Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Standing in the Shadows

There really aren't many mean streets in Fulton, but when the authorities arrive, things can happen, as we are learning:
The death of Justine Damond, who called 911 to report a possible crime only to be killed by a responding Minneapolis police officer, has left her grieving family, neighborhood and nation demanding answers in the latest police-involved shooting to thrust Minnesota into the international spotlight.

While many of the details about what happened Saturday night in the city's southwest corner have not been disclosed, this much was: She called to report a possible assault in the alley behind her house in one of the city's safest neighborhoods and was unarmed when officer Mohamed Noor shot her.
From what we're able to gather thus far, Noor shot Damond through the open window of the vehicle he was riding in with another officer, Matthew Harrity. If the details widely reported are true, Damond was talking with Harrity, who would have been driving the vehicle, when Noor shot Damond. Noor was apparently sitting in the passenger seat.

I don't know what happened, really. Three people know and one of them is dead. What I do know is incentives matter. This case played out quite differently than the shooting of Philando Castile, but because it happened not long after the verdict in that case, there's a tendency to look for parallels. The only parallel I can see is this: we give our police the power to use deadly force and officers are, not surprisingly, inclined to use that power.

Our founders were concerned about standing armies. A police force should not be a standing army, but on an operational level it's become increasingly difficult to discern the difference between a standing army and most police forces in this country. Police forces are, in the main, agents of the government and depending on the government in question, they can be a force of oppression. That's the sense many people in minority communities have about the police. While I'd like to say that sense is misguided, it's difficult to make that argument in the face of the evidence before us. Too often, the incentives are not directed at keeping the peace, but rather in getting a piece of the action. Incentives matter.

We have not yet heard the 911 call Justine Damond apparently made, but I imagine we will eventually. It may shed light on the assumptions Officers Noor and Harrity might have made as they arrived on the scene. We also don't know why anyone would consider a woman wearing pajamas to be a threat, but in a dark alley it's difficult to see what you think you see. We'll keep watching.


Gino said...

i think its because cops are taught that every citizen is but a hand-flinch away from taking a deadly shot at them.
you flinch, you die.

its that simple.

as for this current story:
its rather difficult to draw a holstered weapon while sitting down in a car, let alone taking a shot mere inches away from the face of your partner. i'm having a difficult time buying this narrative as it is.

Mr. D said...

I’ve seen conflicting reports on what happened, Gino. I believe the cops had their guns drawn, likely for the reason you suggest. I’m pretty sure the woman was fairly petite, so to shoot her in the abdomen from the passenger side, across the seat of the other officer and through the window, seems to be a stretch. Skepticism is definitely in order.