Whenever we are faced with yet another shooting of an unarmed African-American by law enforcement, my mind flashes back to this passage in David Simon’s book, ‘Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets’. It, of course, references a police-involved shooting that occurred in Baltimore in the 1980’s, but that’s what gets me, police shootings have been happening since then, lots of them, yet the lessons of them seem to be taking a long time to take root. Simon expertly describes what lies at the bottom of this problem; our very normal humanness .
“A heavily armed nation prone to violence finds it only reasonable to give law officers weapons and the authority to use them. In the United States, only a cop has the right to kill as an act of personal deliberation and action. To that end, Scotty McCown and three thousand other men and women were sent out on the streets of Baltimore with .38-caliber Smith&Wessons, for which they received several weeks of academy firearms training augmented by one trip to the police firing range every year. Coupled with an individual officer’s judgement, that is deemed expertise enough to make the right decision every time.
It is a lie. It is a lie the police department tolerates because to do otherwise would shatter the myth of infallibility on which rests its authority for lethal force. And it is a lie that the public demands, because to do otherwise would expose a terrifying ambiguity. The false certainty, the myth of perfection, on which our culture feeds…..”