When a naked intruder broke into the Aurora, Colorado home of Richard Black in the middle of the night , the intruder began violently attacking Black’s 11-year-old grandson.
Black quickly armed himself with a gun, and shot the intruder dead, possibly saving the life of his grandson, who was hospitalized after the attack.
And then the Aurora Police Department showed up and shot Black dead.
The police claim they told Black — a Purple-Heart recipient and war veteran who apparently has suffered hearing loss — to drop his gun. This, they tell us, justified the shooting.
The City of Aurora has so far refused to release any audio or video associated with the shooting, but if the Police Department’s story is to believed, Black was shot dead by a police officer who was already under investigation for another shooting. The officer, of course, remained on duty with pay.
In a situation like this — which admittedly likely involved a truly chaotic scene — defenders of government police will claim that it’s was all just a misunderstanding and ask “what should have been done differently?”
The police and their defenders only ask this question rhetorically, though. They already know the answer. The answer, for them, is that nothing could be done differently. Everything’s fine.
It’s the usual defense: it was a stressful situation and the police had to make “split second decisions.”
For people who actually care about the rights of taxpayers to not be shot by police in their own homes, though, this answer isn’t good enough. The answer is not “nothing.” The answer is “how can police be made to face real costs when they fail to act competently.”
But what incentive to police have to answer this question? There is very little incentive, since the police are unlikely to bear any cost for what was, at best, a poorly executed response to a call about a home invasion. Instead, one department of the city (i.e., the District Attorney’s office) will investigate another department. The city will likely determine that “procedures were followed” and that will be the end of it.
There will be no true incentive to take a hard look at procedures or at the sort of personnel the Department hires. After all, as a government-monopoly agency, the Police Department doesn’t have to worry about losing customers or being subject to prosecution by a third party. Moreover, even if the city is eventually found guilty of some impropriety in a civil suit, it will be the taxpayers who will foot the bill for any compensatory damages. The police officers involved are unlikely to face any sort of penalty. No Police personnel will face any threat to their generous pensions or their secure and well-salaried jobs.
A Big Double Standard
Even worse is the fact that there is no penalty for accidental shootings when committed by police. But accidents can lead to hard prison time for private citizens when the situation is reversed.
Consider for example, the case of Tyler Harrell. As Tho Bishop reports, when police broke into Harrell’s house in the middle of the night — with no evidence of wrongdoing by Harrell other than a social media post and an anonymous complaint — Harrell defended himself from the unidentified invaders by non-fatally shooting one of the SWAT team members in the leg.
But when a police officer is shot accidentally, things are very different. Harrell has been sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Harrell, of course, also had to make a “split-second decision” when people were breaking into his home in the middle of the night. When police officers make mistakes, though, it’s all just unavoidable. “‘Heroes’ make mistakes, after all, and there’s no reason to change anything. That’s just the way things are.” If a private citizens makes a similar mistake? Well, then a lengthy prison sentence is in order.
And why should the police change anything? Thanks to various immunity laws, and the fact they enjoy a taxpayer funded monopoly, they have no reason to be responsive to the taxpayers’ needs or wants. Indeed, should the taxpayers question anything, they’re told to be quiet and defer to “the experts.”
But if calling 911 to report a home intruder leads to being gunned down by police, we can simply hold up this case as just the latest example of how the public’s so-called “social contract” with the state and its police agents isn’t working.
By Ryan McMaken Reproduced with permission. Original can be viewed here. Mises Wire articles are published under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.