In the wake of the Ferguson shooting and killing of Mike Brown by a police officer, there has been much attention brought to the targeting of young black men by the police in this country. Since the grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson was announced, all hell broke lose. Though whether or not Darren Wilson was found culpable, I think the poop would have hit the fan in Ferguson.
I am a firm believer in the rule of law, and I believe that crime should be punished, both within and outside of the police community. However, I also believe that common sense needs to be exercised, and restraint needs to be shown, both within and outside of the police community.
What exactly do I mean by this? First let’s talk about Tamir Rice out in Cleveland. As I watched a few videos on his story, several times over, I was moved to tears. I sat here at my desk, and I wept for quite sometime. This made me feel very, very sad. Though I don’t know what the kid’s circumstances were? I don’t know why he was doing what he was doing, at the end of the day, a 12-year-old dying will always make me sad. Regardless of what the details are, a child dying is heartbreaking.
Since my initial learning of this story, surveillance video has been released about the event, along with the 911 call audio. Though it establishes no clear guilt or innocence, it shows that the officers responded in a fashion that is reasonable. Am I saying shooting a kid is reasonable? No, not exactly, but if you as an officer think you are about to be shot, then is it not reasonable to expect that you want to survive? The kid appeared to be reaching for the weapon as the police car pulled up. It was a split second decision, and according to the law, police are not judged on hindsight. They are judged by the situation and what they did, not hindsight. “The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” Read up on Graham Vs. Connor for more on that.
Yesterday on The Hidden Report Talk Show I had a police officer as a guest. This man is a veteran, a former coroner, a detective, an author, a polygraph examiner, and has a wealth of experience in law enforcement. His feedback provided much needed legal clarification on the current events.
There are several things that we have to consider here. First of all, think about being the police officer which arrives on the scene. Perhaps he or she has a family; the officer could be a father, a mother, a newlywed. Who knows what their personal circumstances are? When this person left for work this morning, they had no idea, whether or not they would make it home tonight. Now they arrive at a location where a young man allegedly has a gun, he is allegedly pointing it at other kids in the park, and upon your arrival he reaches for the weapon. What would you expect a cop to do?
It was later discovered that the 12-year-old was holding an airsoft bb gun, but this was obviously not known at the time by the responding officers. There is the question as to whether or not the dispatch informed the officers that the 911 caller said the “weapon could be fake.” Look, whether or not a 911 caller says, “It could be fake” is irrelevant to an officer arriving on the scene. It could also be real, and as an officer of the law, not only do you want to make it home tonight, but you want the other civilians and children present to make it home as well. This bb gun did not have the orange tip that is supposed to be on toy guns, and the child walked towards the arriving police car and reached for it. This case is terribly sad, but unlike the next case we will discuss, this one can probably be justified as a clean shoot.
I do not know the mental state of the young man, and it breaks my heart, as a father, and as a human being. I only wonder what was going through his mind when he walked toward the arriving officers and reached for the weapon. The lawyer for the family argues that officers should have used more restraint because they were dealing with a juvenile. However, at 12 years old, you have to know that you do not reach for a gun that looks very real when an officer is approaching you. These things happen in split seconds, and this reaction was not unfair. Is it unfair of me to have the expectation that the kid should know better? As much as it breaks my heart, his actions led to the shoot. Reaching for that gun, pointing it at people, those were all mistakes. I’m sorry, it breaks my heart, but you know I am right.
Recently, there was another shooting here in Brooklyn, NYC. Two officers were doing a sweep of a building in the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York. Upon entering a dimly lit stairwell, one of the officers “accidentally” fired his weapon at a young man in the stairwell. Now in this case, though I am fairly certain that officer Peter Liang did not mean to shoot and kill Akai Gurley, his careless, procedural mistakes needlessly took a life.
As I have mentioned many times before, the job of a police officer is very dangerous. It is a very stressful job to do, especially when you are assigned to unsafe areas. However, that being said, this does not justify shooting someone simply because you are scared, or nervous. I understand that officer Liang wanted to make it back home, nevertheless, entering a dimly lit area, with your weapon drawn, finger on the trigger, without any just cause for this, is a great cause for concern.
As I understand this, the two officers paired together for this detail were both rookies. Having grown up in a tough area myself, I recall seeing at least one older, more experienced officer in the pack. The pairing of two rookies doesn’t seem very logical to me, especially if they are patrolling a high-crime area. Officer Liang entered the stairwell with his finger on the trigger. This is probably the single greatest mistake that he could have made. Unfortunately, his mistake took an innocent young father’s life, and though I feel for him, I don’t think that because he is a cop, he should be granted special privileges.
I am a civilian who owns guns, and I know never to have my finger on the trigger, unless I’m prepared to shoot. As an officer of the law, I would expect Mr. Liang, and all of his colleagues to also be aware of this very important detail.
Accidents happen, but in life, we have to be held responsible for our mistakes. Mr. Liang has to answer for his mistakes, and as much as I hate “feeding him to the lions” in this piece, the fact of the matter is that he acted irresponsibly. His decision took an innocent life, and he must answer for it. The NYPD also has to answer as to why this man was on the force, and why he responded as he did. Was there not enough training?