Are we rushing to judgement on the police shooting in Wisconsin?
- Jacob Blake, a Black man, was hospitalized after police shot him several times in the back as he opened the door of a parked vehicle in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday.
- According to the Chicago Tribune, “Court records show Blake has a pending criminal case that started last month. Online court records indicate Kenosha County prosecutors charged Blake on July 6 with third-degree sexual assault, trespassing and disorderly conduct in connection with domestic abuse. An arrest warrant was issued for Blake the following day.”
- The officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave while they await investigation via the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the local district attorney’s office.
- On Monday, Gov. Tony Evers deployed the Wisconsin National Guard to Kenosha. He said the guard troops would support local law enforcement officials but it would not be an extended deployment.
- Protests erupted all over the city. Dump trucks were set on fire, and the mayor said a police officer was struck with a brick but had recovered.
While the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, WI, is yet another tragic chapter in the annals of police shootings, we are in desperate need of more restraint in reactions to it rather than less. It was a colossal lack of judgment by the WI governor to make the statement he did regarding 'merciless' police shootings. Presidential nominee Joe Biden continued to throw gas on the fire through his inflammatory statement. Amid the distress our country is currently embroiled, leaders must exhibit prudence and restraint from echoing baseless, fact-less rhetoric in their responses to local tragedies. Given the recentness of events and how the officers on scene were not wearing body cams, there's no way to know whether this shooting was justified or unjustified, let alone if it was racially motivated.
So far, we have no video footage of the occurrence other than various cell phone recordings. Therefore, we have no idea what transpired between the parties or why Blake was reaching into his vehicle. While it's entirely possible (especially given current tensions between police and the public) the officers were nervous and thereby too quick on the trigger, they also all had their guns out at the same time, which should make anyone question as to why. Could they have had good reason to believe Blake was reaching for some sort of weapon? This latest tragedy is further evidence of the need for full-time body cams on 100% of U.S. police forces. Regardless of these much-needed changes police departments nationally should implement, this instance is still NOT (at least not yet) concrete evidence of police brutality against minorities.
Jacob Blake was shot in the back multiple times, and according to witnesses, he was unarmed. Mr. Blakes's three children were also in the vehicle that he was getting into when he was shot. The actions of the police put them in danger as well. Witnesses say Blake was attempting to break up an 'altercation between two women' when the police were called. Their account of events suggests no reason for the police to think they were in any danger that would justify the use of force of any kind, much less, lethal force. There is no indication Blake was trying to do anything but leave, and even if the police were trying to keep him from doing so, that isn't justification to use a firearm. According to civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who has been retained by Blake's family, he was going to his car 'to check on his kids.'
Police are not supposed to be 'judge, jury, and executioner' in any situation, and especially not in a case like this. There is no indication Jacob Blake was any kind of a threat, and now his children will have to deal with the trauma of seeing their father shot in front of them for the rest of their lives. The trauma to the community as a whole from the shooting of yet another Black man by police cannot be discounted either. While emotions are certainly high, it is not rushing to judgment to condemn such actions from those supposed to 'protect and serve.'