STREAMING NOW: Watch Now
CLOSINGS: View Closings

We need to confront this double standard about cops

We love telling ourselves sweet lies, especially the one that we really believe all lives matter. We've told ourselve...

Posted: Mar 6, 2018 4:42 PM
Updated: Mar 6, 2018 4:42 PM

We love telling ourselves sweet lies, especially the one that we really believe all lives matter. We've told ourselves this lie so frequently we deem police officers cowards when they refuse to shoot to protect lives other than their own, and heroes when they kill primarily to protect themselves.

David French, a National Review Online writer, inadvertently made that point in a recent piece:

"Let's be very clear. Every single person who puts on a uniform and pledges to protect their community -- either in combat overseas or under fire at home -- is indicating by their choice that they are willing (not wanting, willing) to lay down their lives. That is their job. When the crisis hits, that is their purpose. It's what we expect of soldiers in environments that are far more intense. It's what we expect of cops when the shots ring out. If you have doubts about your ability to do that job, don't put on the uniform."

It's why so many believe the officers who failed to enter the high school in Parkland, Florida were cowardly and dishonored their badges. They should have been willing to "lay down their lives."

But French and others don't want cops to sacrifice themselves when confronted with murky situations involving, disproportionately, young black men. In those situations, officers should protect themselves first. Juries have sent that message as well, as they failed to convict a North Charleston police officer who was caught on video shooting a fleeing man in the back (that officer later pleaded guilty to federal charges); an officer who shot an Arizona man who was literally on his knees begging for his life; and the Minnesota officer who killed Philando Castile.

Their argument is a simple one: that some lives matter so much, police officers should be willing to "lay down their lives" to save them, but that others are so disposable an officer should not wait an extra second to determine the person really is an imminent threat. That logic seems to rest on determining just which lives deserve the benefit of doubt before being snuffed out. There were innocent civilians inside that school who needed saving, which is why we wanted the cops to act. But the man whose "crime" is speeding or acting erratically in public is also innocent; he certainly doesn't deserve the death penalty. Why isn't saving his life worth the risk, too?

Like the jury that found Betty Shelby not guilty, French believed the former Oklahoma police officer's actions were reasonable when she shot and killed Terence Crutcher. Shelby was accompanied by other well-armed colleagues as she approached Crutcher, who had just spent a considerable amount of time holding his hands high above his head as he walked back to his stalled vehicle. Because he didn't stop when Shelby demanded and finally dropped his hands to maybe reach towards the driver's side window of his SUV, Shelby was right to shoot Crutcher, French and other police defenders have argued.

Fast forward to Parkland. Police officers knew someone was shooting up a high school. They likely didn't know how many people were inside, if it was a lone gunman, or 10. They didn't know if the halls had been littered with homemade explosives. Still, there's a persuasive case to be made that those officers had a responsibility to go in despite the obvious risk. Such a response was supposed to have been one of the major changes in police training since the 1999 Columbine massacre, when police officers didn't immediately enter the school.

But an equally compelling case can be made that the Parkland officers were making a decision more reasonable than the one Shelby made, if, as has been argued repeatedly the past few years, police officers have the right, and the responsibility, to make sure they make it home alive at the end of their shift every night.

French argued that Shelby's killing of Crutcher was reasonable because of the infinitesimally small possibility Crutcher could have managed to reach into his SUV, retrieve a weapon and immediately turn around and shoot the small contingent of officers on the scene, even though they had their weapons drawn and Crutcher boxed in. That risk was supposedly so great, Shelby had every right to shoot an unarmed man instead of waiting a beat, or even holstering her weapon and diving for his legs to tackle him or telling a colleague to do so.

Yes, it would have taken a bit of courage to do that, but not nearly the courage needed to enter a high school where death was literally in the air. Facing a high probability of harm, officers must ignore their fear, steady their nerves and do their jobs well to save lives in a middle- to upper-class community. Facing a low probability of harm, officers should give into their fear and kill unarmed men.

Some gun rights advocates don't seem to understand, or care, that in a country saturated with guns, police officers are right to assume everyone is packing. But that reasonable assumption is at crosscurrents with bias -- implicit and otherwise -- in a way that leads police officers to more quickly presume black men and women are threats, even when they aren't.

