American police "fear for their lives and the safety of others" all the goddamned time. ALL the time. And because they are always in such existential fear almost all of their many-many killings are "justified" by definition. If they weren't in fear for their lives and the safety of others, don't you see, they wouldn't have killed. They just wouldn't. Don't you see?
But when they're always in fear for their lives and the safety of others, they kill almost at random. There is a certain arbitrariness in police killings, as if they see themselves in a video game combating phantoms and arbitrarily appearing opponents. It's that mystical "split-second decision" thing.
So this weekend came news that Chicago police shot and killed two people at the same house Christmas overnight. The police had been called to help restrain a young man who was having a mental health crisis (never ever ever ever call police in such a situation, EVER. However, if you do call 911, the police will be dispatched, even if you don't ask for them, so don't call 911 if a loved one is having a mental health crisis unless you want your loved-one dead.) He was shot dead on sight. The other victim, according to some reports, was standing behind him and was shot in the cross fire. Except there was no crossfire. As is so often the case, the only ones armed and firing in this situation were the police.
Since it is a holiday weekend, the story is incomplete, but it seems the young man who was shot and killed was raging about something at some point prior to the arrival of the police and had taken up an aluminum baseball bat which he was pounding here and there in an apartment that belonged to his father. The other person shot and killed by Chicago's Finest was the downstairs neighbor lady who was trying to keep an eye out for the police.
From the somewhat sketchy accounts, the police rolled up, saw the man who "fit the description," and an officer commenced firing -- because they feared for their lives and the safety of others, specifically because they saw the young man standing in the doorway holding a baseball bat. They referred to that as as "confronting a combative subject." That was all they needed to commit yet another summary execution of a black man, armed and dangerous, one of hundreds this year. Trouble is, the neighbor lady also got executed. Oops. That, they say, was a "tragic accident." Accidental killings are big with police this year. Cf: Paradise, CA.
Oh well, if you don't want to die in a hail of police gunfire, just obey, right? Nah. Doesn't work that way. Never did. Whether you get shot or die in a police encounter seems to depend ever less on your behavior than on the mindset of the officer involved. Too often, that mindset is on fearing for his or her life and killing...
It's got to stop, but apparently nobody with the power to stop it wants to, or perhaps they don't know what to do... I don't know.
I know that not all jurisdictions are filled with killer cops. In fact, most seem to be free of the fear-killer mindset that afflicts so many others. In New York City, the rate of police killings plummeted by 90% in a very brief period -- I believe it was two years -- simply by changing the rules under which use of lethal force was authorized and holding police to account every time they drew or used their side-arm.
In Oakland, the police kill-rate was reduced to zero for a while on the basis of similar rule changes and requirements that police account for their actions.
In Albuquerque, similar rule changes and requirements to report and account for actions also cut the police kill-rate significantly.
It's not rocket science. It can be done. But there has to be a will to do so, and that will has to originate at the top. Police departments are strict hierarchies. Police officers do what they do based on what their commanders expect and require of them. And what they're allowed to get away with.
Throughout the United States, the problem police departments -- the ones where killing seems to be a routine -- are commanded by chiefs (who themselves are often the creatures of city managers) who are authorizing or allowing their officers to kill essentially at will without being held to account.
In too many cases, this results in a death-squad mentality that permeates entire departments. They operate as killers not as protectors.
Many other departments may not be subsumed into a death squad mentality, but they conduct their business with levels of prejudice and violence that is almost as destructive to individuals, families, and communities.
This has to change. The social cost of violent and death-dealing policing is too great. But changing it is hard as activists have come to find out. You think you've made progress in one area only to find something worse is happening in another. Police departments that have adopted a death squad mentality are fiercely resistant to change -- partly because they legitimately fear for their safety and security. If they are held to account for their actions, some are liable to go to jail. Can't have that, oh no.
So they want assurances first that all prior acts will be forgiven.
That can be a problem.
Ultimately, it seems to me, abolition and starting over is the only real solution, and that would have to encompass the entire criminal (in)justice system, top to bottom, an enormous, and indeed revolutionary undertaking.
Americans aren't up to that yet but may be one day.
The whole damn system is rotten and guilty as hell. It has to change or be changed one way or another.
Maintaining the current course is insanity.