Until New Year's Day 2021, at least. Goddamnit.
Police in Newark, New Jersey's largest city, had a pretty good year in terms of not shooting anyone at all in 2020, a statistic that Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose credited to the adoption two years ago of a de-escalation training program for police. However, Ambrose also said that, because the coronavirus pandemic had caused the deaths of six officers, it was also the roughest year he'd seen in a 34-year law enforcement career.
For all the stereotypes about cops facing death every time they go to work, Ambrose said the pandemic had been his greatest source of stress:
It was the unknown. It was the unknown that you didn't know with this disease that you were coming here every day, and these police officers and firefighters going out there, and we didn't know.
Of the de-escalation program, Ambrose said, "These things, it takes time for it to work. And I think it worked." He also credited the training with helping cops stay cool during the summer's protests over the murder by Minneapolis cops George Floyd.
Kenosha, Wisconsin, DA Graciously Declines To Press Charges Against Jacob Blake For Getting Shot In The Back
Not a surprise. Still a disappointment.
When there is an especially horrific police shooting like Jacob Blake's, there's a familiar rhythm leading up to the district attorney inevitably announcing that they won't seek charges against the officers involved. The police are put on standby for potential unrest, which is usually a great overtime opportunity for them. Then we hear the explanations for why what we all saw wasn't a crime.
Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officer Rusten Sheskey shot Blake as Blake walked away from him during a domestic disturbance call. Seven bullets struck Blake in the back, paralyzing him. During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley declared that Sheskey had no choice.
Graveley said multiple times Tuesday that it was "incontrovertible" that Blake had a knife in hand when the incident occurred and that Blake admitted to getting a knife. Sheskey told investigators that he was unsure whether Blake was going to kidnap or hurt the child in the car.
"Officer Sheskey knows that an armed man with a felony warrant, who just forcefully resisted arrest, appears to be about to flee in a disputed vehicle, and there's at least one child in the back," Graveley said. "Those are all the facts that Officer Sheskey has, in the context of a domestic abuse case at the point he has to decide what to do next."
Shooting a person in the back is not what anyone should decide to do next, but it's particularly galling that Sheskey chooses to dress the violence up as consideration for the child he traumatized. Blake was attempting to leave with one of his three kids.
Black Lives Matter.
Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd on May 25, Memorial Day. Floyd was handcuffed, unarmed, and defenseless, but Chauvin pressed his knee into his throat for nine and a half minutes, ignoring his cries for mercy, until he was dead. Chauvin's accomplices in blue stood and watched.
In March, Louisville, Kentucky, cops burst into Breonna Taylor's home, while she slept, and shot her to death. The police considered this a terrible inconvenience for Taylor and a personal tragedy for themselves because people wouldn't shut up about it.
Cops kill unarmed Black people with disturbing regularity, but the sociopathic brutality of Floyd's death sparked something within the country. It scared the police as much as imaginary poison milk shakes or tampons in their Frappuccinos that obviously aren't tampons. Americans took to the streets in support of Black lives. Even Mitt Romney showed up. Black Lives Matter as a movement grew in popularity.
When will this stop?
This weekend, jazz musician Keyon Harrold and his 14-year-old son were minding their own business when .... well, they're Black so you can probably guess where this is going. They were staying at the Arlo, a boutique hotel in New York's SoHo neighborhood, and had walked into the lobby when some mad woman accosted Harrold's son and accused him of stealing her cell phone. They'd never laid eyes on this person before.
The woman kept yelling at this kid and insisting he had her phone. (He did not have her phone.) Harrold is uncertain of the woman's race because she was wearing a mask, but Candace Owens isn't this white no matter how hard she tries. Harrold recorded the encounter with this racist loon, as every Black person will do at some point in our lives.