Re: the case of Kimberly Ann Potter. Why is it we refuse to do nuance? Why must we always bring it down to one person is to blame? Maybe only when politically convenient? The case of Kimberly Ann Potter cries out for such in-depth analysis.
The most obvious questions surround Kimberly Ann Potter’s long career in the police department. She was supposed to be training the officers, yet makes such an obvious rookie mistake of pulling the wrong weapon, having it in front of her for quite a while yelling, “Taser! Taser! Taser!” Then pulling the trigger on a weapon she says she didn’t intend to pull?
Something is surely amiss.
Was Kimberly Ann Potter hired to be a trainer? Hired straight out of college? If not, how much on the street experience did she have? How long ago? How many hands on experience situations has she been in: up close, with all the adrenaline, the chaos, the unpredictability? And, again, how recent?
If any of these questions are good questions they could reveal more than lynch mobs and those protecting their own asses demand. There’s an obvious rush of adrenaline in any such situations, obvious chaos; all of which cry out for a level head. When it comes to that responsibility Kimberly Potter obviously failed: if she truly did confuse a gun for a taser.
Did she? Well, if Kimberly Ann Potter had a history of acts and words that could be interpreted as racist I’m sure it would have all over the media by now. While, yes, it could be the culture, why not the other officers? AGAIN: something is amiss.
Here’s one possibility. One of the more common practices in America for almost 50 years now is “hiring from without, not from within.” My father said it was headed that way when he was working in the 60’s. Promoting people from within is far less common than it was even in my father’s days, and I’m creeping up on 70. OK, at my age you don’t creep it gets to seem more like warp 10, but you get what I mean I’m sure.
Are police departments following any of these practices, or not paying attention to in the field; recent, experience? These are important questions. None of them excuse Kimberly Ann Potter, or should elicit sympathy. That is NOT my intent. If they do that’s on you. BUT these questions go far beyond just this case.
If training is crucial so are how officers are trained, and the experience they have: especially if they are put in such situations. Let’s go beyond guns: take the case of Chauvin. Did anything in his training lead to what he did for 9 minutes, or the other officers who helped ? They didn’t eve just stand by; literally holding down and applying pressure to a dying George Floyd. The officer who shot the 13 year old after he put down the gun: if you hear his desperation you realize he knows what he did. His panic seems obvious. The shooting seems REFLEXIVE.
I’ll give an example of training. In an argument with someone I grew up with on Facebook I mentioned that officers should be trained to shoot to disable first, not kill. The response was they are trained to shoot for the main part of the body where the most lethal damage can be done to prevent innocent bystanders from being killed.
Really? Doesn’t this cry out for better marksmanship, more level heads, better assessment of situations? Passing a counterfeit bill, possibly without knowing one is doing so, then being compliant until being fore into a small space hardly seems a situation for “pulling the trigger” for 9 minutes. Asking a suspect to drop a gun, then turn around, put his hands up… then when he obeys shoot anyway speaks volumes about training that assumes things rather than pausing for a second to be sure the suspect complied.
I won’t go to race, except to mention there are plenty of examples on You Tube of white folks stopped cursing out cops, playing with guns, even just leaving though told not to, without being shot. NOT obeying and getting away with it. Are there similar videos of black folks doing the same? If any I doubt many.
I phrase it because one usually can find at least ONE exception to almost anything.
But, that small diversion aside, my main point still applies. And add to that screening police better, trainers better, having everyone up on experience they may need. Oh, and no more hires of those with crappy attitudes. Anyone who has ever belonged to some white nationalist, racist, extreme group that advocates violence: no matter what side of the divide they belong on, should be a member of law enforcement. Reviewed at least yearly by a board of psychiatrists and psychologists. Help of needed, shifted elsewhere or let go if needed. In fact at least a BA should be the standard with heavy emphasis on deescalating situations. All with the goal of professionalism being the norm. We also need more Serpicos and less protecting the blue line at all cost: no matter what was done.
It goes without saying that military-like equipment, if needed, should rarely be used, certainly not the first thing pulled out during protests. And what about de-escalation? What about Kimberly Potter: what led up to what she admits was a tragic error?
If we simply prosecute convenient targets, and ignore the wider view, the questions just as big, NOTHING will be solved. But, as we well know, blaming one person, whether it be assassinations, or problems with the police, is all too convenient when trying to limit damage. And blaming whole movements, or all in in any one group, is all too convenient when seeking to do political damage.
I wish to thank Facebook‘s The Thom Hartman Blogger’s Group. My fellow writers and posters helped me think more deeply regarding my stance.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 40 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks, and into the unseen cracks and crevasses, that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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