This has to stop

July 15, 2016

Like practically everyone who wasn’t there, I don’t know the details about the recent police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota. What I do know is that it seems outrageous to pull someone over for a taillight problem and then shoot him dead.

Was there any possible justification for the shooting in that case? I expect we’ll hear a lot of excuses but I’ll bet we never hear a respectable reason for it. (FWIW, my guess is that the Minnesota shooting was due to a lack of trigger discipline.)

So let’s hear from a couple of people who’ve been there & done that. First, U.S. Senator Tim Scott (S.C.) talks about his experiences with police (in Washington, D.C., I assume).

Tim Scott Shares Personal Stories as a Black Man of ‘Frustration’ with Cops

WASHINGTON — Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) revealed today that he’s been stopped seven times in the past year by law enforcement for “trivial” reasons in a highly personal speech focusing on experiences of black men and police stops.

Scott called it his “most difficult” floor speech of the week because “it’s the most personal.”

The senator said most police “have two things on their minds: protect and serve.”

However, he added, “we do have serious issues that must be resolved” — the “deep divide” between the black community and law enforcement in many cities, “a trust gap” and “tension that has been growing for decades.”

“And as a family, one American family, we cannot ignore these issues.”

Stressing that Americans should be “thankful” for the good job most police officers do, Scott added that “some do not” do a good job. […]

“These are people lost forever. Fathers, brothers, sons. Some will say and maybe even scream, ‘But they had criminal records! They were criminals! They spent time in jail!’ And while having a record should not sentence you to death, I say, OK then — I will share with you some of my own experiences or the experiences of good friends or other professionals.” […]

“In the course of one year, I’ve been stopped seven times by law enforcement officers,” Scott said. “…Was I speeding sometimes? Sure.” Scott held up two fingers. “But the vast majority of time, I was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood or some other reason just as trivial.” […]

Next some spot on commentary from The Atlantic. If we citizens allow the police to get away with murder — as we do, both literally and too frequently — then we ought to expect that we’ll reap the whirlwind.

The Near Certainty of Anti-Police Violence
By ignoring illegitimate policing, America has also failed to address the danger this illegitimacy poses to those who must do the policing.

Last month, the Obama administration accused Donald Trump of undercutting American legitimacy in the eyes of the world. Trump’s call to ban Muslims wasn’t just morally wrong, according to Vice President Joe Biden, it called “into question America’s status as the greatest democracy in the history of the world.” President Obama followed Biden by asserting that Trump’s rhetoric “doesn’t reflect our democratic ideals,” saying “it will make us less safe, fueling ISIL’s notion that the West hates Muslims.” His point was simple—wanton discrimination in policy and rhetoric undercuts American legitimacy and fuels political extremism. […]

Last week, 25-year-old Micah Xavier Johnson murdered five police officers in Dallas. This abhorrent act of political extremism cannot be divorced from American history—recent or old. In black communities, the police departments have only enjoyed a kind of quasi-legitimacy. That is because wanton discrimination is definitional to the black experience, and very often it is law enforcement which implements that discrimination with violence. A community consistently subjected to violent discrimination under the law will lose respect for it, and act beyond it. When such actions stretch to mass murder it is horrific. But it is also predictable. […]

What does it mean, for instance, that black children are ritually told that any stray movement in the face of the police might result in their own legal killing? When Eric Holder spoke about getting “The Talk” from his father, and then giving it to his own son, many of us nodded our heads. But many more of us were terrified. When the nation’s top cop must warn his children to be skeptical of his own troops, how legitimate can the police actually be?

And it is not as if Holder is imagining things. When the law shoots down 12-year-old children, or beats down old women on traffic islands, or chokes people to death over cigarettes; when the law shoots people over compact discs, traffic stops, drivers’ licenses, loud conversation, or car trouble; when the law auctions off its monopoly on lethal violence to bemused civilians, when these civilians then kill, and when their victims are mocked in their death throes; when people stand up to defend police as officers of the state, and when these defenders are killed by these very same officers; when much of this is recorded, uploaded, live-streamed, tweeted, and broadcast; and when government seems powerless, or unwilling, to stop any of it, then it ceases, in the eyes of citizens, to be any sort of respectable law at all. It simply becomes “force.”

Finally, a white man’s view in the the Los Angeles Times. I’m not usually interested in "conservative" vs. "liberal" comparisons but this op-ed makes some good points despite those.

The conservative principle behind Black Lives Matter

It seems almost ghoulish to look for a silver lining in the dark cloud that blanketed the nation last week. But I think there was one. The killings by police in Minnesota and Louisiana, quickly followed by killings of police in Dallas, knocked the lazy certainty out of almost everybody.

At least for a moment, antagonists on either side of polarizing issues could see beyond the epistemic horizon of their most comfortable talking points. Black Lives Matter activists thanked the police for their protection and sacrifice. Conservative Republicans, most notably Speaker Paul Ryan and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, spoke movingly about race in America. Gun rights activists were dismayed that Philando Castille, the man shot by a police officer in Minneapolis, had followed all of the rules – he had a gun permit, cooperated with the officer, etc. – and was still killed. Liberals who insist that rhetoric from their political opponents inspires violence were forced to consider whether rhetoric from their allies might have helped inspire the shooter in Dallas.

It was a welcome change. “National conversations” are usually efforts to bully everyone into accepting a single narrative when the reality is that, in this country of more than 300 million, many narratives can be in conflict and still be legitimate. […]

I doubt the humility we’ve seen this week will last, but that it emerged at all is a source of hope.

I don’t know the root of this problem and I don’t have a solution. But it’s important that people realize that there really is a problem.

I regularly drive past a business that put up a sign this week (with a couple of small American flags, natch) reading, "We support and thank our police." That’s fine; I’m glad we have police forces too. But the sign made no mention of those who’d been kill by police.

That’s an injustice. If I owned land nearby, I’d put up my own sign as a memorial to the civilian victims of the police.

Update (July 17th):
Here’s a good video I found by "Mike the Cop", who’s part of Humanizing the Badge. So to keep a little perspective, here’s Mike:

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