Res Ipsa Loquitur
Well it happened again yet another police related killing, this time in Cincinnati, Ohio. On July 19, 2015, after a routine traffic stop, University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing shot Samuel DuBose point-blank in the face. In an attempt to justify the shooting the officer alleged that he was injured by the victim, nearly run over and dragged by the DuBose vehicle. These allegations were supported by two fellow officers. The policeman’s body camera however belied both the officer and his comrades.
After viewing the videotape of the incident, a Hamilton County grand jury returned an indictment of murder and voluntary manslaughter against the officer, the first of its kind. It is doubtful however that this is the first time a resident has been unfairly dispatched by Cincinnati law enforcement.
And Officer Tensing could have been charged with more including lying under oath, obstruction of justice, unlawful arrest and any number of federal civil rights violations. Should he be convicted as charged, the officer faces life in prison.
Hamilton County prosecuting attorney, Joseph Deters called the incident “a senseless, asinine shooting.” To this we agree. We take exception however to Attorney Deters’ declaration that “this doesn’t happen in America.” It most certainly does and with alarming frequency.
Res ipsa loquitur means the thing stands for itself. It infers wrongdoing from the very nature of the accident, injury or situation.
We would not be having this discussion but for the summary execution of American citizens by law enforcement. Otherwise Samuel DuBose would still be alive as would Eric Gardner, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, 12-year-old Tamir Rice and all who have gone before them.
In fact, acts of bad faith by the criminal justice system are routine, whether unjustified police shootings, lying cops, the covering up of these incidents by the system, the withholding of evidence by police and prosecutors, judges that are anything but neutral and detached, shabby investigations, flawed lab work or the unjust forfeiture and conversion of personal property.
A Washington Post investigation found that thousands of police shootings over the last decade have resulted in a few dozen officers being charged. According to the Post database… more than 550 people have been shot and killed by cops this year alone while only three officers had been charged with crimes. http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/07/ 29/the_sam_dubose_police_report_is_full_of_falsehoods_from_ray_tensing_s_colleagues.ht.
Even worse, this is nothing new. The criminal justice system has always been used as an instrument of social injustice, including but not limited to racially motivated acts of domestic terrorism, ethnic cleansing and various hate-crimes. Law enforcement officials either committed these crimes or permitted, encouraged, collaborated with and/or shielded from justice those who did. In fact many Southern law enforcement officials were clan members or sympathizers.
Research for example the Scottsboro Boys, Walter McMillan, Emmett Till and/or Ed Johnson. Also view the horrific photographs of lynchings found at www.withoutsanctuary.com and ww.americanlynching.com/infamous-old.html#1678. Few if any of the terrorists responsible for these murders were brought to justice even though their identities were well-known to the authorities.
Look no further than the 13th Amendment for the genesis of this reality. The Amendment states that “[N]either slavery nor involuntary servitude except as punishment for a crime whereof the party shall be duly convicted shall exist within the United States or anyplace subject to its jurisdiction.”
What we see now is merely the 13th Amendment made real. There is no material difference between the Slave Codes of bondage, the post slavery Black Codes and today’s War on Drugs, driving while black, racial profiling and other law enforcement practices. They all serve the same purpose.
We concede that a system of law enforcement and criminal adjudication are absolutely critical to a functioning society. And we do not believe that all cops are bad. Many are in fact exemplary. Law enforcement has never been better trained and resourced.
And while it might sound counter-intuitive, the recent spat of cops behaving badly is not evidence of a rise in police misconduct. Just the opposite is true. Compared to the mid 1800’s to the mid 1900”s that are undoubtedly fewer deadly encounters between the police and minority community.
What has changed is the heightened scrutiny faced by law enforcement. What is different is the revelation of these incidents via the widespread use of technology. The above reference Post investigation reveals that in two of the previous shootings where cops were actually held accountable … there was video evidence. http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/07/29/the_sam_dubose_police_report_is_full_of_falsehoods_from_ray_tensing_s_colleagues.ht.
Furthermore, none are without fault. We make no attempt to stigmatize Mr. DuBose or suggest that he deserved his fate. Nonetheless, it has been reported that he had been arrested 75 times by the Cincinnati police prior to this incident. http://beforeitsnews.com/crime-all-stars/2015/07/sam-dubose-criminal-history-of-cincinnati-police-shooting-victim-revealed-2454160.html.
There are only so many times one can tempt fate without eventually paying the price. This inescapable fact also speaks for itself in language that is unmistakable.
Nor will the system correct itself. It can no more change its stripes than can a leopard. Thus, while body cameras are a step in the right direction, more is needed; much more.
Yes, these things happen in America. And what occurs on the street pales in comparison to the atrocities committed in our jails and prisons, from both sides of the cell.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum