Another American cop has was caught on video murdering an unarmed Black man, and the only surprise here is that he was officially charged for it.
This piece was going to be about how Black people should start carrying guns to protect themselves from the police. However, after thinking about it for a short time, I realize now that such an idea will not work.
The laws will not allow it (because the state would just ignore it). The judges will not allow it. Morev, many in our community would not allow it. The likely outcome in such a scenario is that more Black people would be killed unjustifiably, but with the excuse that they died because they had a gun.
So I have another idea: Let’s disarm the police. No seriously, think about it…
Last August, Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old Mike Brown. His alleged crime was shoplifting a box of blunts from a local grocery store and then proceeding to walk in the middle of the road. He was unarmed, and witnesses present at the time of his death claimed that he was running away from Wilson when he was first shot. However, the unjust yet legally justified killing of Brown is only half of the story here:
As local citizens of the small Missouri town, with a population of 21,000, made their way out into the streets to protest the suspicious shooting and demand answers, we watched as the local police department deployed armed military style tactics on unarmed citizens. As Glenn Greenwald noted in his piece for The Intercept:
Their uniform would be mistaken for a soldier’s if it were not for their “Police” patches. They wear green tops, and pants fashioned after the U.S. Marine Corps MARPAT camouflage pattern. And they stand in front of a massive uparmored truck called a Bearcat, similar in look to a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, or as the troops who rode in them call it, the MRAP. They have short-barreled 5.56-mm rifles based on the military M4 carbine, with scopes that can accurately hit a target out to 500 meters. On their side they carry pistols. On their front, over their body armor, they carry at least four to six extra magazines, loaded with 30 rounds each.
While there was looting and rioting sparked by the killing, the looting and rioting was no worse than what happens after a college football team wins–or loses–a championship. And yet these military-grade local police rolled their tanks into a town and threw tear gas and smoke bombs at protesters. They also shot rubber bullets and deployed LRAD sonic cannons. They beat and roughed up not only average citizens, but the journalists covering the protests as well. For the next several months, Ferguson, which, again has a population of only 21,000, became an occupied small country.
In spite of the unbelievable nature of what happened there, Ferguson is pretty much reflective of the kind of militarization that has been happening to our local police departments across the country for years. It is only getting worse. According to the New York Times, over the last eight years, local law enforcement agencies have added “tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft” to their arsenal.
And according to a report released last year by the ACLU titled War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing, this militarization of local law enforcement has been paid for mostly through grants given by the Department of Defense’s 1033 Program, the Department of Homeland Security’s grants to local law enforcement agencies, and the Department of Justice’s Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program. The 1033 program has made it possible for an estimated 500 local law enforcement agencies across the country to receive Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles. These vehicles were built to withstand armor-piercing bombs found on the road.
The report also finds that more times than not, these paramilitary weapons, as well as tactics, are deployed mostly in communities of color. They are used to do everything from drug raids to executing a search warrant. Only a small handful of deployments (seven percent) were for hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios, and in the majority of those cases, the targets were white people.
And if you think these well-armed departments are to ensure the safety of these brave officers who put themselves on the frontlines in the war against crime, the report also notes the following:
SWAT deployments often and unnecessarily entailed the use of violent tactics and equipment, including armored personnel carriers; use of violent tactics and equipment was shown to increase the risk of bodily harm and property damage. Of the incidents studied in which SWAT was deployed to search for drugs in a person’s home, the SWAT teams either forced or probably forced entry into a person’s home using a battering ram or other breaching device 65 percent of the time. For drug investigations, the SWAT teams studied were almost twice as likely to force entry into a person’s home than not, and they were more than twice as likely to use forced entry in drug investigations than in other cases. In some instances, the use of violent tactics and equipment caused property damage, injury, and/or death.
That’s right: Instead of maintaining public safety, these well-armed departments often make matters worse.
But an unarmed police officer is less of a threat to the public than an armed officer because it forces officers to use better discretion when entering potentially dangerous situations. Imagine that…
And for those wondering how an unarmed police officer would protect his or her self, as pointed out by the website Disarm The Police, FBI data has shown that in 50 percent of the murders of American cops, suspects attacked the officers before the officers had the opportunity to remove their weapons from their holsters. In other words, an armed cop isn’t guaranteed to be safe.
Last year, a D.C. councilman became a national laughing stock for suggesting that a disarmed police force was the best way to encourage better relations between police and the community.
According to the Washington Times:
“My staff won’t let me tell you that I think we ought to get rid of guns in this city, and that police shouldn’t have guns, so I’m not going to tell you that,” said council member David Grosso, at-large independent, at a Wednesday night council committee hearing. “But I think we have to re-imagine the way that we relate to one another across the board and then change MPD.”
As naïve as it sounds, I honestly feel like Grosso had a valid point. Deadly force should only be used as the last resort when all other peaceful means have been exhausted. But more and more, these well-armed cops reach for their guns first and think about peace later. Point blank, if they have guns, and the support of the state, they will use them. This is no way for a civilized country to behave.