Article by Gary Kent
It isn’t often questioned that those with serious mental health histories should be kept from legally purchasing firearms. As I understand it, polls have indicated 75-85% of N.R.A. members accept background checks despite the argument that—as infringements—they appear to violate the second amendment.
Does it make sense for even a tiny percentage of police officers who may have issues such as paranoia, or bigoted attitudes toward classes of people, to be armed with, and authorized to use, deadly weapons? Is every person who goes into law enforcement necessarily emotionally and mentally “stable?”
The October, 2014, case in which Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke “allegedly” shot LaQuan McDonald 16 times is the latest in a string of incidents that certainly appear to discredit the 99.999% of law enforcement professionals who apparently do their jobs and avoid making such “mistakes.”
McDonald may have been on drugs and evidently used a knife to smash a police cruiser windshield and puncture one, or more, tires. He may have appeared to be disrespectful as well.
Police often deal with some extremely dangerous people, whom they do not know, under very difficult circumstances, very often fraught with grave uncertainty. Police have been shot during routine traffic stops. Their jobs are not easy, and the work is certainly not for everyone. The fact remains that what happened before Van Dyke’s outrageous action hardly excuses shooting someone to death.
For Van Dyke’s attorney to justify his actions by saying he “feared for his life” is suspect at best. His attorney has attempted to put an extremely damning video into “context” by describing what took place before the video recording. He added that video does not always show what actually occurred.
Just as in education and the priesthood, serious law enforcement professionals, interested in advancing and protecting their profession, should demand those whose actions discredit their profession be held accountable.
Van Dyke has done a disservice to the law enforcement community by making it just that much more difficult for the conscientious and overwhelming majority of them to do their jobs well and safely. His actions, and those of the people who attempted to cover them up, diminish the trust essential for law enforcement professionals to do dangerous jobs effectively and safely. Whether we like it, or not, the actions of a few can tarnish entire groups. For Van Dyke to avoid responsibility for LaQuan McDonald’s death, under the circumstances, would merely add to the sense of how hopeless the pursuit of justice in America often is.