Editorial: Atlanta police killed a Black man for being drunk at Wendy's
A picture from a body camera video shows Rayshard Brooks talking to a police officer from Atlanta. (Atlanta Police Department via Associated Press)
The deadly and completely unnecessary police shots on Rayshard Brooks late Friday in a Wendy car park in Atlanta make it difficult to counter the growing "Defund the Police" movement, which does not advocate reforms but largely replaces armed law enforcement agencies.
In fact, we will continue to need the police, and for this reason we must continue to demand better attitudes, training, tactics, standards and police accountability measures. Improvements in policing and law governing the police have resulted in more professional and responsible law enforcement agencies and officials who commit less excessive violence per year in the United States, despite above-average police killing. But the Defunder are convincing point. How many people like Brooks or George Floyd or Breonna Taylor or Ezell Ford have to die while we wait for sufficient improvements in police behavior?
Brooks was a 27-year-old black father of four, who had fallen asleep in his car while Wendy was driving through. The officers came and asked him to move to a parking lot, which he did. Maybe that could have been the end, although Brooks seemed to be drunk. Letting him sleep in his parked car might have been fine, but letting him drive home wouldn't - and the officers couldn't know if he would try to drive home after they left. Could they have offered to call his family? Could you have offered to drive him home yourself? The police could argue that this is not their job. Police critics could certainly agree.
So they did the traditional police work - they did a sobriety check that Brooks failed and they tried to handcuff him. Authorities say he resisted taking an officer's taser and started running, and one of the officers shot him in the back.
It was Friday, the day before his eldest daughter's 8th birthday. Her cousin described how she wore her birthday dress on Saturday and waited for her father to skate her.
First, don't be a shame. This old ethical principle for doctors should equally apply to the police, who do not use citizens to rule over them, but to protect them. As a society, we have a duty to solve non-criminal problems without escalating them. Being drunk and sleeping on a thoroughfare is not a capital crime.
A major redesign of public security could mean that someone other than an armed, uniformed policeman will be dispatched when a man who sleeps in his car orders fast food. Could it be a health or community service official who would have no problem calling the man's family or driving him home and then asking the next day to check on his condition? Perhaps such a person would have been invited to a joyful party and a piece of birthday cake on Saturday. If he drove drunk - and remember that Brooks was probably only seen drunk when he followed police orders to move his car - there was still room for follow-up, including prosecution if necessary.
The Defund movement argues that no policeman could perform such a task because anyone who has a weapon and the state-sanctioned power over others he represents will ultimately use it. The police are sometimes needed to keep peace and not just to respond to crimes, but it's fair to ask why police involvement so often means someone goes to prison - or someone dies - if someone else Result was possible. It's fair to ask why police budgets in Los Angeles and many other cities have increased as crime has dropped.
The Defund movement claims that the reform has been tried and failed, but in fact, in most jurisdictions, the reform - those legislative and procedural changes aimed at changing police behavior - didn't go much further than the conversation phase. Leaders who have been slow to reform in the past should finally introduce higher standards in police behavior. Such measures do not conflict with the development of alternatives to detention, law enforcement and policing.
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