Another evening news telecast has come and gone, and yet another police shooting has been reported. This time, a young man, hard-working, no prior criminal record, was gunned down in Minneapolis, Minnesota by an officer after a car was pulled over for an inoperable taillight. What the heck happened, that a simple, run-of-the-mill traffic offense turned deadly?
The young man had a concealed weapons permit. Now, I won’t get into my personal beliefs about people having CWPs, nor will I will preach as to why I think people should not be allowed to carry guns. Our Second Amendment to the United States Constitution gives people that right. But, what was it about the young man’s behavior that so placed this officer in fear that he opted to play judge and jury, taking this man’s life?
Police shootings are nothing new. In the past year, it is estimated that just over 120 African-Americans were shot at the hands of police officers. Something has to change, and fast. Police officers must be given the power to do their jobs, yet we need to train officers in tactics that subdue threats, reward those who resolve threats without violence, and discourage actions that create unnecessary confrontation, violence, and escalation. What is it that the young man in Minnesota could have done that was so terrible, so antagonistic and so dangerous so as to put an armed officer in fear for his life, such that taking the man’s life became appropriate?
And when these shootings are investigated — be it by the Department of Justice, internal affairs departments at police departments, local prosecutors or outside agencies — it’s time to start looking beyond whether or not the shooting was justified under the letter of the law. It’s time to start asking whether the shooting was preventable, and I suspect that the answer will be ‘yes.’