A Question of Value

Onyx Contributor:  Tim Druck (@southendtimd)

I have a question.  Or maybe it’s an answer.  But I suppose I have to begin with a statement.  And it’s a simple one.

The cops are shooting too damn many people these days.

Michael Brown.  Ezell Ford.  Eric Garner.

It’s not just black men.

Oklahoma City police shot and killed Karen Cifuentes, 19, and then charged her boyfriend, Shanderrick Cleveland, with murder because she was shot while he was dealing drugs.

District Attorney Jacqui Ford says according to the law, if someone dies during the commission of a serious crime, their accomplices could be held accountable for the death.  “The idea or theory behind felony murder is if you’re engaging in behavior that is inherently dangerous, that you should foresee something like this could happen”, said Ford.

Cleveland and his friend, Juan Aguilera, were held accountable for the murder of Cifuentes because they placed her in a deadly situation.  But the man who actually murdered Cifuentes, who was not involved in the drug deal, who was not threatening the police in any way – the man who pulled the trigger, was not.  Because he’s a police officer.  In fact, initially, news outlets reported as fact the officer’s blatant, outright lie that Cifuentes attempted to hit him with her car.  Video from the convenience store scene completely contradicts the officer’s explanation of the event.  We’ve all seen it.  Yet the police officer remains uncharged as of this writing.

John Crawford was shot in a Beavercreek, Ohio Walmart while holding a BB gun he had picked up from the shelf in the store.  Think about that:  a Walmart customer was shot while holding a BB gun in a store that sells BB guns.  Was he behaving erratically?  Maybe.  Was he a threat to anyone’s life?  Definitely not.

What do all of these people have in common?

They were all essentially unarmed.  They were all minorities, mostly black.  And they lost their lives for daring to not immediately follow the instructions of a police officer.  I guess that’s something a cop can kill you for in 2014.

Apparently, if you are not white, resisting arrest is now a capital offense of which the sentence can be carried out immediately by law enforcement.

Michael Brown was shot in the back, unarmed, as he fled.

Ezell Ford was shot in the back, unarmed, as he lay on the ground, submitting to arrest.

Eric Garner was possibly the most tragic, an asthmatic man killed by a chokehold that had been banned via specific police training since 1993.  Unarmed.

Police training.  Most of a police officer’s career is tied up in some sort of training or another.  Police are largely dedicated to their jobs, always trying to learn to do it better and safer than the cops who came before.  I know a guy like that.  Two of them, actually.

Capt. Dr. John C. Reed, Jr., PhD. is the Chief of Police in Henderson, Kentucky, and was previously the Director of Training for the Louisville, Kentucky Metro Police.  He is also a professor of Justice Administration at the University of Louisville.  I had the pleasure of scoring an A+ in his Law Enforcement in the United States course at UofL, a course that is highly considered by the faculty that it counts as a Cultural Diversity requirement as well as a Social Sciences credit.  Dr. Reed could hardly be more respected in his field.  As smart as Dr. Reed is, his protege may be even more of an expert in the field of Use of Force by Law Enforcement.  Dr. J. Sterling Grant, PhD. is also a professor of Justice Administration at UofL, and worked under Dr. Reed in training at LMPD.  Dr. Grant is responsible for developing the method by which police are taught to meet and resist force against themselves and others, a concept Dr. Grant refers to as the Resistance Control Matrix.

The Resistance Control Matrix is a complex concept that can most easily be summed up by a simple concept:  at any time, an officer is empowered to use weaponry equal to which is being used by a perpetrator against an officer (himself or another) or an innocent, with sufficient extra intensity to subdue and apprehend the perpetrator.  Essentially, this means that if a perpetrator is fighting unarmed against an officer or a civilian, that officer (or another officer) may fight that perpetrator with more intensity than the perpetrator, but may not use a weapon against the perp.  If a perpetrator is fighting with a non-deadly weapon, the officer is entitled to use his non-deadly weapons to defend himself or others.  If a perpetrator is wielding a deadly weapon, the officer may choose to wield his own deadly weapon.  But deadly force is only authorized when the life of an officer or an innocent is in imminent danger.  An officer may not kill a suspect unless said killing is absolutely necessary to prevent the suspect from taking the life of an officer or an innocent civilian.

Let me repeat that.

An officer may not use deadly force against a suspect unless said force is absolutely necessary to prevent the suspect from taking the life of an officer or an innocent civilian.

This is how police are trained.  Straight from the guy who wrote the book.  In the classroom of his own mentor.  Directly to my ears.  Police are not to pull the trigger until they’re sure a suspect is about to do the same, and right now.

Was Michael Brown endangering the life of another human being when a police officer shot him in the back as he ran?  His crime was not immediately following instructions from a cop.

Was Ezell Ford endangering the life of another human being while lying on his belly on a sidewalk?  His crime was unarmed assault.

Was Eric Garner endangering the life of another human being when a police officer illegally choked him, triggering a deadly asthma attack?  His crime was the sale of untaxed cigarettes.

was Karen Cifuentes endangering the life of another human being when a police officer shot her in her vehicle?  Her crime was having a shady boyfriend.

Was John Crawford going to kill a man with a BB gun?  His crime was acting a fool in a Walmart.

We’ve all acted a fool in a Walmart from time to time.  Be we don’t deserve to die.

So my question to you is this:  Why?

What made five different police officers, in five different states, disregard their training and use deadly force against non-deadly threats?  Why is a gun a tool for the apprehension of an unarmed man when we have radios and more police?  This isn’t the Old West, and Dead or Alive is not an option.  Very few men deserve to die for their crimes and all men are entitled to due process of law, which cannot occur on the street.  if you’re a cop and you’re being outrun, call in your location and have your buddies in blue come down like thunder.  Don’t shoot a man in the back because he’s a better athlete than you.  The mission of the police is to bring criminals in alive to face the bar of justice.

Why is this even a debate?  Not a single one of these cops should have been reaching for their weapon at all.  None of their victims were armed in any way.  And there was certainly no need to choke Eric Garner – he could hardly have run at all, let alone evade arrest.  Why, as a society, do we seek reasons to justify this behavior, as if anything can excuse the killing of an unarmed man by those sworn to serve and protect?  Why are our police still focused, in 2014, on apprehending criminals instead of preventing crime?  And why are they still threatening unarmed people with guns?

When will equal protection under the law be real?

When are we going to value all human life equally?

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