Seems we want police to use deadly force to save us but not themselves, but there needs to be an alternative to killing…

March 31, 2018

Let’s face it, being a policeman is a dangerous and often thankless job.

But that of course does not excuse reckless or unprofessional behavior.

On the one hand, we castigate a policeman who would hang back while people are being killed (the recent Florida high school massacre) and on the other hand laud the heroic action of a policeman who shoots and kills an armed attacker (the recent school shooting in Maryland).

But there are riots in Sacramento after officers shot and killed a suspect, purportedly fearing for their own lives and deciding to shoot first and ask questions later, perhaps fearing that if they didn’t take action first they wouldn’t be around to ask the questions.

While I certainly don’t know all the facts and will never know really because I was not there I do have a lot of opinions about the killing of Stephon Clark, a young black man in Sacramento, at the hands of police. The incident occurred on March 18, 2018.

And I wrote that last paragraph a day or so ago but realized I did not know enough to really post anything on this. And maybe I still don’t.

But the most important point is that there just must be an alternative orĀ  option away from deadly force. And all my other thoughts, based on a lifetime of experience among the races, are almost beside the point.

It appears that the young man was unarmed. All he had was a cell phone. But in the dark of night, perhaps, someone thought he had a gun and was pointing it at officers. And he had been running away from officers who were pursuing him as a suspect in car break-ins that had just been occurring, it was reported (I’m not even sure on that). The officers were aided in the search by a police helicopter.

But someone, a voice (you can hear on the body cam tapes), says “gun..” and then 20 — yeah 20, shots were fired. Mr. Clark died as a result. No gun was found.

While the official autopsy has not been released, the family of the slain man had their own private autopsy done and its results have been released. According to it, of the 20 shots fired, eight hit the victim, the first at least to the front of his body but most in the back. The theory put forward is that the initial shot or shots spun the victim around.

But 20 shots? It sure seems like overdoing it to me. And if they could not see whether he had a gun or not, how could they possibly justify the shots? All those shots.

So it was a mistake. But why do these “mistakes” happen disproportionately to young black men? That is the news we get.

(I understand one of the officers who confronted Clark was black. And the Sacramento police chief is identified as black.)

Well I could think of all kinds of reasons for the mistake or the jumping to conclusions, but I don’t know.

What I do know is that there needs to be an alternative to shoot first and ask questions later.

In this case there is the troubling situation in which for some reason officers at some point turned off the audio on the body cameras. I think this was after they realized a terrible mistake was made.

Also, so someone thinks they see a gun. Why couldn’t the officers take a defensive position and yell “drop the gun”? I know, if the man really had a gun he might just shoot before anyone could do anything.

And do we want Barney Fife-like officers who would cower in the face of armed danger?

A former Sacramento County sheriff has a talk show on radio. While he admitted it was a tragedy he felt it should be pointed out that Mr. Clark had a rap sheet that included two armed robberies and other crimes, while being careful to also note that still that does not justify his killing.

(I am fairly sure the officers had no idea who they were confronting.)

I personally have heard reports on this story on the radio and on television (via my computer) and read them on the print media (via computer of course) and do not feel I have all the facts. Even the police video is not clear. I mean I think the assumption is that the victim had been breaking into cars and may have tried to break a window of a house. He was eventually shot in the backyard of what was described has his grandparents’ home (again the police apparently did not know his connection with the place). And one report said something about his grandmother had told family members to knock on the back window if they did not have a key. All very confusing.

But the important thing here remains the fact that there is a continuing problem of what appear to be unjustified police shootings and they seem to fall disproportionately on black people, and more precisely on young black men, although I also heard statistics to suggest that something like 44 percent of police shootings nationwide are in error and all races are victims.

I was disappointed with a PBS Newshour report on the incident I watched. They seemed to ignore the victim’s criminal background and the black news correspondent used a leading question when she asked the black family lawyer of the victim what he thought of “white people” who say Stephon Clark should have complied with police orders to give himself up.

(The form the question took seemed to imply white people show their bias when they ask a logical and reasonable question. Asking that question does not automatically mean or even suggest one is racist or bigoted.)

While not complying with police orders does not justify a killing in and of itself — it was part of the situation that cannot be left out in the explanation of what happened. If you do leave it out, then you must not want all the facts that could lead to a solution of the problem.

Law-abiding citizens, no matter their race, know it is never a good idea not to comply with police orders. And I think non-law abiding citizens know this too most of the time — but they are risk takers.

The risk is not worth it.

But let’s find an alternative to deadly force to be used where it can be used.

 

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Ferguson was handled badly to say the least, but Cleveland shooting seems outrageous…

November 27, 2014

On this Thanksgiving Day I am thankful that I have led such a peaceful life and that I grew up in safe neighborhoods.

My last post was about the Ferguson, Mo. incident that has resulted in so much violence and hardened positions between black and white and particularly between many in the black community against the police (I’m talking nationwide not just in Ferguson or the St. Louis area). And I guess even some non-black people are up in arms about what they see as heavy-handedness by white policeman. The Huffington Post, which has never been impartial but up until now was still worth reading to glean some meaning out of things, has dropped any sign of objectivity in the Ferguson case — siding with those who claim white policemen are out to get them.

And I am not claiming there is no problem or violation of civil rights. There is indeed a problem. I do think the police need to change their tactics and I do think more caution needs to be taken to prevent deadly mistakes. And there ought to be options other than lethal force. But also there needs to be a change in the mindset of those who seem to overlook the fact that if you engage in crime or vandalism or other types of uncivilized behavior and if you go out of your way to confront the police or refuse to comply with their orders when they are carrying out their lawful duties to protect the public, you are headed into dangerous territory.

I also think that as far as the black community is concerned, that there are those, actually the majority, who are just ordinary citizens and who do their best to get along in this world and live up to their responsibilities but who must contend with troublemakers and lawbreakers among their society and too often let them get the upper hand. They need to shun the bad actors and they need to get politically involved in their own communities. They could get elected to city councils and make sure that their police forces look more like themselves. And in the worst-case scenarios where there seems to be no hope, the best option might be to move elsewhere where things are more peaceful — if that is at all an option.

But the latest incident (and there seem to be so many) is where a 12-year old boy in Cleveland, Oh. was shot to death by a policeman. The boy was black and the policeman, a rookie, was white. The boy had reportedly been waving a handgun around scaring people. The gun turned out to be what stories report as a bb-gun. There’s video showing what happened (I have not yet viewed it). From what I have read, the officer acted awful quickly. And it seems surly some other means of making contact with the kid andĀ apprehending him could have been taken. Reportedly the police cruiser (two cops in it) simply rolled up and within two seconds the boy was shot — reportedly after not responding to previous orders to drop the gun.

From what I have taken in so far of the Cleveland incident, it seems outrageous. There just had to be some other option for the cops who were in relative safety in the patrol car (I of course don’t know or can’t see all that happened and exactly how it took place, video notwithstanding or even with video that never shows all).

Yes, there is no doubt something has to be done. And talk and platitudes won’t get it. And I think blacks have every right to be angry. The question is, who all should they be angry at. But whatever, action needs to be taken. Peaceful action. Political action. But action and now.

Meanwhile, I am thankful that I live where peace reigns.

Well actually there is violence all around in society and the world, but I am just referring in general to my own life.

May all have a good Thanksgiving.