There was yet another mass-shooting incident in Colorado yesterday -- what a strange place, so full of mass murderers, it seems -- in which a police officer and two civilians were killed and a dozen or so injured by a man firing his weapons at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.
Note, the perp was taken alive, alive and well, in fact, when he followed the commands of the SWAT team assembled to deal with the situation.
Black folk, understandably, are scratching their heads. Oh. So the police don't have to kill? Wait. Not even when they have a legitimate fear for their lives and the safety of others? Who knew?
A black youth in Chicago walking down the middle of the street is subject to summary execution, and the excuse is that he was a threat of some kind who could only be dealt with by use of lethal force. This happens hundreds of times a year. All over the country. Day in and day out. Someone is summarily executed somewhere in America every single day by police who claim they are scared for their lives and the safety of others, scared by men and women and children, armed or unarmed, complying or not, black, white, other, mentally ill or quite sane, perhaps suicidal, men, women and children who may or may not pose some kind of threat to themselves or to others. Every single day.
And yet, here we have another case of a mass shooter-killer taken into custody alive, not even roughed up, despite the fact that he had just killed a police officer and wounded other officers. In other words he was unquestionably a man who was an active threat to the lives and safety of the police and others, and yet... he lives.
Whereas hundreds of others, many of whom are not objectively threats at all, lie among the dead, killed by police.
How very interesting.
I've long said that upwards of 90% of police killings are unwarranted and unnecessary, perhaps more, perhaps nearly all of them when you really examine the situation objectively. The latest incident in Colorado Springs (a hotbed of radical christianist fundamentalism) is an example of why that is true. The shooter -- the alleged shooter at any rate -- was taken into custody alive and apparently well; he wasn't even roughed up. Not a bit. The incident was resolved without resorting to lethal force -- or indeed any physical force at all (that we know of) -- against the shooter.
He was -- of course -- white.
Does that make all the difference? No, it doesn't, it's not all that matters, but it does matter enormously. White mass killers are frequently taken into custody without killing or brutalizing them. On the other hand, white domestic abusers and/or drug users are routinely shot dead by police whether or not they pose an objective threat at the time they are killed.
"They deserve it." Typically the rap sheet is trotted out to prove the necessity of killing these people (usually men). On the other hand, a (white) mass killer like Dylann Roof or James Holmes, and now Robert Dear (among others; this is not an exhaustive list) is taken into custody to stand trial the way murderers are supposed to. The way accused criminals in general are supposed to be treated in this country.
But what's supposed to happen is only applied to certain people under certain circumstances (if they're white males accused of mass murder, for example) whereas others never, ever have that benefit. They -- like Tamir Rice, John Crawford III, and so many others -- are shot and killed on sight.
There is not even a hint of doubt in the minds of the officers who kill them, either.
These dead have no rights at all. They are killed wantonly, with utter disregard for their lives and often disregard for the supposed safety of others. And almost always, the killers get away with it.
Yet an accused mass killer, who just killed an officer, is treated with all due courtesy and respect, his rights protected, his trial in a court of law assured.
The way it's supposed to be.
So the question is, why can't police treat every one of the accused they kill with the same courtesy and respect -- without killing them?
Why is a (white) mass murderer given every legal/social right due him whereas a Negro shopper or child playing in a park or walking down the street is executed on sight? What gives police the right to do this and the expectation that they will?
Racism is part of it. The "violence inherent in the system" is part of it. But so is training, so is command authority. So is policy.
Taking a white mass murderer into custody to stand trial, whereas a black shopper who has done nothing wrong and broken no law is shot on sight is a matter of policy, not law. The law protects the officer who does this, but killing is not required by the law. It is the policy of the department that sets up the conditions which lead directly to both the killing of the Negro who has broken no law and the protection of the white mass killer.
The officers who kill so wantonly and get away with it are "just doing their job."
It's what they believe they are expected to do.
Apparently some police chiefs are coming to the realization that it is their instructions and expectations that lead to such carnage. It is their policies driving the death toll. And they can -- and must -- change them.
Rules and policies regarding use of lethal force were changed in New York City for example, and the death toll from police killings was reduced 90%. In other words, it can be done, and relatively quickly, too.
But will it?
I stopped holding my breath a while back when it was clear that the activism and protests were producing sloooooowwww, incremental change from an institutional standpoint. Police killings have actually increased in the nearly two years now since James Boyd was killed in Albuquerque -- executed in the foothills by police snipers as he was surrendering -- which touched off a protest movement that spread nationally. The death rate from police homicide has been radically reduced in Albuquerque, even though officers have been shot and killed. Police are not out in the streets killing at the rate they once did. Same thing happened in Oakland (though there has recently been a change in policy that has led to more deaths by police there). New York reduced its rate of police homicide by a huge percentage, and seems to have stuck to the policies that keep the rate relatively low.
So it can be done. It's a matter of how and when. Maybe or maybe not in my lifetime.
The sooner the better, but the resistance is strong and vocal. Some people -- and some police -- feel it is their right and obligation to kill at will with impunity, otherwise the whole structure of society will collapse. And they are frightened that if policies change to forbid killing suspects, they might be held criminally liable for killings in the past. That's their real fear.
It remains fascinating that a white mass murder suspect can be taken into custody whereas a black shopper who has broken no law and threatened no one can be shot on sight.
As DeRay says, "America."