Posted on | April 28, 2008 |
I agree with the family and friends of Sean Bell, justice has not been done here. The question is, however, where did it go wrong? The judge, from what I can see, is an honorable man. All sorts of shoulda’s are being thrown at the DA, the investigating police. But the problem is what would be called the “rules of engagement” if we were talking about the military. Deadly force is authorized if an officer has a reasonable belief that his life or someone else’s life will be endangered without it. As we have seen in Iraq, that kind of vague justification can easily lead to all sorts of violence. I thought he was going to shoot, so I shot back first, as the old story goes. But just because the rules of engagement have been followed, that doesn’t mean there is no culpability. A reasonable belief has to be tempered with reasonable actions. One officer thought one of the victims was going for a gun, he opened fire and suddenly there was a fusillade of bullets raining down upon three unarmed men. One officer fired, the rest fired believing his reaction. The case is much more complicated than I can talk about here. But Al Sharpton is wrong–it wasn’t the DA, it wasn’t the judge who were at fault. The fault lies in the authorization of deadly force because all that vague justification means is you can use deadly force if you think you have to use deadly force. It doesn’t mean you have to see a weapon, it doesn’t mean squat. There has to be an inquiry into this case and I hope that it comes to the same conclusion I have.