EDITORIAL: Police Homicides – They Don’t Just Endanger Minorities

The dirty little secret of cops killing civilians is no longer little or secret. The only way to fix this is to treat police killing of civilians the same way civilians killing cops is treated legally.

Although not all deaths involving police and unarmed citizens are crimes, they are always treated as if the police had no choice and were acting perfectly reasonably. That simply isn’t true.

Police departments go nuts when an officer is killed. Every police officer in the area instantly goes on a manhunt 24-7 and this is explained as a heightened threat to everyone, suggesting that if someone kills a policeman he/she is much more likely to kill anyone they meet.

That simply isn’t true, sometimes rogue cops threaten people, even completely innocent people and since they are armed and trained, such a policeman is incredibly dangerous.

What is the twisted logic which places enforcers of the law above the very law they are sworn to support.

And worst of all, they fail to realize that their immunity is counterproductive – when police feel and are seen as above the law, ordinary civilians may see police as a threat to be avoided if possible and countered with force if necessary.

FBI statistics for 2012 show that 123 African-Americans were shot and killed by police – 326 whites were killed by police

police car

But those statistics are wrong. They greatly under-report the number of police killings.

How can we possibly know that? Simple, the FBI doesn’t really collect data on police killings, rather police departments voluntarily provide reports on themselves. Can anyone, even a uniformed officer, honestly believe that police departments will report every officer-involved killing?

In fact, the majority of the U.S.’s 17,000+ police departments don’t even bother filing the voluntary report.

The CDC Fatal Injury Report is the closest we have to a national database, and it doesn’t separate police killings.

Even this database only goes up to 2012.

ProPublica reports the following: killers are usually white officers simply because most cops are white. But black officers account for more than 10 percent of all fatal police shootings. Of those they kill, though, 78 percent were black. White officers killed 91 percent of the whites who died at the hands of police. “And they were responsible for 68 percent of the people of color killed. Those people of color represented 46 percent of all those killed by white officers.”

Statistically, whites should hope to be confronted by a black officer.

In 151 instances, police reported that teens they killed had either been running away (shot in the back) or resisting arrest. From 2010 to 2012, 14 of the 15 teenagers shot while running away from the police, were black.

Now I’ve never had a bad experience with a policeman, but I’m an older white man. I have witnessed police acting unreasonably, even in a very threatening manner, which if a civilian did the same thing, they would be instantly shot.

Just why is it that when a policeman kills, they are almost always excused? If I choked a policeman to death because he wasn’t quick enough surrendering after, for example, I caught him trespassing, is there any doubt that I would be the subject of a manhunt where the police involved would be likely to shoot first and never get around to asking questions.

What defense does a civilian have against unreasonable, even criminal action, by a policeman?

Especially what recourse do people believe they have when they see unarmed and apparently harmless civilians being choked to death as they are held down by 5 armed policemen?

Is it any wonder that people faced with an angry or out of control officer recall the old saying “It’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.”

If you thought you would be treated with dignity and fairly instead of getting a beat down for some misdemeanor such as selling watches without a permit, then you would meekly surrender. But the reality is that what we see is people being murdered and the killer getting away with it simply because they have a badge, EVEN when the entire event is seen on video.

If police killings aren’t treated the same way the average person would be dealt with in the criminal justice system, what incentive do the police have to NOT kill with impunity?

When citizens see the police as a threat rather than protection, that is a recipe for the breakdown of society and puts a target on every uniformed officer.

In law (at least in the U.S.A.) a policeman actually has no more power of arrest than any citizen. They are just better trained and prepared to make an arrest. Also, of course, they have the protection of all those other armed officers and a prosecutor who is also under the protection of the same police department.

Until police are held accountable and/or realize that being exempt from punishment actually makes them targets of armed civilians who see the police as a threat rather than a necessary part of society, the situation will only get worse.

Police also need better training along with the threat of being held responsible for their criminal actions AND they MUST have non-lethal tools such as pepper spray and Tasers. It would surprise most people to learn that very few police departments actually arm officers with Tasers or train them to use non=lethal force where possible.

In truth, the Ferguson police department where Mr. Brown was killed, only had two Tasers in the entire department and those were kept locked up at headquarters. Now the evidence in that case actually showed the officer was probably justified, but in far too many instances death by cop would simply be called either manslaughter or even murder if a non policeman killed in the exact same circumstances.