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River Cities' Reader - Issue 839 - September 19, 2013

River Cities' Reader - Issue 839 - September 19, 2013

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Published by River Cities Reader
River Cities' Reader - Issue 839 - September 19, 2013
River Cities' Reader - Issue 839 - September 19, 2013

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Published by: River Cities Reader on Sep 18, 2013
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River Cities’ Reader 
• Vol.
No. 839 • September 19 - October 2, 2013
Business • Politics • Arts • Culture • Now You Know • RiverCitiesReader.com
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River Cities’ Reader 
• Vol.
No. 839 • September 19 - October 2, 2013
Business • Politics • Arts • Culture • Now You Know • RiverCitiesReader.com
is becoming all too common. For example, onSeptember 14, there were two separate policeshootings of unarmed individuals, resulting indeath and/or injury to innocent individuals –and those are just the shootings that happenedto make national headlines.The first shooting incident took place inCharlotte, North Carolina, when three policeofficers responded to a 911 “breaking andentering” call in which a homeowner reportedthat a man she didn’t know or recognizehad been knocking at her door repeatedly.Upon arriving on scene, the police saw a manmatching the description given by the callerrunning toward them. One officer fired a stungun, after which the second officer opened fireon the unarmed 24-year-old, who died on thescene. Only afterward did police realize thedead man, a former football player, had been ina car accident and was likely approaching themfor help.Later that same day, in New York’s TimesSquare, police officers shot into a crowd of tourists, aiming for a 35-year-old man whohad been reportedly weaving among cars andloosely gesturing with his hands in his pockets.The cops missed the man, who was unarmed,and shot a 54-year-old woman in the knee andanother woman in the buttock. The man waseventually subdued with a Taser.Just a few weeks earlier, in Florida, 60-year-old Roy Middleton was shot in the leg by policewhen he wandered out to his Lincoln TownCar, which was parked in his mother’s driveway,in search of cigarettes in the wee hours of the morning. A neighbor, seeing Middleton,reported him to 911 as a possible robber. Police,after ordering the unarmed black man out of the car, began firing on Middleton, who likenedthe experience to a “firing squad. Bullets wereflying everywhere.” The car was reportedly riddled with bullets, and 17 shell casings wereon scene. Defending their actions, the twopolice officers claimed that Middleton, who hada metallic object in his hand, “made a lungingmotion” out of the car, causing them to “fearfor their safety.” That metallic object was a key chain with a flashlight attached.These are not isolated incidents. Law-enforcement officials are increasingly responding to unsubstantiated fears fortheir safety and perceived challenges to their
ere’s a recipe for disaster: Take a youngman (or woman), raise him on a diet of  violence, hype him up on the power of the gun in his holster and the superiority of hisuniform, render him woefully ignorant of how to handle a situation without resorting to vio-lence, train him well in military tactics but allow him to be illiterate about the Constitution, andnever stress to him that he is to be a peacemakerand a peace-keeper, respectful of and subservi-ent to the taxpayers, who are in fact his mastersand employers.Once you have fully indoctrinated this youngman (or woman) on the idea that the policebelong to a brotherhood of sorts, with its ownhonor code and rule of law, then place thisperson in situations where he will encounterindividuals who knowingly or unknowingly challenge his authority, where he may, justifiably or not, feel threatened, and where he will haveto decide between firing a weapon or – themore difficult option – adequately investigatinga situation to better assess the danger and risk posed to himself and others, and then act onit by defusing the tension or de-escalating the violence.I’m not talking about a situation so obviously fraught with risk that there is no other optionbut to shoot, although I am hard-pressed toconsider what that might be outside of thesensationalized Hollywood hostage-crisisscenario. I’m talking about the run-of-themill encounters between police and citizensthat occur daily. In an age when police areincreasingly militarized, weaponized, andprotected by the courts, these once-routineencounters are now inherently dangerous forany civilian unlucky enough to be in the wrongplace at the wrong time.I’m not the only one concerned, either.Indeed, I’ve been contacted by many older copsequally alarmed by the attitudes and behaviorsof younger police today, the foot soldiers inthe emerging police state. Yet as I point out inmy new book,
 A Government of Wolves: TheEmerging American Police State
, this is whathappens when you go from a representativedemocracy in which all members are subjectto the rule of law to a hierarchical one inwhich there is one set of laws for the rulers andanother, far more stringent set, for the ruled.Hence, it is no longer unusual to hear aboutan incident in which police shoot unarmedindividuals first and ask questions later. This
Continued On Page 14
Licensed to Kill: The Growing Phenomenon of Police Shooting Unarmed Citizens
by John W. Whitehead johnw@rutherford.org
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