With the most recent shooting death of an unarmed black man by white police, we are hearing the same story of why the tragedy happened: offending officers said that they believed 22-year old Stephon Clark had a gun and they were “in fear for their lives.”
It turns out that Clark had an iPhone in his hand; no gun was found at the scene.
The post-shooting rhetoric is always the same. “Police say” the suspect “lunged” at them or was “reaching into his waistband,” giving police just cause to shoot. In the case of the killing by police of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, the offending officers responded to a dispatch call which indicated that someone had called in to say that there was a “man with a gun” at a local park. The caller also said that the gun “was probably fake.”
Police, though, acted on the call. Reports say they drove their cruiser over a curb and came within feet of Tamir. Without warning, they shot the young boy at close range and afterward, did not render medical care. He most likely freaked out when he saw the police car lurching toward him and may have “reached into his waistband,” as police reported. Nonetheless, they didn’t identify themselves and shot and killed him. (http://www.cleveland.com/court-justice/index.ssf/2017/01/tamir_rice_shooting_a_breakdow.html)
They were “in fear of their lives.”
The excuse given by police officers as their reason for taking down black people is the standard line but it just does not work. How can a police officer be in fear of his or her life that often, especially when that same fear is not apparent when they take down white suspects?
It is very troubling that in the case of 22-year old Dylann Roof, the young white man who shot and killed 14 people in a church in South Carolina, who was known to have an assault weapon that he used in a crime, the police had no fear for their lives. They pursued Roof, found him, arrested him and then took him to a Burger King for him to get something to eat before taking him to the police station. (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/dylann-roof-burger-king-cops-meal-article-1.2267615).
If one reads police accounts of these shootings of black men, they too frequently say that the officers “were in fear of their lives.” In the case of John Crawford, who was shot in the toy aisle in a Walmart while holding a toy gun, the officers shot first and asked questions later. Crawford’s last words before he died were said to have been, “It’s not real.” (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/07/ohio-black-man-killed-by-police-walmart-doubts-cast-witnesss-account)
People can only take so much. The scenario is nearly always the same. There is an “investigation,” a grand jury is called, but the offending officers are found to have been in the right because they were “in fear of” their lives.
That’s just too much fear and too easy of an excuse to keep letting police officers wage assault on unarmed black people. In the case of Clark, “police said” he was smashing windows and video shows that he ran from police when they began pursuing him. Though it’s not a smart thing to do, complying with police orders has not necessarily been a good thing, either. Black people have no reason to trust white police officers.
But, the officers said – as they so often do – that they were afraid. They weren’t afraid of Dylann Roof, a known murderer.
If their fear of black people is that intense, then perhaps the solution is that they not be assigned or even allowed in black neighborhoods. Perhaps, for the good of innocent people, police departments should send the officers who are afraid of black people to the suburbs and let men and women who have the capacity to “serve and protect” people and give them a fair chance and treatment worthy of any human being serve in black neighborhoods.
Black communities are tired of so many officers who kill black people get off because they were “afraid.” Send them elsewhere, and give our communities a chance to experience real police work and the justice that such work can bring.
A candid observation…