Monday, May 19, 2008

Thank you, officer

It's as predictable as the sun rising every morning. Police shoot some low-life scumbag, and it's the officers, not the criminal, who catch all the flak. That was the case again recently when Pittsburgh police officers shot and killed 19-year-old Justin Jackson in a case that got even more media play because Jackson fatally shot a city police dog. Jackson was black, and the officer who fatally shot him, I believe, is white. Let the whining and wailing begin. As it did. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the source of my information for this posting, at Jackson's funeral, Bishop Otis L. Carswell said, "We don't feel like this was a justified shooting." Let's recap the situation for the good bishop's benefit. We have a 19-year-old guy who was housed in juvenile custody for the better part of his high school years and was convicted just last year for assaulting a neighbor. The juvenile charges included aggravated assault and weapons possession when he was only 14. Shortly after he got out of juvenile custody for those crimes, he committed a robbery and was sent back to detention. He was released in June 2006, and less than a year later, he's attacking a neighhbor. Then, a few days ago, he pulls a stolen .357 Magnum on police officers and opens fire, killing a police dog in the process. But in Bishop Carswell's opinion, that was no reason for officers to fire at Jackson. Bullcrap. He got what was coming to him. Does Bishop Carswell think the police officers should have waited until they were actually hit by Jackson's gunfire before they responded? I feel sorry for Jackson's family members, but they sound equally ridiculous in their comments about the shooting. First, they expressed doubt that Jackson was carrying a gun (Yeah, right) and suggested that perhaps police officers shot both Jackson and the police dog. Forensic tests proved that last claim wrong. And then, family members said that even if Jackson had been carrying a gun, it didn't give police the right to fatally shoot him. Sure. The police officers should have thought, "Let's just wing him and hope that he stops firing at us." I'm still waiting for the first person connected with Jackson to say, "You know what? When you open fire on a police officer, you get what you're asking for." Family members also trotted out the old chestnut that Jackson was "trying to turn his life around." Guess what? People who are trying to turn their lives around don't carry stolen .357 Magnums and try to shoot police officers. And I would be willing to guess, based on Jackson's track record and the fact that he was packing a weapon, that it was just a matter of time before he killed someone. The person I feel sorry for in this whole mess is the policeman who fired the fatal shots. He's the one who has to live with the knowledge that he took another human life. I hope he realizes that he did what he had to do, and I just want to thank the officer for making it safer for me to walk the streets the next time I'm in Pittsburgh.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen, brother

May 19, 2008 at 3:11 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

I'm always amazed at the family loyalty that wells up from seemingly nowhere after one of these thugs is shot and/or killed. They all feign obliviousness to the crimes their relatives have committed. Even if they wanted to believe that their precious progeny didn't commit any crimes, the police record and jail time served prove otherwise. My question is, if these people cared so damn much, where were they when these animals were being raised without rules or regard for life?

I've always maintained that if a criminal is willing to shoot a cop, whether to wound or to kill, then that criminal crosses a critical line - the line that separates them from civilized society. If police are the last line of defense, and the criminal has no fear of this line of defense or the consequences resulting from killing a cop, then he or she must be taken out of commission. Don't put them in jail. You can't rehabilitate them. They've proven that nothing matters to them - rules, authority, order, civil behavior mean nothing. Shoot them, electrocute them, gas them, hang them...just get them out of commission. I guarantee they'll never commit another crime.

I too feel sorry for the cop who had to do this unpleasant duty. And I applaud him too. Every city needs more of these heroes.

May 19, 2008 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Priguy and Brant... I agree with everything that both of you have said. I would, however, be slower to criticize the family of the dead man. Even if they were horrible parents (and obviously, they weren't that good), their son/relative is dead. No matter how guilty and deserving of the consequences, I am sure that their rantings are partially a product of grief. The thing that irks me, though, is the fact that they are given a stage literally within 24 hours of the shooting. "Community response" doesn't really enrich the news aspect of story, and I found it inappropriate to interview family members so soon after the events. I can't imagine what kind of psyco-babble would come out of my mouth had it been my son. It was relatively obvious what transpired... but if our news outlets had waited until after the forensics had come back on the gun that the perpetrator was holding as well as the bullet that killed the dog, it may have afforded the friends and relatives of the deceased a chance to acknowledge the unfortunate decisions that he had made and would have put an ounce of grace into an otherwise grievous situation for all involved... from the dead k-9, to the officer who was forced to take a life, to the dead man who strayed so far from the path of civility. I imagine that some of that press coverage fueled the community's desire to get on the "anti-cop" bandwagon and denounce the heroic officers that try to keep the area safe. Sometimes the immediate, visceral response that the news media is always chasing is not the wisest angle that can be applied to an otherwise cut and dry situation.


May 19, 2008 at 8:30 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Those are good points, and I agree that the family was certainly under duress resulting from a personal nightmare scenario.

May 19, 2008 at 9:20 PM  
Blogger Roger said...

This another of those "no win" situations. Clearly, the loss of life of the 19 year old is a no-win. The parents have lost a son, another no-win. The police officers who were in the chase had to take action, with dire consequences, another no-win. And, of course, the dog is dead, another no-win.

