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Off Duty Officers Shoot 14-Year Old

September 18, 2007

From the Washington Post:

"It’s not standard procedure for an officer to investigate a burglary
in his own home," Lanier said at the news conference outside police

Last night, a father and a mother lost their 14-year old son…because of a mini-bike? No, I don’t believe this was the cause of death.  The cause of death was guns. The first gun belonging to an off-duty, let me re state that OFF-DUTY police officer.  An off-duty police officer who according to D.C. Police Chief Kathy Lanier was operating outside the standard procedures of the Metropolitan Police Department. The second gun, reportedly, possessed by the 14-year old, now deceased, boy.

We cannot know whether or not the young man would have drawn his gun (as he is reported to have done) on a uniformed officer, but we can speculate that two regular looking "Joe’s" walking up on a 14-year old armed boy could be a formula for a bad outcome.  There is a multiplicity of things to discuss here, but I just want to address two (2).  The accessibility of guns, and the conduct of this "unknown" officer.

There could not be a clearer cases to show the error of this countries gun policies.  This was a 14-year old who was carrying.  Think about that. A 14-year old.  How did this young man gain access to the firearm?  If in fact there was a gun, which is in question since the Washington Post reports no, N-O has been retrieved yet:

"Although police spent hours after the 7:30 p.m. shooting searching the
courtyard where it occurred, Lanier said, the gun that the officers
said the youth used was not recovered. "There was a lot of chaos,"
Lanier said. "The officer was calling for assistance. It is possible
that someone picked that weapon up."

There has to be something done about the propagation of guns into our streets, and I have an idea how to push back.  As a community we need to demand the forensic results produced by our respective police departments whenever there is a gun related death in our neighborhoods.  With the forensics must accompany the vendor who last possessed said firearm.  Why get all that? So that we can file class action law suits against the providers of illegal firearms to our communities. What do we sue them for: Reckless Endangerment, Public Nuisance, Illegal Arms Trafficking!  Whatever it takes to get the guns off the streets.

The guns in our streets are a definite contributor to this tragedy, but a second problem has to be the above the law attitude the two off-duty officers were displaying. They acted like vigilantes.  If I didn’t know better, I would have thought I was reading an issue of the Marvel Comic, Punisher! 

Of course we know the officers are now going to be on "Administrative Leave", but we have got to make some changes in the attitudes that are in our police forces.  What could have been going through the minds of these men to make them think they could operate off-duty, in the way they did in full police regalia?

Who knows. But what we do know is that we have create a change in how the police interact in black communities.  The hyper and in many cases hostile police presence in black communities causes many of our youth to be swept into the system of violence, incarceration and re-arrest that is destroying the lives of so many of our men.  We need to insist that our police departments  put greater emphasis on establishing relationships within the community along with ensuring the accountability of every officer stationed in our neighborhoods. 

What do I mean by accountability?  It means to mandate that every officer be held responsible for the actions he or she commits, that the local precinct in-act true oversight of the officers it has stationed, and in conjunction with community officials ensure that adequate steps are taken to reprove officers who display hostile or unprofessional behavior to members of the community. Otherwise the "above the law" mentality will perpetuate in those who are there to protect and serve.

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