Today we are talking about Black Lives Matter and police brutality/excessive force. Some of you may get defensive off the top, and that is fine. I only ask my whole tirade here is read in it’s entirety before anyone tries to jump my shit about what I’ve said. This isn’t meant to be offensive, only to accurately express what my views are as a whole.
With all the posting on my timeline for and against Black Lives Matter, I think a few things need to be said.
Black Lives Matter is a movement about bringing awareness to the world about police violence against the black community. This message is being bastardized by groups of people who either feel that violence is the only solution to resolve this issue (groups who use the BLM movement to justify violence against police) or non-blacks to downplay the growing trend of violence against the black communities. Are there criminals in BLM? Absolutely. Are they all criminals? No. Are the majority of BLM supporters criminals? Not by a long shot.
When I look at the situation as a whole, I try to look at both sides of the debate. Do police have the right to defend themselves against a weapon wielding individual? Yes. There is no issue with a police officer killing an armed individual who is a clear, present, and immediate threat. No rational person would disagree with that.
However, the concept of killing someone without verifying the threat is not acceptable. Police go through a large amount of training to identify threats, just like in the military. Having served in the military, I have an idea of what kind of training law enforcement gets. It was drilled into our heads that shooting a threat required several split-second assessments:
1. Is the individual an immediate threat (pointing a weapon at you or another person)? If the answer is yes, shoot to kill (hostile action). If the answer is no, begin escalation of force as needed, and proceed to number two.
2. Is the person visibly armed? If yes, begin escalation of force to get the person to disarm themselves, move to step 1 if the weapon is drawn (hostile intent). If not, get them to keep their hands visible and away from their pockets and/or waistband. If a weapon is presented, restart number two.
3. Has the person done something to warrant detainment? If no, use METT-TC (Mission, Enemy, Terrain/Weather, Troops/Support Available, Time Available, and Civil Considerations) to decide if this person needs to be temporarily detained for their safety and yours or if you continue the mission. If the answer is yes, use METT-TC for detainment protocols. Use ROE (Rules of Engagement) or RUF (Rules for Use of Force) to aid in the detainment procedures.
I have mentioned escalation of force several times without an explanation, so I will add a link here to help anyone who doesn’t know this process understand what I mean.
Once your assessments, METT-TC, and EoF are properly used, you are most likely clear from criminal charges. Yes, there are justifications for skipping steps in the EoF which I will point back to my three assessment steps.
I hold the police to the same standards I was held to myself while in the military. I was deployed to Iraq (an active war zone) and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina (nearly under martial law, save Louisiana’s Constitution not allowing for actual martial law). At no point did my unit(s) nor I ever engage a threat without following the aforementioned steps.
Being National Guard, we had unit members who were active police officers until they got their deployment orders. These police officers in my units understood not only their training as military, but as police officers and acted in accordance with BOTH sets of standards. This kept everyone in the unit from CID (Criminal Investigation Division) action. What kept my units from arbitrarily killing people, even armed ones?
On to other parts of this discussion. People rioting over the mistreatment of blacks (or any other group) is wrong. I understand the want for change, but violence will not be the answer to this problem. It only exacerbates the problem. BLM was not started as a hate movement, it was started to hold police accountable for their actions. Riots and other acts of violence have given people who do not understand the movement the grounds to call BLM a violent movement. These actions detract from the idea of the movement, and ultimately cause more violence and scorn. It is unacceptable to vandalize and/or destroy things while claiming to want peace and accountability. You must be accountable for your actions, just as police must be accountable for theirs.
I proudly stand for the National Anthem as a former service member. I do not look down on the people like Colin Kaepernick who choose to sit for the National Anthem as a peaceful means to protest social injustices. Under the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, he has the right to sit during the National Anthem as a way to protest. My service in the military was about defending the Constitution, allowing EVERYONE the right to choose their means of peaceful protest.
I also support the rights of people who disagree with his decision to sit during the National Anthem until they start trying to violate Kaepernick’s First Amendment Rights. Your Freedom of Speech does not get to infringe on the Freedom of Speech of another person. Even the KKK under the First Amendment is allowed to say what they will, according to the Supreme Court. I find the KKK to be a vile group of people, and their message to be hateful in every meaning of the word, but they are protected by the Constitution whether I like it or not.
So whether I think Kaepernick is right or wrong, he is well within his rights to protest the way he has. Anyone who tries to deny Kaepernick’s right to sit during the National Anthem is being more unpatriotic and un-American than a man who is exercising his rights because he is not denying anyone else their right to disagree.
I choose to support BLM because, even as a Caucasian male, I see I am treated differently than individuals of different ethnic backgrounds. I see situations like the incident with Charles Kinsey (the behavioral therapist shot while complying with police and attempting to calm an autistic man) as the exact reason BLM exists. An educated black man was attempting to keep a person who does not understand what a gun is from being killed, and was shot for his intervention to save a life.
People can speculate about Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, and the many others who have been killed over the years and try to claim they were “thugs”, but at the end of the day, most of them were proven to be unarmed without question. The fact that they were killed when there was no immediate threat is exactly why BLM exists and has the support of not just black communities, but the support of many different ethnicities.
Cut it however you like, but everyone needs to start being held accountable for their actions. Killing someone is not holding them accountable. Killing someone without absolute justification is murder.
Written By: Guest Blogger Gavin T. Kohnle, a former US Army soldier
This was originally posted on Gavin’s Facebook page and was reposted with his permission
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