For a few minutes, Rayshard Brooks might have thought he was going to make it, that the cops were going to let him go to his sister’s house, pick up his car the next morning. There’d be hell to pay and he’d have to deal with that, but he knew it was his own damn fault. At that moment, the cops could've walked him to the sister’s house. They could have given him a ride. But they brought out the cuffs. And he panicked. We can’t know what he was thinking, he’d been in trouble before and it’s no stretch to imagine him thinking of other black men beaten and killed once they were handcuffed and put in the back of a patrol car. So he panicked, he fought back, he grabbed the taser. And he ran. At that moment, he was done for.
Former DC cop Ted Williams was interviewed on Fox explaining why this was a pretty clear cut case for the justification of the use of deadly force. I am very much afraid that he’s right. Suppose that Rolfe isn’t a bad apple, isn’t a rogue cop. He did what he was trained to do. He started to arrest someone for a misdemeanor. That person resisted, took one of his weapons, struggled, ran, fired the weapon at him, and at that point everything in Rolfe’s training said to take him down. He did what he was trained to do.
This is why the entire edifice of standard policing in the United States has to come down. No amount of additional training, no body cameras, no transparency in disciplinary reports, no banning of choke holds would have changed this. We sent heavily armed men, whose primary tool is the use of force, to address a minor problem. Subdue and arrest. Dominate the situation. The system worked exactly as designed.
Then Rolfe is fired and the police chief resigns. Why fire Rolfe? Immediate scapegoat. A clear signal to the community that this was only a case of bad cop. The chief resigns because she hasn't done a good enough job of weeding out bad cops.
There’s no way to tell if the outcome would’ve been different if Brooks had been white, but it’s hard not to imagine so when there are so many cases on record where a white perpetrator is subdued without grievous harm and so many cases where a black person dies. But the racism that pits the edifice of policing against the community isn’t a problem of rabidly racist cops hating black people. The structural racism that insists on using force to dominate and control will always result in the deaths of those we keep at the margins.
The images of impassive Chauvin squeezing the life out of George Floyd was the spark that ignited simmering rage and protest around the world. It should outrage you. But what should engage your determination, what should make you join cause to insist that we rethink what we pathetically refer to as “public safety” are the two bullet holes in Rayshard Brooks’ back.