Posted: 06/01/16 23:58
by Dave Mindeman
The Justice Department issued a ruling today in regards to the Jamar Clark case. They declined to charge.
This announcement was made by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minnesota, which said that a comprehensive investigation into Clark's death was unable to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that an officer involved sought to violate his civil rights.
That type of ruling was expected here and is probably correct in regards to violating civil rights. It is hard to prove that the officers "intentionally" sought to deprive Jamar Clark of his civil rights.
But there still seems to be an underlying problem here.
When we talk about officer involved shootings, all of the discretion is given to the police officers. In regards to deprivation of civil rights the standard is high:
"It is not enough to show that the officer made a mistake, acted negligently, acted by accident or mistake or even exercised bad judgment."
Alright, if that is the definition, then the US Attorney made the right announcement.
But maybe we need to take a look at how we approach these cases at the local level. If an officer acts negligently or exercises bad judgment, maybe that doesn't rise to the level of a civil rights violation, but it is an action that should be viewed with alarm.
A police officer has a tough job. Yes, we all agree on that. But a reckless cop is a dangerous cop. A policeman that acts in a negligent manner should have consequences. A policeman who uses bad judgment should be accountable.
When an unarmed person gets killed by a police officer within seconds of the officer arriving on the scene, something is terribly wrong. You can dismiss willful intention and you can question murder charges, but you cannot simply exonerate what happened as if it was nothing.
A person died. And that person died because of police judgment and action.
Preserve and protect. That is the motto isn't it? No matter how tough the job, there should still be accountability. Yes, the police have the absolute right to defend themselves and taking on suspects with weapons has an entirely different meaning.
But too many unarmed people are ending up dead from officer shootings and that just should not be.
This cannot end here. There should be more review and more public input. A full examination of police procedure is warranted.
I am glad that the investigation was thorough and I think we can be confident that under the established guidelines, a proper decision was made.
But maybe, just maybe, those established guidelines are incorrect.