Whose Lives Matter ?

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It seems to be a question for the ages…..Whose Lives Matter? With the summer of 2016 half over we have already seen a good amount of bloodshed on the streets of the “United” States. I emphasize “United” because as I have mentioned in prior posts it seems more and more that we are becoming a more “Divided” States than a “United” States. This presidential election cycle has proven that with the battle lines being drawn all over the place like a preschooler gone wild with a crayon on a wall. You would think we were in the mid-1800’s more than 2016 based on the polarization of the American public. The problem with that is when people get hurt or killed over major differences in feelings and opinions.

Whose lives - stop police killings

I was on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon to discuss the two recent back to back shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota of two different men by police. The one in Baton Rouge Louisiana involved two officers wrestling with an armed man on the ground and the other in Falcon Heights Minnesota with an officer conducting a car stop with an armed man in which the officer fired at the driver. As myself, Charles Blow, and Don Lemon started to opine on the incidents and speculate as to the nuances of each one, there was a (peaceful) rally taking place in Dallas Texas. The rally was wrapping up when some crazed nut case (perhaps hoping to be a martyr for Black Lives Matter or other cause) decided to start gunning down the Dallas Police officers in the area of the rally. I have been on enough local NYC news as well as BBC, CNN, and Fox News to know that there is a good chance of some kind of “breaking news” could possibly interrupt the segment you may be in. It comes with the territory and is understandable when it is some serious happening that they need to get out on the air other than Trump burping the wrong way, or Hillary wearing a new pant suit. Sitting there on live tv in the 10pm hour ( NY time ) as the breaking news of the Dallas officer being shot was coming in was chilling to say the least, but both Charles and Don seemed to be increasingly bothered as the number of injured and dead continued to climb as we now went into continuous coverage for 4 hours straight until 2 am. I had an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach that something was going to happen with some wing nut coming out of the woodwork to go after cops after the 2nd shooting happened in Minnesota, and while I was praying nothing would happen I assumed that if something did happen it would probably be in Baton Rouge or Falcon Heights / Minneapolis. For police to suddenly be targeted and assassinated in Dallas was even more mind blowing because it stemmed from a peaceful protest in which the police and the protesters were all getting along very well. Whats interesting is that there were some who after the dust started to settle questioned the Dallas Police Chief for using a robot with an explosive to end the continuing violence. I’m not really sure I get the confusion since you clearly had someone who had shot a dozen officers, killing 5 of them, and shooting one civilian as well. He needed to be stopped. Police are trained to use deadly physical force to stop deadly physical force from being used against them or someone else. They were engaged in an active firefight with guns with the killer, so to use another means of taking the shooter out seems fine with me to avoid more officers or civilians injured or killed. Kudos to Chief David Brown by the way for handling an unbelievable tragedy with such courage and professionalism. Before I continue I wanted to specifically acknowledge the slain officers of both Dallas and Baton Rouge and express my deepest condolences to their family, friends, and fellow officers.

                                                            DALLAS & DART POLICE OFFICERS

whose lives dallas killed

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                                                            BATON ROUGE POLICE OFFICERS

whose lives - baton rouge killed

           Brad Garafola                         Matthew Gerald                     Montrell Jackson

