First, please understand that I support the work of the thousands of police who protect us and do very hard work during very difficult times. But I must enter this discussion about police being allowed to use the “I was afraid for my life” defense. How you could be a policeman and not be afraid for your life now is beyond me? However, perhaps the police who are afraid for their lives so much they have to shoot suspects in the back multiple times, should have not chosen law enforcement as a career.
I do not believe that police should be nonviolent. But I do believe they should be in control of themselves. I was a civil rights worker, I was shot at, I was driven off the road by the Klan, people who were with me were beaten. We had been trained to face any provocation with love – or if we couldn’t reach that height – with nonviolence. We had to have self control. The kids who began sit ins at the lunch counters in North Carolina knew they would be beaten. They had self control. Freedom riders faced being locked inside a burning bus or being beaten. They had self control. Children who marched in the Children’s March in Birmingham faced dogs, water canon and beatings. They had self control. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed he would die at the hands of someone who wanted to stop black equality. He had self control.
If common folks could face life threatening attacks with nonviolence, why can’t the police face life threatening situations – with their tear gas, their tasers, their dogs, their guns – with self control? If fear is something that takes away common sense and self control, perhaps a person with that much fear should not be given tear gas, tasers, dogs or guns. I know, they are under pressure. Well, so were we as the nation watched.