This latest shooting of an unarmed black man by a cop is another reminder that this will not stop until something drastic changes that will guarantee holding police officers accountable for their actions. As long as they have this special immunity going for them....black men will keep dying.
What is clearly astonishing about this latest murder, however is that the officer--a female 26 year veteran of the department--now is claiming that she thought she was using her Taser and not her pistol.
Okay. Here's why that beggars belief. On a cop's duty belt the pistol is always carried on the so-called 'strong side', meaning a right-handed officer will have their Glock on that side, and if Taser-equipped,. the Taser's holster is on the 'weak-side', i.e. the side away from the officer's dominant hand.
Furthermore: A police Taser is mostly BRIGHT YELLOW molded plastic. It has the overall general shape designed to fit the hand like a pistol does....but if you see them side by side, it is very difficult to confuse them.
In addition, in order to employ either weapon one must bring it up into your field of view. You are almost never going to pull the trigger on a weapon that you are not at least attempting to control and aim. What is the point, after all? Your goal is to get the Taser darts into the subject in front of you....or, if you feel the situation is utterly dire and it warrants lethal force, you are trying to stop the offender with bullets from your service pistol. Either way, there is no point in releasing darts or bullets unless they have a good chance of hitting the subject.
So, can anyone seriously think that this very experienced officer pulled her Taser from the 'weak side' of her duty belt, and brought it into play trying to render the subject helpless to resist further.....when what was really happening was that she drew her pistol from the 'strong side' and leveled it at Daunte Wright.
Here she was, obviously sky-high on adrenaline in a tense situation, but able to draw a weapon and shoot the 20 y.o. Wright, killing him. The police body-cams clearly recorded her warning, "Taser! Taser! Taser!" and then the sound of a pistol discharging.
We have been down this path so often and with such anguish. And, it just seems to keep happening on an almost daily basis. Every time it happens again, we are reminded that most police shootings...even of unarmed subjects....go unpunished because of the seemingly universal policy that is referred to as, "qualified immunity". This is not supposed to give police a free-hand, but rather to recognize that it would become difficult to impossible to do their job if they got sued in civil actions, despite having been released from any criminal charges. The lawyers would be queued-up waiting to get their clients into courts, and police departments would be unable to function at anything approaching normal levels.
But, here's the thing: if we continue giving police a break from some kind of real accountability we will continue down this tragic road.
Does it seem like this policewoman, Kim Potter, should be forgiven for not knowing what she was holding in her hands? She was responsible for making a decision as to how to subdue Daunte Wright...and she blew it, massively. On the one hand, she would have given him a dose of 50,000 volts and he would be still alive. On the other hand, she put a bullet in him and he's dead at age 20...because she got so flustered that she didn't even know what she was holding in her hands....DESPITE THE FACT THAT IT MADE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH, for Daunte Wright.
There is also a huge question at the middle of all of this: when is lethal force justified? My understanding was that the cop had to see a weapon, or have some kind of visual proof that the subject presented a danger to life and limb. This idea seems to have been minimized and relegated to obsolescence. Now, all the officer has to do is claim that they were in fear for their own safety. That is a pretty broad concept. And, the result of wide acceptance of it has resulted in an unending list of names of black men...and a few women too, like Breona Taylor.....who did NOT HAVE A WEAPON getting killed. And, in way too many cases this 'qualified immunity' policy has let the officers remain unaccountable for killing them.
The George Floyd killing by Derek Chauvin seemed to be the 'final straw' for black America, and many people of all other demographics too. It was so over-the-top blatant and brutal....and, Chauvin's demeanor as he squeezed the life out of Floyd can only be described as 'what true EVIL looks like in action'. His cold, impassive stare, hand in pocket, full weight of his body on Floyd's neck, blithely ignoring the pleas and exhortations of the by-standers....was just too graphic and clear for people to not be outraged. This country is going to explode from end to end if Chauvin is allowed to go free.
Even as the trial has gone on now for 12 days, the drumbeat of police violence against unarmed black males has continued as if nothing has changed.
Okay. It hasn't. Not a goddamned thing.
BUT IT WILL.
Americans--plenty of us--are at the end of our rope on this. Trust me on that.