Even Surrender Is Not Enough

What does a black man have to do to not get shot by the police? After Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were unnecessarily and unjustifiably shot and killed, there were a lot of apologists for the police claiming that these two were in some way too resistant and not cooperative enough. That not being “cooperative enough” was enough to shoot someone is a pretty low bar and seems to give police far too much leeway in dispensing lethal force. Then, on Monday, we discovered that even being totally cooperative isn’t enough to appease trigger happy cops.

In North Miami, Florida, Charles Kinsey, a worker at a mental health center was shot by police with an assault rifle as he was laying in the middle of the road with his arms up in the air. Kinsey had gone into the road to retrieve an autistic man who had wandered out into the road from the mental health center. Neither man was armed.

Kinsey obeyed every command police gave him and they shot him as he lay arms up on the ground. Next to him, the patient was playing with a toy. And no, it was not a gun or anything resembling one.

What the living fuck?

Before they shot him, Kinsey had told police, politely, “Sir, there’s no need for firearms.” After they shot him and cuffed him, Kinsey asked the officer why he shot him, the officer reportedly responded, “I don’t know.”

Both Kinsey and the patient are black, of course.

I expect apologists to come out of the woodworks saying that this was a one in a million accident and that race had nothing to do with it. Furthermore, they’ll likely tell us all how difficult it is being a cop and with all the shooting incidents recently that this is to be expected. They’ll claim we’re just trying to create a problem where one doesn’t exist and that there is no racism or police brutality encouraged by racist attitudes in America. And they will be lying their fucking brains out.

Ask yourself if you would have shot a man lying on the ground with his hands up in the air. Ask yourself if you assume you would murder a man if he struggled when you tackled him for selling CDs in front of a convenience store. Ask yourself if you would draw your gun on a compliant man reaching for his registration during a traffic stop. Ask yourself if you would shoot a kid within seconds of encountering him because he has something in his hands that might be a gun. Ask yourself if you would arrive at a scene of a clearly intoxicated man wandering in the road and shoot him fifteen times less than 5 seconds after you got out of your car. Ask yourself if you would choke a man to death for selling cigarettes illegally on a sidewalk.

Ask yourself if you feel that any of these situations, in which the victim is always a black person, generate fear in you that would provoke you to lethal force.

Yes, police encounter situations every hour of everyday that they have to assess quickly. Yes, police are killed on the job. It is a risky job fraught with potential threats that could turn lethal. But if you chose to be a cop, you should be able to discern the lethal threats from the non-lethal threats and respond appropriately. If you’re carrying fear of people and your job into a situation to the point that you can’t, you should not be a cop.

Being a cop requires more than a gun. It requires the ability to assess situations for what they are, assess people in stressful situations, and do what you can to enforce the law with as little physical force as possible. If you disagree with that, you shouldn’t be a cop.

Given the recent shootings of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge, let me say that I strongly disapprove of hunting and killing police in reprisal. Violence begets violence, but not everyone is sane.

The real insanity, however, is what encourages more and more cops to behave so criminally. The justice system doesn’t punish these officers the way they should. In acquittal after acquittal (assuming indictments are even handed down), police officers who kill unarmed or cooperative black people are given the blessing of the state for their vile and irresponsible actions. Just this week, another Baltimore police officer accused in the death of Freddie Gray was acquitted. A man died in police custody and somehow no one is culpable. How can no one be culpable for a man’s unnatural death? It’s absurd to even suggest such an idea.

Ask yourself, would you believe no one was to blame?

Ask yourself, are our judges, our Justice Department, our district attorneys, our internal affairs departments all doing the right thing?

Ask yourself, does this not make your heart hurt?

And if not, why not?

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