Reaction to the Shootings of Sterling, Castille & the Dallas Police

Originally, this post was going to reflect on what needs to be the take aways from the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille. The deaths of 5 Dallas police officers Thursday night by one or more snipers* necessitated altering what was going to be written.

Consider:

In April 1968, the United States was convulsed with riots in the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King. The unrest continued with riots in Louisville, Cleveland, and culminating in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention. That riot occurring simultaneously with the acceptance speech of Hubert Humphrey. The images of lawlessness happening right outside the convention hall became known as “The Night Nixon Was Elected”.

In every measurement, the America 2016 is a better place than America 1968.

But…

If there are more events like Thursday night in Dallas, get used to the phrase “President Donald Trump”.

While the Dallas terror attack** targeting white police officers was not a riot, it represents a very serious escalation in violence. Humphrey lost because Nixon was seen as the Law & Order candidate.  Is Hillary Clinton, who couldn’t be trusted with keeping quiet on the identities of a Secret Santa, going to be seen by American as the law & order candidate?

No.

Donald Trump, the man who wants to build walls around the country and carpet bomb foreign lands is going to be seen as the law & order candidate.

Studies have shown that one of the after effects of riots is a shift towards more conservative views and voting patterns. Hillary Clinton is not going to be the recipient of such a shift.  Gary Johnson, alas, will not be the recipient of such a shift. Anyone suggesting the police are too militarized or too confrontational in their interactions with any segment of the population is going to be seen as appeasing cop killers. It does not matter that this is a gross distortion of the actual political views, this will be the perception by America.

Folks, especially on the Left who continue to insist only ignorant xenophobic racists will vote for Trump will likewise be marginalized as being soft on crime and enablers of the violence. Their actions will, paradoxically, likely increase support for Trump, not reduce it.

Other thoughts…

To the progressives- I realize being liberal means never having to be consistent, but for once it would be nice if you could be. In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack in Orlando, folks on the left were automatically blaming the NRA and the Republican Party for the massacre. But after the shooting in Dallas at the conclusion of an anti-police march, it was too early to point fingers at who might be responsible. And it’s even more laughable to cry, “We shouldn’t politicize this tragedy” at the same time the President of the United States is calling the 2nd Amendment to be violated by taking away the right to own an AR-15. An AR-15 is not an sniper’s rifle. This weapon had nothing to do with the terror attack on the Dallas Police. Calling for the weapon to be banned as a result of a sniper rifle attack proves there is no such thing as “reasonable gun control.” but a mentality of “my way or the highway.” To claim otherwise is, as the late Antonin Scalia would say, pure applesauce.  Or as my high school biology teacher was fond of saying, “Life is not a hamburger. You can’t have it your way.” Continually doing so makes you look like idiots. Don’t be idiots.

To the conservatives- Don’t be like the progressives. There is no evidence the Black Lives Matter Movement had any responsibility for the actions of the shooter(s).  Blaming BLM for Thursday Night’s attack is no more useful than leftists blaming the NRA for the Orlando Attack. If it there is a connection,the Dallas Police will uncover it soon enough and the appropriate questions/actions can be taken. If the shooter(s) was(were) not affiliated with any group, it does your argument no good to repeat a demonstrably false claim. It makes you look like idiots. Don’t be idiots.

To the Black Lives Movement- If you actually want to effect political change and not be political theater disrupting liberals eating brunch on the Upper East Side, be circumspect for the next few days. It’s good that you’ve come out and condemned the killing. But right now you need to scale back protests. It would be advisable to not hold any until the funerals of the dead have been completed. But failing that, keep the anti-police rhetoric positive. Avoid any evidence of wanting to kill police officers. Make sure your members understand this and have them shout down anyone who tries to incite such language.By allowing, intentionally or tacitly, makes you look unserious and like idiots.  In other words, Don’t be idiots.

