I respect the jury’s decision in finding George Zimmerman not guilty of second degree murder or manslaughter charges in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The fault in this tragedy isn’t with the court case or the verdict. It’s our society that is to blame, with the perceptions that we’ve built and perpetuated about black teens, and the pervasive acceptance of firearms into our everyday lives.
To me the evaluation of responsibility for this child’s death boils down to a simple police standard – the Use of Force Continuum.
I served as a police officer. There is a reason the application process and background checks for police agencies can run as long as a year. Psychological evaluations are part of the package. George Zimmerman had the feel of a holster-sniffer, a cop want-to-be, who probably couldn’t make the cut.
The force continuum is an essential training component for all law enforcement officers, from police, to corrections, down to security guards. It details how much force is justified to use against a resisting subject depending up the level of refusal to cooperate.
For example, if a police officer arrived on scene and there was a complaint about a person disturbing the peace. If this subject was non-compliant to verbal commands from the police officer and was exhibiting passive resistance, then the officer could use soft empty-hand control techniques and access pressure points on this person to gain control of the situation and escort the subject into custody safely if necessary.
What you can’t do is shoot this person.
George Zimmerman instigated a confrontation and escalated it by bringing a firearm on-scene. Trayvon Martin was a 17-year old African-American male, living in a gated community. What threat exactly are we talking about here?
Zimmerman profiled the kid, followed Martin, and while serving as a neighborhood watch volunteer, decided to rattle the boy’s cage because he “looked” like trouble.
I don’t care if Martin whipped Zimmerman’s ass up one block and down the other. A beat down is not lethal force. If Zimmerman, 29, can’t handle a 17-year old, then he shouldn’t be out playing cop and harassing innocent citizens.
Let me put it this way. If a 29-year old male police officer got into the same kind of altercation as Zimmerman did with Martin, and the cop shot and killed an unarmed 17-year old boy – internal affairs would be all up in that officer’s ass over an unlawful shoot.
This is why police carry tools like pepper spray, Tasers, or impact weapons, like a collapsible ASP or PR-24. These are multiple force options available for consideration as a situation escalates without having to use lethal force.
Another classic police training move is to back away and create space between you and a subject, until the scene can be stabilized, but instead Zimmerman “stood his ground,” and Martin is dead.
Again, I don’t fault the jury. The law on the books presented this scenario as possibly a justifiable homicide in theory, but I fail to see how Zimmerman was in fear of imminent death.
This doesn’t pass the smell test.
Part of the problem is Florida, which has one of the most regressive and delusional sets of local, state and federal leaders in America. These are the same toolboxes that believe global warming and climate change are mythical incarnations of scientists, liberals and Democrats. During rainstorms these days there is enough water pooled up at stoplights in Miami to stall a full-sized SUV. That doesn’t bother these leaders, it’s imaginary, and if the city sinks below the ocean, well that was God’s will.
It’s a convenient excuse, I’ll give them that.
Don’t expect sensible laws or justice from this brand of so-called leader. The reason being, these folks represent wealth and entitlement.
Education, money and connections allow these leaders and “their people,” to buy their way out of trouble, whether that be legal or the advent of a natural disaster. They merely dust themselves off and move on to another unsuspecting locale like a plague of locusts.
God and guns is their rallying cry, and the reasoning behind most everything they advocate, but don’t let that fool you. This is about privilege and class warfare. These folks are frightened by the changes in modern society. Gay marriage, alternative lifestyles, immigration reform, affordable health care – anything helping to legitimize or assist marginalized populations of society becomes an instant enemy.
Sadly, no public sit-ins at the Florida governor’s office, or complaints about civil rights violations, will influence these leaders’ attitudes, because they don’t care about those who are not like them. They see their mission as a lonely one, of guarding against popular opinion, but a task left only to them, and they will try to carry out what is best for the few, no matter how draconian.
If low-income individuals of various races have access to sufficient food, housing, childcare, a decent education, and affordable health care, then they could more easily rise above their circumstances and compete against white males. This is the social war being fought in America today, as the right fringe tries to cripple that progressive mobility.
My heart goes out to Trayvon Martin’s family. They have held up admirably under great public scrutiny. I can’t imagine their pain and sense of loss.
There is nothing that will fix Trayvon’s premature departure, but consider this. Late at night, when all is still, and George Zimmerman is left with only his thoughts and the actions he took – I wouldn’t want to be making the argument to the Almighty that I was justified in killing an unarmed teenager.
There is a higher jury yet to rule on this matter.