whose lives baton rouge memorial

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page gunfire deaths of police officers ( as of the date of this post ) is up a staggering 83% for 2016 over 2015. There seems to be a disturbing trend starting to occur in that when there is a police shooting of an individual, especially when the individual is black and the officer is white where some violence against police occurs almost immediately following the incident regardless of the incident being justified or not. Now, to clarify, it is my opinion that no one should need to die as a result of their interaction with the police. The fact is that very very few deaths occur as a result of an officer being racist, or unprofessional or completely doing something unlawful. Having said that, it does happen as was the case in Charleston South Carolina when we saw Walter Scott after having been in a scuffle with (now ex) Officer Michael Slager in which he shot Mr. Scott in the back a number of times as he fled from the officer, killing him. That case, while awful is the extreme minority although some individuals and some media will project it as the norm, which it is not. The overwhelming number of police involved shootings where an individual has died are due to that individual not complying with police, resisting arrest, fighting with or shooting at police. I have no tolerance for officers that mistreat people due to their race or other differences, especially if they are being profiled or summonsed or arrested without legal cause. I have and will continue to advocate that when a police related death of an individual occurs ( because it will likely happen again ), that people stop for a second and find out as many facts as possible. I’d preferably wait until (all) the evidence presents itself before not only making a judgement call on it, but also to decide what action to take. Many times in the 24 hour news cycle, once news breaks (and then sensationalized), there is an immediate taking to the streets in an unorganized and sometimes riotous response which is no good for anyone. I have no problem with people protesting to show their anger or want for accountability. Laying in wait for unsuspecting police officers and then picking them off like a shooting gallery is not the answer. That is not what we want to be showing younger generations as the proper way to handle a sensitive incident. Police already feel they are under attack the same way that many in the black community feel as if they are under attack. Resorting to unbridled violence is not a way to seek real legal justice or transformative change (if procedures were not followed or laws broken by the police). Right, wrong or otherwise, police officers are also innocent until proven guilty so they should be afforded the same legal rights as the rest of society. I get the anger over an incident like the shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota, because it doesn’t make sense how a car stop turns into the driver being shot – in front of other people in the car including a child. It is not easy to have to wait for an investigation to be done and the perception is that the cops will cover for one another. In 2016 it could still happen but it very unlikely as many times now the state or the US Department Department of Justice will step in to ensure transparency and an investigation outside the jurisdiction of the department involved in the incident.

Whose lives black - blue - all

I’ve heard of the argument that Black Lives Matter only seems to apply when the police are involved in a shooting of someone who is black and the group or its supporters are silent when black folk are being shot and killed by people within the black community at a much greater rate than by the police. I agree to some degree with that observation, in that all you have to do is look at Chicago as an example. In 2015 Chicago had 2,988 shooting victims, and as of August 1, 2016 there have already been 2,395 shooting victims and there is still 5 full months to go in 2016! Where are the protesters screaming about this or when a 6 year old child is shot and killed on a Chicago street. Chicago? New York? Los Angeles? Dallas? Baton Rouge? Recently former NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani came under fire by saying black children have a 99% chance of killing each other.  I think he was loosely referring to FBI crime stats that show 93% of crime against black people is committed by other black people ( the number is around 83% for white on white crime ). What really floors me is that if you ask what is the greatest threat to Americans, many people will start spitting out ISIS, or Syrian refugees etc, but the real greatest threat to Americans is other Americans. More people in the United States kill each other than any other group around the world could ever hope to do. The amount of gun violence against fellow citizens (and police) is something ISIS has wet dreams about. I am not suggesting erasing the 2nd amendment by any means but as I have spoken about before, we clearly have a problem in this country where lots of bad guys have guns and they are using them. We even have some “responsible” gun owners who also go off the deep end and start slaughtering people from time to time. When you have people n a no fly list but yet can go out and purchase a gun I think that is something we should be addressing. When you have gangs with as good or better firepower than police I think that is a problem.

There are alot of different levels that need to be addressed and if you are waiting for the federal or state governments to do something about it – forget it. By the time that happens you”’ have bodies piling up higher than Donald Trumps fantasy wall on the Mexican border. The phrase “it takes a village” needs to be put in full effect ASAP across the entire country. WE…COLLECTIVELY, need to all check ourselves, check our biases, our negative attitudes towards one another, and get a grip on the gratuitous violence coursing through the neighborhoods of our country. ASAP.

Respect…compromise…education…communication and other positive and productive means among people of different races, sexes, sexual orientations, religions, political affiliations, and other differences needs to start happening if we have any hope of us, or our children, or grandchildren seeing our country making to the end of this century. If we are unwilling o unable then we are ripe for ISIS or a foreign nation to end our run as the worlds “greatest” democracy. It’s ridiculous that we should even have to strategize on how to stop hating, injuring and killing one another, especially in a country that is supposed to set the example for the world. I believe the United States is a great country (unlike Donald Trump who seems to think we need to make America great again), but we can make it greatER than it already is and truly be leading by example. The first step is acknowledging that all of our lives matter regardless of who is who. Who’s in?

About Tom Verni

As a retired NYPD Detective with nearly 22 years of experience as a Community Policing Officer, Certified Police Academy Instructor, City-Wide Community Affairs Liaison, and Crime Prevention Specialist, Tom Verni has a wide breadth of public speaking experience and extensive knowledge in various aspects of police training and community relations. He is now able to pass along this knowledge to law enforcement or other organizations seeking to enhance the skill sets of their personnel via training seminars. Tom is also available to media outlets for consulting services regarding crime issues or police related incidents.

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