Saturday, February 14, 2015

In the Matter of Jamar Nicholson -- Dumb and Dumber With A Gun

This is insane, and the LAPD is defending it? This is Bratton's old stomping grounds, do not forget, and he is ever-so-proud of how the department was turned around under his watch and of how the community now loves and respects their police.

Then something like this happens. It's not the only incident of its kind, but it's one of the dumbest, and the department is determined to do what all departments reflexively do: blame the victim(s), maintain the ranks, insist that even in obvious error, they were right.

It won't be long before the smears of young Jamar begin. It's so routine, many just accept it as the way things are supposed to be.

A cop sees what he "thinks" (I use the term advisedly) is a Negro with a gun, and his automatic, "split-second decision" is to shoot. He hits a bystander -- Jamar Nicholson. Oh well, too bad so sad. Bystander is wounded, so he is handcuffed for transport to the hospital. At least he did get medical attention. As we know, so often in these cases, none is rendered until it is too late.

Nicholson remains handcuffed at the hospital until some brighter light in the LAPD recognizes that, oops, he was completely innocent of having a gun or of threatening anyone -- let alone a cop.

Oops. Oh well, all in a day's work for the Manly Men of the LAPD, right?


A "Negro with a gun," whether or not said Negro actually has a gun, whether or not said "gun" is real, is routinely a target for amped up police who see threats to be neutralized everywhere, especially among youth of color. Just the report of a "Negro with a gun" is enough to get the supposed suspect shot on sight (re: Tamir Rice, John Crawford III, etc.) 

This situation is very closely related to the behavior of troops in Iraq: the very sight of a Iraqi with a gun -- or the perception that an Iraqi had a gun, whether or not s/he had one -- was sufficient cause for immediate execution. Hundreds were killed in practically every city in Iraq on that basis. Hundreds more were killed at make-shift checkpoints for "failure to obey" orders they could not understand. Every time, or almost every time, the killings in Iraq were ruled "justified" because the brave trooper -- who was actually scared out of his wits of the local Natives -- was "following procedure" and the rules of engagement (even if he wasn't.)  This is not much different than the behavior of police departments and district attorneys in ruling (almost) every police killing "justified" because of policies and procedures, training, and unstated rules of engagement.

Clearly the unstated rules of engagement domestically are that Negroes who are perceived or reported to have weapons are to be shot on sight. They needn't be threatening anyone -- they don't even need to have a weapon. The report of a Negro with a weapon is sufficient cause for summary execution. Many police departments employ and deploy snipers to carry out executions -- just as the military does. And it does not matter whether the target has a weapon or is an actual threat. The perception is all that matters. "What was in the officer's (trooper's) mind at the time?"

In the case of Jamar Nicholson, the officer who fired claimed to have perceived a weapon in the hands of Jamar's friend with whom he was walking to school at the time. The police officer claims that he ordered the friend to drop the weapon, but the friend refused. The officer then fired, unintentionally striking and wounding Jamar -- who was unarmed and a witness not an offender.

The LAPD at its press conference regarding this officer involved shooting displayed an air-soft pistol which was claimed to be the one Jamar's friend was holding "in the shooting position" when the officer fired, striking and wounding Jamar. For his part, Jamar says he never saw his friend holding a gun that day or any other day, and that the only thing he can remember is that he asked his friend for some cologne, and his friend had sprayed some on him. Was that what the amped up officer perceived as a weapon justifying the shooting?

Where did the air-soft pistol displayed at the press conference come from, then? Speculation is that it was a "throw down," a toy weapon planted by the police. I suspect there was no "weapon" on the scene. The air-soft pistol came from the department's storage room along with all the other replica guns displayed at the press conference.

This incident was a cock-up from the get-go, but I will bet cash money that the officer has no idea he did anything wrong and basically cannot comprehend the  outrage this and so many other officer-involved shootings generate.

The department will back him up to the bitter end. More than likely, there will be no charges against him, as long as the case is made that he was "following" procedures. Jamar will probably get a financial settlement in the 6 or 7 figure range, and that will be that. Case closed.

Policies and procedures regarding shooting at suspects thought to have weapons might be slightly adjusted but not sufficiently to prevent the next shooting of an unarmed Negro who the cop perceives to have a weapon.

The makers of air-soft replicas will be blamed for these incidents, as they already have been in numerous previous cases.

But wait. Gun ownership is prevalent and legal in this country. White people with guns are considered normal and natural. The issue with air-soft and other "replica" firearms isn't that they look real, it is that Negroes sometimes have them, and thus represent an existential threat that must be neutralized.

White people with replica or real weapons are not automatically perceived by police officers as existential threats.

There's your trouble.

Another part of trouble in this case is that the young man who apparently precipitated the incident by standing in "the shooting position" and not immediately obeying the officer's commands about dropping a weapon that he may not have had in the first place, has not been produced. The LAPD asserted that he was arrested and is in custody, but their assertions in this incident have turned out to be false on more than one occasion.

The young man who was shot and was treated as a criminal after he was wounded, Jamar Nicholson, is the only one so far who has been named and presented to the public. In news reports, the other boy is described only as "the person with the gun."

The problem here is rigid and dumb police policies which enable and require shooting at Negro suspects perceived to have a weapon.

Those policies can be changed from the top. Legislation is not required.

I advocate changing those policies forthwith.

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