F the police?
Police are supposed to be the good guys, so why does this saying keep popping up? The answer is all over the news: “police shoot unarmed black teen” “woman dies under police custody”. But are police really at fault here? Or are they victims as well? Those are questions that I want to research.
Why is this important? So what? Who cares?
Since police play such an important role in our society, it’s very important to be able to put our trust in them to do their job correctly. Maybe it’s not the fault of the police, maybe it is, either way, something has to change in order for the trust to be regained between the public and the police.
Since there are many cases of police shootings, and I have limited time, I will research two cases.
The first one is the shooting of Michael Brown: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Michael_Brown
The shooting of Michael Brown occurred on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Officer Darren Wilson responded to a call regarding Brown and his friend stealing cigarillos. After encountering Brown and his friend along the street, Wilson blocked them with his cruiser. An altercation ensued with Brown and Wilson struggling through the window of the cruiser for control of Wilson gun until it was fired. The shots hit Brown’s hand. Afterwards, Brown and his friend fled, with Wilson in pursuit. Brown then turned and moved towards Wilson. This was when Wilson fired the fatal shots at Brown. Much of the evidence from the scene supports the Jury’s decision that Wilson acted in self defense, including this diagram:
Witness testimony is wildly inconsistent. Much of the testimony from witnesses against Wilson’s testimony has been discounted, with some witnesses saying they lied under oath. However, there are many witnesses that are consistent with Wilson’s testimony, saying that instead of surrendering, Brown “charged” at Wilson. These witnesses also said they were afraid of “backlash” from their statements, and so did not release them to the media.
The second is the death of Eric Gardner:
The death of Eric Gardner occurred on July 17, 2014 in Staten Island, New York after police officer Daniel Pantaleo put Gardner in an illegal choke hold. The altercation began when police approached Gardner on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes without a tax stamp. After Gardner resisted arrest, Pantaleo put Gardner into a choke hold that is against NYPD policy and forced him onto the ground. Unlike the Michael Brown incident, this incident was captured on a cellphone (WARNING, VIDEO CONTAINS EXPLICIT LANGUAGE) and it clearly shows Pantaleo putting Gardner into a choke hold, as well as Gardner saying “I can’t breathe” multiple times, a saying that became very popular with protesters. Gardner was declared dead at the hospital one hour later.
Well, that completes my two pieces of information. Let’s move on to why these things happen.
None of these incidents are caused by one reason. I will go though some of the top reasons of why these incidents happen. The biggest one and most obvious is racism, or racial profiling. America’s racist days are not that long ago, and although efforts are being made to make things fair and equal for all races, there is still a lot of racism remaining in our society. The statistics show it too, the majority of stop and frisk victims in New York are either black or Latino (53% and 34% respectively in 2011). A study was conducted where the participant was given a picture of either an armed or unarmed white or black man, where they had to make a decision to shoot or to not shoot within a split second. “All of these results are consistent with a Black-crime implicit bias and this bias was found in both African American and White participants.” Another reason is inadequate training. What else may explain the usage of an illegal choke hold? It seems in general police in America are quick to go for their gun, when they carry non-lethal options with them. Lorie Fridell, an Associate Professor of criminology says: “(police) Training involves an average of about 60 hours on deadly force – the use of firearms – and just over 60 hours on self-defence. Compare that to de-escalation conflict resolution training: the average there is only eight hours of training, and most of that is classroom-based…”
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and boy, are there a lot of opinions on this topic! Starting with some public opinions, and then I will share my own opinion as well.
With the Michael Brown case, there was an immediate public outcry. Most these people believed that Wilson shot Brown after Brown put his hands up in surrender while shouting “don’t shoot”. If Brown was really surrendering, then Wilson would have killed an innocent teenager who was showing no aggression. There are multiple witness accounts that back this side up, however, many of these witnesses eventually admitted to fabricating their claims. The other side of the story is Darren Wilson’s side. He, with many witnesses to back him up, claims that Brown assaulted him through the window of his cruiser, and after running a short distance away, Brown suddenly turn around to charge at the officer, repeatedly ignoring commands to stop. An audio recording of the last few gunshots also remains consistent with both Wilson and multiple witnesses. This evidence points to Wilson shooting Brown in self-defense, in which case, Wilson was not at fault.
So what do I believe? I believe Darren Wilson. Why? My logic is this. Michael Brown was not an innocent teen minding his own business when he got shot. Right before the shooting, he had just robbed and assaulted the clerk at a nearby corner store. The injuries seen on officer Darren Wilson’s face are also consistent with his claims that Brown assaulted him through the window of his cruiser. That and the testimony of multiple witnesses that all remain consistent with Wilson convinced me that Wilson’s shooting of Brown was justified.
What about Eric Garner? The best piece of evidence in this case is the video that a bystander shot of the altercation. Even with this video however, there are still two sides to the argument. The protester’s side in this case, argues that Pantaleo is in the wrong and that an abuse of power occurred. Some of the reasons for this are: Pantaleo put Garner into an illegal choke hold. After hearing Garner say “I can’t breathe” multiple times, Pantaleo finally lets go of his choke hold, but continues to keep Garner in an uncomfortable position, causing him to fall unconscious. While Garner is unconscious, none of the police around him or even the EMT’s when they arrive, perform any kind of CPR on Garner. The other side says that this act is justified. Garner was far from innocent as he was illegally selling single cigarettes without a tax stamp and had been arrested 30 times prior to this incident. In the video, Garner is clearly seen to be resisting arrest and noncompliance. When asked about why they didn’t perform CPR, a sergeant on the scene, Kizzy Adoni said “The perpetrator’s condition did not seem serious and he did not appear to get worse.”
What is my opinion on this topic?
My opinion on this incident is much more complex than my opinion on the Michael Brown shooting. I have watched the entirety of the bystander video, and I while I do agree that an excessive amount of force was used in restraining Garner, I also believe that Garner was unreasonably uncooperative with police. Now you could argue that if Garner didn’t resist, this whole thing wouldn’t have happened, but my point is, something like this never should happen if police were trained right. This segways me onto the final heading.
What can be done?
First off, I would like to say that while I do support the protests for the Eric Garner case, I do not support the protests for the Michael Brown case, especially not the violence. Does anyone remember 2010 when the Vancouver Canucks had the chance to win the Stanley cup? Remember what happened when we lost? There were riots all over the city. Many of the biggest trouble makers weren’t even Canucks fans! I believe the same case happened in Ferguson. Many people don’t educate themselves on a topic before believing somethings someone else says. I remember when I first heard of the shooting, I thought Wilson was definitely in the wrong. So what can be done about this? I believe the answer lies in training. More police training on how to control a situation without immediately going for a gun can and will save lives. I believe most of our focus should be on that, rather than combating racism, because racism is not something you can just beat out of a person. Even people who consciously say they are not racist, and who try to not be racist, still have a bit of racial profilling in them. Racial profiling is not something that is going to go away. Another thing that would help is police body cameras. I know for sure if my parents are watching me, I’d behave better.
Now to relate back to the questions at the top of my post. Who really is the victim? Well that depends on the situation. In the Michael Brown shooting, I believe that Darren Wilson is a victim, because even if he did nothing wrong, all the backlash that he received has in his own words made him “unemployable“. In the other case, I believe that Eric Garner is the victim of police brutality and abuse of power.
Well that was a lot of reading!
If you stuck with me the whole time and read the whole article, I think that you deserve way more than a thanks.
But that’s the best I can give, so thanks for reading!