After reading an op-ed in the Washington Post by DeRay McKesson titled, “Opinion: Washington needs to tell the truth about police violence,” I wrote a response with the intention of submitting it to that publication. As it turns out, the Washington Post refuses to take Op-Ed’s from anonymous sources, so I decided to take my response and simply post it here like usual. In reference to McKesson’s article, he discusses among the usual topics:
- -“The police are killing us.”
- -“Us” is defined as black people.
- -The Federal Government has an obligation to stop these killings as if all are unjustified.
“Opinion: You First.
Three officers have been shot within Ferguson, Missouri’s city limits since August. One officer was shot in the arm on W. Florissant in September. As a police officer myself repeatedly responding to help in this troubled city, I was unfortunately present for two of these three shootings, watching as two of my fellow officers fell to gunfire in the parking lot of the Ferguson Police Station. It is from this weathered position that I find fault with Mr. McKesson’s false assumption that all police shootings are unjustified. Mr. McKesson cites a universal “they” or “the police” when demanding that police stop killing black people, of which most officers have no part whatsoever and the vast majority of those who do, do so in self-defense.
In Mr. McKesson’s opinion piece and on twitter, he repeatedly references the total number of people who die in officer involved shootings without referencing facts surrounding these incidents. Failing to discuss these cases on their merits is either an admission of ignorance surrounding the evidence or a tacit acknowledgement of willful deception. Separating the justified from the unjustified is an important component that has been utterly lacking from the Black Lives Matter movement.
Setting aside Ferguson, Mr. McKesson has also been a part of the St. Louis based protests revolving around the deaths of Vonderitt Myers and Antonio Martin, two individuals who unsuccessfully attempted to kill policemen with firearms. In St. Louis City, the officer who defended himself against Vonderitt Myers has had his name slandered and leaked to the press by an unethical local attorney. In Berkeley, the officer who defended himself against Antonio Martin has been forced to quit his job due to death threats and being easily identifiable as one of only a small minority of young white officers within his department. Survival is not and should not be a crime.
Furthermore, the FBI’s LEOKA (Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted) data suggest that these cases are unfortunately not unusual. The most recent data available shows that 14,565 officers were injured due to an assault by a suspect in 2013*. Of those 14,565 injured officers, 2,266 were injured by a suspect with a firearm*. It is reasonable to conclude that the majority of these suspects were trying to kill the officer they assaulted. With so many assaults taking place in this country both against innocent citizens and police officers on a regular basis, it is no wonder that there presents a large number of unfortunate opportunities for someone to legitimately defend their lives and the lives of those around them from a homicidal criminal.
To be clear, if that homicidal criminal turns out to be a policeman, they should be subject to the same laws and penalties as anyone else. For example, the officer in South Carolina who evidence showed was guilty of shooting an unarmed suspect in the back and then planting a Taser near his victim was rightfully fired and charged. In that case, the system got matters right. In other cases, the results might be flat out wrong. However, the conversation on criminal justice reforms should not be some variation on how the criminal justice system isn’t fair for one group or another, and therefore it shouldn’t be fair for policemen either. The conversation should reflect equitable treatment and justice for all.
Unfortunately, Mr. McKesson has become obsessed with “the police” and demonizing an entire group of people because it’s much easier (read: intellectually lazy) than to acknowledge that he might be wrong about his, admittedly intriguing, but false narrative about the universally guilty, racist, and homicidal policeman. He ironically criticizes the myth of the “hero” policeman while crafting an inverse correspondingly hyperbolic narrative of the evil policeman. Justice requires objectivity and that much is lacking from Mr. McKesson and his movement while those of us actually trying to go out night after night in order to fight crime are shot at, injured, or killed.
After an officer survives an encounter with a suspect who wants them dead and the post-traumatic stress of a near death experience is over, what remains? Mr. McKesson presupposes a world worse than guilty until proven innocent. In his world, police officers are guilty even after they are proven innocent.
-Ofc. Winston Smith