Joseph Goldstein in the New York Times asks: Is a police shooting a crime?
In American law and jurisprudence it all—and only—depends on the officer’s point of view.
A black teenager reached into his waistband. The officer shot him dead. He was reaching for a bag of marijuana. He dumped it in a toilet as the cop shot him. A grand jury indicted the officer but the judge dismissed that jury. He empaneled another jury that absolved the cop.
This reaffirmed the standard by which police shootings in the United States “are evaluated for prosecution,” writes Goldstein. “What matters is the perspective of the officer. An officer’s sense of danger is given significant if not preponderant weight.”
And what is the evidence of an officer’s sense of danger to himself? Why, the word of the officer himself that he felt endangered.
“This deference is now being questioned” as CCTV cameras catch more cops gun down more black men who are patently not posing a danger to anybody but who are almost always fat and so slow runners; and therefore bigger and easier targets.
In the case earlier mentioned the second jury absolved the cop but awarded the family of the black boy $5.9 million dollars for their grief.
The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that cops cannot be second-guessed in their assessment of the lethality of the dangers they face. Therefore it is almost always okay to shoot unarmed and innocent people who, says Goldstein, “are evidently trying to comply with the police”—but not fast enough to suit the cops who shoot them. Thus a black man was shot 3 times when he reached back to turn off his Walkman the better to hear what the cop was telling him.
So is police shooting a crime?
Not in the United States.
Is it even wrongful?
It is not that either.
Yet here comes US Secretary of State John Kerry expressing concern about the wave of apparently police executions.
I don’t think so.
The circumstances are different.
In the U.S., a black man reaches back and a cop shoots him dead 3 times for good measure. In the Philippines a man is first gift-wrapped round and round with packing tape so he won’t bleed on the crime scene and then shot. Or shot and then gift-wrapped.
He was obviously not reaching for anything. His arms were taped to his sides with packing tape also covering his eyes, nose and mouth.
And yet there is a certain very Filipino logic in all this.
And the reduction of the age of criminal liability because criminals do start young, there is nothing like nipping them in the bud with a bullet; thereby nipping criminality before it blooms.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.