Apologists for police brutality have a number of tricks up their sleeves for trying to justify the death and abuse suffered by their fellow citizens at the hands of police. They love to throw out half-baked and partially understood statistics in this attempt to shield criminal cops from ever being held accountable for their crimes.
At the current time with such energy behind a movement to reform the country’s corrupt police force, they have seized upon repeating in a mantra like fashion the line that “only 8 (or 14 or whatever) unarmed black men were killed by police in 2019.”
There is so much wrong with this statement that it’s almost hard to know where to begin addressing it all. USA Today published a decent article pointing out multiple flaws with this statement, but they missed some significant details that show the complete irrelevance of this claim and the questionable character of anyone spreading it.
I’m not really going to address the racial issue much, because to me it’s a secondary injustice that only matters because of the primary injustice of police unnecessarily brutalizing and killing people and rarely seeing any significant consequences. I’ll just say this: it is true that Native Americans and African Americans are more likely to be killed when interacting with police than are white people. However, whites get killed by police too because police kill, and racism makes this problem worse.
Below are four specific points that briefly explain how this “only eight” canard is dubious at best and furthermore reveal the lack of discernment being used by anyone repeating it.
1 – Is someone being “armed” in and of itself justification for a cop to kill or brutalize a person?
The people spreading the “only eight” canard are conflating the word “armed” with the idea of an violent criminal. They’re not the same thing at all. They seem to assume or at least want us to assume “armed” means the victim was actively shooting or otherwise threatening someone. But really, it doesn’t tell us much about what conspired at the scene of the killing at all.
I had a recent exchange with a cop who tried to justify a local killing by police of a teenager by telling me the victim was “armed” at the time. However, the victim was riding his bicycle home and was run over by the cop who perpetrated the crime with his car. The kid never brandished a weapon and never threatened anyone. They just happened to find a “weapon” on his body after killing him. He was “armed.”
This is the USA. We have this thing called the Second Amendment that recognizes Americans’ right to keep and bear arms. For this reason the United States is home to the most heavily armed population in the world. A significant number of law abiding citizens carry a weapon, also known as being “armed” on American streets.
A licensed concealed carry holder like Philando Castile could be murdered by police and be listed as “armed” at the time of their killing whether they were engaged in any crime or not.
So, if being “armed” in and of itself is not enough reason for police to kill then why make the point at all? Why not tell us how many people killed by police were actively shooting, pointing their weapon or in some way, ANY way presenting a GENUINE THREAT at the time of their killing? I suspect it’s because they would rather not have that conversation. It would require too much honesty.
2 – “Armed” with what?
What exactly does “armed” mean anyway? I get the idea they’d like us to assume it means the victim had a gun. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. A pocket knife or a beer bottle can be a deadly weapon. To a cop any number of mundane objects can be considered a weapon and a reason to shoot. Maybe it was nunchucks or a really sharp pencil. We just don’t know. All we know is they were “armed.” Or at least we know the police said they were.
Unless we know exactly what each person killed by police was “armed” with, we don’t even know what that statement means. Really, it doesn’t mean anything at all, at least as far as justifying a killing.
3 – Even if the victim was “armed” with some object, that does not preclude murder.
Simply put: A person can be murdered & the cop not even know they were “armed” until after searching their dead body or automobile and finding something they can consider a weapon. If a cop doesn’t even know a person is armed before killing them as it was with the young boy mentioned in point #1 above, it doesn’t even matter. It’s an irrelevant detail only discovered after the fact and then being used in an attempt to justify murder.
A detail like this doesn’t matter to the police brutality apologist. To them all that matters is the victim was “armed.”
4 – How do we even know the victim was “armed” in the first place?
To me, this might just be the most important point on this short list.
Who says the victim was “armed” in the first place? Were there any neutral witnesses or are we just going on the word of police involved in the killing? The “official” report is the police report as reported by the police involved.
Are we supposed to just listen and believe? Should we #BelieveAllCops, as if cops don’t lie and fabricate or plant evidence to cover their asses? Is that your fantasy world? I’ve got news for you. Cops lie and falsify evidence all the time, because they can get away with it.
A cop in Florida was recently caught planting illegal drugs on people for what seemed to be nothing more than his hobby. Dozens of people were sent to jail, and had their lives ruined. At least one person lost custody of their children because of this cop’s lies and this is just a single cop. Bottom line: cops lie. The “official” reports mean absolutely nothing on their own merit.
In conclusion, anyone pushing the “cops only kill a few unarmed people” are one of two things. At best they are naive.
Or they are something much worse; intentionally being deceptive, using meaningless statistics to justify the continued murder of the “undesirable classes.”
Maybe some people have chosen to believe in the myth of these angelic and honorable beings called police who are incapable of doing wrong. They should not be surprised when they are ridiculed for this naïveté because holding and perpetuating such ideas is harmful to a free society.