The short answers is, they keep happening. But if I wanted to write the short answer, this would be on Twitter, not my blog.
So why do I keep posting stories of tragedies involving police and why will I continue to do so?
I am not an activist. I have not done anything to promote the cause of justice. I have gone to no rallies or protests. I have not been arrested. I am not a victim. I have not faced injustices or been the victim of police bias. At best I am a “slacktivist”. At worst I am a hypocrite, calling for justice by doing nothing of note in its service. At least I am a human. A human made in the Image of God, and called by that God to be an ambassador of His Kingdom. The God who made humans in His Image and therefore commanded His people to not kill. Every homicide (justified or otherwise) is an offense to that God.
I post these stories of violence and death because Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Rodney King, Akai Gurley, Kajieme Powell, Rumain Brisbon, Bernard Bailey, et. al all bore the image of God and therefore were unrepeatable gifts of God to this world. And when we lost them, we forever lost an opportunity to encounter the face of God.
I post these stories because a segment of our population continues to be disproportionately (though not exclusively) affected by overzealous police officers, petty laws that “justify” higher rates of arrest (at the discretion of the officers) and longer prison-sentences (inevitably increasing rates of fatherlessness).
I post them because I continue to hear white people, often wearing a badge, talk about how the living officer who fired the shot, or executed the hold, or shot the tazer, or drove the car…was acting “according to their training” and “within the bounds of the law.” Now, obviously (or it should be obvious), police or anyone can only be held accountable for the actual laws on the books. And it would be a dark day in America if a court ever concluded, “while the defendant did not commit any crime, he was wrong for what he did, and is therefore sentence to…” But the fact that so many of these terrible cases take place within the bounds of the law makes clear that we must view the problem as a systemic issue. Certainly each confrontaiton deserves case-by-case analysis, and there are almost certainly situations where the officer had no other choices. But the barrage of these stories and the accumulating echoes of headlines suggests the terrible reality that the laws and policies and best practices that have lead to the loss of these lives are damnably flawed. And just as God-fearing Christians have fought for the end of slavery, segregation, abortion, the lottery, predatory lending, and concentration camps, we (well the white among us) are long over due to demand that police live by a higher (not lower) standard of restraint and conflict resolution.
I post these stories because I continue to read people writing, “If he didn’t sell those cigarettes, if he hadn’t jaywalked, if he hadn’t reached for the wounds near his waistband” As if any of those are capital offenses.
I post these stories because of the many posts I have read describing how to properly interact with a police officer for your own safety. Really?! When we encounter a person with a badge that says “serve and protect” we have a list of guidelines for not getting shot??? How is being rude, afraid, mouthy, silent, resistant any basis for the use of lethal force? There are two legal bases for lethal force. (A) The police officer is defending his own life or the life of another person, (B) the suspect is fleeing after committing a violent felony. The only step not not getting killed by a police officer should be, “don’t try to kill a police officer.” There might be lists of ways to deal safely with a drunk, or a man waving a gun around, or an armed robber, or a psychopath. No one should be safer to deal with than police officers. I should be more afraid of my 80-year-old grandmother than an enforcer of the law.
I post these stories because of the thousands of police officers who get up everyday to go serve and protect their communities and have to deal with communities who have been broken and jaded by violent criminals with a badge.
I post these stories because I am sick of them. I hate them. I never want to read another one. And I want you to be sick of them. I want you to hate them. I want you to be angry. I want us all to repent and believe the Good News that Jesus of Nazareth who was condemned by a corrupt court and crucified as a criminal is the Prince of Peace.
And I post these stories because I want my kids and neighbors and friends to live in a world where justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
“Truly He taught us to love one another. His law is love, and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother, and in His Name, all oppression shall cease.”