Tuesday, April 14, 2015

F*** Your Breath, F*** Your Mockery, F*** Your Reserve Deputies Having Guns

Those who were walking by insulted Jesus, shaking their heads and saying, “So you were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, were you? Save yourself! If you are God’s Son, come down from the cross.” In the same way, the chief priests, along with the legal experts and the elders, were making fun of him, saying,“He saved others, but he can’t save himself. He’s the king of Israel, so let him come down from the cross now. Then we’ll believe in him. He trusts in God, so let God deliver him now if he wants to. He said, ‘I’m God’s Son.’” The outlaws who were crucified with him insulted him in the same way.

Matthew 27:39-44 (Common English Bible)

On the heels of Walter Scott, whose death came on the heels of Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, whose deaths came on the heels of Michael Brown, whose death came on the heels of Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, and so many others...

Comes Eric Harris.

Harris was approached for arrest after selling guns and ammunition under the table to an undercover cop.  And then a 73-year-old insurance executive shot him to death.

You read that right.

The news came out yesterday afternoon that Robert Charles Bates will be charged with second-degree manslaughter (basically, unlawful death by gross negligence), and honestly, I feel bad for the guy.  He clearly wanted to play cop after having been a cop for a solitary year fifty years ago, but the city of Tulsa really should have known better and not ever put a service weapon in his (or another civilian's) hands.  And so he got put into a truly awful situation by a Tulsa police force that really should have known better than to issue a Taser and a lethal-force service weapon to, basically, a part-time volunteer.

You read that right as well.  Bates, though an insurance executive by day, was a major and longtime donor to the police department, and like many other large donors, he became a "reserve deputy," and after 800 hours of instruction through two different programs, achieved "advanced" status, which allowed him to basically function with the authority of a regular, full-time, professional deputy whenever he was on duty.

800 hours may sound like a lot, but really, it isn't.  My master's degree for the job I currently hold required 1,200 classroom hours, to say nothing of all the homework, papers, and field education time I put into the degree.  So even in terms of just classroom teaching, that's a 50% increase in instruction right there.

And my gig doesn't come with a gun.

Why does this matter?  Why am I harping on this?  Because in the video of Eric Harris's death, Bates very clearly thinks he is going to use his Taser on Harris, and instead ends up shooting him--essentially, the same defense Johannnes Mehserle made in his trial for shooting and killing Oscar Grant on the Fruitvale BART platform in the East Bay.

If a fully trained, full time professional police officer makes the same mistake with similarly fatal results, what on earth is a police department of quite a large city (a population of nearly 400,000 people according to Wikipedia...which, I know, is Wikipedia, but still, for basic stuff like this, it's pretty reliable) handing out guns to armchair cops who only have to put in 40 hours over six months to keep their reserve deputy status?

That'd be like giving some guy who really, really enjoys Microsoft Flight Simulator the proverbial keys to a Boeing 737 on the condition that he take it out for a spin at least a couple times a year.

As a red-blooded, patriotic, tax-paying American (TEAM MURICA), I'd much rather see my police departments funded at the levels they need to be so that they don't have to use these sorts of reserve deputy programs to fully fund their departments (and, similarly, so that they don't have to use awful mechanisms like civil forfeiture either).

I haven't talked about race yet (gulp), but I would be remiss if I did not also say that Eric Harris was both unarmed and African-American, and Bates is Caucasian.  And just like Eric Garner, Eric Harris complained as he died that he couldn't breathe.

A (as yet unnamed) law enforcement officer's response?  Fuck your breath.

That's right.  Fuck your ability to continue living.  Fuck the literal act of God to put life into man's nostrils (Genesis 2:7).

That parallel between the homicides of two black men, Eric Garner and Eric Harris, should be chilling.

But unlike Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Eric Garner's homicide, Bates still ended up charged.  And even though I may feel bad for him, it is so very, very important that he was charged.

Because unlike Officer Slager after he shot Walter Scott to death, Bates's law enforcement colleagues rushed to defend him, with one officer even saying that Bates was the victim in all of this kerkuffle, because he was stressed, and he made a mistake under stress and did one thing whilst intending to do another, and excusing the mocking behavior of the officers (since they claimed to not know Harris had been shot, even though Bates can clearly be heard on the tape saying, "I'm sorry, I shot him").

All of which kind of just proves my point.  That kind of stress isn't what you put a weekend warrior copper into with a gun in one hand and a taser in another, only for him to mix them up at the moment of truth, and to end up with a man bleeding out to death as those who should have been administering first aid mocked his pain, suffering, and dying instead.

The Gospels are unanimous that Christ, as He died on the cross, was mocked by those who put him there--the passersby and the centurions, the temple authorities and even at least one of the terrorists crucified alongside Him.

As Eric Harris began to die on the Tulsa sidewalk, he was mocked mercilessly by those in similar positions of authority as the centurions and the temple leaders.

In 2,000 years, our exercise of power over each other's lives has scarcely changed one bit.

Even though the God who gave us life came to us, in the flesh, to tell us to be different, live different, love different.

We can do better.  In the name of that life-giving God, we must do better.

And for fuck's sake, stop giving guns to donors for them to be cops for funsies.

Yours in Christ,

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