On July 16 in Minneapolis, Justine Ruszczyk (also known as Justine Damond) was shot and killed by a police officer as she approached the driver’s side window of the police car. She called the police around 11:30 p.m. to report a suspected sexual assault.
The circumstances that led to the shooting or what motivated the officer to shoot are still under investigation.
The fact that answers have been slow in coming have intensified the rhetoric and concerns of the public. Why weren’t body cameras on? Why did the passenger officer shoot across through the driver’s window? What was it they saw that so startled them?
The shooter, Officer Mohamed Noor, has not provided a statement at his attorney’s advice as of now. Hence no one seems to know what he was thinking at the time. Earlier this month, New York Police Officer Miosotis Familia was killed when someone walked up to her vehicle window and shot her.
The shooting of Damond has created a maelstrom of public criticism and political repercussions have been swift. Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau was forced to resign less than a week later. Mayor Betsy Hodges is under fire during this campaign year.
I have a lot of questions myself. Anytime a police officer uses deadly force, there should be a thorough review of the circumstances. If the circumstances rise to the point of criminal intent or neglect, so be it.
However, one politician has already come up with his answer to the problem of officer-involved shootings. In an interview with KMSP, State Rep. Raymond Dehn has proposed that police officers be disarmed. Apparently, it makes sense to him if police officers didn’t have guns handy, fewer people would get shot.
As if to show he’s not without some understanding Rep. Dehn did add: “I’m not saying they don’t have access to that, just like they have access to more lethal weapons in their cars. I would believe they would still have access to their guns in their cars.”
I don’t know what world Rep. Dehn lives in, but if he hasn’t noticed there are a lot of bad people with guns out there. According to a Star Tribune report, there were 37 homicides, 2,274 aggravated assaults and 340 people shot in Minneapolis last year.
The homicide rate in Minneapolis is double that of either Anaheim or Santa Ana.
I’m going to take a wild guess and say the majority of people calling about crimes in progress want their police officers to have a gun when they show up.
When it comes to solutions regarding police use of deadly force, we should always keep in mind we live in a violent society where bad guys are frequently armed and are not reticent to use guns to commit crimes. At this point, having unarmed police is not a sensible option.
Better training, higher standards and body cameras are a good start and should continue. But let’s keep our discussions within the realm of reason and not some fantasy world that only exists in La La Land.
Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.