Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rockford Police Shooting Update

I have no argument with those who insist that the police have a tough job. They get placed in the middle of all sorts of interpersonal nonsense, domestic disputes, stupid people thinking they can break the laws on everything from speed limits to theft, and occasionally face people with guns, knives, axes, broom handles, and even bombs. Yet, far too often police use this as a fall-back excuse to do really stupid stuff. Sometimes, not just stupid, but fatal.

Last year, two officers in Rockford, IL, responding to a domestic disturbance call, chased a gentleman who was fleeing the scene in to the furnace room of a church. Next to the furnace room was a day care operated by the church. After repeatedly requesting for the man to surrender, the officers, weapons drawn, fired and killed him. He was unarmed and African-American (a dangerous combination, at least for any African-American facing police who have their guns drawn, to be sure).

The event stirred a hornet's nest of trouble for the city, already endemically economically stagnant, with a rough geographical division that corresponds to the racial population of the city. The city requested an independent agency review the facts of the matter, and last week they issued their report(.pdf). While the report called the shooting "justified", the response of the Police Chief - continuing an investigation of the officers involved due to reported multiple violations of department policies that could have averted the use of deadly force - has made the officers of the force angry.

This is understandable, I suppose. After all, any and every action cops take - whether it's legal or not, justified or not, deadly or not - needs to be backed by their superiors, right?

The city of Rockford faces many challenges, from drugs and prostitution to a simmering racial hostility exacerbated by economic troubles that continue to be unaddressed by ongoing studies of how to revitalize the downtown. Worse, both the local paper and city leaders seem completely unaware that the city and its environs are actually a metropolitan area, with a diverse population in a variety of communities. The small group of white men (and a few rich white women) who are the elite are completely unaware of the diversity and potential of the city of Rockford itself, wanting to create a mockery of the reality of Rockford's diversity (in their image of course).

The report claimed the shooting, "justified". This may be a mere technicality. In fact, had the officers in question followed proper departmental procedures (they didn't even evacuate the children from the daycare; consider that for a moment, as the officers were shooting right next to the room where the children were housed; as a parent, I'd still be incensed), the suspect would in all likelihood still be alive, racial tensions in the city would be a bit lower, the city wouldn't be facing a lawsuit, and the cops and police administration wouldn't be at odds.

It seems that the victims and the Police Force Administration get this, but the officers, and the city press, don't.

Virtual Tin Cup

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