I have discussed the policing in America issue before generally. I felt it was necessary to offer this summation post now that we know the verdict. The officer has been found guilty of murder:
There has been lots of talk again since the verdict on the problem of structural racism and no doubt that is a huge ongoing challenge.
Yet at times like this I always also remember when I was teaching in university some twenty-five years ago and I discussed privately in my office some ongoing racial issues in US governance (it was a political science class) with a young Black cop and criminal justice student. At one point he told me he would always rather pull over a white guy in a Lexus than young Black guys in any kind of car, and that he was not alone among police of every race in feeling that way. Walking up to that latter car, he said, made officers far more nervous because in their small percentage of the overall population young Black men were far more likely to be carrying a gun.
George Floyd was not shot by police, yet he was killed as he was largely because of how US policing has mis-developed: police are “scared” of the population because there are so many guns – 350 to 400 million – in civilian hands. Guns’ over-proliferation has resulted in an unpredictably violent – with guns used regularly in domestic disputes against family and friends, and in suicides – US society overall, and then throw in criminals using them on the streets and in a society like that you will inevitably too often have overofficious, obnoxious, and violent policing.
My late uncle was a New York City cop and a detective. I have had friends who were cops in the US. American police are not as human beings inherently more violent than human British or similar human police in other countries. But, for instance, at a US traffic stop it is far more likely a driver/ passenger will end up being shot than here in Great Britain for the simple reason most police here are unarmed and guns – handguns especially, which are outright illegal – are extremely rare among the civilian population.
US police are the quickest to draw their weapons in the “developed” world because of those 350-400 million guns in civilian hands. If that gun issue were addressed adequately, it would lower the street policing temperature considerably. If that were the case, in all likelihood there would be far fewer police shootings (especially of unarmed and innocent people) and even much less non-gun police violence such as that which killed George Floyd.
I gave up talking about “gun control” generally in the US after late 2012 following the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre when I saw some US “conservative” politicians (who should frankly f-cking know better) declaring arming Kindergarten teachers was “the solution” to protecting schools from being invaded without warning by an individual carting around the firepower of one of George Washington’s 1776 infantry regiments. (My cousin and his family live in Newtown, Connecticut. They are on the other side of the town, and he told me after the shooting – naturally I called him because I was very concerned – that his youngest son fortunately attended the district’s other elementary school, but that they also knew one of the murdered boys.) Until the guns everywhere providing “safety” mindset cr-pola (that stems from too many people clearly believing that their childhood viewing of “Schoolhouse Rock!” is adult history to base policy on) is done away with, it is impossible to solve much of anything else to do with policing troubles – including racism. We are kidding ourselves if we think otherwise.
Consider this. In 2020 there were 1,021 fatal police shootings in the US (population 330 million). In comparison, police in England and Wales (population 60 million) were involved in 3 – it bears repeating THREE – fatal shootings for the year starting in mid-2018 through mid-2019; and those armed officers (who are summoned when it appears firearms are needed; specialist firearms officers are the only police able to shoot at anyone) discharged their weapons a total of 13 – I repeat THIRTEEN – times during that same statistical year.
The numbers don’t lie. If we want to greatly reduce police shootings and related police violence in the US, especially that directed disproportionately at Blacks, the number of guns awash in US society has to be greatly reduced. We also know that such a gun-ownership reduction is not going to happen anytime soon… so police shootings and other gun-related social ills are sadly bound to continue.
P.S. Warning: Anyone who posts in the comments that the Sandy Hook massacre did not happen, will immediately have that comment deleted and then be blocked.