Last week, a jury acquitted the one and solely particular person charged in relation to the catastrophic raid that resulted within the demise of Louisville, Kentucky, resident Breonna Taylor in 2020.
The former police officer, Brett Hankison, had been charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for firing 10 photographs via a window and sliding glass door into Taylor’s condo throughout the shock middle-of-the-night raid. Three of Hankison’s bullets traveled via the condo and into the unit subsequent door, the place a household slept.
Although the town of Louisville has paid Taylor’s household $12 million to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit, no different officers had been charged in her demise.
The legal professional representing Taylor’s boyfriend mentioned police didn’t correctly announce themselves throughout the “no-knock” raid, prompting him to fireplace on police in self-defense. That’s when police fired again.
The metropolis of Louisville has agreed to pay Taylor’s household $12 million to settle a wrongful demise lawsuit. Hankison was let go after an inner police investigation discovered his actions created “substantial danger of death and serious injury” to Taylor and her neighbors. But in the end, nobody has been held accountable.
More broadly, the recklessness of police is nicely documented. Just a few day earlier than Christmas 2021, a police officer fatally shot 14-year-old Valentina Orellana-Peralta in a clothes retailer. The officer had fired at a suspect armed with a motorbike lock; a spherical went via the wall of a dressing room, killing Valentina. In a infamous incident in 2012, 9 pedestrians had been injured after police open-fired on an armed suspect on the sidewalk exterior the Empire State Building throughout a Friday morning rush hour. All 9 had been discovered to have been injured by the police.
It’s not simply civilians who’re in danger: Police are killed in pleasant fireplace incidents, too. In 2019, two New York cops had been killed in separate pleasant fireplace incidents. In February, the daddy of a type of officers filed a wrongful demise lawsuit in opposition to the town and 5 cops, accusing them of recklessness. Sometimes the particular person being chased, whatever the suspected crime, is charged with the homicide of an officer if that officer is killed by a fellow officer throughout the pursuit.
According to The Washington Post, at the least 1,017 individuals have been shot and killed by police within the final yr within the United States.
The late Nineteenth- and early Twentieth-century sociologist Max Weber famously famous that governments maintain the monopoly on authentic violence. He meant that the federal government, with the permission of its residents, can and does use pressure when it deems that pressure obligatory within the title of the collective good. But within the United States, this adage is barely the start of the story. Throughout historical past, police and authorities brokers have labored alongside racist mobs, vigilantes and even the Ku Klux Klan to implement each actual and imagined guidelines about how society should operate. Even in its most optimistic and philosophical kind, Weber’s conception of presidency doesn’t — and mustn’t — imply all violence the state enacts is authentic.
Police wrap themselves on this legitimacy each time they depart the station carrying their badges — together with once they’re off-duty. And the legislation affirms this. The Supreme Court has issued a number of landmark rulings in the previous couple of many years defending police, in essence reasserting the fixed legitimacy of police violence. An unusual particular person can use pressure illegitimately, however within the eyes of the courts, police appearing as an embodiment of the legislation are virtually at all times justified. According to theorist Judith Butler, police are “petty sovereigns,” hoping to be perceived as bodily manifestations of the nation itself.
Police really feel comfy overusing weapons for a lot of causes, together with the authorized protections they get pleasure from, officers’ oft-discussed “warrior mentality” and the truth that from the primary day of coaching there’s an overemphasis on hazard. But simply as importantly, many, if not all, police really feel morally justified of their use of pressure. Police have turn into so synonymous with the legislation itself — and their narratives so trusted by judges and the media — that in the event that they resolve to fireplace their weapons, it will need to have been for the higher good.
In 1977, President Richard Nixon instructed British journalist David Frost that the president can take unlawful motion in the event that they really feel it’s in the very best curiosity of the nation. “Well, when the president does it … that means that it is not illegal,” he mentioned. The identical sentiment stays far too pervasive amongst our nation’s lawmakers and legislation enforcers.
What occurred to Breonna Taylor, what may have occurred to her neighbors and what did occur to Valentina Orellana-Peralta are all signs of a typical set of issues: the centurieslong criminalization of individuals of shade, the over-reliance on policing and the power of the police to create a legally, economically and culturally insulated sphere. Police have ceased to be understood as individuals with biases; as an alternative, they’re understood as representations of the legislation.
When requested if he had accomplished something fallacious on March 13, 2020, former Officer Brett Hankison didn’t hesitate. “Absolutely not,” he instructed the courtroom. As an individual, you may be involved about capturing bullets via a glass door. But as an embodiment of justice? Maybe not.