I will preface the rest of my post by adding that I have had a gun held to my head – in a robbery, actually three robberies at Kentucky Fried Chicken stores in the Dayton Ohio area over 30 years ago. So, just like a cop, I do know what it is like to be confronted with a gun. You need to stay calm and need to think. One time my hands were shaking as I opened the floor safe. Still one needs to stay calm.
I also want to add that I have written letters for insurance companies (I have worked for three in my years). The letters have been used to put forth the company’s position in a claim or in response to a complaint, and so were crafted to withstand the scrutiny of trial testimony. In fact, I have given testimony in litigation on a number of occasions. Thus, just like a cop, I too have learned a string of phrases that backs up my point of view, and comes out almost effortlessly. So effortlessly, that it is not necessary for my statements to be exactly factual. I believe my statements have been true but they are made so effortlessly that it is as if I had a script.
So let’s move on to the Tamir Rice murder.
If you look at the video, we have a kid walking around in a park, looking goofy. Though described as big for his age, he was just 5’7”. He was heavy, but at 175 lbs, more a dough boy than a linebacker. Still when you put big black and male together, we tend to see a monster.
We need to look past the monster and see a black kid (or a black man when the subject is an adult).
The right wing press (racist to be sure) wants us to see a monster. But the rest of us, cops included, need to find a better way.
And in the end, Tamir was a goofy kid. You can’t watch the video and not see a a bored goofy kid ambling with no purpose in a park.
So how do you explain the police action?
As noted, I have had a gun held to my head – and when such event occurred, everyone in the store froze. But when you look at the video with Tamir, no one was scared of the little boy. So he was not threatening anyone. (And yes, over the several minutes, there were a number of people in the park near enough to be scared – but none were).
And Tamir was not close to anyone when he was shot, he stood alone in a Gazebo. So why did the police not take just a bit more time to let events unfold. They clearly did not think first. They just took action.
So the police had to craft an explanation that would keep their fat out of the fire. If they simply described what the video showed, that they drove up to a goofy kid and shot him, well they would have been indicted.
The facts were not on their side but they know the script. As I note above, it does not have to be true. Thus the emphasis on an active shooter (sounds scary). Again, not true, so they add “potential.” Yes, potential active shooter. That is how the prosecutors described the events before Tamir was shot. it is also clear that they did not want to prosecute the cops. Thus the excuse … (the officer) had "reasonable grounds to believe he was facing a potential active shooter."
Then they quote police policy … officers responding to an active shooter incident "shall have the authority to and shall attempt to make immediate contact with and stop the active shooter," according to the department's policy.
To this they layer on more bullshit - “Given Garmback's six years on the force, prosecutors wrote, he would have known the rec center would be occupied on a Saturday afternoon.” ….. "It was therefore reasonable for Garmback to believe that an armed suspect was easily capable of gaining access to the Recreation center and threatening lives," prosecutors wrote.
Quite a stretch from the goofy little kid hanging around a gazebo in a park.
Several recommendations here:
1) Police training has to add simulations that include how to respond in ambiguous situations where they want to avoid a gun. Will this add risk? Yes, but life is precious.
2) Police shooting need to be handled not by a prosecutor who is part of law enforcement but by a truly independent criminal lawyer.
3) Police need to see even black men and boys as people.
I am not entirely opposed to the police. In fact, one of my uncles was a cop in Brooklyn. He was a drunk and a racist. My suspicion about cops remains that many are (both).
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