"The traumatic consequences of being shot by an officer of the law along with possible legal consequences and a baseline stigma against people labeled..."
--Statement released by "supporters" of Charles Thomas, a University of Chicago student who was shot by police who were defending themselves as the fourth-year student rushed them, brandishing an iron tent stake.
And so it starts. Why did the cop have to shoot? Demands are made for (yet another) review of use-of-force policies by police who face a split second decision about defending their own lives.. Concerned faculty join in, not wanting to be left behind in another rush to judgment. "Supporters" release a statement sounding like it was drafted by a lawyer, seemingly as a forewarning of a lawsuit.
I'll stop right here to say that mental ill-health is horrible, as debilitating and painful as some of the physical ills that get more attention. Thomas should get all the help he needs. The mental health stigma long ago should have been erased from our consciousness. More resources are needed to identify and treat people suffering from a mental illness. My sympathy is with Thomas' family who, but their accounts, were completely unaware that he was about to explode. I want to make that clear from the top because by rising to the defense of the cop I will be accused, per the progressive shaming playbook, of insensitivity and heartlessness.
So, here are a few questions that need to be answered before another protest march is scheduled, anti-cop seminars are conducted and the shouting begins.
Thomas was rushing the police with a lethal weapon. As he was closing in, he was accelerating his attack. Should they have asked their assailant to take a "time out" so they could determine his state of mind? Should they have asked the assailant if he was being properly medicated? Should they have consulted with an expert (there are so many) on how police should be kinder and gentler before they protect their own lives.
"Split-second decision" is a cliche, but it's nonetheless the reality facing police. A cop has to decide, much faster than this sentence can be read, whether he should risk serious harm, or think, "Oh, boy, if I shoot, what will happen? All those flying accusations, unfair stereotypes, review boards, discharge hearings, public shunning..." Headlines like "Shooting of University of Chicago student raises questions over use of force by campus police". And demands are heard to disarm police.
Thomas will get his day in court. The officer who fired the shot and the "system" already have been found guilty in some corners.