Police killings in Tulsa and Charlotte


The recent murders, extra-judicial killings, (or were they lynchings?) of two more African American men, Terence Crutcher of Tulsa, Oklahoma and Keith Scott of Charlotte, NC, points to a disturbing trend in law enforcement. Why are so many police ready to draw weapons and shoot to kill? It’s as if the American public (and there are many non-African Americans who are also killed) are citizens of an occupied country, suspected of malice toward the occupiers simply by the nature of the jobs they do. What is being missed here?

First, the omnipresence of guns means that any citizen in various states (North Carolina and Oklahoma being just two of them), is first suspected of carrying a firearm because he or she has a right to do so. Anything seen in the hand of a suspect is first assumed to be a gun. The police, many of whom are against the proliferation of firearms, don’t want to be the victims. When police are murdered the word goes around to precincts that a police officer must shoot before he himself is shot.

The second, and related, problem is our diminishing ability to use words. Guns speak louder. Police are blunt instruments, as was seen in the video recordings of both the Crutcher and Scott killings. They scream at suspects to get them to drop their weapons. What if they don’t have a weapon? What are they supposed to drop? The shootings themselves are not meant to disable but to kill, to kill without evidence, which is the same as lynching. When suspects represent no immediate threat to the police, the use of reason is preferable, but, more and more, reason, science, logic and empirical evidence is disregarded, replaced with fear, anger, pseudo-science, and bluster.

What has happened to the American public? Has reason failed? Have words failed? Has education failed? “Hands up, don’t shoot.” If people really thought about what Donald Trump represents, the country, like the police, is ever more becoming a blunt instrument. Racist language thrives in this fascistic environment. Kill or be killed. Deny humanity.

On CNN, a police spokesperson commented on the Crutcher killing. Anyone who looked at it saw the murder of a weaponless man posing no threat to the police. But don’t believe your eyes! The police spokesperson insisted that we needed to know the full context. That is how language can obscure. The female police officer involved was charged with first degree manslaughter but the ongoing conversation defies reason. Let me ask: if a police officer is murdered under any circumstances, how many people want or need to know the context? And we haven’t been a witness to that killing.

Final comment on the Scott killing: that gun and holster were legal to carry, even if they belonged to the victim. That gun and holster would have his prints on them. From what I could see, there is a possibility that one of the police placed the gun at his feet after the cellphone video cut off. What I will always remember is the police officer putting handcuffs on a dead man. What an image of a wrongful conviction!

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About ken

I am a former Toronto teacher and writer now living in Vancouver. I work with Dr. Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, with whom I published Eye of the Hurricane: My path from Darkness to Freedom (Chicago review Press, 2011), as Director of Media Relations and as an advocate for wrongly convicted prisoners. Other publication credits include Songs of Aging Children (Arsenal Pulp Press, 1992) a book of short stories about troubled youth, and Taking Steam, a play co-authored with the late Brian Shein, staged at New York's Jewish Repertory Theatre and Toronto in 1983. Life Without (Quattro Books, 2012) is a novella about a New York cab driver wrongly convicted of killing his pregnant wife. Gary Geddes (Lt. Governor's Award for Literary Excellence) described it as "one of the most brilliant and harrowing short novels I've read since I went on a John Hawkes binge."

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