Tim Gannon, the police chief in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, during a press conference on Monday described Daunte Wright’s death as an accident, that the officer had “deployed her gun instead of her Taser.”
We have heard of such “accidents” for centuries and far too often the victim has been an unarmed Black man, like 17-year-old Andre Burgess of Queens in 1997, who was shot and wounded by an undercover federal agent who mistook a foil-wrapped candy bar he was holding for a handgun.
And then there was the tragic death of Amadou Diallo, a 22-year-old immigrant from Guinea, who was slain in a hail of 41 bullets in the doorway of his home in the Bronx in 1999. Two mistakes led to his death: first he was wrongly suspected of being a rapist and then the four officers believed he was reaching for a gun during a movement to retrieve his wallet.
This page and many more could be filled with similar deadly encounters between unarmed Black men and women and law enforcement officers, and we have heard a litany of lies and alibis about what happened, too many of them leading to the police being acquitted.
In too many of these incidents the police were overzealous in their responses, and more disturbingly, ready to shoot first and ask questions later when a young Black man was the suspect.
We heard the words “training” and “protocols” during the press conference in Brooklyn Center, with residents firing them at Mayor Mike Elliott and Chief Gannon. They wanted to know what preparation officers had when conducting a traffic stop; and then what protocols were in place after such fatal encounters.
Neither the mayor nor the chief was able to answer these questions, deflecting them with “the situation is under investigation.”
Several of our readers have suggested that the young men, particularly George Floyd and Daunte Wright, would still be alive today if they had just acquiesced to the police commands. That’s possibly true, but there are no guarantees of survival even when you are in police custody.
Back in the 1980s, Carol Taylor’s “The Little Black Book: Black Male Survival in America” delivered some important lessons on this issue, listing common sense rules of engagement, including not to run or walk down the block holding anything that might be mistaken for a gun. We might add: make no sudden movements when approached by the police.
From the other side of the gun, we would hope that the training and preparation for such potentially deadly engagements are also deeply ingrained in the officers, and perhaps some of Taylor’s lessons could be useful for them too.