This reflection was originally posted on May 23, 2015.
A reminder that Cleveland’s problems run deeper than Tamir Rice, that Baltimore’s problems run deeper than demonstrations, that Ferguson’s problems run deeper than a single prosecutor, that this country’s problems run deeper than the police and their adjuncts.
Timothy Russell and Malisa Williams were driving in downtown Cleveland when their car likely backfired outside a government building. Police chased them from downtown Cleveland to East Cleveland, a distance of about seven miles or the equivalent of Houston Street to 145th Street. Once Mr. Russell and Ms. Williams were cornered in a middle school parking lot, police fired 137 shots at their car. They were later found to have been unarmed.
A judge has now ruled that an officer who jumped on the hood of the car and fired the last fifteen of those 137 shots (in addition to 28 others earlier) was constitutionally justified in doing so as “it was not yet clear that any threat” had subsided. But why are we operating on the fringes of constitutional conduct in the first place? “Constitutionally permissible”, while a standard the government and the police do not even meet with regularity, should not be the endgame. When the police can constitutionally choose to not treat people with dignity, when the institutional arms of “law and order” can choose to wheel and deal their way out of accountability, when they can rely on blind allegiance from those who cannot see that they are the only ones being protected, more is necessary.
We are not there yet. But we must hold ourselves to that standard to get there. We can and must demand more.