Friday, December 5, 2014

Hands Up, Don't Shoot

We're taught to believe the law operates as an adversarial process. We, the public, are to be encouraged by the fact that we have prosecutors who will vigorously seek justice for those who were wronged and by the fact that those who are accused will receive a vigorous defense. 

The problem I, and many others, have today is that we are presented with a system in which prosecutors are asked to vigorously seek justice for those who they may perceive as criminals against those who are very often their own colleagues. Perhaps we are asking too much; perhaps what we need is a fundamental change to the way we seek justice when citizens are killed by those who are sworn to protect them. 

Much of my professional career has involved protecting information and securing data from the prying eyes of those who would use it maliciously. Were I involved in a data breach I don't believe anyone would be satisfied by a review from my co-workers that found my hands clean and completely exonerated me. If a young woman accused me of abusing her while in my role as a minister I don't think anyone would be satisfied by a report from my church administrators that cleared me of wrong doing. As a father I don't think anyone would accept a statement from my partner that the bruises on my child's face were simply an accident. We should not and most of us would not accept the results of these "investigations." 

But this is what we're faced with time and time again when a citizen winds up dead after coming into contact with police. We need to fundamentally change the way we do things. We need a prosecutor who will vigorously seek justice for a citizen who is gunned down in the street, who is tear-gassed or pepper-sprayed while protesting, who is strangled to death on a sidewalk. I'm not saying the police are the problem - I know many fine officers who do their absolute best to serve and protect. But I won't accept that young black men are the problem either. We, as citizens, deserve to be reassured in the light of day that those we pin a badge on are acting in our own best interest. And every young black man deserves to know that their safety is our concern. 


Anonymous said...

Had a similar conversation around this subject with someone who suggested that if we make the police afraid of confrontation then they will not be as effective. I reject that idea but what really bothers me is when we try to talk about a situation such as the sidewalk man the conversation gets broadened to defend the actions. People always seem to lose focus on the question at hand, "Why wasn't this specific officer tried for this very specific crime." No one who watches that video thinks he did the right thing I hope.

Dustin Fisher said...

I just wrote about the St Louis Rams demostration for my sports column last week and had some similar conclusions. It's an awkward situation the police are being put in now - where they happen to be the issue and often the target of so much of the hate. It can't be easy trying to protect a community who is angry specifically with you. You ask much of the same questions most of us have. I'm curious to see if there are any answers that make sense out there. How can we take these perceived colleagues out of investigations against one another? Do we privatize our justice system? What can we do?

I don't know either.

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