There are a number of things in this world that, when you look once you pull up to about 30,000 feet, are beyond absurd. Donald Trump as President. Elon as Twitter’s CEO. Crypto art and the plight of Sam Bankrun-Fraud.
There are other issues that are every bit as absurd, but considerably less comical. They’re stark. They are grim.
Two years after the summer of some of the largest civil rights protests in a generation, spurred by the suffocation of George Floyd beneath the knee and full weight of a Minneapolis police officer, we had our Democratic president pledge to hire 100,000 more cops.
As we are all now aware, those protests and demands were met with the opposite of their intended effect from politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Police killings continue unabated—even hitting their highest total yet since records were kept, with at least 1,176 killings total in 2022.
That data comes from Mapping Police Violence.
The natural inclination for policing’s defenders is that, surely, many of these were incidents where the officers or the public were in grave danger and the threat had to be eliminated.
The data, and this writeup from The Guardian, offers more context.
In 2022, 132 killings (11%) were cases in which no offense was alleged; 104 cases (9%) were mental health or welfare checks; 98 (8%) involved traffic violations; and 207 (18%) involved other allegations of nonviolent offenses. There were also 93 cases (8%) involving claims of a domestic disturbance and 128 (11%) where the person was allegedly seen with a weapon. Only 370 (31%) involved a potentially more serious situation, with an alleged violent crime.
Before getting to these contexts, I want to note that even in more serious situations where the suspect does have a weapon, that doesn’t always necessitate what amounts to a public execution.
Here in Seattle last January 5th , a naked man in crisis carrying a machete, a knife and a mop was being pursued by multiple officers for allegedly attempting to break into a home.
When the man refused to stop running—pinned to a guardrail, along a road with no pedestrians and clearly blocked by a seven-foot fence—an officer unleashed the K9 unit. The K9’s handler, officer Anthony Ducre, had been the subject of multiple investigations and the cause of a $225,000 settlement for his misuse of the dog, named Jedi.
As Jedi attacked the fleeing man, the German Shepherd was stabbed and killed. Officers proceeded to shoot the man seven times, killing him.
Given all this context, given that this was even one of the theoretically more dangerous situations resulting in a police killing…what did the officers think was going to happen?
The thing is, the officer with the dog knew this would happen and did it anyway. He knew he was going to shoot the man, again from DivestSPD—an invaluable watchdog here in Seattle.
So what were they supposed to do? What is the ideal outcome?
We pay a lot of money for deescalation education and officer training and non-lethal weapons and officers themselves and so much more…we can do better than this. We have to do better than this.
Again, this is one of the more dangerous situations and the execution of the man was still preventable.
Considerably less defensible, you have the murder of Keenan Anderson at the hands of LAPD on January 3rd of this year. The 31-year-old teacher was tased to death following what started as a traffic stop.
I’m not going to summarize the entire incident, though I encourage you to read up on it if you are unaware of what happened, but the bodycam footage tells the whole tale.
WARNING: While the video apparently does not show the death of Anderson, who officers said passed of cardiac arrest after being transported to a local hospital, it is still very disturbing.
You have a man who, from the very moment he begins interacting with a police officer, is terrified. He is terrified they will kill him. And they kill him.
They kill him as he cries “They’re trying to George Floyd me!”
There are few crimes that justify being summarily executed at the hands of police. And that’s what these are, in many instances, an execution. An officer or officers determine that this person—often times a person of color—must die. Right here, right now.
In saying “this has to stop,” I am not stating anything new. I’m not saying anything that isn’t obvious.
But since those 2020 protests, since Ferguson, since probably even before that—this is an issue I’ve come to care about immensely.
We cannot do this. And we cannot stop talking about how it keeps happening.
So while I’m not saying anything new, not saying anything we don’t already know, I have to say something.
We all should.