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Shoot First (Ask Qs Later, Maybe)?

August 3, 2015

Okay, suspicions confirmed, maybe? This report of how some police are being trained, and juries persuaded, seems to fit the pattern, the MO, one might say.

His conclusions are consistent: The officer acted appropriately, even when shooting an unarmed person. Even when shooting someone in the back. Even when witness testimony, forensic evidence or video footage contradicts the officer’s story.

He has appeared as an expert witness in criminal trials, civil cases and disciplinary hearings, and before grand juries, where such testimony is given in secret and goes unchallenged. In addition, his company, the Force Science Institute, has trained tens of thousands of police officers on how to think differently about police shootings that might appear excessive.

(From NYTimes article, via Daily Kos)

I’m not going to take this as telling the whole story. For instance, I take it that there are a lot more police jurisdictions with training that in no way involves this guy (full disclosure:  my town, Seattle, is implicated in the NYTimes article). Maybe this is too easy an explanation of the problem, more an illustration of a dangerous mindset.

I wonder whether training such as this, and such testimony before juries, make so small a part of our problem that it’s more like a (telling) symptom. Some of the larger parts include a self-terrorized society, perpetually at war; inability to imagine the profound value of life (any life—any living being), and to care for it; racism; local governmental corruption; gun mania; and authoritarian personalities.

Our time is far from the first in which officers of the law abused their power and betrayed the public trust. We have a tradition of “frontier justice”—and we’ve had a frontier for most of our existence as a democracy. We’re a frontier democracy.

But there’s also the historic relationship between policing in America, the American prison system, and the operation of the institution of slavery, including allowing former Confederate soldiers to take their guns home with them so they could “police” their neighborhoods, including newly freed slaves.

Justice, and a just system of justice (including law enforcement) are key to a society’s healthy imagination of itself, of the value of life, and the need to protect, preserve, and serve life.

Questioning, and counter-questioning, make an important part of our arrival at a just understanding of ourselves.

I’m thinking that it is incumbant upon us to Q ourselves, as citizens trying to keep our sanity (public and private): what have we done with, and to, our police? who would want the job, and why? and how do they keep their sanity?

Meanwhile, “lets be careful out there.”

From → justice, police

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