Sorry that I’ve been away for a couple of days. I have been a bit busy with some things related to the source material for Until Proven. For now, please enjoy this unrelated blog post from December, 2014. It’s one of my opinion pieces and also one of my favorites. Please feel free to comment.
Recent Media Reports of Police Confrontations Have Me Concerned for My Son with Autism: Here’s Why
It seems that every other blogger with any kind of following has posted his or her opinion regarding what is being perceived as white police officers committing genocide on black citizens. Or, the bloggers who support the police taking a stand against violent thugs; it mostly depends on your perspective, political leaning or melanin concentration, I’m guessing. A white Cleveland cop with a questionable service record killed a black kid playing in a city park (where kids are known to play) with what looks just like a handgun. A white S.C. police chief shoots and kills an unarmed black man in a city parking lot as the two argued and then scuffled over a traffic ticket (and there seems to be a pattern in South Carolina—click here for more). Then, there was another scuffle, this time in Phoenix, and a black man was killed by a cop. Officer Daniel Pantaleo v Eric Garner. Officer Sean Williams v John Crawford III. Anyone could do this all day.
If you’ve read any of my writing or know my background at all, you know that my main concern is not that police exercise a “License to Kill” on blacks. Before you get all comment trolly on me, and in case you don’t know me, let me explain. What concerns me more is the wanton protection and then exoneration of police in situations where citizens can be killed at-will. Police are rarely indicted for killing citizens (check this out), either. In fact,hundreds happen that we citizens never hear about (read this; it also explainsthat the numbers are higher than the statistics say, because hundreds more go unreported to the FBI). White. Black. Male. Female. Rich. Poor. Physically or mentally healthy. Physically or mentally vulnerable. It just goes on.
And there is my biggest concern. I have a couple of kids with special needs. They are in a vulnerable population, and one that is understandably different. There’s a difference (for me) between a cop killing someone who, at the officer’s request, could “drop the weapon.” If they choose not to, they must accept the consequence that follows. Not that I necessarily feel that anyone who disobeys a cop should get a chunk of searing hot lead injected into his or her chest, or strangled until the life seeps from his or her body. But, people in those situations understand that they have options; the choice they make is conscious. Granted, the officer who makes the choice to end a life must face consequences as well. But, based on some of the links I posted above, internal investigations and courts are on the side of cops. That must give them at least some feeling of invincibility.
My concern is for the persons who have difficulty understanding consequences. For example, if I am asked to leave a venue by an employee or (if it got to that point, for some reason) a law enforcement officer, I will comply. However (and for whatever reason), Robert Ethan Saylor had trouble understanding what was being asked of him, or why. It cost him his life at the hands of three off duty police officers. It’s important to note that Ethan’s aide was at the scene already and offered to help. The police ignored her and they admit that Ethan was not violent with anything more than words. It was ruled that the police were responsible for Ethan’s death, which, of course, means they are still on the job today.
In Houston, Texas, Brian Claunch was a schizophrenic wheelchair-bound double amputee with a history of run-ins with police. During one incident, Claunch somehow cornered an able-bodied cop. The officer’s partner noticed that Claunch was waving a sharp object at his partner, and so, shot Claunch in the head, killing him instantly. It was a pen. Claunch lived in an assisted living facility, was medicated, and, I’d like to reiterate, was in a wheelchair. It’s worth noting that the article link states that no Houston cop has been found guilty in a shooting in over 10 years.
Then there is the case of Errol the Yard Man, a deaf-mute who was slain by cops in Detroit. As numerous neighbors hollered to responding police that Errol was deaf, mute and could not respond to their commands, they did the only thing they could do: they fired at him, claiming the man swung a rake at them. Which is the exactly proportional response one would expect. Especially given that, according to the article, Detroit has more fatal cop-to-resident shootings than any other city in the U.S. Still, the police were cleared after what I’m sure was a thorough, transparent and unbiased internal investigation. At least, that’s what the mayor said.
Now, don’t get me wrong. First and foremost, I believe police serve a purpose and I would like to believe that the majority are “guys and gals” just the same as any of us. They want to do their job and get home to a hot grill, a cold beer and a warm hug from their kids. I also get that officers are operating on the premise that they must keep themselves and the community-at-large safe (the Supreme Court has already ruled that police have no obligation to keep individuals safe). Even if that means killing someone in a split-second decision in order to do so. My concern lies in the fact that these are essentially legalized street executions.
I have a son who is a big boy for 9½, and he, obviously, will only get bigger. With autism, he has no true understanding of boundaries or consequences nor the conceptual understanding of the wants and desires of other people. This is a potential problem as he ages. Sure, there is unlikely ever to be a moment where he will not be with someone. But Ethan Saylor had a worker with him, too. A lot of good that does if the police are going to ignore the instructions of those that are with the person the most often and know him or her best.
Someone is with my son constantly. Should he ever not comply, or worse, become aggressive with me or someone else, we who know him know what needs to be done to rein him back in. EXTREMELY HYPOTHETICAL SITUATION ALERT: If I were to kill him (even accidentally; even to keep everyone else safe), I would be arrested, charged and likely convicted for my crime. Cops, however, don’t have that restriction. If he were to act aggressively toward them and misunderstand the consequences of not obeying their cues (he says no even when he’s complying), the police are free from repercussion. They could dispatch him using the same reasoning for which I would be arrested. Because they are cops and their safety is more important than anyone else’s.
Of course, this is just to exemplify that there are those vulnerable people who may not have the cognizance to realize that their behaviors might bring about their own death at the hands of someone who has milliseconds to make a decision. In reality, no group deserves to be treated this way. Sure, bad people do bad things, and maybe the thought process of the police is simplywe don’t have time to differentiate or it’s better that an innocent person died when he could have been a bad guy who wanted to kill me or when I’m scared, death is the only option. At least a few of the situations I mentioned above could have been de-escalated with “time.” A few bad words, extreme misunderstanding or resistance do not warrant a death sentence. That goes for all citizens, “disabled” or not.
I do not wish ill on police and I have experience with the stress they are under. I was a Military Police drug investigator and a protective services specialist in the Army; I understand the whole “seconds to decide” thing. But, hiding behind the “in the interest of the public’s safety and mine” in order to dispense what, again, amounts to little more than legalized street execution, is unconscionable. At one time, the job of police was to protect and serve the citizens. It’s now as though they consider this a war and look at all of us as combatants (have you seen the RVs small town forces are employing in order to collect civil judgments?).
So, then, who protects the combatants who don’t even realize that there is a war? —–