On Wednesday, it felt like a case of deja vu. A grand jury returned a decision not to indict a white police officer in the killing of an unarmed black man. This time, though, the incident happened in New York City, was filmed for the world to see, and even inspired many conservatives to come to the victim’s defense. The lack of indictment in the so-called “chokehold death” of Eric Garner inspired (largely) peaceful protests, and it naturally inspired several politicians to take to their podiums.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said the decision made for a “very emotional day for our city. It’s a very painful day for so many New Yorkers.” President Obama, echoing his statements on Ferguson, said “it is incumbent on all of us as Americans, regardless of race, region, faith, that we recognize this as an American problem and not just a black problem or a brown problem or a native American problem.”
Personal Safety Starts With the Person
While the case has – perhaps rightfully – inspired some outrage, I think it represents an opportunity to make one thing perfectly clear: when you resist arrest, you invite violence. When you invite violence, bad things can happen. That’s not a statement on whether the NYC officers used excessive force, whether such a response is called for over such a minor crime, or whether there is racism in the justice system. It’s just a fact that apparently needs to be disseminated to the public.
Liberals don’t want to hear this kind of message, of course. It falls under the “victim blaming” umbrella. But this has nothing to do with “blaming” anyone. It has to do with protecting lives, which is something all of these blowhards ostensibly are in favor of. If Michael Brown had not decided to attack Officer Darren Wilson, he would be alive. If Eric Garner had decided to go peacefully into handcuffs (which, having been arrested 31 times before, he should have been familiar with), he too would be alive today. If that’s the goal – to keep police officers from killing civilians – then maybe we should look at both sides of the coin.
There’s no excuse for police brutality, and I’ll never defend a cop who uses excessive force to bring down a suspect. But we need to make it clear to citizens – black, white, and other – that resisting arrest is a great way to get seriously injured or killed. Police officers are put in life-or-death situations regularly. When they decide to put you in cuffs – and it doesn’t matter if the arrest is justified or not – they have the right to use whatever force is necessary to make sure you comply.
Do we need to follow through on police reform? Sure. But there’s also room for a certain amount of citizen reform. This is a two-way street, and too many of the loudest voices over the last few months don’t see the other side of the story.