Monday, December 28, 2015

Mistakes Were Made, Are We Learning Yet?

Whatever your opinion about the subject, you must admit there has been a bunch of media coverage of gun violence and incidents of police killing people this past year. For instance, details from the over-a-year-long investigation into the death of a boy in Chicago at the hands of the police are tragic.
Although the caller specified to the dispatcher that the person in question was possibly a child playing with a toy, that information was not relayed to the officers and the officers responded to the call as an “active shooter” situation, authorities said. 
...
 the toy gun appeared identical to a real weapon, that the 12-year-old looked much older than he was, and that both officers behaved in ways consistent with the Cleveland police’s policies for dealing with an “active shooter” situation. 
... 
it is likely that Tamir — whose size made him look much older and who had been warned that his pellet gun might get him into trouble that day — either intended to hand it to the officers or to show them it wasn’t a real gun...

Mistakes were obviously made by both sides in this story. The court has determined that the police responded reasonably given the circumstances. And yet... We have created an environment in this country where the default assumption by the police must be one of being in danger. Something has caused this. Probably many somethings. Before anything else can be tackled, we must identify the true root causes of this environment. Words like "gun culture", "police militarization", "war on drugs", and so on may provide clues, or they may be red herrings. I wish I knew how to look into this to pull out some real data, but I'm afraid it's not my field. Instead, I have to add it to my growing list of things where rhetorical extremism chokes off any real discussion.

Like so many issues America faces today, we need reasonable people to work together to identify and enact proper changes, whatever they may be. But reasonable people seem to get shouted out of politics these days. Then again, maybe the reasonable people just don't make the news.

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