Alton Sterling and Philando Castile: This Has to Stop
Two police shootings in two days means that we desperately need to address the issue of police violence involving civilians.
As far as we can tell with the information that we have available, neither Alton Sterling nor Philando Castile did a single solitary thing that warranted any violent retaliation, much less being shot to death. Based on the information we have, this is not a situation like we saw in Ferguson, MO where further investigation showed that the shooting of Michael Brown was justifiable.
What is particularly galling was the case of Castile. Castile informed police in Minnesota that he had a concealed carry permit and that he was carrying his firearm at the time of his traffic stop. Castile did everything correctly in order to ensure the safety of himself and the safety of the officers. But he was still shot. On video. In front of his four-year daughter.
This is madness and it must be addressed, but it must be addressed constructively. Most cops are good, honorable men and women. It may turn out that the cops in these two shootings acted appropriately. But that does not solve the fact that two men were shot to death.
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Conservatives often like to brush incidents like these off because of support for law enforcement and for the propensity that shootings like these wind up being politicized by the left. However, we must make sure that this is not the case. In these two shootings,we have what appears to be two individuals killed by agents of the government for no wrongdoing whatsoever. Just as galling is the fact that we have what appears to be two individuals killed by agents of the government for two victimless crimes, selling CD’s in front of a store and for having a busted tail light. That either is a crime to be responded to by armed law enforcement is problematic and shows what can befall citizens as our government continues to grow and activity is further criminalized.
Nor should conservatives get in the way of police accountability. We demand that all public servants be held accountable. If we, as conservatives, demand that teachers be held accountable for their work, we also must continue to expect high standards of law enforcement as well.
If we really want to reduce fatal police shootings instead of merely adjudicating them, we need to train officers in tactics that subdue threats, reward those who resolve threats without violence, and discourage actions that create unnecessary confrontation, violence, and escalation. And when these shootings are investigated — be it by the DOJ, internal affairs departments, local prosecutors or an outside agencies — it’s time to start looking beyond whether or not the shooting was justified under the black letter of the law. It’s time to start asking whether the shooting was preventable — and if it was, whether the failure to prevent it was due to poor training, bad policies, or police officers acting in contravention of policies or training.
Was it legal? is the question we ask when deciding whether or not to prosecute. Was it preventable? is the question we need to ask to save lives.
That’s the question that we should be asking of our state and local law enforcement agencies here at home. And don’t think that this isn’t an issue in Maryland. Questions of police violence in Maryland go far beyond Freddie Gray, and given the number of SWAT raids in Maryland and the trend towards police militarization it’s only a matter of time before something bad happens here, too.
We should take steps now to make sure that shootings like these cannot happen here, and conservatives should lead the way. It isn’t an issue about supporting law enforcement or not; it’s about making sure that lives are protected.