I thought about writing such a post before, but kept saying to myself that there are plenty of other outlets for opinions on this subject to be discussed. With this latest incident in South Carolina, I decided that I should go ahead and speak my mind here. And it actually does have a connection to fragrance appreciation, because with some medical issues that I had to deal with lately, I found, once again, that stress really distracts from that ability. Moreover, my sensitivity is raised significantly, so that I can wear just about any scent, though certain notes or aroma chemicals still “spike out” to me. That all pales in comparison to the grief this man’s family is experiencing now, of course, and what the officer subjected his family and friends to is also difficult to comprehend.
And I’ll preface this by pointing out that I have relatives who were police officers, and when I was young there were plenty of them around the house at times, often telling their colorful and sometimes frightening stories. There was a bit of an “us versus them” attitude, to be sure, but it was also impersonal, and there wasn’t any hint that particular kinds of people were being targeted, or as they say these days, “profiled.” Could that be what has changed over the last twenty years or so? I know some people, who, up to the release of this recent video of the death of Walter Scott, defended the police in every incident, including the death of Eric Garner on Staten Island. Do they realize how difficult a “bad cop” makes life for those who don’t do such things, I’ve wondered?
Another point I make to such people is that an officer is not supposed to be arresting officer, DA, judge, jury, and executioner, and all within the space of perhaps a couple minutes (if not less). One thing I find quite interesting is that the defenders of what one might call “police disorder” have tried to deflect criticism by saying things like, “it’s not a black versus white thing” (I’m “white,” for full disclosure). If that’s not the case, then why isn’t an outlet such as FoxNews telling us about all the incidents where the situation is reversed? Since there are a lot more “white” people than “black” (“African-Americans”) in the USA, shouldn’t there be at least as many incidents with “white” guys being shot by police in similar situations (and that’s allowing for the officer to be of any “race!”)?
Some comments I’ve read online also seem to be attempts at deflection, such as “well, here in ___________town where I live, the cops do that to everyone.” My first response would be, then document them and create a blog where you can get this information out to everyone. Otherwise, you are just making a claim that is nearly impossible to verify. For those who don’t know, there is no national database for such incidents! Moreover, whether there is a “racial” component or not, there is something that is occurring in the minds of too many officers these days (obviously not a majority), and there is no government agency that is attempting to determine what this is. Even if there were, that agency would have to be given the power to change things significantly!
One question that keeps emerging in my mind is, why can’t a journalist find some footage of police training videos that address these kinds of situations? In this latest incident, I found myself saying, “is this officer simply too lazy to chase down this fifty year old man, who didn’t look like he could outrun his own mother?” Or even worse, “did he think that he didn’t get enough target practice in recent days, and so thought the man running away from him represented an excellent opportunity to get some?” And keep in mind that I’m assuming that Scott may have said something nasty and perhaps even kept trying to get away from the officer after being tased.
Of all the “cop stories” I remember hearing when I was young (mostly in the 70s), there weren’t any that involved something that even remotely suggested “profiling” (and they were proud to have never shot at anyone!). And the stories could be quite explicit, one involving a woman’s head that was discovered on a roadside. When the officer asked the Sargent what to do, the Sargent asked about the specific location, and then replied, “that’s right next to the border with the ____ precinct, so just kick it over on to their side and let them deal with it.” That’s the kind of disturbing police humor I was exposed to, but what we are seeing now is quite different, and certainly appears to have a strong “racial” component (though I wouldn’t be surprised if in some areas many officers were abusive “across the board,” especially towards the poor).
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the video is how nonchalant the officer seemed to be about resorting to deadly violence and then putting forth an explanation that clearly did not justify the use of deadly force. I would not be surprised if he had rehearsed just such a scenario, and perhaps an older officer had instructed him on “how to do it right.” There’s no doubt he knew about the Ferguson incident, and probably some if not all of the other recent, similar ones. And he also knew that many people are essentially carrying video cameras on them at all times. There must have been a sense in his mind that he was invulnerable and could get away with such actions without having to worry about anything more than perhaps a suspension for a few days, or some “desk duty.” How many others are there like him? That is undeniably a key question, and what’s incredibly frightening is that nobody seems to have any idea what the answer is (other than those with clear conflicts of interest) !
NOTE: After writing the above, while watching a news TV station, I heard the claim that the police reports for this incident were quite atypical, and one obvious question here is (assuming other officers went along with an attempted cover up), how do we classify such officers? If most officers would participate in such a cover up, can we continue to say that most are “good cops?” Perhaps this is the crux of the problem! And it seems to be a variation on Edmund Burke’s notion: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” though one has to question at what point such people could continue to be called “good!” What can be done about this phenomenon? Up to this point, our society’s “institutions” have failed, and it may be that the mandated use of “body cameras” by police is the best short-term response, as mundane that might sound considering the unnecessary loss of lives.