I wanted to take a brief moment and just share my reaction to the Yanez verdict. For those who aren’t aware this was the trial of Officer Yanez and his shooting of Philando Castile. The county attorney brought up two different charges against the officer, manslaughter and a reckless weapons charge. Both were acquitted, leading to a lot of hand wringing and sadness in the Twin Cities that justice really hasn’t been served.
From interviews with jurors, it appears that the biggest issue is the law. The way that the manslaughter laws are written, you need to prove some form of culpable negligence. In this case, they couldn’t find evidence of that, despite not liking what the officer had done. This seems to be the greatest problem with use of force cases involving police. The law doesn’t appear to be written to protect citizens when it comes to the use force, and particularly firearms. Unless you have video of a suspect on the ground with their hands up, it’s often the officer’s word about what happened vs. the dead citizen.
One of the more unpopular opinions out there, but one that I feel would help, is to seriously consider disarming police of their firearms during routine situations. I fully understand that there are certain situations (and neighborhoods) where this isn’t an option, but for the majority of cases, officers have no reason to have their firearm on them. So many of these situations involving deadly force, could have been solved through other means.
Of course I’m saying this as a private citizen, and not a police officer. I’m sure there are dozens of arguments against disarming police, and I’m sure my thoughts could be torn to shreds by people more knowledgeable in all of this. Yet, it doesn’t change the fact that I believe that many situations could be solved through less deadly methods. Maybe I’m just naive and overly optimistic, but I have to believe that guns are not the answer to every situation, but that if you have a gun you’re more likely to think it is the answer. It’s like with any tool, and I see this all the time in the technology space. When you know one tool really, really well, you tend to rely on it to the exclusion of other options. The old phrase, “when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” applies.
None of what I said does much to fix the poor race relations that we’re currently dealing with in America either. One of the more salient points that has been brought up about the Yanez verdict is the question about why the officer was so scared. If Castile has been white would Yanez have been as on edge? These are questions we’ll never know the answer to, but it speaks to a sad state of affairs in our country when we have to even pose the question.
I pray we learn to grow beyond this as a society, and that someday these horrific acts are just a memory. I would love to see the end of this type of tension in my lifetime, but it’s hard to be hopeful for our society with the state things are currently in.