Monday, April 9, 2018

When do we allow police use of force?

It’s the simple fact that truly is terrifying if you think about it too closely and for too long a period of time – police have the legal authority to kill people.
Midway Plaisance doesn't magically isolate university from rest of Chicago
Anybody who doesn’t realize that isn’t thinking too closely. Why else would we arm our law enforcement officers if we didn’t expect there to be situations in which they’re going to have to use their weapon on another human being.

I WONDER IF we have the student body at the University of Chicago not being fully aware of that reality. For last week, dozens of students protested on campus against the private police force that the university uses to patrol the campus and surrounding Hyde Park neighborhood.

Specifically, they want their officers to ditch their firearms. They also talked of more funding being provided for mental health services, which makes me think those students think the police are something along the line of social workers.

Now I understand those students are miffed about the death last week of Charles Thomas, a student who was shot and killed by a University of Chicago police officer.

Various news reports indicate the student was walking around the neighborhood in the middle of the night, waving about a metal bar and screaming various taunts. Police say that when they tried confronting the student, he raised his weapon (a metal bar can be as deadly as any pistol) and approached police.

AT WHICH POINT, the officer fired and the student was killed.

He was only 21, and some reports indicate he was in his final year of college before receiving a degree, with a 4.2 grade point average.

I know some people who found humor of a sarcastic tone from those facts – the idea that a kid was on the verge of completing college with a very respectable grade point average would appear to be someone who had the whole wide world at his fingertips.

Yet he winds up dead, right on the verge of the beginning of the adult portion of his life. Talk about life being unfair! Talk about a situation that most definitely warrants a stream of profanities to describe it most adequately.

YET I’M WONDERING how many of those students have a false vision of the world around them, and how many of them think Hyde Park is some sort of barricaded island with the surroundings walled off by the kind of ways that Donald Trump dreams of erecting along the U.S./Mexico border – rather than just some Chicago Park District lands to the west?

It’s not just the neighborhoods surrounding the University of Chicago campus.

For on Saturday, there was an incident in the West Side’s Austin neighborhood where two teenagers were shot. One, who is 13, appears likely to survive his wound to the thigh.

But the other, who was 16, appears to be deceased from his multiple gunshot wounds. He didn’t get as much of a chance at life as the University of Chicago student.

HE’S NOT ALONE. For the Chicago Sun-Times reported about 13 other people being shot in various incidents scattered across the city on Saturday. While WBBM-TV reports a total of 21 people in Chicago being shot since Friday night.

You just know those students complaining about their police (which amounts to having private security for the campus) would be even more miffed if there had been an incident involving a student being shot by someone from outside the campus community.

Would we be getting students up in arms over why their police aren’t equipped with even more firepower? So as to fight off those “outside” forces that pose a threat to their physical well-being?

It is sad that we’ll never get to see what contributions Thomas could have made to society had he lived. But many of us would be complaining even more loudly if police in such an incident had done nothing.


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