Friday, April 25, 2008

Bell shooters acquitted

The details are here:

I really have to say I expected little else.

Under the current circumstances it's virtually impossible to hold police officers responsible for recklessly killing civilians, especially if those civilians are male minorities.

Now, there's no doubt that modern policing situations can be very stressful and split-second decisions can mean life or death for the police officers and members of the public. There are some ruthless and deranged killers out there. And the majority of the time most police officers react with commendable restraint. I know that I. personally, do not have the temperament needed to deal with the assholes cops routinely have to interact with.

But, there's also a real problem here when police officers, to whom we give the literal power of life and death and are armed by the state and have the power of the state behind them, are not held accountable for acting with due regard for the public's safety. Policing is different from war, where overwhelming force is expected an necessary. In police work there always has to be a balance struck between safety and necessary force. We don't expect jaywalkers to be Tasered, handcuffed and billy clubbed just because it might be safer for the police officer that way.

Right now it is perfectly rational for male minority civilians to be very wary of the police. The fact of the matter is that you can be simply minding your business, entering your own home and gunned down by police officers so long as they think you are a threat, regardless of what you were doing. (Diallo) So far, the only time police seem to be held accountable is when their abusive conduct is egregious and conducted outside a street situation. (Louiama).

Sean Bell and his friends do not appear to be blameless. They could have acted with more sense. But he's dead, isn't he? So he faced consequences for his recklessness. But the 50-shot fusillade from police was not censured here. And therefore we will see it again.

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