I don't consider taking one more criminal off the streets a winner either. With the criminal history, and with his behavior (running from police, carrying a stolen gun, shooting at the police -- maybe only the dog, not sure), one would have doubts about him being an upstanding citizen someday. However, no matter all that baggage, perhaps, just perhaps, there was some hope for this young man.

I have to agree with the criticism of the remarks at the funeral. Those kind of remarks, and those specifically pointed to KDKA and Honsberger, were out of line in the funeral message. The first thing I though about was Jeremiah Wright -- some of the same kind of language, and same ideas being expressed. Did his remarks help heal a racial division, or make it deeper? I think the latter, sorry to say. Perhaps his intent was to help comfort the family. But, was this the place to do that? No. He just seemed to want to use the very public platform to make his points, knowing they would be spread in the media.

Regrettably, this will not be the last of these incidents.

May 19, 2008 at 10:23 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

One of the problems with the narcissistic, look-at-me culture we live in is that people seem to think that just because there's a camera and a microphone in their faces means they have to talk into them. They don't. What happened to privacy? I guess the family of this individual wanted "his story to be heard," to try to make him look at least a little bit human in those last desperate moments. I can't imagine the agony of losing a son like that, but I'm not entirely sure I would feel compelled to talk to the media. I may sound like a callous prick sometimes, but I do have sympathy for this family.

I have to disagree with Roger, though, because I really doubt that this young man had any future outside of a jail cell. When a doctor finds a cancerous tumor, he doesn't surround it with a hundred other cancerous tumors and hope that it gets better and becomes healthy cells again. He removes it, and the threat from the tumor is gone.

Only when we stop coddling these villains will we make any inroads into reducing crime.

May 20, 2008 at 4:49 AM  
Blogger Roger said...

priguy, I'm not sure the need to get before the camera is best characterized by narcissism. To be sure there is plenty of narcissism spread thick in our culture. But, I think revenge more the trigger that prompts those kinds of replies. The parents' unwillingness to accept anything, rather start putting blame on the police marked their response. They wanted revenge on the officers, and said as much, "... we will press charges," or similar words.

The often used phrase during these events is "we want justice." However, usually the bottom line intent is getting revenge. The term "justice" implies some standard has been violated. Somebody believes that they have been wronged. The problem is that each person can have their standard. What is wrong in some eyes, is right, or tolerated, in the eyes of another. When the phrase "we want justice," they are really meaning they believe they have been wronged on their terms, on their basis of right and wrong. In these kinds of cases, the standard is often so low that most observers just don't believe them. At the heart of the matter, they want somebody else to pay, that is, to get revenge for the actions against somebody they care about.

May 20, 2008 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

Roger, you're 100% correct. The term "justice" is relative to which side of the bullet you're on, I guess.

I live in Richmond which has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the country, and weekly we are subjected to these crime-scene interviews when emotions run high and vengeful anger is simmering just behind the tears. If I'm totally honest with myself, if I were in the same set of circumstances, I would very likely say the same things. However, I still maintain my views on imprisonment and stiff, unyielding penalties for convicted criminals.

It's always good to read your perspective, Roger.

May 20, 2008 at 3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is it that the media has such a hard time understanding that a family might not want a reporter pounding on a door or sticking a camera into a survivor's face when there has been an incident such as this, or a tragic death of any kind. I understand that in some cases, the media wants to give the family a chance to respond, to tell "their side of the story." But sometimes common sense should tell the media to stay the hell away.

Some argument can be made that in such a public incident, the family forfeits any right to privacy, although I'm not sure I agree. If my son shoots someone, I do not want anyone asking for my reaction hours later. If and when I want to give a reaction, I will seek out the media.

I've seen too many reporters asking stupid questions. The worst incident that comes to mind locally is long ago, when a woman was raped and killed in a Pittsburgh park while jogging, a reporter from WPXI thrust his microphone into her mother's face and asked, "Was she the type of girl this would happen to?" What was her mnother supposed to say? "Oh, yes, she wore a sign on her back that said, 'Please rape and kill me!' " To her credit, the mother didn't thrash the reporter.

I think the media would be wiser and the puiblic better served if the media addressed the situation with some sense of decency instead of trying to be the first newsie on the block to show up on the family's front porch.

Commentators are another whole ball o' wax. They get paid to irritate. But just because it's a free country doesn't mean any commentator should go around unmuzzled in all cases. Who will interview his family when he's shot?

May 20, 2008 at 4:10 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

I worked for a PR agency right out of college, and the president of the agency was a former beat reporter for a television station in North Carolina. He told me that he was strongly urged to be the first on the scene and the first to get something, anything, on camera.

One day, he was sent to the scene of the drug-related murder of a teenage boy. It happened very close to the boy's house, and the mother was right at the scene when this reporter arrived. He said, "I just couldn't do it. I just couldn't get in that poor, grieving woman's face to get some lame quote." He turned in his resignation that day and never looked back.

That was 11 years ago, right when the 24-hour news networks began saturation coverage of everything. I can't imagine what it's like now, with 24 hours to fill and millions of dollars in equipment to justify to the shareholders.

I agree with anonymous at the end...if this were to happen to me, I would contact the media if I want to talk. And that's it.

May 21, 2008 at 7:40 AM  

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