Statement on Police-Involved Shooting of Korryn Gaines

August 2, 2016

The shooting of Korryn Gaines and her young son is a tragedy that, from all that has been reported thus far, could have been avoided on all sides.  Put simply, it should be an explicit goal for police in every encounter that all of the people, both the police and the community that they serve and protect, survive the encounter.  And from what we know today about the Baltimore County Police Department's response to Ms. Gaines, police failed to honor that goal, with devastating results.   

In situations like this, police departments typically focus on the ways in which the civilian escalated the situation and made the use of deadly force "necessary."  But if civilians never escalated situations, and always acted calmly, and always submitted willingly and quietly to authority, there would be little need for police in the first place, and no need for armed police.  Of course, that isn't the world we live in. And too often a double standard exists for Black Americans, whose wielding of guns is met with less patience by police.

Police have a moral obligation, and should have a legal obligation, to act in ways that don't predictably result in the opportunity or necessity to use force.  Here, for example, police decided, for reasons not yet clear, after seven hours of negotiation and waiting, that they could not wait any longer to execute a warrant for failing to appear for a minor traffic offense. And they further decided that they needed to use deadly force to execute that warrant, and needed to expose themselves to the known risk of deadly force being used on them, knowing that a five year old child might be in the line of fire.  

That tactical decision led directly to yesterday's deadly outcome, as much as any choices made by Ms. Gaines.  And it wasn't the only choice possible, and isn't the choice any officer or department would make if the goal is to ensure that all parties survive the encounter.  

If we are to stem the toll of police violence in this country, especially against Black and Brown Americans, and make policing itself safer, the laws, policies, and tactical training of officers has to change to explicitly align with the goal that everyone makes it out alive.  As long as we fail to do that more children will tragically be left without mothers and fathers. #KorrynGaines #BlackLivesMatter

 

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