Saturday, April 18, 2015

Who Is Actually At Fault?

Time, April 20, 2015, features fourteen individuals, apparent ages from 12-68, who have been shot by police officers or neighborhood watch volunteers since the beginning of 2012.  As all these victims were people of color, a universal cry of racism is heard nationwide.  (Perhaps we should see stats about whites and other races killed in similar situations).  But who is really at fault?  The officer, racist or not, who engages in the violence?  The suspect who engages in a scuffle?  Or the national system that offers only vague guidelines as to when to chase and when to engage in violence?  Is all of the above too cliché an answer?

Certainly, walking home from a convenience store, carrying a bottle of tea, a cell phone and candy is not probable cause for anything.  Certainly, the volunteer neighborhood watch individual who disregarded a dispatcher's orders to stand down and let the police take over, wasn't without guilt.  But, then, the system that permits anyone  --  volunteer or paid officer  --  to unleash his weapon and shoot to kill for little or no cause, is a serious, serious problem.  And, a similar problem exists in terms of police chases, as well.

The first order of business that nationwide law enforcement should address is when to pursue  --  on foot or in a vehicle.  A foot chase after a suspect fleeing the scene of a crime, offers little danger to bystanders as long as weapons are not drawn.  That is probably the best and quickest way to apprehend them, too.  But once the pursuit is engaged, officers need some guidelines.  Do we pursue and just surround?  Do we chase and tackle?  Do we run with weapons drawn?  So, you need to know the nature of the crime.  A purse snatch?  Weapons not needed unless the suspect is armed.  Rape?  Homicide?  With appropriate attention to bystanders, weapons are not only permissible but needed.

Now, a car chase is a disaster waiting to happen.  It is my belief that car chases should be forbidden for anything less than rape, abduction, homicide and terrorism.  The risk to the innocent is just too huge to warrant or permit them for anything else.  Period!  No arguments considered!  The end!  Not for stolen cars.  Not for robbery.  Not for B & E.  Nothing that is not a threat to the body and/or of death.  Car chases cause more vehicular damage and threat to life than homicides in any one given area.

By the same token, purse snatching, unpaid parking tickets, B & E's, unpaid child support, fist fights, selling illegal cigarettes, etc., walking home from a convenience store, playing with toy guns, walking in streets, unarmed theft or robbery, do not warrant guns drawn or any other form of violence.  Guns in most instances are overkill.  Give these officers national guidelines, not catch phrases they can us as excuses for losing their self control, much less for racist behaviors.  And neighborhood watch individuals should never be armed on duty even if they have a license to carry.

The Right To Know Everything

Americans of all colors and creeds have a right to know everything about American unclassified issues.  By the same token, reporters of print, radio, television  --  and now even the internet  --  have the responsibility to show the entire story, no matter how they feel about an issue.  Bias in reporting has long been a no-no that is now largely ignored. 

I experienced a certain level of rage watching the video of Walter Scott (a black man) being shot in the back by Officer Michael Slager (a white man) when the video surfaced recently.  The officer was claiming Scott had fought him for his Taser, but the video I saw showed no such struggle.  To all intents and purposes all the man did was get out of the car and flee the scene.  And the "yes, but" was that he had warrants out for failure to pay child support.  Well, duh, he won't be paying any child support now, will he?

Then, Time magazine, April 20, 2015, shows several still shots from the video including one that shows Scott struggling with the officer as he reached for his Taser or gun.  Folks, it does give one pause in the righteous indignation.  Scott did resist arrest by fleeing  --  and he did get into a physical scuffle with the arresting officer.

And for what?  Over back child support?  The issue was not worth a violent encounter at all.  Yes, it was regrettable that Scott is classified in the vernacular as a dead-beat dad, but the violent end defeated the purpose of the warrants.

What was presented in the video I saw shows a man totally innocent of anything save fleeing the scene and a police officer shooting him repeatedly in the back.  Now why is it important to see the struggle over the weapon?  I repeat remarks I made in earlier blogs.  When you resist arrest and struggle with officers, in the very least, you get their defensive system activated.  Until tested, even the officer, much less you, has no idea the limits of his self-control.  His fear is very real.  He goes into fight or flight mode to save himself.  If he flees, he risks being seen as a coward.  If he chooses to stay and fight, can he control his response?  I repeat, even he doesn't know until tested.  And if an officer really is a racist, resisting arrest just gives him an excuse.  If he says to the ground, drop.  Hands on the head?  Put them on the head.  Hands on the car?  Do it.  Give no man or woman a reason or an excuse to take you out.

And to you working in the media  --  never buy a doctored video.  Never, ever, edit one to show a particular view.  Show the entire interaction that is available or get another topic.  In the days between the video and the Time article showing a struggle, angry citizens could have pillaged Rome and the producers of the television segment could have been held responsible for a lot of death and destruction.