I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve been beaten black and blue when I hear of yet another police shooting of an unarmed black man. Especially when that “man” is a 13 year old child with a BB gun, or a man lying on his back with both arms raised above his head, saying “Sir, please don’t shoot me! I’m unarmed! Please don’t shoot!”
And the policeman shoots him anyway.
I watched this video, and it broke my heart:
It’s telling that a baffled, hurting Charles had only one question to ask the police officer who shot him. “Sir, why did you shoot me?” he asked.
And the policeman replied, “I don’t know.”
What chills me to the bone is the possibility that the police officer was telling the truth. And that means none of us are safe. How can a public safety officer, charged with keeping an entire community safe, shoot an obviously unarmed submissive man and not know why??
Former policeman and University of South Carolina law professor Seth Stoughton has an idea about that.
“I place a great deal of blame on the expansive “warrior mindset” that has become so highly esteemed in the law enforcement community…..enemies abound, and the job of the warrior is to fight and vanquish those enemies,” Stoughton said.
“That’s not the right attitude for police. Our officers should be, must be, guardians, not warriors. The goal of the guardian is not to defeat an enemy. It is to protect the community…including the community member that is resisting the officer’s attempt to arrest them. For the guardian, the use of avoidable violence is a failure, even if it satisfies the legal standard.”
A report from the Police Executive Research Forum supports Stoughton’s claim.
“The typical police recruit spends 58 hours learning how to use his gun – and just 8 hours learning his department’s use of force policy…as a result of that lopsided training, many officers feel that slowing down a situation or deploying de-escalation techniques is ‘antithetical to a police culture.’”
Perhaps that is why 790 people, many of them unarmed, mentally ill, or people of color have already been killed this year. Warriors take no prisoners, even unarmed, submissive ones.
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and destroy. I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…” (John 10: 10-11)
Too many of our public safety officers act more like thieves come to steal away the lives of black males, than good shepherds willing to lay down their lives for all the people they are sworn to protect.
How can any of us taste the abundant life Jesus brings, when the law enforcement community’s default solution to conflict is a gun? If black males can’t have access to the freedom from fear that is at the heart of our American dream, how can I?
How can anyone?