“We have to be clear about this,” Koval said. “He was unarmed. That’s going to make this all the more complicated for the investigators, the public, to accept, to understand … why deadly force had to be used.”
This story has all of the hallmarks of an American police shooting. It isn’t the first time the shooter, Matt Kenny, has killed a man. The criminal history of the victim, Tony Robinson, was the first topic the media wanted to discuss. The message is clear: “He had a criminal record, thus he deserved to be shot.”
We’re not fooled, Mike. We do understand and accept. We understand and accept that you’re wrong. Deadly force did not have to be used.
Mike Koval, the Chief of the Madison, Wisconsin Police Department, used a rhetorical technique to minimize the reality of the killing. “Deadly force had to be used.” Passive voice makes it sound much better than Matt had to kill him. And, of course, the cop didn’t have to kill Tony Robinson; the cop chose to kill Tony Robinson. The discretion, both as a matter of fact and a matter of law, rested on the officer. Had the cop been a different man he might have chosen differently.
I can hardly see this happening in the United Kingdom, for example, where armed police rarely respond to common assaults or rowdiness. This is exactly the type of situation where an unarmed police officer would be expected to handle the situation not only without lethal force, but without the ability to use lethal force at all. And that is true for the rest of the European Union as well, where officers regularly carry firearms.
It isn’t the fault of the victim, Tony Robinson. Nor of any unarmed victims that “force the hand” of the law into a shooting. Most of Western civilization – most of the world, in fact – handles similar situations with a clear prohibition on lethal violence. It’s not a fault of general violence, either. It isn’t as if the United States is particularly violent, nor that officers are not assaulted elsewhere.
It also doesn’t matter if law enforcement carries firearms or not. The exception may be when police officers, entering situations they are unprepared for, claim a suspect touched their firearms. The recent shooting of Africa, a homeless man living on Skid Row, is an example. And we can only blame the police for these scenarios, whereby they are responsible both for introducing a firearm into a situation and for failing to secure it.
On cops carrying firearms, I will digress and say this: disarm the police, arm the proletariat.
The fundamental differences are the police officers themselves and the laws that protect them. If the police are taught that they are permitted to kill unarmed people in any circumstance, and the law backs them up, then they are going to kill unarmed people. It is that simple.