Every time we have another of these police killings, like in Baton Rouge earlier this week and St. Paul yesterday, I find I’m asking the same questions of the cops involved. 1: How did this guy get hired? And 2: What sort screening goes on that someone this terrified and panicky is sent out on the streets with a loaded gun and an implicit license to kill?
All the deeply imbedded racial attitudes of white cops to minorities, mainly blacks, absolutely apply. The data, as President Obama reminded the country again in his remarks from Poland, are real and bona fide. The chances of a cop pulling me over for a broken tail light are ridiculously miniscule. The odds of me — a guy with serious authority issues, or so says my wife — being told to put my hands up before I even dig out my driver license are even far more implausible, and the likelihood of some freaked out cop pumping a half dozen bullets into me because I was reaching for my wallet are essentially zero. It’d never happen.
With blacks, as everyone knows, even pasty, cossetted white suburbanites, it is an entirely different story. And the only tangible explanation, something you can do something with in the short term — before purging 400 years of racial superstition and animus from the social system — is accepting that these cops are fundamentally terrified of the black men they are stopping. They are not properly vetted for their basic law enforcement judgment and they are not screened well enough for police forces to discern the instinctual level of fear … they bring to the confrontations they so often initiate.
The facts of the Philando Castile shooting in Falcon Heights may yet tell a completely different story from his girlfriend’s post-shooting Facebook video. If that is the case, I’ll revisit this rant and make apologies. But by all appearances we have yet another example of a guy, a cop, fundamentally unequipped, psychologically and emotionally, for the job he’s in. No one as plainly terrified and panicked as that guy should have a job carrying a loaded gun with, as I say, the implicit understanding that he will never be prosecuted for overreacting and killing someone.
I think I’ve written before that I fail to understand why any cop, especially suburban types, are brandishing guns with lethal ammunition. The number of times any cop in the country gets into a raging life or death Hollywood-style gun battle with some psycho is surpassingly small. In most cases of that sort the cops have a pretty good idea in advance who they’re closing in on. They could dig the heavy stuff out of the trunk and call in backup.
But making traffic stops and waving a loaded gun in some guy’s face? Give me a break. A gun armed with chemical darts, or even rubber bullets, which hurt like hell, would cover — guessing here — 99% of the “extreme force” incidents city cops deal with. More to the point, after, what is it? 560 of these cop killings this past year? The end result of another of these police freak out/panic/overreaction incidents is a citizen bruised and zonked out but revivable to make his case in court … instead of, you know, dead.
Our legions of (mainly) white cowboy gun nuts would no doubt recoil in horror at the thought of cops stripped of the ability to kill and ask questions later. But they’re nuts and that’s nuts, if only considered on the level of the enormous mistrust of police that is building not just among blacks but sane citizens of every variety. No cop can be as effective as he/she needs to be if a fat chunk of the population spots them on the street and regards them as some kind of emotionally unstable, racist powder keg.
The solution? Well, for one thing, and I’m serious about this. I suggest police academy psychologists, the people screening applications, take a particularly hard look at the sort of people who have a deep, obsessional interest in being a cop. That might be a clue to the type of person you don’t want it in uniform, packing a gun.
Maybe that is a red flag in basic police candidate screening. I don’t know. But if it is, I think they’re missing a few.
Everyone may have an example, but there’s someone we know in our social orbit who in no way shape or form should be in law enforcement and packing a gun on city streets. But he is. It took him a while to land a gig. But eventually he got hired on. Given the same set of circumstances — a black guy in his suburban neighborhood — he could easily be the Falcon Heights cop. At best, proper vetting would have stuck him in a desk job. But, well, beggars can’t be choosers. And small cities with small police budgets take what they can get.
It would probably help if the average cop were paid more than, say, a WalMart assistant manager, but that’s a whole other fight. You know, precious taxpayer dollars being wasted on more gubmint employees with cushy pensions.
Last time I checked gun technology was pretty advanced. Lots of “cool” shit on the market for “sportsmen” and “enthusiasts”. Anything your Second Amendment-hugging heart desires. Building a police revolver that fired chemical darts isn’t science fiction.
And it might go a small way to re-shaping a sickening reality.