We can all agree that change is needed to train and perform our policing activity in this country. There is something wrong when you turn on the news on any given day, and there is almost always a police shooting. If you look at practically all western countries, several (England being one) the police do not even carry a gun. In every other country’s comparison to the United States, we are at a significant disproportion to shootings here in the US to any other country. I believe the high is 14 times more significant to be killed by a police officer in the US than in other countries.
Not all situations are the same, and we have to be careful not to put all situations in the same box and judge them all the same way. In the last two weeks, we are witnessing one event come to an end; while this was happening, another incident occurred within miles of the first. Then this past week, two more events. Anytime a life is lost, it is tragic, and that family will never be the same; that is something you will remember daily.
As we saw the verdict in the George Floyd case, I believe we are witnessing a historical event, an actual long overdue change. George Floyd was murdered, and justice was done. We saw for the first time accountability have meaning. We saw the blue line break ranks to do the correct thing.
Not far from the George Floyd murder, the second incident was another police officer with 26 years on the job shoot and killed another young black man, 19 years old. There is no comparison between this case and the George Floyd case. Yes, this police officer was wrong. The officer pulled a gun, not a taser, and there is a very distinct difference between the two, including weight, color, and where they are on the body. This officer needs to be held accountable and serve time, but she did make a mistake, a tragic mistake. Mistakes like this should not happen given how long the situation went on and the officer’s experience.
These next two take the wind out of you, a 13-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl. In the first instance, an officer responded to a shooting at 2 am and started chasing somebody down an ally. The offer yelled out several times to stop. The person he was chasing had a gun; The news video shows a 13-year-old boy stopped to turn; the officer saw the gun and shot. The 13-year-old boy in the next frame of the video shows he was shot with his hands up and no weapon. That officer had eight-tenths of a second to make that judgment. Think about that eight tents of a second. He immediately started life-saving measures and called for an ambulance. Tragic, a 13-year-old boy but, the officer had eight-tenths of a second to choose. Not all situations are the same.
In the next instance, an officer had 11 seconds from the arrival to the shooting. In those 11 seconds, the girl with the knife threw one girl to the ground, turned on another girl before the officer could reach her. The girl with the knife pinned another girl and was ready to stab her. Tragically, a 16-year-old girl died, but she was attacking another girl with a knife. Admittedly we can question why the officer shot in a crowd with the risk of hitting others. There is also the question of why four shots to the main body mass. That is training to reduce the chance of missing. Not all situations are the same.
We are long overdue now, and I hope it is now getting the proper focus on how police train for the job, and most crucial hold accountability. Everybody plays a role, including the police officers protecting other officers they know with questionable behavior.
This also means we need to look at our responsibility; we can’t expect laws to cure our issues. Why was a 13-year-old boy out at 2 am with a gun? Why was a 16-year-old girl attacking others with a knife? There is a reason for these things that are at the root of the issue. There are also issues from the policing perspective that are at the core of these issues.
What we can’t do is pigeonhole all things the same way. Any shooting is unfortunate, any death is a tragedy, but if we look at them all the same way and put every police officer on trial, nobody will be a police officer, and when you need one, one will not be there.
Senator Scott(R) of South Carolina is working on a bill through congress with the support of Karen Bass(D) of California to reform policing. It is a good start that the parties are working together. We need to look at societal issues and gun law reform. We are the most advanced, educated, and most prosperous country in the world. We should be able to solve this problem. No family should get a call that their child has been killed in a senseless act at the hands of a police officer, but we all play a part. Maybe George Floyd’s daughter was correct; Maybe her daddy did change the world.