Sharing Police Reports
I’ve been doing some thinking on Baltimore and I think I may have found another step we can take towards a solution. Right now there is a graphic being passed around showing the breakdown, by race, of everyone the police have reported killing. The graph itself is meaningless. Precincts report their killings voluntarily to the FBI, who compile useless data based off of the partial reports of the precincts who bother reporting them in the first place. The graph is meaningless, but the idea isn’t. Imagine, if you will, a world where every police precinct in this nation is forced to report every life taken by an officer. Every single life is accompanied by a detailed report, which is technically the way it’s supposed to work now, and then those reports are forwarded directly to the FBI. The FBI takes those reports, compiles them, and then releases them to the public. Now the public has access to the death report for everyone slain by an officer in the line of duty. People killed by police officers deserve to be more than statistics. The steps leading up to their death shouldn’t be classified intel, protected by the same system that protects the officers who take these lives. How different would Baltimore be right now if Freddie Gray’s family knew what happened, knew the incidents that had led up to his death? The families of the deceased would have the freedom to look into the death themselves, verify the officer’s story, ensure that the person they loved deserved the fate they received. I know a lot of people won’t like that thought, that officers have to be double checked, nitpicked, scrutinized unfairly for lives they were forced to take in the line of duty. They may feel that the officers need to feel free to defend themselves without fear of repercussion. I don’t share that belief. If an officer feels his life is in danger and he shoots and kills someone then he should welcome scrutiny, welcome the anger of that man’s family, because the alternative to facing that anger is being dead. The officers who feel unfit to face the public after taking a life, even justly, have a wealth of options open to them: they can retire, request relocation, etc. The beauty of a system that lets the people who have lost someone they love face and scrutinize the man who took their loved ones life is that it doesn’t let anyone view the taking of a life as an action without consequence. Even if that action is ultimately necessary, it should never be without consequence. There ought to be a weight that comes with killing someone, and I can’t think of any weight heavier than having the loved ones of the person you kill watching you, seeking out evidence of wrongdoing, ensuring that you did everything you could to end the situation without killing someone. For the officers who did take someone’s life when they didn’t have to, there ought to be harsh consequences. With the families of the slain pouring over the police reports, checking to make sure there aren’t inconsistencies or outright lies, there will be a greater chance of catching those who think little of killing others. It won’t do anything for the dead, but it will set a precedent, it will force officers to consider all of the fallout before they kill someone, and it will offer the families a chance to act in the face of tragedy, rather than be swallowed by it. I think this needs to be an option we all look at. What do you think?