Monday, November 24, 2014

A Just Kill

The American Legal system is premised on the idea that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

This idea applies to all Americans including police officers.

The idea of presumed innocence includes officers involved in shootings.

Giving the officer the benefit of doubt has one important ramification:

Because we gave the officer the benefit of doubt; the decision not to indict the officer does not mean the shooting was just.

The decision not to indict Officer Wilson does not mean that shooting Mike Brown was a just kill.

The decision not to indict Officer Wilson simply means that a jury found no reason to believe the actual shooting was more than self defense.

Police are hired by the public to stand in harm's way and defend the public. Officers step into harm's way on our behalf. The nature of their jobs puts police officers in intense situations where shootings might occur. Because they are working on our behalf; It should be rare that we indict officers involved in shooting while doing their job.

However, the fallout after a shooting should not stop with a decision not to indictment. Since officers are employed by the state, officer involved shootings bring up a second important issue: Should we retain the officer after a shooting?

Police officers do not have a right to their job. It is perfectly legitimate for a community to decide to dismiss an officer who was involved in a shooting.

Most communities do not want gun happy police. It is perfectly legitimate for a community to ask for an officer involved in a shooting to step down.

The decision to retain or dismiss an officer after a shooting is a purely political decision.

I need to repeat the logic here: Police officers are public servants. The police are not entitled to their job. If the public feels uncomfortable with an officer then it is legitimate for the community dismiss the officer.

The tradition that police serve the people is witnessed by the periodic elections for county sheriff. The people should have say in who protects them.

The caveat is that since dismissal is political decision, it should be understood as political.

Politics is neither rational nor just. Politics weighs innuendo over fact. Politics factors in opinion makers and emotion.

I'd love to live in a world with no politics, but politics is inherent in a democracy. The question is not how to eliminate politics but how to treat politics so that it minimizes the impact on the courts. The best system has a combination of court decisions that focus on facts and political decisions where emotions rule.

IMHO, the public show about the Ferguson shooting should have been about the political decision: Should we retain or dismiss the officer. This could have helped shield the court decision about indicting the officer from politics. The indictment after all is a case to decide if the officer should be sent to prison. It is not a judgment on whether or not the shooting was just.

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