Did Rayshard Brooks die because of police abuse of power?
- The term “abuse of power” encompasses many things, but includes the following: the use of excessive force; placing a citizen under false arrest; warrantless searches or arrests; assault upon a citizen; forcing a citizen to engage in sexual favors in return for not arresting them or receiving a violation; violating a citizen’s civil rights; engaging in fraud or theft; an unlawful murder.
- Nationwide rallies denouncing police brutality have taken place every day for 20 days since the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis officer pressed his knee against his neck for almost 9 minutes.
- On Friday, June 12, two white police officers arrived at a Wendy's drive-thru around 10:30 p.m. because Rayshard Brooks had fallen asleep in his vehicle. Police said Brooks failed a sobriety test and struggled with police when they tried to cuff him, managing to wrestle a Taser from the officer before the officer fired his weapon. An autopsy, performed by the county medical examiner, said Brooks suffered two gunshot wounds to his back and listed his cause of death as a homicide.
- Garrett Rolfe, the officer who killed Brooks, has been fired from the Atlanta Police Department. An investigation into the officers' actions is underway.
- Georgia law allows a person to use deadly force 'only if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or herself or a third person.'
- Amnesty International said that more than 500 people have died in the US 'after being shocked with a Taser either during their arrest or while in jail,' according to a CNN story in 2015. Although Taser, the company, said the tally of deaths directly attributed to Taser is more like 60.
Local, county, state, and Federal officers possess the ultimate power to end any person's life in just minutes within any encounter. This awesome responsibility should only be reserved for a 'perp' who is a direct threat to the police, if there are any innocent bystanders nearby, or to other suspects. Sometimes they can be dangerous to all three at once, as in the case of a terrorist who is about to pull the trigger on a suicide bomb vest. Lethal force, however, should only be a tool of last resort when all other options have been considered, even letting the suspect go if no serious crime has been committed prior to the encounter. Precise judgment by police is critical before they use their weapons or a chokehold to snuff out the life of any suspect.
But why do America's law enforcement have this ongoing problem of using lethal force when more humane alternatives would be a better solution? The unfortunate militarization of America's police forces has created a new generation of officers that often shoot first and ask questions later. We need legislation to curtail the use of 'qualified immunity' for both police officers and prosecutors that encourages their lying with impunity in our courts.
It is time to de-militarize the police and invest in new and better training, and limit the power of police unions that reinforce a 'hero-armed-warrior' mentality. Going further, it is time to clean up and reform our entire criminal justice system, of which police officers abusing their lethal powers are just the tip of the iceberg.
The tragic shooting of Rayshard Brooks is not comparable to the murders of George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery. To equate it as such is to support unsubstantiated accusations of police abuse and racial animus. In the police body camera footage of the encounter, we observe three immovable facts:
1. Both officers were professional and polite throughout the majority of the interaction.
3. Brooks chose to drive drunk, resist arrest, and assault an officer. These actions are crimes.
Those accusing the officers of making the wrong decision benefit from the privilege of hindsight. Both officers reacted to a high-stress situation, which neither of them created nor wanted. The point isn't Brooks fired a non-deadly weapon. If someone removes an officer's weapon and fires it at them, he has demonstrated a willingness to take a weapon off an officer and attack. What if he had successfully Tased the officer? What's to stop him from taking the officer's gun and circling back? What if he grabbed the gun instead? To say Brooks should not have been shot is to say a person should be able to resist arrest, assault officers, and fire an officer's weapon back at him without facing possible lethal consequences.
Quoting CNN Law Enforcement Analyst James Gagliano, 'The job [of an officer] is thankless and dangerous [...] Many simply do not understand the use-of-force calculus police officers are forced to consider in a nanosecond, with lives hanging in the balance.' These officers were not Brooks' enemy. Their responsibility to protect Brooks and others includes a non-violent arrest since he was drunk. This is standard procedure. And the devastating turn of events remains lawful.