No quick fix for a cancer in society
It seems everywhere you look there's another problem to be fixed. It's hard to know where to start today, given yet more unrest on the streets of Minneapolis, following the police shooting of Daunte Wright. It's always easy to make a snap judgement and one finds oneself constantly questioning are my thoughts racist if I ask questions of the events surrounding yet another tragedy? Listening to the press conference yesterday, I found myself not believing what I was seeing. Mayor Mike Elliott and Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon, appeared totally unprepared for the questions they were bombarded with. I understand that the police chief wanted to get the body-cam footage out there to demonstrate full transparency in what he knew to be a fatal error by his officer. However, he then found himself having to face difficult questions from a clearly hostile press gathering, which he simply could not answer ahead of the official investigation.
Regardless of the footage which was damning of the officer's actions, she is entitled to due process. I can almost hear you screaming 'What about due process for Duante Wright?". However, you either have a judicial system or you don't, however flawed it might be. I don't know the police woman involved, but given her reaction I suspect that she's now her own worst tormentor as the tragic events are playing themselves over and over again in her head. No punishment will ever make that moment go away in her mind. Do I have sympathy for her? On a professional level absolutely not. If you can't tell the difference between a taser and a gun which weighs considerably more, then you should not be an armed police officer. On a human level, I can't help but feel sympathy for someone who appears to have made a dreadful mistake and killed a young man. It's easy for us to stand on the outside with an agenda and call her a murderer, but really? I abhor racism as much as I abhor racist police officers, but above all, I believe in due process. I realise we then go down the route of, is due process racist? Will this officer ever be viewed by members of minority communities as anything but a murderer, regardless of the findings of any invetigation?
The press appeared to want to be judge jury and executioner before any official inquiry has taken place. Whoever deals with communications for the police department and mayor, needs to be given their marching orders if they thought this was the best way to deal with a very volatile situation. The press were in search of a verbal lynching and the police chief in his haste to admit this was a mistake, just dug himself a big hole from which there was no exit. It was worthy of note that The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was not in attendance at the press conference. I have a feeling that they advised against holding it at that time, until they were in a better position to provide information that would not compromise the investigation.
In the current climate and in the midst of the George Floyd trial, anger in the black community is evident and rightly so. It seems hardly a day goes by when a person of color is not subjected to unreasonable force in what would normally be a routine traffic stop. Lt. Caron Nazario is yet another example of police abuse of power. He was pepper sprayed and treated appallingly. Fortunately for him, he knew his rights, remained calm and forced the police to act in a well lit area where he could record the incident himself. This should NOT be a prerequisite for a routine traffic stop if you are a person of color. Not everyone has that foresight and the discipline to remain calm. All to often, the response is as adversarial as the police intervention and this can lead to fatal consequences.
In the case of Duante Wright, it appears to have been a legitimate traffic stop which went dreadfully wrong. Duante had an outstanding warrant (which is not a death sentence), so the officers were not at fault for attempting to detain him. There may be some question surrounding how aggressive they were with him. In addition, there has been the issue raised that the systems for clearing warrants from the database are backlogged. However to be fair, police can only work with what they've got. We will never know what was in Duante's mind that led him to apparently decide to flee. Had he simply complied, it's clear it could have been resolved via due process. There is a legitimate argument for the police to have let him drive away, if the outstanding warrant indicated he was not a threat to the public. They could then have picked him up later, but in the heat of the moment, I suspect the police reaction was proportionate, until the officer used a gun as opposed to a taser to stop him driving away.
Today I have listened to well educated lawyers and racial justice advocates on media behaving beyond irresponsible. If you wondered why you have a problem, it's because if a person of color loses their life to a police action, it is unquestionably murder. That is wrong and anyone who tells me it's not, is being disingenuous. Your judicial system is based on innocent until proven guilty. No black advocate dressed in a fancy suit or a designer outfit, has the right to stoke the fire in advance of due process. It is irresponsible and highly inflammatory. There is no question this was an unlawful killing, but using inflammatory language to bolster your racial credentials is nothing but self promotion and unhelpful.
The issue here, is that there have been so many young black men killed by police, that every incident is viewed as racist. You can hate me for saying this, but I am not convinced this particular incident on balance, was a racist action by this officer. Was there a racial bias in the stop itself? Possibly. However, to me, as a person looking in from the outside, I believe it was a tragic fatal mistake. Should the officer be held fully accountable? Absolutely. Was she racially biased? I have absolutely no idea. Would she have acted in the same way had Duante been white? I have no idea at this stage and neither does anyone else. However, she's already branded as a murderer. The justice system is now so distorted, even plain truth is twisted into some malicious intent, depending on which side of the racial fence you sit.
Societal fractures are real, racism is real, racism within law enforcement is a huge problem, no question. These issues are not going to be fixed overnight, it will take generations to reduce it by any reasonable measure. Sadly I fear it will always remain in society, it's just a question of how visible it is. Our tribal nature leads us up some dangerous devisive paths. Just ask Republicans, they built a political movement on it and created tyranny for 4 years.
I watched footage of looting yesterday and it's not a racist statement to say that the majority of people I saw stealing were people of color. You can call me what you like, the tragic shooting of a young man does not give license for opportunist theft. All this does, is allow the right to point to black people as thugs and thieves. I just drives me insane. Black community leaders have a mountain to climb when people from their communities embark on activities that allow the right to paint the age old picture of blacks being criminals. We are happy to paint all police as racist, but God forbid we call all blacks criminals. Neither statement is correct, but society has become so polarised that objectivity and common sense is replaced by hate and suspicion.
Today my heart goes out to everyone who has suffered unfairly at the hands of law enforcement. It is unacceptable and the police need to do better. Racism is here to stay, the challenge is to call it out when it happens and wherever the law allows, it should be prosecuted. In the meantime, we all have a responsibility to be vigilant and help each other, to record it if we see it happening. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder with those that are victims of it. We are not born racist, we are taught it in a society that has become so polarised, it has become a cancer that needs a new generation to step forward and try to treat it. The question is, is it a challenge too far?