Opinion | Arrest warrants are not death warrants

The past of a police shooting’s victim does not matter – they are still extrajudicially killed.


Katie Goodale

A young woman draws a portrait of George Floyd during chalk the walk outside of the Coralville Police Department on Monday, June 22, 2020.

Peyton Downing, Opinions Editor

Yet another Black man has been shot by police in broad daylight — 29-year-old Jacob Blake of Kenosha, Wisconsin — and yet again, people are defending police action.

While there are far more substantive recitations on what happened, this is the short of it: the police were called to a domestic dispute and, upon arriving, found Jacob Blake attempting to resolve the situation himself.

The video captured by bystanders shows the police not attempting to stop Blake at all as he walked away from the home, opting to instead follow him with guns drawn and shouting at him. They wait until he opens his SUV door, at which point an officer grabs him by his tank top and fires seven shots into his back.

Blake’s past does not matter. His disobedience of the police does not matter. What matters is that a man was shot seven times without justification.

Disobedience should not be a death warrant. Criminal backgrounds should not be a death warrant. But there seems to be a great amount of disagreement with that statement.

Alt-right conspirator and “journalist” Andy Ngo took to Twitter to display the various misdeeds of Jacob Blake’s past, including “assaulting police, resisting arrest, domestic abuse, a felony sex crime & more,” despite the fact that his source does not name assault or resisting arrest as a part of Blake’s arrest warrant.

This isn’t the first-time police brutality has been deemed as justified.

Candace Owens, a popular conservative commentator, went on a Facebook livestream to detail all of George Floyd’s criminal past.

“You would be hard-pressed to find, you know, a Jewish person that’s been five stints in prison that commits a crime and dies while committing a crime and that the Jewish people champion and demand justice for,” she said in the stream.

Ben Shapiro, the “cool kid’s philosopher,” has defended the killings of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, both of them being Black men extra-judicially killed. Michael Brown for his part being a “thug” and “criminal” and referring to Martin as “Saint Martin of the Blessed Hoodie.”

Every single time there is a police shooting, there will be people who defend police action no matter how blatant the abuse of power is.

Why are police held to such low standards of accountability? Is it because they’re in a dangerous profession with a high risk of death?

Because that’s not the case: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, police officers aren’t even in the top 10 professions with work-related deaths.

The police are given far too much leeway when it comes to the power of life and death. Their authority to take the lives of people is far too great.

Nearly 1000 people have been shot by police annually since 2015. Despite these numbers, only 98 non-federal police officers have been arrested due to on-duty shootings since 2005 with only 35 convictions, according to NBC News.

It does not matter if someone is a rapist, or a pedophile, or if they commit any other heinous crime. They are still individuals with a right to life guaranteed by our constitution.

The police motto I grew up hearing was “protect and serve.” But when police shirk their responsibilities and unload round after round into the back of someone who was attempting to break up a domestic dispute and then walk away, who are they protecting? Who are they serving?

This is why Black Lives Matter protests go on across the country. Not because of bizarre conspiracies or the martyring of “criminals,” but because people are dying at the hands of those meant to protect us.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.