Thursday, July 7, 2016

Stop the Killing Inc., indeed

    I always wondered what it would be like when the words stopped coming, what it would like if the music stopped playing, what it would be like when these eyes stopped crying every night for someone else.

            I guess I'm finding out. You've seen the reason why, I suspect. 
            In Baton Rouge, there's more to report. Another life has been taken, this time by the police. And this time, the person killed had a gun on him.
            So, the investigation begins; or rather, another investigation begins.
            Let me state clearly at the top, I would rather have any job in this fine country than the job of police officer in today's environment. It is a job that is almost impossible to do perfectly, and when someone fails at it, the failure is plastered across the nation's newspapers at best and someone dies, at worst. 
           I've know persons who loved the job, loved the parts of the job that would send me off for counseling. I take all that into account as I write this; I really do.
          But it still seems to me that what is going on in this country as regards to police versus whomever is the opposition has gotten completely out of control.
          First, there shouldn't be an "opposition."  Police men and women aren't there to oppose anything, but rather to uphold the law. I know, I know that it's easy for me to write this a couple days after the fact, with little chance of being harmed in the writing of the piece.
            But here’s what we know – or think we know …
            The incident was caught on video and prompted calls for boycotts of the local mall and for the police chief to be fired or resign.
             Baton Rouge Police said two officers responded to a disturbance call outside the store about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.
             A caller told a dispatcher that a black man in a red shirt was selling CDs had threatened him with a gun. “An altercation between Sterling and the officers ensued. Sterling was shot during the altercation and died at the scene,” the police department said in a statement. Why on earth the man doing the selling was doing the selling at that most ungodly hours perhaps we’ll never know.
             John Bel Edwards, the governor of Louisiana, on Wednesday called for calm amid local protests and national outrage as he announced that the U.S. Department of Justice will investigate the shooting death of Alton Sterling, the black man killed by police in Baton Rouge.
            The incident was caught on video and prompted calls for boycotts of the local mall and for the police chief to be fired or resign.
            The two officers involved have been placed on administrative leave.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama is aware of the situation in Baton Rouge but Earnest declined to comment further, citing the Justice Department investigation.
             “Regardless of what the investigation finds, there is a family in Baton Rouge and there’s a community that’s grieving right now,” Earnest said. “We’re thinking about them as they endure that grief.”
            Forgive me if I don't believe that.
             The cellphone video of the incident began with police standing a few feet from Sterling. A loud pop — like that of a stun gun — can be heard.
            “Get on the ground!” a police officer yelled.
            “Get on the ground!” the voice yelled again, followed by a second pop.
            Sterling, a large man, remained on his feet.
            A police officer tackled him over the hood of a silver car, then onto the ground.
            Meanwhile, another restrained his left arm behind his back and knelt on it.
            “He’s got a gun!” someone yelled.
            “Gun! Gun!”
            Both officers drew their pistols from their holsters. Then, the officers shouted something unintelligible, which seemed to include the phrase “going for the gun.”
            Two noises that sounded like shots rang out immediately after.
            Whoever filmed the video then dropped the cellphone.
            “Oh, s—,” someone said.
            Three more shot-like sounds rang out.
            The video of the shooting was captured by chance by members of Stop the Killing Inc, a local anti-violence activist group and documentary team that listens to police scanners and shows up at the scene of potentially violent confrontations to take video. A second video that emerged later Wednesday appeared to show one of the police officers removing a gun from Sterling’s pocket after he was shot.
            Stop the Killing Inc.  was founded by Arthur “Silky Slim” Reed, a former gang leader turned anti-violence activist, who said that two members of his organization drove to the scene of Sterling’s shooting after hearing police scanner traffic about a potentially violent disturbance. Reed declined to say which member of his team shot the video, or confirm if he himself was present for its recording, citing safety concerns.
            Reed said his group didn’t immediately release the video because it wanted to see how transparent police would be about the shooting.
            “You want to see what the police are going to say and how transparent they’re going to be,” said Reed, 43, who has spent most of his life in Baton Rouge. “You know that you’re holding a chess piece, the most important part is to move that piece at the right time.”
            Police departments nationwide have grappled with how to quell public distrust after police shootings. Protests have erupted in dozens of major U.S. cities — from Cleveland to Minneapolis to New York — in response to police shootings during the past two years. In both Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, demonstrations gave way to nights of rioting and violence as frustrated community members demanded answers following the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and Freddie Gray, who died in police custody in Baltimore.
            In many cases, few details of the circumstances that led up to a shooting are available in the days immediately after someone is killed. And often the officers involved are not immediately named publicly. An investigation by The Washington Post earlier this year found that 1 in 5 officers involved in fatal police shootings in 2015 were never named publicly. 
          Gun fire erupts. A man is shot to death by the very ones who are charged with protection, and we are haunted by "shot like sounds," going off.
          Shots are fired. People die. Shots are fired, and those who are hired to protect are the ones doing the shooting. People die.
           The Ferris Wheel keeps going round and round, and someone talks abut chess pieces.
           Forgive me if the tears cloud my eyes.
            The Associated Press’ reporting contributed to this column

1 comment:

kevin h said...

By "helpful" I really mean nothing seems to help. Alas.