The Intent to Harm: A tragic one way street

I guess it’s all in the wording, the semantics.  Or, is the standard different depending on who

Kristine Johnson is not the usual person you think of when you think of police brutality.

Kristine Johnson is not the usual person you think of when you think of police brutality. (Photo: Standard Examiner)

it’s applied to?  Either way, it’s a WTF moment for America that’s setting the world of logic-and the US-on its head.

Consider that a New York grand jury refused to indict the police officer who killed Eric Garner after putting him in a choke hold, unnecessarily.  The jury found that there was “no intent to harm” in the officer’s actions and thus a tragic mistake had once again occurred.

Of course, those that are intent on finding blame with the victim will say that he was obviously doing something wrong or illegal for the police to approach and apprehend in the manner that they did; a fact we can now dispute.

However, there is a fact that you can’t dispute; that the police obviously thought Eric had “some intent to harm” someone which is why they felt it necessary to use the level of force that they did.  And their decision-making is the crust of the issue.

The essence of the public argument has never been a policeman’s intent to harm-a cop does that routinely and it’s time the courts recognize that fact.  The issue has always been police procedure under certain circumstances and a policeman’s judgment in following it.

It could be argued that once police decide that corrective action-action to apprehend, to forestall or to guide- is necessary, such a decision brings with it an inherent intent to harm.  How else will he get the unruly public to comply with his instructions?  This then should automatically open the door to a question of excessive force.

But it’s an argument that the public is never allowed to make; a policeman’s intent, and likewise his judgment, seeming never to come into question.  What we’re seeing time and time again-especially when the two worlds collide-is that it’s all about the cops’ safety and not about the safety of the public.

It’s a tragic one-way street that robs an individual of his right to a fair trial or, as recent cases have shown, a right to any trial.  Most often, it’s a young black man who’s automatically assumed to be a threat; in which case, deadly force is promptly placed on the table for use.  In such cases, a charge of excessive force at the hands of law enforcement-and the ability to bring such-is systemically negated because of this unfair and willful disregard of a policeman’s mindset.

But as I’ve said before, it may have started with black people in the double standards of Jim Crow but blacks won’t be the only ones who’ll bear the full brunt of such actions moving forward into the future; we’re just the people some of them have been practicing on.  Consider Kristine Johnson, then of Rock Springs, Wyoming.

In November of 2012, traveling in Utah on Interstate 84, Johnson was hailed by police to stop because of a broken headlight.  With a blood alcohol level four times the legal limit, she led deputies and state troopers on a chase that lasted 32 miles.

With two right tires and the back left tire blown out from spikes put down by the troopers, the chase ended in Utah on Cottonwood Drive where, sheriff’s deputy Scott Peay drew his gun and ordered Johnson out of her truck.  In the dash-cam video, you can see the truck of Johnson striking Peay’s patrol vehicle.  He again  orders her out of her truck.  She revs the engine and the deputy fires one shot, striking her in the eye.

Now blinded in that eye, Johnson acknowledges her mistakes from that night two years ago.  However, this past November she sued the deputy who shot her, stating effectively that just because you’re a drunk driver doesn’t necessarily mean you should be killed by the police.

Moreover, in 2013 Davis County attorney Troy Rawlings called the shooting unjustified even though the prosecutor decided not to file charges against the deputy.  In his report, Rawlings states that “The Davis County Attorney’s Office cannot and will not say that the shooting ( of Johnson) is justified under the four-corners (of state law)…because we believe that a better and more credible view of the evidence is that it was not justified.”

Moving forward, America needs to recognize some things immediately.

First, our ability to act as the world’s moral compass is rapidly dwindling even as many in our government refuse to acknowledge such a shift.  America, the country has always had difficulty living up to America, the ideal and with the newly printed report on the CIA’s torture program coming out, along with all that’s occurred this past summer in cities across the country, the world is casting a very critical eye not only on all that we do to each other but also how we as ordinary citizens rectify what’s wrong with the government.

An example, Fatah Minister Ziad Abu Ein died while protesting Israeli settlement building in the West bank village of Turmus Aya on Wednesday.  Whether or not he died at the hands of Israeli Security Forces is the question as video has surfaced showing him being shoved forcefully in the chest and grabbed around the throat.

While Israeli PM Netanyahu has called for calm and initiated an investigation utilizing Palestinian and Jordanian pathologists, Palestinian activists have run the video and evoked visions of US police brutality under the hashtag #ICan’tBreath.  As if images of the past “Arab Spring” weren’t enough to tell you that the world is watching and emulating.

Finally, we should recognize a chilling fact; that justice for some is really justice for none.  Before long, all these police actions taken for granted in the black community will begin to make their way into other communities across the country.  They’ll spread like a metastasizing cancer to every block, borough or hovel.  By the time that happens, it’ll be too late to change anything.   And guess what; it may have already begun.

Source: Standard Examiner, Woman Sues Morgan Deputy Who Shot Her in Eye (Dashcam Video), Standard Examiner Staff and Associated Press, November 14, 2014; New York Times, Calls For Calm After Palestinian Official Dies During Protest in the West Bank, Isabel Kershner, Said Chazali, December 10, 2014; Photo of Kristine Johnson from Standard Examiner.

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