To Police Officers- Don’t go around with an “us versus them” attitude. If you assume everyone you see, especially blacks and other minorities, are gunning for you, mistakes will happen. Deadly mistakes. It will reinforce the image of the militarize cop who shoots first and asks questions later. Which is idiotic. Don’t be idiots.

What really pisses me off about the Dallas shooting is the possibility police departments around the country will learn the wrong lessons. The Dallas PD, especially under the command of Chief David Brown has gone to great lengths to ensure there is openness and transparency in the operations of the department. Chief Brown has taken steps to ensure the “bad apples” are removed from the force and all officer undergo training to deescalate situations, something that should have occurred in Baton Rouge Tuesday night. My concern is police around the country will look at what Chief Brown has done and conclude transparency and openness only result in officers being killed.

As to the Sterling & Castille Shootings-

What is so disturbing about the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille is the best case scenario means the police are being improperly trained.  Radley Balko, author of Rise of the Warrior Cop, writes in his blog that he believes Sterling’s death will be justified because of miscommunication between the police officers:

Here’s a scenario that fits both the evidence and the officers’ reaction: As the two were struggling with Sterling, one officer found the gun in Sterling’s pocket and yelled “He’s got a gun!” — meaning “I just found a gun in his pocket.” The other officer interpreted “He’s got a gun!” as “He’s got a gun in his hand!” A man on the ground with the police on top of him who has a gun in his pocket is not a threat, particularly if he isn’t reaching for it. A man on the ground with the police on top of him with a gun in his hand is most certainly a threat.

If this is indeed what happened, then the officers miscommunicated, and the miscommunication caused them to kill Sterling.

As for Castille, this one is more disturbing. Not because he is better than Sterling, but because he was shot because he volunteered to the police that he 1) had a conceal carry permit and 2) he was carry a concealed weapon. Had Castille not told the police this information, they may not have shot him. He was killed by the police because he was cooperating with the police.

How seriously eff’ed up is that concept?

Castille death was almost certainly caused by police mis-communication. Initial reports indicate the officers were giving contradictory commands to show identification while simultaneously being commanded to freeze. Because Castille had informed the officers that he was in legal possession of a firearm, when he went to comply with an officer’s command to show identification, he was shot by another officer who had been commanding him to not move.

Both of these cases are tragedies that almost certainly could have been prevented. But neither of them “prove” or even suggest a racial motivation in the shootings.

And this is the problem with Progressives: everything against certain groups must have some form of evil intent. For the left, the only reason Castille and Sterling were killed was racism.

(How awkward is it for Minnesota governor Mark Dayton to have claimed racism was the sole basis of Castille’s shooting was down to racist cops just hours before the Dallas shooting? How confident do you think law enforcement in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes feels they will be backed in a crisis by the governor?) Even if there is no evidence to support, they will claim the intent exists and must be punished. (Contrast that with the left’s view of handling national security documents and intent). The problem is, the data doesn’t support the Narrative’s claim of a war on Black Men. The Washington Post has started a database tracking all of the people killed by the police. As I type this, it records 509 deaths by police to date. It does not, at the moment, include the Dallas shooter killed early this morning.

Of the 509 Deaths recorded by WaPo, 95% of the victims were male. 47% were white and 24% were black. Taking it one step further 23% of those killed were black males and 45% were white males.  By every metric in the database, there is nothing to support the allegation by some Progressives that there is a war on Black Men by the police. It.Does.Not.Exist. By spreading claims that are easily disproved, Progressives are hurting the very cause they claim to be championing. By constantly screaming racism (or sexism or homophobia) even where it doesn’t exist degrades the actual events of racism or sexism or homophobia. And more importantly, it is preventing us from finding out what really is causing the number of police shootings. It is telling that almost a quarter of the shootings involved someone with mental health issues.  This suggests police officers are not being trained properly to handle these situations. The video of Sterling shooting gives some credence that the police escalated the confrontation, not de-escalated it. If further investigation bears that out, it is again further evidence of improper police training.

