“The Houston Police Department places the highest value on human life, and events like these are tragic and unfortunate for everyone involved.”
This is what the chief of the Houston Police Department in Texas said after one of his officers shot and killed a schizophrenic, wheelchair-bound double-amputee on Monday. The man had impressively cornered the offending officer’s partner — who was, just so we’re all on the same page here, not missing any of his limbs — in a way so that the partner couldn’t get away.
We hear from the officer that the victim was threatening his cornered partner. What was this terrifying weapon that could even the playing field between a guy missing two limbs and a fully mobile cop? A pen.
The officer felt that this situation warranted the death of the mentally ill paraplegic. This is what Houston PD calls “placing the highest value on human life.”
But this was surely a one-time thing, right?
In July, police in Florida knocked on Andrew Scott’s door at 1:30 a.m., and after he opened it, promptly shot and killed him.
They were looking for a man who had attempted to smash someone’s head in with a cinder block. Someone named Jonathan Brown. Brown’s motorcycle was in front of Scott’s apartment complex, so it was only natural that Brown was inside Scott’s apartment. Or something.
The police contend that if Scott hadn’t been holding a firearm when he opened the door, he wouldn’t have been shot. Of course, one might return that if the police had announced themselves as police, as they are legally obligated to do if they intend to enter his residence, he wouldn’t have been carrying a firearm to the door.
Last time I checked, it wasn’t a crime to open the door holding a weapon when people knock at 1:30 in the morning.
The officer that shot him will walk away scot-free, as the Florida state attorney’s office decided that this shooting was justified and that his office will not pursue charges.
Again, just another isolated incident.
If you’re tired of hearing about people getting killed, I have countless stories of cops killing dogs for you. On Sept. 20 in Illinois, cops were chasing down a stolen ladder. They entered a backyard without announcing themselves or asking permission, knocked on the back door and shot Jason Robershaw’s dog.
The officer who shot the dog feared for his life, he explained. Funny, though, since the dog was chained up, and the cops had no business traipsing around Robershaw’s backyard. They actually had no business at his house, in fact, as they had gone to the wrong address, but they were obviously whipped up into a fervor to find the culprit in their hunt for the stolen ladder, so it naturally follows that they lost their ability to read addresses.
I could fill up the entire paper with stories of police killing innocent people and animals. Having paid attention to police brutality and militarization over the past few years, I have seen far too many of these stories to ever want to call the police for any reason whatsoever, for fear of injury or death.
I do not trust the police. In my experience, they have proven again and again that they believe that they have unlimited power and act without consequence or knowledge as to the legality of their actions. According to many cops, filming an arrest is illegal (It’s not, but that doesn’t stop them from arresting people for it).
It is too easy for cops to forget their real purpose, which is to protect and serve the public that’s paying them. It is not to sit on the side of the road all day and write speeding tickets so they can pay for their spiffy new Chargers. It is not to go into bars and force everyone to show them an ID so that they can meet their monthly MIP quota. It is not to lord over others their power to detain them and ruin their lives.
It is to investigate crimes and apprehend criminals. It is to do everything in their power to make sure they are bringing people to justice. It is to be familiar with the limits on their power and with the letter of the law. It is to do things as simple as making sure they have the right address when they’re making an arrest. It is to refrain from shooting people unless absolutely necessary.
There are some cops who do that, and for them I am thankful. But too many have turned into people from whom the community needs to be protected.
When people are being killed in their own homes on a regular basis by the police who are supposed to be keeping them safe, it is safe to say that too many police officers have lost sight of their true mission: to protect and serve the community.
Alexandra Williamson is an accountancy senior from Frisco, Texas. Follow her on Twitter @alyxwi.