When Will Enough Be Enough?

unarmedWhen I was a child, my parents taught me to always have respect for the police and the system of law and order. Therefore, in the cases involving police killing armed suspects, I always have had the tendency to give the police the benefit of the doubt that those killings were justified. However, as of late in our country, there has been a rash of police shootings of unarmed Black men! But even when I first heard of these shootings, my natural instinct was once again to give the police the benefit of the doubt and reason that these people were shot because the police felt threaten or feared their lives were in danger.

But then, I thought about it! Aren’t police officers supposed to be trained? Aren’t they supposed to be trained to deal with volatile situations such as those that have dominated the news in recent years? Although it is a potentially deadly situation anytime there is an armed suspect, I couldn’t help but notice the difference in the police’s attitude and actions when it is a white suspect as opposed to a black suspect. For example, a few years ago, a young white man sat in a church in South Carolina and murdered nine people in cold blood! When the police caught up with him, they calmly apprehended him, didn’t throw him on the ground and didn’t even rough him up! In fact, they put a bullet-proof vest on him to make sure he wasn’t shot by any snipers and even stopped to get him something to eat on the way to jail! I honestly doubt they would have treated a black suspect with such respect!

And then, there are the recent cases in Baton Rouge and in Minnesota where those young Black men posed no obvious threat, yet they were shot and killed! Now I understand, the police may be a little scared and naturally suspicious of young Black men, but the statistics bare out the fact that more police are shot and killed every year by White men than by Black men! And if the police are really that scared, how can they really serve and protect the rest of us? That’s a recipe for disaster; a scared man with a gun! You would think having a gun would give one the confidence to handle the situation appropriately!

But the thing that really tipped the scale for me was the shooting of Charles Kinsey by a police officer in Miami. Kinsey is behavior therapist who works at a group home in Miami. Police had received a call about a man with a gun walking around threatening to kill himself. When police arrive on the scene, Kinsey laid down on the ground, on his back with his hands raised in the air. Sitting beside him was an autistic patient (the man with the “gun.”) playing with a toy truck! Kinsey explained to the police that he was a behavior specialist and that the man was autistic and had wandered away from the facility, that what was in the autistic man’s hand was not a gun, but a toy truck and that he was trying to retrieve him. Picture this! He’s lying on his back with both hands in the air! He verbally explains to the police what the situation is! The autistic man is sitting in an upright position, playing with his toy truck! Yet it is the black man, laying on his back with both of his hands up, that the police shoots! They claim the shooting was a mistake, but if  there was any mistake to have been made in that situation, wouldn’t it have more likely been shooting the autistic man who was sitting up playing with a toy truck? That would have been a more reasonable “mistake” because the object in the man’s hand could have been mistaken for a gun! But how can you mistakenly shoot an unarmed man lying on his back with his hands in the air right beside the man with the object in his hand? To add insult to injury, after Kinsey was shot, they rolled him over and handcuffed him as he lay bleeding from his wounds! When he asked the police officer why did he shoot him, the police officer reportedly said that he didn’t know! I would suggest that even if they really felt it was a mistake, they wouldn’t have treated him the way they did after they shot him! Thankfully, Kinsey survived the shooting and someone was filming this, but it makes one wonder; how many other times innocent people have been shot and killed and the police covered it up because no one was there to film it?

I read about this incident on a news website that said: “The incident illustrates the edgy mood of US police and the nation in general after the police ambush in Dallas that left five officers dead and another similar incident Sunday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana that killed three.” But I beg to differ! Yes! Police and the nation are on edge, but this incident was not an illustration of that! If such were the case, then the man with the object in his hand would have been shot! But it was the black man, lying on his back with his hands in the air that was shot! So this incident is not an illustration of police edginess in view of what happened in Dallas and Baton Rouge! It is, however, an illustration of the systemic racism and racial profiling that is so pervasive in this country!

America has a serious race problem that has tainted and tipped the scales of justice and the due process of law! To ignore the obvious will not make it go away! We must deal with it! How many more, Black men and police officers will have to die before we do? When will enough be enough?  

Update: Since the original writing of this post, it has been reported that the police said the officer who shot Mr. Kinsey in the leg was actually aiming to shoot the autistic man! Likely story! At any rate, even if he was, he should be fired and in addition to charges of attempted murder, he should be prosecuted for poor judgment, not listening, and being a “bad shot!”

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