Not that conservatives are off the hook in this. It is dispiriting the number of conservatives on social media who are trying to justify the shootings and suggesting Castille and Sterling deserved to get shot because of prior behavior. Videos “proving” the cops were justified in killing citizens is not only stupid, it is counter-productive. It feeds into the narrative of the left that conservatives are racists. Yes, Alton Sterling was on probation. That fact does not justify the police shooting him. Nor does it justify the cameras on their uniforms mysteriously falling off just before the encounter.

Just because not everything is racist means there is no racism. The knee-jerk response of “just obey” misses the point. Obey is not the same courtesy. The latter is respect, the former is submission. No citizen should be compelled to submit to the State or its agents as a precondition of staying alive in a republic. Just because someone puts on the uniform of a police officer does not automatically make then sinless. The police are agents of the state with the authority to take your life. They already have a power most people do not possess. They should have additional rights, such as not being interviewed for thirty days. Can you imagine the uproar if Alton Sterling had killed a cop but investigators had to wait a month to talk to him? So why do Sterling’s killers get that benefit?

Here’s a question for conservatives: You believe Obama, Clinton, et. al. are trying to take your guns. Who, pray tell, do you think it will be kicking down your door to get the aforementioned guns? Here’s a hint: It won’t be the Girl Scouts.

As Charles W. Cooke said after the Castille shooting:

In my view, too many conservatives react to these stories by presuming that the police must have got it right. I understand how irritating it is to hear the argument that “cop X was bad, therefore cops are generally bad,” but it is equally fallacious to contend that “cops are generally good, so cop X must have been good.” There is, I’m afraid, some truth in the charge that conservatives are skeptical of government up until the point that the police or the army are involved.

A little more distrust of government officials with guns would probably be healthy for the country and would better facilitate the needed conversation about how we go about enacting the necessary reforms of the criminal justice system that reduces citizenry’s interactions with the police that will lessen the chances of people being killed by officers of the law. The failure to critically approach the conduct of the police in the same fashion as conservatives approach the conduct of the IRS or ATF is having a corrosive effect on the body politic.

The fact black on black crime is disproportionately high compared to white on black crime is irrelevant and does not even remotely justify these or any police shootings. The fact there are, as noted above, more white males killed than black males by the police does not justify a response of “so what” or “it’s not that bad.” The proper response should be to ask why have the police killed 509/510 people in the first six months of this year? Are you really that callous about the lives of the 115 black Americans killed in police shootings that you have no problem sacrificing the lives of 227 white men? Make no mistake, by refusing to entertain the notion that the armed agents of the State could be wrong, mistrained, or even intentionally harming American citizens, you are enabling this behavior and emboldening those who prefer the government to be the source of all rights.

Something needs to give. My fear is what is giving is the fabric of the Republic. No one wants to find a solution. Both sides want their opinions to be proven true. Neither conservatives nor progressives want to admit that the other side might have some valid arguments. Better to signal virtues to your fellow travelers than try to find common ground to solve this issue.

I’ll give the last word to Balko:

If we really want to reduce fatal police shootings instead of merely adjudicating them, we need to train officers in tactics that subdue threats, reward those who resolve threats without violence, and discourage actions that create unnecessary confrontation, violence, and escalation. And when these shootings are investigated — be it by the DOJ, internal affairs departments, local prosecutors or an outside agencies —  it’s time to start looking beyond whether or not the shooting was justified under the black letter of the law. It’s time to start asking whether the shooting was preventable — and if it was, whether the failure to prevent it was due to poor training, bad policies, or police officers acting in contravention of policies or training.

Was it legal? is the question we ask when deciding whether or not to prosecute. Was it preventable? is the question we need to ask to save lives.

 

 

*Original reports suggested up to four shooters. By Friday evening, the Department of Justice and the FBI were asserting there was only one shooter.

**by the traditional metrics used- the killer(s) deliberately targeted police officers in an attempt to create political change- this was a terror attack not un-similar to last year’s attack killing nine African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina.

 

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