After each officer involved shooting, regardless of the circumstances, it has become commonplace for the media and the family of the individual shot to start screaming for “justice.”
August 9, 2014 – Michael Brown – While looking for a suspect in a strong-arm robbery, Officer Wilson found Brown and a friend walking in the roadway. An altercation ensues, ending in Brown’s death.
Before the investigation can get off the ground, there are already screams for “justice” and the media spins the story, turning Brown into an innocent child singled out by murderous police. With no evidence to support that theory, and later being found to be false, Brown’s friend state’s Brown raised his hands to surrender. This began the “Hand’s up don’t shoot” and the Black Lives Matter movements. The people riot when they do not see what they perceive as “justice.”
July 17, 2014 – Eric Garner – While Garner is selling cigarettes illegally, Officer Pantaleo confronts him. While taking Garner into custody, Garner resisted the arrest. Officer Pantaleo used control tactics to take a resisting subject into custody. He later died.
Before any investigation, video surfaced of Officer Pantaleo using a “choke hold” and Garner yelling, “I can’t breathe.” Again, calls for “justice” echoed as the people rioted in the streets. Later, according to NBC New York, “NYPD’s chief surgeon Eli Kleinman in 2014 found Pantaleo’s action wasn’t a chokehold, and that Garner most likely died because of an underlying heart condition.”
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These two high-profile cases raise a big question:
What do we mean when we demand justice?
Webster’s dictionary defines justice as, “The maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments.”
Cornell Law School defines justice as, “1) A concept of fairness and moral rightness. 2) A scheme or system of law.”
Neither definition of justice, as commonly understood, defines “justice” as called for in our two examples above.
We, as a society, have abandoned morals, reason, responsibility. We have created a culture where everyone believes they are owed something and that anything that happens to them must be due to some outside influence. We no longer look inward for a cause of conflict, but instead look to blame someone else.
In Brown’s case, had he simply moved out of the road when asked, he would likely be alive today. Taken one step further, had he not thought himself above the law, not stolen from a local store, the police wouldn’t have been called, he likely wouldn’t have been seen walking in the roadway, and he wouldn’t have been asked to move. Bottom line, HE chose to attack an officer and it ended with his death.
In the Garner case, had he not engaged in the illegal sales of loose cigarettes, the police would not have confronted him. He also could have complied with the lawful arrest, avoiding an altercation, thus avoiding conflict with the preexisting medical conditions that ultimately were found to have caused his death. Again, HE chose to defy the law and resist arrest… and it ended with his death.
We charge police officers with going into the dredges of society and make split-second decisions which we then spend years critiquing, often without the experience needed to accurately critique.
Where are the cries for “justice” for the 68 people shot and 5 killed in Chicago over the 2019 4th of July weekend?
When blinded by hatred, anger, and prejudice toward police, it is not justice they are calling for.
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