Yesterday, the Philadelphia Police shot Walter Wallace to death in West Philadelphia in front of his mother. They did this in broad daylight, in the street.
The killer's body-cams were on, and will be used, according to PPD Commissioner Outlaw, to conduct a full investigation into the incident. According to what reports we have the police claim that Wallace brandished a knife. Given how often the police plant evidence at crime scenes to justify their crimes, this assertion should be taken with a grain of salt. I suppose we should just be grateful that their body-cams weren't covered up during this killing, as is often the case.
We will proceed with a simple assumption: Walter Wallace didn't need to die yesterday. From that assertion, everything else flows. The police killed him in the street and so it is the police, the criminals, who should be examined most closely, not their victim.
I will limit my criticism to the behavior of the police. Either, as they maintain, they are a force of trained professionals tasked to the public good or they are not. If they are force of trained professionals, one might ask, why do so many officers hide behind the shield of 'feeling threatened' to justify their shootings of people of color? To err is human, of course, but there seems to be an awful lot of 'erring' that ends up with people dead for a professional organization.
Police often claim they panicked or lost their nerve in high-pressure situations, with lethal consequences for the non-police involved. Someone who is easily rattled should not have a firearm as a part of their daily work uniform.
Remind me, are professionals characterized by their nerviness and brittle natures? Are those that are trained meant to subvert their impulses to accomplish an assigned task or not?
Wouldn't a trained professional be instructed to cope or work through the adrenaline to assess a situation and attempt to de-escalate it?
The killers shot Walter Wallace ten times while his mother watched.
These are the facts. Things that people who defend the police's actions as justified--and they do exist, to my horror, but to the surprise of nobody--do not wish to dwell on these facts. To do so would be to admit the humanity of the victims.
So far, no sign of the knife that the killers claimed Wallace wielded.
In short, if the police are trained professionals as they often proclaim, it is news to the rest of us lowly-non-cops. They don't act like it. For their assigned duties, anyway.
They are absolutely trained professionals if one considers them simply the most powerful gang with government sanction, however.
This line of logic is simple: the police are a gang who are immune from the laws they claim to enforce, backed by their police unions which shield them from prosecution or punishment in a twisted parody of solidarity. The long, ugly, anti-populist history of police unions is a topic for another time, however.
I'm surprised that no police officer even TRIED to mediate, negotiate or de-escalate the situation with an obviously upset Wallace. Their first instinct was to use lethal force.
Unsurprisingly, the people of West Philadelphia didn't take kindly to public murder. They gathered and the police tried to stop them.
I am surprised that people are acting with outrage and pearl-clutching when people burn a police cruiser, as if destruction of property was equivalent to the taking of Walter Wallace's life.
It isn't. Not even close. That this needs to be stated is horrifying to anyone with a functioning conscience.
Property is not sacred or irreplaceable. Human life is.
Why do so many permit a media narrative that treats economic harm to major chains and the very people killing American citizens (the police) is somehow worse than the inciting murder of the most vulnerable citizens?
Why do many gasp when a corporate chain is looted and set alight, but not at the murder of a human being slain before the eyes of their family? The corporation can recover lost assets--Mrs. Wallace will never get her son back, nor will the countless other parents sibling relatives and friends of the other people of color murdered by police.
America has a long history of encouraging and entrenching racial violence. This is not news to anyone. It is a long and bloody history with too much tragedy to get into here. But suffice to say that the police, from their first-days as slave catchers, have served as a tool of enforcing racial and economic hierarchies.
The police are not your friends. They are a gang that is protected by the law, and flout that protection every chance they get. Let me give an example from another century, in another city.
None other than Rudy Guiliani, sewer-troll extraordinaire, led a police riot of 10,000 in 1992 against NYC's first black mayor, Dinkins. Officers harassed people of color, broke a 16 year old, Y'wunas Mohamed's jaw on the J train, drank openly in public (a crime for which they've arrested countless others throughout the years) and chanted racists slurs against Dinkins while terrifying onlookers.
Here is a sound-clip from Giuliani, who was the star of the whole production, slinging racial animus like his political career depended on it.
The American political system, especially where the police are concerned, rewards white supremacy. It certainly did Giuiliani, who went on to serve two terms as mayor of New York where the police arrested, harassed and beat countless men and women of color and low economic status. Here's a summary of what happened after the 1992 police riot.
My point in mentioning Giuliani instead of the ongoing protests in West Philadelphia, is that policing is working as it is intended--for the police, which is to say, with impunity to flout the laws. Giuliani is a glaring (and far from isolated or solitary) example of this methodology and mindset.
If we are to have a city without the murder of random citizens, it will be because we have reshaped, disarmed and defunded the Philadelphia Police Department, their union and those who support violence as a first course of action.