my last column about cops playing the fear card as their irrefutable
justification for unnecessary deadline force, it happened. The very
scenario that I written about that had not happened anywhere in this
country. At least not according to the unofficial survey by Redditt
Hudson, a former St. Louis cop and current department reformer. I’m
talking about the shooting of a white, unarmed citizen by a Black
news of the fatal shooting of Australian-born Justine Damond by a
Somali-American police officer has gone around the world and back
again. Mohammed Noor was apparently startled by a noise at the same
time Damond appeared at the driver’s side of the police car
after calling the police to check on a possible rape. Noor fired
across his partner, Mathew Harrity, hitting the Aussie women in the
stomach. The soon-to-be married woman died minutes later.
lightning speed, the public had information that often takes weeks,
months to get when a white officer kills a Black citizen. The names
of the officers involved in the incident were quickly released. (Two
months out, the community is still demanding the names of the St.
Louis officers involved in deadly SWAT attack.)
know Noor was fast-tracked to become a trained, sworn officer; he got
about seven months of training. We also know that in the two short
years of being on the street, Noor was hit with three citizen
complaints and one lawsuit. Neither Noor or his partner had their
body cameras on, a violation of department policy when police are
called to a scene and a firearm is involved. That’s right, we
knew all of this within days of the shooting.
Chief Jannee’ Harteau was summarily fired by the Mayor. Ok,
let’s do Minnesota “nice” and say she was forced to
resign. This is the same chief on duty when Black bodies were shot,
including the murder of Jamar Clark which sparked community protests
for weeks. Harteau was retained and the officers involved in the
Clark shooting faced no charges. Black folks in Minnesota—and
elsewhere—have been swift to note the stark differences in the
way this police shooting is being handled.
white folks in Minneapolis and Australia are fired up about the
police murder. One Aussie newspaper ran the headline “American
Nightmare” to reflect their country’s repulsion towards
this deadly epidemic. Unlike the U.S., Australia has tight
restrictions on gun ownership and fatal police shootings are unusual.
in Minneapolis, the reactions are hostile and focused. Tensions are
high and demands are many. The attorneys of Harrity have even
received death threats that I doubt came from any person of color.
a nation where Black lives rarely matter and where Black people have
been relentlessly pointing out the deadly disparities in policing,
will this be the time when white America’s empathy translates
to solidarity with the endless pain of Black and Brown communities?
Will it result in policy changes of police interactions and the use
of force regardless of the skin color of the citizens involved.
about Noor? He was trained to shoot when he felt his life was in
jeopardy. His negative encounters with at least four civilians didn’t
raise an eyebrow. He still enjoyed support from fellow offices and
the top police brass. Will Noor’s comrades in blue rally around
him when he faces criminal charges?
play the fear card every time. They often say they live by the motto
“it’s better to be judged by twelve then to be carried by
six.” It’s been well established (especially by juries)
that the fear of Black citizens is totally justifiable. Can we
conclude that the fear experienced by a Black cop in a dangerous
situation is the same as that of a white cop? Does the fear factor
work in reverse, meaning do non-white police suffer from the fear of
whiteness in the way that white cops fear blackness?
questions and others remain to be answered. There will be many who
will be waiting to see the fate of a Black cop who was startled at
the sight of an unarmed, white woman.