Police Oversight and Dead Children

Andy LopezYesterday, two sheriff’s deputies killed a 13-year-old kid here in my home town of Santa Rosa. Thus far there aren’t many details of the case. According to the Press Democrat, the kid was walking down the street with what looked like an assault rifle but which was in fact a “replica.” According to the article, “The deputies stopped and told him to put down the weapon and within seconds several shots were fired.” It goes on to say that the boy, Andy Lopez, was hit repeatedly and died on the scene.

I know that a lot of people will wonder why the kid was carrying the fake gun. But I have a problem with this kind of second guessing. Our society is all about guns; men are supposed to like them; boys are supposed to play with fake ones. I wish it weren’t so. But it is wrong for a society to tell a boy in a million ways that guns are cool and then blame him for getting killed.

I’m sure that the deputies feel very bad. It has to be awful. Just the same, I don’t like what I’ve read. They told him to put down the weapon and within seconds they started firing? More information will come out and we’ll see what it all means.

A few weeks ago, I was at a family function and an old family friend was there who just retired from the very same sheriff’s department. He was complaining about recording devices and how administrators were always judging the actions of officers after the fact and how it wasn’t fair. I do get that. On the other hand, this is Santa Rosa, not north Richmond.

Most though, I don’t buy the whole “Monday morning quarterback” complaint. I’ve never had a job where someone above me wasn’t second guessing things I had done under stressful and time sensitive conditions. The big problem with this complaint is that it implies that police work is so much more dangerous than other jobs. It isn’t. What is different is that while fisherman are far more likely to die on the job, police officers are far more likely to kill on the job.

What’s more, police have enormous power that they abuse with abandon. So I think the real complaint about management second guessing them is that they think that no one should have power over them. Because that’s what they’re used to. On the street, no one can even question them. If one does, he risk at least a night in jail.

Meanwhile, in this case, a boy is dead for no good reason. And these things happen all the time. Not far away, a woman was killed by police because she had a vegetable peeler in her hand. Oversight is important. Police officers may think there is too much of it, but they are wrong. A child is dead.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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