There are many tragedies in recent memory where select members of the police (a group officially sanctioned to use force) recklessly use guns against those who are unarmed. The tragic cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner rest heavily on our hearts, but the reader should also not forget the case of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was murdered by police who thought he had a gun when in fact it was a toy (how barbaric has society become when grown men fire upon children in the park?). Also, consider the case of John Crawford, who was shot in Walmart after picking up a pellet gun that fell out of its packaging.
The value of life transcends race, so even though these individuals suffered their premature demises at the hands of someone of a different color (white and blue), the common theme remains the same: because the value of the target’s life was deemed diminutive, evil triumphs over good.
As a physician, I am bound to a professional and legal standard of accountability that typically safeguards my patients from my medical omissions, which have led to either a loss of life or a poor medically related outcome. The medical malpractice system has its flaws, but the basic premise is logical: if a doctor is negligent and deviates from the objective standard of practice, a penalty is paid to the victim. Yet when it comes to the police, who have the right to use intentional lethal force, they are often freed from acts of commission simply by the loose and subjective legal stipulation that they acted rationally based on what was going on in their head at the time. An example of such reasoning can be found here, where the prosecutor in Mr. Crawford’s case (the officer here was not indicted) basically says don’t judge the officer based on what you think is right, judge him based on what he felt at the time.
Unfortunately, in the heat of a tense moment, calm, rational logic is often sacrificed to the fury of nerves and emotion. People are on edge, and reason is suffocated by fervor. Combine this reality with the fact that in at least one psychological study, research has proven that unconscious intentions play a role in conscious actions. Keith Payne’s experiment revealed that study participants were more apt to recognize a hand tool as a gun when responding hurriedly and immediately after being shown an image of a black male. The effect was most pronounced among the white males in the study.
We live in a very imperfect world where racism is very real and exists in all levels of society. The horrific conclusion is that police officers who can use lethal force are likely (whether consciously or unconsciously) to execute some form of prejudicial miscalculation in the times when lethal force is often used to the detriment of the victims—yet the scale used to determine the validity of said actions is built upon biased subjectivity. In essence, the primary standard a policeman is held accountable to when using lethal force against a civilian is himself.
Combine all of this with police forces nationwide who are being outfitted with military-grade weapons, resultantly making police officers look less like police and more like soldiers. Local forces stay local, so the “enemy” or the “threats” are you and me. If we, the people, are therein the enemy, and renegade police officers are now empowered to be warriors, they need not think of citizens to be served but rather enemies to be fought. And no matter what your race, gender, ethnicity, or religion is, as long as you are not in the ranks of the militarized elite, you may find yourself being harmed or even killed because you “acted,” “gestured,” or “postured” in a way that threatens the man with a tank and a machine gun.
In fact, those officers who do carry guns do so in a job that is actually less dangerous than far more common professions. The Rutherford Institute reports that “militarized police—twitchy over perceived dangers, hyped up on their authority, and protected by their agencies, the legislatures and the courts—have actually made communities less safe at a time when violent crime is at an all-time low and lumberjacks, fishermen, airline pilots, roofers, construction workers, trash collectors, electricians and truck drivers all have a higher risk of on-the-job fatalities than police officers.”
All of these phenomena come against the Missouri grand jury deciding not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot the unarmed Michael Brown in August of this year. What most people don’t realize is that in grand juries, the government need not present all the evidence; they only need to present some of the evidence. This reasoning has found support from the Supreme Court that decided with this reasoning that the eventual trial would bring out all the evidence. The ideological purpose of a grand jury then is to establish a probable cause (low bar) for the accused so that they may stand trial and only be convicted if found guilty beyond reasonable doubt (high bar). The obvious source of perversion is that bureaucrats will liberally indict enemies of the state and refuse to indict friends of the state. Also, keep in mind that such proceedings are performed in secret, and the defendant has no right to a lawyer. Typically, the prosecutor is on the same side as the government, who both stand against the defendant. In the case of Michael Brown, the defendant was deceased, so the only eyewitness to the incident was the officer who shot him, and the whole proceeding was conducted by St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch, an agent of the same system that Darren Wilson stands for.
The most troubling statement made by the shooting officer, Darren Wilson, is what he said to ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos. Officer Wilson said, “I know I did my job right,” adding that he couldn’t have done anything differently in the scenario. Conventional wisdom says that the grieving should be allowed to grieve and not be incited to wrath by the provocations of ignorance. A person who has a genuine concern for their neighbor would never see that the loss of valuable life is ever “just” or “the right thing to do.” Michael Brown was 18 years old and had his whole life ahead of him. Even more troubling is that an officer of the law, given the power of a gun, can’t envision an alternate reality where he doesn’t take the life of an unarmed teenager and rob him of his personhood. Without imagination, there is no hope, and with no hope, there is no change, forcing those with power to use it not for good, but in order to enforce the present reality.
In the end, is it very clear that we live in a world where some of those who are left in charge of “protecting and serving” the public are exactly the ones who devalue the lives of those they are supposedly protecting. Instead of preserving life, they have chosen to destroy it. If the powers that be reserve the right to the monopolization of force in the collective interest of security, that interest has now been exposed as being a fraud, stripping the state of its legitimacy and rendering its justifications null and void. If I defend my personhood from a threat (because no one else will) and then that defense is criminalized, where does that leave me but in a perpetual cycle of subjugation where I am forced to either obey or face the violent consequences of revolt? That isn’t liberty but authoritarianism masquerading as progressivism.
Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal