We're Not Going to Have an "Adult Conversation" About State Violence, Are We?

Police violence not opening any national dialogues


health of the state

More than a week after first allegedly shooting the daughter of a police officer and her fiancée, the Christopher Dorner saga ended with him most likely burning up in a cabin in which he holed up this week. The police may have set the fire themselves. Another account has the police pushing Dorner back into the burning structure [8:34pm ET update].  Officially it's still unclear how the fire began*. Nevertheless, at the end of it, three four people were killed by a former police officer out on a vendetta against his former police force. And the LAPD responded by coming down on the city of Los Angeles for a week, shooting seemingly indiscriminately at targets that bore only the vaguest resemblance to Dorner and searching homes door to door. Almost comically, Dorner's alleged manifesto included strong anti-gun sentiments. It's useful to note here that most attempts at gun control include generous exemptions both for law enforcement and often ex-law enforcement. Feinstein's bill does that. There was widespread panic when Cuomo's anti-gun laws in New York didn't.

Yet, Dorner, and ex-cops, aren't the only ones that can be irresponsible gun owners. Earlier this week the attorney general of Ohio released an animation depicting how 13 cops managed to fire off an astonishing 137 rounds in under 30 seconds into a car with two unarmed passengers they pursued in a high speed chase after a phantom gunshot was heard in another town. Facing a critical eye from state authorities, the local police chief defended his force, saying there was none of the systemic failure the attorney general noted, even though the shift supervisor, for example, was unaware the chase involved so many patrol cars. But Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, the two unarmed civilians killed by police in Ohio, are far from the only ones. Reason's Mike Riggs noted some of the most prominent victims of police violence when New York City's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, arrogantly suggested police go on strike until the population is disarmed:

What about Kelly Thomas, who screamed for his father while five cops beat him to death? Or Patricia Cook, shot to death by a deranged alcoholic with a badge? Or Andrew Scott, killed during a wrong-door raid? Or Nick Christie, gagged and pepper-sprayed to death by prison guards? Or Seth Adams, shot four times by a cop behind his family business, then left to die? Or Wendell Allen, who was unarmed when a New Orleans cop shot and killed him during a raid? Or Ramarley Graham, the 18-year-old New Yorker shot and killed by plainclothes cops for trying to flush a small bag of marijuana down the toilet? Or Kyle Miller, killed by Colorado police for waving a BB gun in the air? Or Todd Blair, killed by Utah police for raising a golf club above his head?

That's a smattering of names from the last year or so. A complete list is impossible, though you could spend months culling names from local media outlets. It would be significantly longer if we included people who were shot, but didn't die; or people who were just shot at by cops. It would be exponentially longer if we included people who were beaten, intimidated, wrongly arrested/incarcerated, or otherwise abused by police officers. 

Just a few months after Riggs wrote that, cops from the NYPD were involved in taking down a shooter at the Empire State Building. They shot more people in responding to the incident than the initial shooter. In fact, everyone but the coworker the shooter killed, was injured by shots from police officers.

At last night's State of the Union address, President Obama suggested victims of gun violence deserve a vote in Congress. In the shadow of victims of state violence at home and abroad (up to 1,100 civilians and more than 200 children in known covert drone operations alone), the sentiment rings hollow. There won't be votes for any of the victims of state violence listed above. And as for Dorner, he may not deserve much, but it looks like at the end he didn't even deserve a jury trial.

*Update: Police say they didn't intentionally start the fire.