There is a theme that runs through some of the recent deaths of Americans at the hands of police. That theme is the failure of the citizen in question to comply with an order or demand by a police officer. Repeatedly, we hear that somehow that noncompliance was regarded by one or more officers as a mortal and immanent threat to their safety. Some significant proportion of those killed (Accurate and complete statistics are not being kept.) have been Black. Another group that seems to be disproportionately involved is the mentally ill. Whatever the race, ethnicity, social-economic status, religion, or mental state of the victim, this is wrong. Noncompliance with a police officer’s order is not supposed to be a capital crime. It is wrong for it to resutl in summary, extra-judicial execution.

Very often in these situations we hear that the citizen killed had a gun, or something that appeared to be a gun, or was believed to be reaching for a gun. I one recent case, the dead man had informed the officer that he was the holder of a permit to carry his gun and was killed anyway. *[I’ll come back to another aspect of this.]

I’m going to do a small thought experiment with a possible rule about when police would be allowed to shoot someone. I do not expect the rule ever to be adopted. It is a fantasy. I know also that if it were used it would increase danger to police officers, so don’t hammer at me that I’m trying to get cops killed. This is a “what if” experiment.

The rule would be that the police could not, no doubt with some exceptions, shoot unless the subject shot first. Simply having a gun, or brandishing a gun, or having what appeared to be a gun, even pointing or appearing to point a gun at the police would not be enough. If such a rule had been in effect, it is likely that the gentleman killed on Tuesday in Charlotte, NC would still be alive. Tamir Rice would be alive. The 13 year old with the BB gun would be alive. That man in Baton Rouge would likely be alive. Even that fellow involved in the occupation of the wildlife refuge in Oregon would possibly be alive. I don’t know how many others, or at what price to our police.

*Returning to the matter of people being killed because they have a gun, there is a generally very vocal faction I would expect to be quite concerned with that, but from whom I am not hearing about these incidents. I speak of the defenders of the interpretation of The Second Amendment as enshrining an individual right to be armed. I should think that the idea of American Citizens being killed for having a firearm in their possession would be anathema to that community, that they would see that as the most egregious possible violation of a sacred Constitutional Right. Maybe I’m not tuned into the right channels, but I do not hear their outrage. I hope it is not because of who is dying being more important than why they are dying.


  1. It’s very disconcerting and I’d never thought of the angle you mention at the end. That’s a powerful thought! Upsetting too, as surely if lots of white people were being shot as indiscriminately, there really WOULD be outrage. Which sucks.

    The thing which worries me is how violent the cops seem to be becoming, and I think that’s because they’re scared. There seems to have been an ascension of violence in general in the last few years (or at least, an ascension of REPORTED violence), and I think people are beginning to believe (and act on) the hype.

    It would be great if people were presumed innocent until proven guilty, though, whatever the situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lizzi, this comment found its way to my SPAM Folder, which seems to be an ongoing problem on WP. I’m rebloging Hugh’s instructions of what to do about it.

      On the subject, yes, the cops are scared, and so are the people they confront. In the process known as the Fight or Flight Syndrome (which both parties are experiencing in those situations) the first response in to freeze (the “deer in the headlights” state), which is part of the reason the person does not respond immediately to commands, but the cops are in that altered state of consciousness too and having tunnel vision, both optically and cognitively. The result is that the more anxious and frightened each gets, the more the other gets, not only in the individual incident, but in the context created by repetition of such events being covered incessantly in the news. The worse it gets, the worse it gets. The racism involved is deeply imbedded in the culture at large and in the sub-culture of the police and the roots of it are old indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. UGH! Well I’m glad you found it and VERY glad you posted those instructions – I’ve already followed them and hope I will soon be allowed to comment again! Ugh!

        I understand that such a high-tension situation must be terrifying for both parties involved and that there are precedents for higher tension with people who are black BUT…I hope that enough training (if only there were the resources) it could be overcome 😦 It’s such a tangled situation.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. This one got through just fine. As for the escalation of the confrontations, the real key is for everybody to stop, breath, and calm the heck down. That does require some training and practice of mindfulness.

        Liked by 1 person

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