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‘I Don’t Know’: Most Accurate Police Justification For Shooting Black People Yet

Illustration for article titled ‘I Don’t Know’: Most Accurate Police Justification For Shooting Black People Yet

This time, the unarmed black man who was shot was lying on the ground with his hands in the air, explaining that he was trying to help an autistic person with a toy truck. There’s video, but the video doesn’t capture the actual shot, so I guess the #BlueLivesMatter crowd can still hold out hope that the brother twitched or flinched or farted menacingly:

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Thing is, the cop himself gave his justification for shooting the man to the victim. Charles Kinsey was shot in the leg, but survived his encounter with police. And so he asked the officer: “Sir, why did you shoot me?”

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According to Kinsey, the officer responded: “I don’t know.”

And that, my friends, is all the justification police actually need before shooting a black person.

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Oh, the officer will come up with a better answer. Eventually. He’ll talk to the other cops on the scene, review the video, talk with his union-provided attorney, and in a day or two, will release some kind of “official” justification for discharging his weapon. What’s more, there will be a lot of white people who believe the ex-post-facto justification. “Officer McPeepants says Kinsey levitated off the ground, brandished a concealed lightsaber, and threatened to use the force on all the white women in the neighborhood. YOU WEREN’T THERE so we really have to wait till all the FACTS come out in this case.”

In this context, it’s fair to take “I don’t know” to mean “I don’t know ... because they haven’t told me what to say yet.”

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But whatever the police say later will only take us further away from the truth. The reality is that “I don’t know” has become the legally accepted synonym for “reasonable use of deadly force.”

The standard of reasonableness has been totally removed as a check on police conduct. They don’t have to have a “reasonable” fear, any old fear will do. They don’t have to reasonably assess the situation. They don’t have to stop shooting once the threat has been reasonably neutralized.

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They don’t have to even render aid after they’ve shot somebody. Here, after shooting Kinsey in the leg, the cops handcuffed him and let him bleed on the street for 20 minutes until the paramedics arrived.

Why?

“I don’t know.”

“I don’t know,” is, literally, what a child says when you question their actions. When a small child says it, he or she is not lying to you. They honestly do not know why they did that thing they just did. They didn’t think about it before they did it. They didn’t reason through it. They didn’t weigh the pros and cons. They didn’t assess the consequences of their actions. They just reacted to a stimulus.

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We teach our children to know why they do things. It’s a learned behavior. We discipline them for not knowing — for not reasoning — before they act.

We teach our cops to shoot out of reaction, and not out of reason. We refuse to discipline them when they make mistakes. Of course they’re out here shooting at things when they’re not supposed to. How the hell else would you expect an undisciplined child to handle a gun? I wouldn’t give my child a crayon and then say, “Draw on whatever you feel the need to, there will be no consequences.”

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If you want the cops to think before they act, you have to be willing to punish them when they don’t. Instead, we’re just raising spoiled brats who’ve never been given a time out.

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