It seems like every few weeks there is a report of another ridiculous cop shooting. Last week the news was Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke killing seventeen year old Laquan McDonald by shooting him a dozen times. Here is a NY Times report with video.
This on the heels of many other publicized bad shoots recently, including that ridiculous one in South Carolina.
In Mississippi, there was news last week about an over-zealous cop at an Ole Miss game punching a fan who may, or may not have, mouthed off to the cops. Which you can’t do because the cops may knock the crap out of you–or kill you. Here is full coverage over at Jackson Jambalaya. At least the cop didn’t shoot the fan.
And if you want to watch law enforcement kill someone in Mississippi, well there is the video of the Jesse Lee Williams murder by Harrison County jailers in 2006.
So is police violence increasing? Probably not.
They are just getting caught sometimes now because of pesky cell phone videos. Cops still lie to support other cops’ bad shoots, as we saw in South Carolina. Prosecutors may be coming around on prosecuting bad cops, but you still get the feeling that their hearts are not in it. I’ve yet to see a recent prosecution of a cop where the prosecutor actually had a choice.
Here is my story of a cop shoot. A few years ago, after refusing on multiple occasions, I agreed to help Jackson lawyer John Giddens represent Zeta McBroom, a young woman who was shot and paralyzed by a Harrison County Sheriff deputy in 2006. The shooting followed a police chase. Zeta ran because she was previously beaten by the same crew of jailers that killed Jesse Lee Williams. The deputy shot Zeta through his windshield into the back of her SUV.
It seemed like over-kill. But as in every cop shooting, the deputy said he ‘feared for his life.’ Local authorities presented the case to a grand jury that did not indict.
But the fix was kind of in with the grand jury because the ‘investigators’ did not bother to canvas the neighborhood and see if there were witnesses. There were. Prosecutors and their investigators don’t want to find evidence that conflicts with the cops’ account. That’s where cell phone videos have changed the game.
Witnesses’ accounts of the shooting differed drastically from the cop’s and portrayed the cop as shooting Zeta in cold blood after she dinged his car while backing out of a debris pile she ran into while making a turn.
We found the witnesses and thought we had a chance in the civil trial. We didn’t. The jury was out for about 10 minutes before returning a defense verdict. The jury did not get to hear Zeta’s explanation for why she ran, but I don’t know that it would have mattered. Cops get the benefit of the doubt with juries.
But that was in 2006–before the proliferation of cell phone videos. Today, whatever happened would likely have been captured on cell phone video.
The problem with cops is too many Tackleberrys and not enough Hightowers.
That was funny in 1984 because there were cops like Tackleberry. There still are. Except they aren’t funny. They are scary. Many have a scary vibe. I don’t think that is ever going to change. It’s why some people want to be cops. They want to crack some skulls or shoot somebody.
But increased prosecutions of cops making bad shoots may dampen the Tackleberrys of world enthusiasm for gun play.