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Friday, August 22, 2014

Disturbing new video shows police killing in St. Louis

"Suicide by cop" should not be this easy

First thing’s first, when the two white police officers arrived on Riverview Street in St. Louis, Missouri, they knew a few things.  
They knew they were about to confront a very upset man.  
They knew he was involved in a dispute over convenience store items (which turned out to be worth less than $5).  
They knew he’d been reported as pacing the area, so they knew he was waiting for them to arrive.
They knew he was a black man.  
They knew how he was dressed.  
And they knew he had a knife.
knife.  Not a gun.

They knew all these facts because they’d been relayed to them by the police dispatcher (click here to go to the original article for the audio links).

They knew all of this before they arrived on the scene.  And yet, just 19 seconds after they arrived, the two officers fired the last of 12 shots total into the body of the man who moments before was challenging them to shoot him, and approaching them menacingly with the knife.
No doubt about it, this was “suicide by cop”.  And also, no doubt about it, these officers definitely needed to act in self defense, and had reason to fear for their lives.  But just as clearly, they did not have to resort to lethal force.
When the two police officers arrived on Riverview Street in St. Louis, Missouri, they knew they were about to confront a very upset man who was waiting for them to arrive.  And they knew he had a knife.  A knife.  Not a gun.  19 seconds later, they had shot him 12 times.
It took the officers only 3 seconds to fire those 12 shots.  The first 14 seconds were spent ordering the man to drop the knife.  2 seconds before firing the first shot their guns came out.  And that’s the problem.  Because these two officers knew before they ever exited their vehicle that the subject they were about to encounter did not have a gun.  So why did they go for theirs? Why didn’t they already have their taser guns at the ready, instead? Or a bean bag gun?
The penultimate truth of the situation is summed up in the voice of the man who shot the video below, who can be heard saying shortly after the shooting stops, “they could have tased that man.”
They could have tased that man.
They COULD have tased that man.
They SHOULD have tased that man! And they should have gotten out of their SUV ready to do so. Or to deploy some other kind of non-lethal force, like mace, or a bean bag gun. But instead they went right to the lethal force option, and not only shot to kill, but shot for overkill.
And that’s the heart of the problem.  
The police in the greater St. Louis Metropolitan area are overwhelmingly white, policing a justifiably distrustful overwhelming black populace.  And they’ve shown that populace – and now the rest of the world – that they have a propensity to use force, and that they default to resorting to overwhelming lethal force, over non-lethal force.  
To draw their gun, and not their taser, even when the subject they are confronting is unarmed, or armed with a knife, or similar short range, melee weapon.  And they’ve shown a trigger happy propensity to fire many more bullets than needed when they do fire their guns.
And in an area of the country where only 10 days prior the killing of 18 year old Michael Brown by another white police officer in nearby Ferguson caused unrest that is still simmering today, the statistically nearly all white police forces of the greater St. Louis metropolitan area have shown a willingness to behave exactly like jack booted thugs – jack boots and all.  
They’ve used equipment intended to repel an invasion, or terrorists, to terrorize their own citizenry.
They’ve aimed their weapons, including assault rifles, at crowds of ordinary citizens just exercising their constitutional rights.  At crowds including women, and children.  
They’ve fired tear gas – a chemical weapon banned in war – at their own people.  At journalists. 
They’ve used the canisters as projectile weapons, not just gas delivery devices.  
And they’ve arrested journalists, and threatened some of our country’s leading and most recognizable journalists (like Chris Hayes, Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, Ed Lavendera, and others) with arrest and with lethal force, live on international TV.  We’ve seen citizens helping photojournalists who had succumbed to the effects of direct hits with mace.
The penultimate truth of the situation is summed up in the voice of the man who shot the video below, who can be heard saying shortly after the shooting stops, “they could have tased that man.”
And then, after all of this, they went and killed another young black man, another member of their own citizenry, when lethal force was completely uncalled for.  In broad daylight.  In front of video cameras.  Knowing full well that the eyes of the world were on them, and that the truth was bound to come out.
And then, the Chief of Police for St. Louis lied about it anyway.
Characterizing the attack as arms raised, brandishing the knife like a slasher in a horror movie was a little white lie.  After all, Powell was brandishing the knife, and he was goading officers, and he was approaching them menacingly.  But it was a revealing little white lie.  It reveals that the police are willing to lie to spin the story.  That they will characterize events in ways that are most beneficial for them.  It reveals that they can’t be trusted.
A lot like releasing the video of Mike Brown’s confrontation with a store clerk after, allegedly, stealing some cheap cigars, to assassinate his character.
All of this leads me to come to some simple, clear conclusions…  Suicide by cop shouldn’t be this easy.  Getting cops to behave like professionals shouldn’t be this hard.  And most of the cops involved in this whole fiasco shouldn’t be allowed to wear the badge.  They are a disgrace to it, and everything it stands for.  And all cops should wear body cameras, all the time.