Commentary on the Kelly Thomas murder case

[warning]Trigger Warning: this post contains descriptions of violence that resulted in death.[/warning]

I am, as I write this, watching the security footage of Kelly Thomas's murder at the hands of several police officers.    This isn't the first time I've heard of this story.  The event happened on July 5, 2011.  This is, however, the first time I've watched this footage.

At 19:31, you can see one of the officers hitting him with a flashlight.  By this point, they've already used a taser on him.  There are several of them holding him down.  You can hear him shouting, "Help me, daddy.  I'm so sorry."

I got this link from Philip DeFranco, near the end of his Tuesday show titled COPS MURDER HOMELESS MAN ON CAMERA.  The section of the video he shows is pretty tame, and Phil warns his viewers about how hard the video is to watch.  If you don't want to watch the tape, I recommend clicking the link in this paragraph and watching Phil's coverage of it.

Two of the six officers involved have been charged with crimes.  I don't know if the other four are going to be punished in any way.

Phil asked, in the same vein as he's asked before, what his viewers think about this kind of violence.  Whether the police officers deserve the charges, or whether the stress of the job justifies this kind of reaction.

I can't imagine a more indefensible position to take than that police should be allowed special leniency, on the basis that their job is stressful.  I don't understand why people make this argument.

The logic seems to go something like this:


How do you think you'd react in this kind of situation?  Do you think you could handle that stress?


No, I probably couldn't.


Then it's not fair to hold the police to a different standard.  They should be treated fairly, and that means treating them just like civilians.

No.  That's not how it works.  If you're a police officer, that means you're not a civilian.  It means you chose to put yourself into a career that you knew has a high risk of violence.  It means you've been through several years of training to prepare you for stress on the job, and it means you've been explicitly taught what's the right and wrong way to deal with aggressive citizens.

We seem to make this allowance for a lot of people in very important jobs.  Politicians, bankers, soldiers, all seem to be allowed clemency from screwups on the basis that their job is hard.

But you wouldn't let it slide if a fire fighter freaked out at work because he wasn't emotionally prepared to run into a burning building.  You wouldn't be okay with it if your surgeon screwed up because he just can't handle seeing a lot of blood.  If it's your job to do something, you are held to a higher standard.

So, yes.  I think all six of those police officers should be fired.  I think they should be sent to jail, for a long time.  And, frankly, I think any cop who complains about that ruling should be investigated, themselves.