I spouted off in my last post, in case you didn’t notice. I’m hoping that seemed unusual to you. I try to avoid writing in the heat of the moment so that initial emotions have time to subside a bit. When I’m passionate, I want that to be apparent but not to the point that you’d want to send the men in white coats to take me away.
In any event, I got both praise and blowback for that post, and I appreciate both. As I was thinking of a way to follow up on it, the Economist came to my rescue with an article about evidence of brain injuries in a disturbing number of prisoners. Here’s a quote: “Brain injuries can impair the way people think, experience emotions and control their own behaviour. Problems often occur when there is damage to the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with aggression and a lack of inhibition.” I recommend that you read the whole thing.
One good friend responded to my “Cop Kills Criminal…” post by reminding me that our societal goal should be to apprehend criminals and let the justice system, with its presumption of innocence, determine what happens to them. Of course I agree that that should be our goal, but I guess I would draw the line differently when a suspect with a hostage refuses to surrender. I seem to have more confidence than many of my friends and neighbors that SPD, under the federal consent decree that has guided recruitment and training for several years, has accepted the wisdom of, and been trained in the art of de-escalation.
If you have not yet read the actual report of the Office of Police Accountability report, I suggest you read enough of it to get a feel for how these investigations happen. Other investigative agencies are part of the process, so any use of deadly force incident gets a lot of scrutiny. The Economist article entered my line of sight after I’d read about the killing of Shaun Fuhr, and it served to remind me of what I already knew: there are often a lifetime of reasons that lead up to an event such as the day he died at the hand of police. Clearly, my post showed no compassion for him, yet I am not lacking in my concern for any individual whose life is complicated by abuse, trauma, substance abuse, and yes, brain injury.
If you do take time to read the OPA report, you’ll find that the mother of the child who was abducted, the victim in this case, seems also to have indications of prior abuse, trauma, and perhaps, brain injury. I’m in no position to know these details, but this wouldn’t surprise me. So much domestic violence, the source of many calls to the police including this one, brings with it trauma to everyone involved.
Many of the police reform advocates focus on building resilience in populations affected by poverty, abuse, and trauma. Of course, of course, we need to do this. But this is not an easy task. And this does not happen on the day an intoxicated, angry, perhaps brain-injured father assaults and shoots at the mother of his child (in a public park), abducts the child, and refuses to surrender when surrounded by police.
My frustration is with those who see this only through the eyes of All Cops Are Bastards and assume racist motivation on the part of the cops. This victim said, at the time of the investigation, that she planned to sue SPD for killing her best friend because he was black. How confused is that?
I want Black Lives Matter and the other organizations that continue to dominate the discussions of policing within city government to accept that racism was not behind this incident. Perhaps if they could say this publicly, we could begin to have constructive discussions about how to help prevent these tragedies while continuing to support police who have to respond when armed criminals threaten their families and/or the public.