Posted: 03/30/16 23:45
by Dave Mindeman
Police officers have a very tough job. It is dangerous. It is scrutinized heavily. And it can often be pretty unrewarding.
But it also has clear responsibilities.
In the case of Jamar Clark, the thing that hit me right away was the time frame. 61 seconds. The time from the arrival of the two police officers until the shooting of Jamar Clark. 61 seconds.
Sure a lot can happen in that time frame. Stare at a watch and it might seem longer than you first think. But it is what you do in 61 seconds that make the real difference.
When a police officer arrives on an active scene, he has to make a lot of quick assessments. Those assessments are critical to an officer's actions and on the outcome.
It is difficult to believe, anymore, that assessments made when the suspect is black vs. when the suspect is white are the same. They are not. It may not be intentional or even done consciously, but I believe that a police officer, especially a white officer, tends to intervene in a much more defensive and aggressive manner if the suspect is black.
During those 61 seconds of Jamar Clark's life, two police officers determined a lot of things. Obviously they were reasonably sure that Clark was unarmed; otherwise they would not have approached him so quickly. They decided to focus on the suspect, rather than securing the ambulance. They moved to apprehend the suspect without much dialogue or conversation. It would seem that the obvious first step would be to talk to the suspect and determine his frame of mind. Repeatedly asking him to take his hands out of his pockets is not a conversation. Also in those 61 seconds, these officers threw the suspect to the ground....struggled with him....placed themselves and their equipment in direct contact with the suspect...and seconds later shot him. Not in the arm or the shoulder or the leg. They shot him in the face.
That is a lot of decision making in 61 seconds. And frankly, it was a lot of bad decision making.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman laid out the legal recourse in excrutiating detail. And he should be given credit for trying to be as transparent as possible. A lot of other cases in other major cities have not been so clear about explaining the evidence.
But transparency and legal procedure does not absolve poor judgment. Maybe charging these officers with murder would be a difficult thing to justify, but they clearly made mistakes. There should be some kind of accountability.
If the Minneapolis police department wants to keep their credibility, then they should be just as transparent about their own internal investigation. They should examine the situation in every aspect, including how these officers, and indeed any officer, approaches a situation based on a suspect's race or age or gender. There is clearly a problem here. There are clearly differences here.
And the only way we can begin to fix this is to be brutally honest about the problem.
61 seconds from arrival to death is not an acceptable outcome...under any circumstances. I hope all of police protocols will be under review, and those protocols need to be examined for racial inequities.
This is not going to go away any time soon. And indeed it shouldn't. The Minneapolis police department has a community relationship that it needs to heal.