The Killing of Daunte Wright
In light of the killing of Daunte Wright, the debate about the police is swirling again.
A few aspects I'm thinking about:
(1) As far as I can tell, Kim Potter just made a dumb mistake. It's possible there was some implicit racial bias in her brain. That's not really falsifiable. But I see no incentive for a 26-year veteran of police force to shoot someone on purpose...on camera. Why would she? It's the last thing in the world she would want to do. Her life is a living hell now. Frankly, I wouldn't be shocked if she committed suicide.
If she did this on purpose, Kim Potter would be some sort of evil, racist, masochistic, mastermind that just acted in all the ways we'd expect from someone who genuinely just made a dumb mistake in the heat of a tense, adrenaline-filled moment. (Yelling "Taser! Taser!" before discharging her weapon, and a horrified "Oh Shit...I shot him!" after.)
I see little evidence Kim Potter is a evil, racist, masochistic, mastermind.
I think she just fucked up.
(2) In regard to Kim Potter's mistake, I'm really discouraged by society's reaction right now. And I feel bad for her.aShe made a mistake. While I've never made a mistake that was so consequential it cost someone their life, I have made mistakes that are just as stupid as mistaking one object for another. I've made lots of them.
She basically had a muscle memory failure in highly stressful moment. If we're honest with ourselves, we've all done this many times, in much less stressful situations. For example, I threw a piece of silverware in the trash can by accident while making lunch today and had to retrieve it. A couple years ago I put my keys in a kitchen cupboard, presumably while I was putting away groceries in a hurry. We make strange errors like this. Commonly. It's human.
In fact, we sometimes make errors that have the potential to be much more consequential. We've all accidentally cut somebody off in traffic before—and only become aware of the error when the guy we cut off lays on their horn (while braking so as not to collide with us). Many/most of us have had a car accident that was at least partially our fault. I've accidently run a stop sign before.
In any of the above three cases, the results could be serious injury or death. Lots of people die from car accidents.
Why can't people look in the mirror, think, and have some humility? Why can't they be rational? Have pity? She made a mistake. She's human.
(By the way, I think it's fair that her mistake be adjudicated in the courts. We ought to look very carefully at deadly mistakes made by public officials. They are in positions of great authority, and that comes with great responsibility. But, in general, I'm much more morally concerned about people who are out being knowingly reckless and willingly harmful to others than I am about mistakes.)
The societal reaction to Kim Potter sort of reminds me of the scorn drawn by Bill Buckner. Very different circumstances, but similar irrational cruelty by people reacting to what was a mistake made by a person who would give anything to take it back
(3) I'm getting discouraged by society's irrational and unfair treatment and view of police in general. I'm not saying anything too novel here, but being a cop in a higher crime area seems like an incredibly hard job. I couldn't do it. I'd have a nervous breakdown on my first traffic stop...
Again, people seem completely unable (or unwilling) to think about how difficult it would be if your job was to proactively try and stop criminal behavior and protect the public writ large. They are not applying any level of introspection or empathy to just how hard it would be to be the cops they are insisting are "bad".
Think about it: Most people I know actively try really hard to avoid criminal people and situations... It's the police's job to literally go and engage with those people and situations when the rest of us are walking/running away.
Not that the police are perfect. They are not. And not that they don't need reforms. They do. (Public unions are a big problem.)
But the general criticism seems irrational and unfair.
(4) In regard to the broader question of the role of police in society, I'm dumbfounded by what I see as a complete naivety about human nature.
In Daunte Wright's case, people are criticizing the police for pulling him over for expired tabs. (But why? As I mentioned above, vehicles are dangerous and can kill people. It's important that everyone driving a vehicle is licensed and registered to do so, and updated tabs are a simple way to help ensure that.)
In a broader sense, there seems to a related theme emerging that "The police are too involved in people's lives! they just need to leave people be!" I hear things like... "It was just expired tabs" or "It was just an expired license" or "it was just no insurance" or "it was just no working taillights" or "he was just a little high" or "he was just parked in an illegal area...he wasn't bothering anybody" etc...
It seems to me that discouraging the police from being proactive in engaging law violations (and suspected law violations) is a recipe for all sorts of problems. I've seen enough of humanity in my life to be persuaded something like "broken window theory" is true. In an environment where rules are not consistently enforced, people notice, and stop following--and even stop valuing--the rules.
If you stop pulling people over for expired tabs, no one will register their vehicles. If you stop enforcing any given law, people will stop obeying those laws.
And that lack of enforcement tends to build, and creep into other areas.
Not that it's some sort of slippery slope that leads to everyone murdering each other all the time.
But, in every scenario I've seen, lack of consistently enforced rules and guideline creates a culture where further, and more serious, rule-breaking follows.
a - Of course, I'm also incredibly sad for Duane Wright's family. Sincerely. I would be a broken man if this were my son, or brother, or dad. This is a fucking terrible tragedy from every angle. It's awful.
Edited for clarity, spelling, and lots of other...mistakes.