It is laughable to argue an officer should go into a potential firefight -- knowing only that the suspect is using a high-powered killing machine -- because that's his job, but shouldn't be certain before firing his weapon during a traffic stop. It's laughable, that is, if we really believed all lives mattered. Apparently, we don't.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 327477

Reported Deaths: 3751
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin688981130
Ramsey28948512
Anoka23196232
Dakota23102194
Washington14590120
Stearns14314121
St. Louis9280117
Scott881056
Wright827145
Olmsted702536
Sherburne608243
Clay521359
Carver501315
Kandiyohi432024
Rice427738
Blue Earth426617
Crow Wing376237
Otter Tail332725
Chisago326914
Benton317253
Nobles313731
Winona292031
Douglas278439
Mower270623
Polk266226
Morrison241730
Lyon228712
Beltrami227518
McLeod226517
Becker217619
Goodhue216930
Steele20568
Itasca202223
Isanti199517
Carlton198417
Todd187414
Nicollet169426
Mille Lacs161231
Freeborn15966
Le Sueur153511
Brown151015
Cass149910
Pine14298
Waseca141811
Meeker139011
Roseau12475
Martin121221
Hubbard117728
Wabasha11041
Redwood101720
Chippewa9508
Cottonwood9284
Renville92729
Dodge9110
Watonwan8824
Wadena8537
Sibley8194
Rock8019
Aitkin79530
Houston7694
Fillmore7480
Pipestone74718
Kanabec67714
Yellow Medicine67612
Pennington6758
Swift6149
Murray6064
Faribault5902
Pope5641
Clearwater5389
Stevens5333
Marshall5289
Jackson5181
Lake4437
Wilkin4115
Koochiching4106
Lac qui Parle3984
Unassigned38259
Lincoln3721
Norman3638
Big Stone3332
Mahnomen3164
Grant2956
Kittson2408
Red Lake2283
Traverse1521
Lake of the Woods1021
Cook790

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 234817

Reported Deaths: 2486
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk34631341
Linn14655168
Scott1166189
Black Hawk11194139
Woodbury10622133
Johnson979337
Dubuque941594
Story698323
Pottawattamie664871
Dallas657159
Sioux380529
Webster371639
Cerro Gordo367649
Marshall357647
Clinton341444
Buena Vista313114
Des Moines298621
Muscatine298271
Warren291714
Plymouth284444
Wapello263772
Jones235917
Jasper229746
Lee225617
Marion210222
Carroll203624
Bremer200212
Henry19137
Crawford181016
Benton174023
Tama156641
Washington149715
Jackson148814
Delaware147021
Dickinson143811
Boone142412
Mahaska133328
Wright13007
Clay12254
Buchanan122010
Hardin121011
Hamilton117713
Page11664
Kossuth11608
Clayton11399
Cedar112513
Harrison110832
Floyd110219
Calhoun10907
Fayette108712
Mills10858
Lyon10619
Butler10576
Winneshiek102713
Poweshiek102013
Iowa100213
Winnebago94825
Cherokee9474
Chickasaw9084
Hancock9008
Sac8978
Louisa89321
Grundy88911
Allamakee87013
Mitchell8369
Cass83524
Union8166
Appanoose80713
Humboldt8015
Shelby79511
Emmet78626
Guthrie77115
Franklin76021
Jefferson7512
Madison7174
Unassigned7050
Palo Alto6734
Keokuk6477
Pocahontas5984
Howard5809
Osceola5411
Greene5401
Ida53013
Clarke5004
Montgomery49311
Davis4819
Taylor4773
Monona4516
Monroe45113
Adair4489
Worth3820
Van Buren3755
Fremont3743
Lucas3376
Decatur3290
Wayne3077
Audubon3052
Ringgold2382
Adams1792
Rochester
Clear
27° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 17°
Mason City
Clear
26° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 16°
Albert Lea
Clear
28° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 23°
Austin
Clear
30° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 25°
Charles City
Clear
25° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 16°
More sunshine heading into the weekend
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Property Taxes to Decrease for Most Olmsted County Homeowners

Image

Property Tax Decrease in Olmsted County

Image

MSHSL announces return to participation plan for winter, spring sports

Image

Improvements to Highway 14 corridor

Image

A plan for dangerous Highway 14

Image

Albert Lea fire claims warehouse

Image

Massive warehouse fire in Albert Lea

Image

Aaron's Thursday Evening Forecast

Image

Hotel Indigo in Rochester adapts to pandemic

Image

Providing a gift for frontline workers

Community Events