not the Same
ALL POLICE SHOOTINGS/KILLINGS ARE NOT THE SAME
Ten brief comments about the recent wave of police shootings/killings in America:
(1) Former Minneapolis police patrolman Derek Chauvin is guilty of murder, as charged. I’m uncertain to the degree of punishment he should be given but Chauvin should serve several years in prison at a minimum.
(2) I oppose the absurd financial settlement awarded to George Floyd’s family in civil litigation. This “penalty” comes entirely at the expense of taxpayers, which in turn will end up suffering from reductions in services and protection when damages of this size are awarded ($27 million for Floyd’s death). The family deserves the expected lifetime income of Floyd, plus legal costs, and that’s it (probably closer to $3 to 5 million). I don’t view the punitive nature of awarding huge damages as productive in this case.
(3) The Duante Wright killing is far more problematic. Clearly, this tragedy was accidental. There are many questions to address about why this suspect/victim was treated with such excessive force (with two officers on the scene was a taser even necessary?). However, this was nowhere near the crime committed by Chauvin and thus does not merit identical charges.
(4) The recent Chicago police shooting of a 13-year-old was entirely justified. End of discussion. The kid had a handgun and was shooting at cars. He died fleeing a scene of violence and was clearly the perpetrator. Gun residue was found on his hands (so, he fired shots). There is nothing to “protest” in this case (based on what’s currently known). Stop protesting. Quit covering the case. We (liberals) lose credibility when we don’t back the police when defending their own lives and the public against deadly violence.
(5) President Biden was correct to oppose the creation of a federal commission on police shootings/killings. While this decision was not popular with progressives and civil rights activists, it’s the correct decision at this time. Creating a federal commission with hearings to regurgitate what we already know (yes, there are serious problems with racial profiling and even more so with criminal justice in America) strikes me as redundant, and potentially even counterproductive.
(6) There is clearly a problem with racial profiling and the disparity of treatments afforded to people of color when compared with White suspects. The recent case of a Black active duty military serviceman being assaulted with pepper spray in the front seat of his car is an example of this. Surely, similar incidents happen far more often than we know since most cases do not have video and it becomes a young Black man’s word against a police officer’s — hence, the incidents go unreported. Since we don’t have answers on ways to address this (better training? more selective hiring? what’s the solution?), I’m open to suggestions. Note the reason why I oppose a federal commission that could raise some recommendations is federal oversight doesn’t typically apply to local law enforcement (city, county, or state) unless a federal crime has been committed. The vast majority of harassment cases against minorities do not involve federal crimes (unless civil rights are proven to be violated).
(7) The bigger problem which isn’t widely discussed is twofold: First, many urban (minority) areas have been dangerously neglected and forgotten by the establishment. This has catastrophic consequences for the tens of millions of residents of these areas (many inner cities) and society at large. Youths who can’t find work or good-paying jobs turn to crime and violence. Even the stagnation of the federal minimum wage has carry-over consequences that result in higher rates of crime and the severity of violence (for instance, disenfranchised youths joining gangs).
(8) Second, the proven disparity of justice in America from law enforcement to the courts to penal institutions (including for-profit prisons) inflames the problem. This is just as much a problem of rich versus poor as Black versus White. It is a two-tiered “class system” in America where rich (mostly White) offenders often get better legal counsel, advantageous plea bargaining, and lighter sentences than poor (mostly minority) offenders. Until this problem is addressed and eventually reduced, we will never have anywhere near the rates of safety and security in the United States as is the case in many countries without these issues.
(9) There are too many guns in America. Period. Full Stop. It’s that simple. I’ll keep this short since we could do an entire tangent discussion on this point (mass shootings are now a daily occurrence).
(10) Finally, we seem to live in two different worlds. The opposing silos of perception have created a cavernous crevasse of division, and have resulted in an impasse on criminal justice issues. So, little gets done. Nothing changes. Many conservatives typically misrepresent, malign, and ignore the contributing factors of the economic and social establishment and the deep institutional racism that causes domino effects leading up to more violence, and ultimately more flashpoints resulting from police shootings/killings. Many liberals are far too quick to reach knee-jerk conclusions about police confrontations and criticize law enforcement when deadly force *is* justified (let’s remember law enforcement are civil servants who are agents of the state and thus in many cases are the front-line protectors of safety and security — which is a tenant of liberal philosophy). Let us liberals acknowledge cases (such as the Chicago killing) where a shooting was justified. We must all recognize there are fundamental problems that contribute to this problem that’s within our grasp to change. And let’s agree to work to find common ground in grey areas where things are far less certain.
Conclusion: Police shootings/killings aren’t a simple matter of black and white.
RELATED READING: Murder in Black and White