So I want to talk about this today. What does shooting an unarmed therapist say about the state of our police forces?
To sum up: on July 20th, a Miami therapist, Charles Kinsey, was confronted by police after the latter responded to a call about a man supposedly threatening suicide with a gun. The suicidal person turned out to be an autistic man with a toy truck, whom Kinsey was presumably trying to help. For some reason, officers decided the best course of action was to draw and aim their weapons. Kinsey listened to their instructions, laid down on the ground, put his arms in the air, and shouted that he was a behavioral therapist and the other man just had a toy truck in his hands and not a weapon of any sort. There was no danger at all. An unnamed officer then shot him.
When asked why, the officer said “I don’t know.”
No officer who took the vow to protect and serve should ever be that foggy, indecisive, or careless. This unnecessary shooting event is just one more item on a list of tragedy that shows how many men and women are becoming the victims of an over-aggressive belief that literally anyone could be a threat.
Perhaps the officer’s trigger finger slipped, and it was an accident. That doesn’t matter. He should not have been aiming in their direction in the first place. He should not have had his gun drawn. The police should have instead tried using a forgotten tactic- talking. When you talk to people, you learn things. Sometimes important things, like whether or not a man with his hands in the air deserves to have guns pointed at him. Sometimes people lie, but even when they do you can still learn things from what they lie about. Talking is the first defense for both the officer and the citizen in front of them.
And no, barking orders is not “talking.”
“So officers of the law should just lay down their weapons and expect the bad guys to do that too?” ~anonymous, oversimplifying troglodytes with no critical thinking skills
What I’m arguing is not that officers aren’t in danger, or that officers can’t be armed as a means to protect citizens, but that police officers are so knowledgeable of harmful possibilities it overwrites everything else, which only escalates problems.
Let’s say officers are issued AR-15’s, like the weapon Kinsey was shot with. What happens, then, when the public has access to those weapons, too? Fear. Everyone has a fear of everyone else. Police upgrade their weapons in response to the seriously shitty people they come across (a minority of the general public, I should add), but then those seriously shitty people just get some guns to even the odds. Police see this, and upgrade again to be even tougher, and so too do the shitty people. And the good, honest public get so caught in the crossfire of pride, fear, and bullets that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that would be a Cold War if it wasn’t for all the blood being shed. Well, I guess that makes it an actual war- a war waged in our own cities, against our own people, some of which have no clue someone else chose a side for them and shot first in order to “protect.”
The only way to break that cycle of stupid is to come to our senses and intentionally de-escalate. Since the general public outweigh the seriously shitty people, that means it rests on the shoulders of police officers to take a chance and not treat everyone like a potential threat, even though they very well could be. That’s where talking to people comes in handy. This would have been a story about officers chatting with a therapist and helping an autistic man and everyone moving on to other things like a peaceful community, if it weren’t for the whole “everyone’s a threat” attitude.
Not everyone is a threat just because we could be. The sooner police departments adopt that attitude, the better.