In the article,"Civilians Shouldn't Have to De-escalate Police," Tonya Jameson details her encounter with an off duty police officer in Knoxville who, after she had purchased an SUV from the officer's mother-in-law and was attempting to switch out the license plate, held her at gun point because he suspected her of attempting to steal the vehicle.
As to be expected, no penalties were levied against the off duty Knoxville police officer. His actions to confront Jameson were deemed as "lawful and proper" by his superiors following an"investigation." However, according to Jameson's testimony, the off duty officer's conduct did not reflect any of the lawful and proper actions one would expect from a trained police officer. He did not engage in what any reasonable person would deem "common sense" inquiry that would lead toward de-escalation. No effort was levied in determining who she was, what was going on, and no solicitation of another on duty officer to investigate the "suspicious" activity occurred. Instead, the off duty officer took it upon himself to approach Jameson with a loaded gun and use the facts and tactics of fear in assuming this unknown black person was a criminal before they even had a chance to explain themselves (#TrayvonMartin).
Yet, what sticks out most in my mind is not that Jameson is fortunate that this encounter did not add her name to an ever growing list of unarmed and noncriminal black bodies dying at the hand of police. Not how she was criminalized while merely being a law abiding citizen. But, what is most striking is Jameson's prophetic and poignant revelation that "[i]t seems that the legal system is really asking civilians to de-escalate adrenaline-fueled cops [while we] must remain calm while facing a loaded gun while the trained officers can panic and overreact."
This was precisely my thought when I watched (another) video today on Instagram of three police officers using overt excessive force to detain a man seemingly petrified for his life. From @HBCUMenInSuits_ , the short clip depicts an unknown man being abused and assaulted by those who swore an oath to serve and protect him. Lying face down on the ground, with his arms and hands covering his face, the clip begins as a police officer kneels on his back and demands for him to remove his hands from around his face and place his hands behind his back. Because the man does not "comply," the officer waits for a second officer to arrive and once there they both commence with punching, kicking, and kneeing the man in the face and stomach as he cries and pleads for the officers to stop.
After the first round of beatings, this man who is clearly posing no threat to the two officers now lays on the ground on his back side, with the second officer's knee on his face, as the first officer pulls out his taser and places it directly in his stomach and pulls the trigger. Screaming, the man rolls over on his side, clutching his stomach, begging the two officers to stop when a third police officer runs over and joins the melee; repeatedly punching the man in the face demanding that he place his hands behind his back! The man on the ground does not do anything to provoke the officers. He does not resist. He is not armed. He does not curse or use disrespectful language. Rather, he is beaten for laying on the ground in the fetal position trying to protect his body from harm.
Of course, there are those who consider these actions by police in either case to be both lawful and proper. It comes as no surprise that there are those who would blame and scapegoat the recipient of these assaults as responsible for their own experiences. It comes as no surprise that the first adjective used to describe these people would be criminal as opposed to human. And as criminals, these two people obviously deserve having their bodies assaulted and accosted by police who are only "doing their job" to enforce "the law." Yet, so much is wrong with such evil that parades itself as logic.
The source of this evil begins when a persons inherent humanity and God-likened body is warped into a criminal body by those who espouse such thinking. They suggest that the moment you are accused, assumed, or appearing to have committed a crime (regardless the severity) all humanity for the perpetrator ceases to exist. They do not consider the panic and fear that overcomes a person who has a loaded gun pointed at their head. They do not consider the pain of being punched and kicked in the face that instinctively causes a person to fear death and resist placing their hands behind their back. They do not consider the ill-logical notion that making oneself vulnerable and open to assault goes against the human body's biological inclination toward self preservation and survival.
Therefore, what is a person left to do in a society that only affords humanity to those who administer law and order? What is a person to do when they cannot even protect themselves from harm with their own hands against a man (or woman) covered by the protections of their institution, their gun, their taser, and the state? Truly, it seems that the only option is death. Either persons must die by the bullet, and have their names etched unto the ever growing list of those killed by police. Or, they must die to their humanity which is the only way for them to stay alive!