Sheriff Ric Bradsaw of Palm Beach County, Florida, sums up the ethic employed by police departments across the country:
“There’s nothing in the rules of engagement that says we have to put our lives in jeopardy to wait to find out what this is to get killed,”
The life of the person on the business end of a police officer’s gun has zero value. It is the kind of view that gives police officers the validation with which to make the worst possible assumptions about suspects as they encounter them, and then act on those assumptions as if they were valid justifications.
The very essence of policing, protecting citizens, demands the opposite of Bradshaw’s statement. The mission of police isn’t to preemptively protect itself from perceived risks. The implied contract between new police officer and the town they’re about to serve is that the officer will lay down his life for the community. Nowhere in that implied contract is there room for what happened during these few seconds of Dontrell Stephens’ life (see video below). He was left paralyzed as a result of this encounter.
It strikes me, a few days after reading a story from a different part of Florida, that riding your bike can land you in trouble with the cops — if you’re black may be a harassment tactic that is routinely employed throughout that state, and perhaps elsewhere, and isn’t confined to Tampa Bay.
If America gets serious about electing real leadership in Congress and the White House, one of its very first acts has to be enacting into law new sets of rules of engagement for police nationwide. Sheriffs like Bradshaw have no business setting policy in the counties they are elected in. Sheriffs like him perpetuate Hollywoodian notions of the Wild West.
Dontrell Stephens’ life should have come first. Stephens’ life matters.
EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Dashcam video shows unarmed man being shot by PBSO deputy | WPTV
Dontrell Stephens had cell phone in his hand
“PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. – Exclusively-obtained dash-cam video shows Dontrell Stephens, 20, talking on a cell phone while riding his bike on a Friday morning in September 2013.” […]
Moments later, Stephens realizes he’s being followed. He pulls over, gets off his bike with a cell phone in his right hand and walks toward the deputy. For approximately four seconds Stephens is out of frame only to be seen again when being shot four times.
Stephens, who is black and has a criminal record for possessing cocaine, is seen running from the bullets then dropping to the ground. […]
Stephens had a cell phone. He didn’t have a gun.
A short time later, an admittedly shaken Deputy Lin is heard talking to another deputy.
“He starts backing away,” Lin explains. “I said, ‘Get on the ground, get on the ground.”
Then, the other deputy is heard saying, “I got your back man. I got your back. Hey, you hear me?”
Deputy Lin responds, “Yeah, I know.” […]
“That day, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw went on TV to defend the shooting.
“Stop what you’re doing and comply with us,” he told reporters. “There’s nothing in the rules of engagement that says we have to put our lives in jeopardy to wait to find out what this is to get killed.””