No title for this one.

I wanted to draw your attention to this article from the Los Angeles Times, Police fatally shoot unarmed man in Koreatown:

Los Angeles Police officers shot and killed a man in Koreatown early Saturday morning after he reached into his waistband for what officers believed was a weapon, authorities said.

The man was twenty-seven year old Steven Eugene Washington, and he died after a single shot to the head. The officers are Allan Corrales and George Diego; both fired and it’s not known as yet whose bullet hit Mr Washington. Both officers have been reassigned until the investigation is over.

The article goes on to say that ‘Washington’s relatives criticized police and said the dead man had suffered from a learning disability and was generally afraid of strangers. They insisted that he was not violent and that he probably was walking home after visiting a friend.’

One has to wonder how, in such a situation as officers deemed it necessary to shoot, the bullet hit such a vulnerable mark as a head, given that police are trained to not shoot fatally where possible. (Edit: It seems that this is not so universal as I’d thought; Lauredhel’s understanding is that police are trained to not shoot unless they have to shoot someone at once, in which case the only reliable way is a kill shot.) One has to wonder about how and why police shootings of innocent people are as common as they are. But that’s not what I want to focus on today.

I want to point to how dangerous assumptions about normative behaviour are to PWD. There’s a great deal of potential for acts that are quite in line with harmless behaviour for the way one’s brain works to be read by others as scary, threatening, dangerous. All too often, though, it’s those abled folk who feel threatened who end up doing the harm.

The police officers were expecting one thing, but the reality was quite another. And they were the ones with the power.

And a man has died for it.

9 thoughts on “No title for this one.

  1. Clarification on police training:

    Lauredhel is almost correct. Officers in my state (and the “industry standard” police unions and trade organizations recommend) is to consider every other option before shooting. Police officers are trained and equipped to use a variety of other options before resorting to shooting. If deadly force is appropriate, they are trained to shoot to stop the threat, not to shoot to kill. What’s the difference? If they shoot once and the person drops their gun or is otherwise no longer an immediate threat, they are supposed to stop shooting, not continue shooting, and not aiming for fatal targets like the head.

    Police training also emphasizes recognizing medical conditions that present with similar outward symptoms as intoxication or drug use (such as diabetic shock and stroke), with a secondary emphasis on conditions that might interfere with comprehension or compliance with directions (such as deafness or epilepsy). In addition, because atypical behavior is often mistakenly reported as criminal behavior (and some non-neurotypical callers are scared by typical behavior), police are in higher contact with non-neurotypicals. Most officers I know realize that results in a higher rate of contact, which necessitates heightened awareness. So tragic that this training and experience was overridden by instinctual fear of the unknown.

  2. On Interactions

    Interactions between police and marginalized people are always fraught. When the civilian is marginalized on multiple axes things can go bad smart quick. People with communication disorders and/or autism spectrum disorders are often perceived as uncooperative. Even in my personal life I am perceived as being willful rather than unable to communicate. It doesn’t do much to reduce the sense of frustration and helplessness that contributes to my being unable to speak. When I have to interact with police — even when I’ve called them myself — it is always terrifying.
    .-= kaninchenzero┬┤s last blog ..Closure =-.

  3. I know I’ve read of at least one instance where police either tased or shot someone because, after not obeying spoken instructions, they reached into their pocket to grab something.

    That something was either a pen and paper, or a card specifying that they were deaf and couldn’t hear spoken instructions…

  4. Like I needed more reason to have contempt for US police. (On a personal level, my dad is a cop. My dad is a jerk. All cops are jerks. Simple math!)

    But there are so many stories like this out there – TAB victims, PWD (especially mental ones) victims… it’s just all wrong and makes me sad.

    But someone knows this one person with a mental illness who totally broke the law, so it’s okay. /bitter sarcasm.

    I can’t make sense of my love for fictional TV cops, though, like Lennie Briscoe. L&O’s handling (especially SVU) of mental illness is just wrong.

    Codeman – that’s so sad. I guess cops want all PWD or Deaf people to wear huge lit up signs saying “I’m deaf”

  5. What I’ve been told by every cop I have ever known (and my foster pop was a former LAPD member and confirmed this) is that they are trained to shoot to kill, not wound, not disable, but kill.

    Perhaps policies are different in different countries or localities, but not for LAPD.

  6. Sadly this doesn’t surprise me at all. I really wonder if it will ever stop being acceptable for police to murder people like this in the streets.

  7. Before I looked at the article, I knew the man was black. And when I did look at the article, I was confirmed. All actions by black men, no matter what their mental abilities or medical disabilities are perceived as threatening; from ages 6 on up.

    This is what happens when police are encouraged to profile, and buy into media hype about who is dangerous and what dangerous looks like and also to place their lives higher than anyone else’s. Why become a police officer if your life is always going to be more important? What happened to ‘serving the community’?

    Well, I know what happened. No need to actually answer that.

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