“As long as I had my hands up, they’re not going to shoot me. This is what I was thinking. They’re not going to shoot me. Wow, was I wrong.”
-Charles Kinsey, Behavioral Health Therapist (from his hospital bed where he was recovering from a gunshot wound to his leg)
“’Sir, why did you shoot me?’ Kinsey recalled asking the officer. ‘He said, ‘I don’t know.’”
“Our officers responded to the scene with that threat in mind. I want to make it clear that: There was no gun recovered.”
-Gary Eugene, North Miami Police Dept. Police Chief
Dear Dr. Kane:
Being arrested and harassed by the police has left me very distrustful of law enforcement.
I was pulled over recently in Gridley. As the officer got out of his car, my thoughts raced: Did I log out at work? Did I put my appointment in my calendar at the office so that my team will know where I was headed? I am in the middle of nowhere. Who will look for me if something happens?
I read your blog The Blues All Round: How We Heal recently, and I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about it. I think that the black man’s experience with the police has left us with a deep, emotional trauma. Is there such a thing as genetic PTSD?
-Alert & Alone, occupation mental health therapist.
P.S: I live in Oroville, CA., a small town. Amazon hired more people last year in Seattle than populates my entire town.
My Dear Readers,
If you can, imagine that what happened to Charles Kinsey happened to you, and was replayed constantly in your mind, never to be forgotten. What would you see?
- A black man lying on the ground with his arms up and his hand, palms open, pleading to the officer not to shoot him
- Despite his pleadings and no sign of a weapon, he is shot in the leg anyway
- After the shooting, he is handcuffed, bleeding from his injury for 20 minutes while waiting for EMTs to arrive
- When he questions the officer as to why he shot him, the officer replies “I don’t know.”
The incident is being investigated by local, state and federal authorities. The country is in uproar. There are demands from society that the police officer be held accountable, and indeed, during all of this, the police officer involved has been placed on administrative leave.
Following the shooting in North Miami, a video of police misconduct towards a black female motorist in Austin, Texas surfaced. The video depicted the black motorist being body slammed into the concrete by the police officer, following a traffic stop for driving 15 mph over the speed limit.
The incident is being investigated by local, state and federal authorities. The country is in uproar. There are demands from society that the police officer be held accountable, and indeed, that officer is now receiving “supervisory counseling.”
These incidents are not new, but the advent of technology and the ability to quickly capture and share video evidence of them results in these images being constantly imprinted in the hearts and minds of those who witness these scenes in the media. The recent incidents of police brutality against African-Americans and the shootings of police officers across the country have left, at the minimum, two communities, African-Americans and law enforcement, in positions of suspicion, tension, hyper-vigilance and hyper-alertness.
In the Austin TX incident, a white police officer is videotaped telling the handcuffed teacher that:
“Police officers are wary of blacks because of their violent tendencies, and intimidating appearances.”
The officer goes further by adding,
“Ninety-nine percent of the time…it is the black community being violent. That’s why a lot of white people are afraid… And I don’t blame them.”
In response, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo stated he found the video to be “disturbing.” He added,
“For those that think life is perfect for people of color, I want you to listen to that conversation and tell me we don’t have issues of social issues in this nation. Issues of bias. Issues of racism. Issues of people being looked at different because of their color.”
Racially influenced killings of blacks and police officers have created a society that is, with good reason, fearful of racial war and that wants the violence to stop. This alarmed society wants police officers held accountable for bad conduct or negligent actions, but this is the same society that refuses to look at itself and take responsibility for the structural racism that has infected all levels of institutions and core values throughout this nation.
How can changes in societal attitudes impact the actions of law enforcement and its policies and procedures?
Utilizing the theoretical concept of RACE (responsibility, accountability, consequences and empowerment)
- Responsibility– Cease blaming the police for taking actions that are being called upon by the suspicious and fearful society. Understand the police are only supporting the biases; projections of suspicions/ fears and hate that are infected in the society they are sworn to protect and serve.
- Accountability– Cease assuming that punishing individual acts of police misconduct will resolve the national problem of police misconduct. Understand that society as a whole and not just the individual police officer must want to hold themselves accountable not only for change, but more importantly, for the transformation of policing in communities of color.
- Consequences– Cease viewing this as punishment but rather as reactions or responses for actions taken (or not taken). Understand that society as a whole and the individual can benefit more from taking action, which is proactive and reflective of response rather than working from reactions based on fear and suspicion.
- Empowerment- Cease living in fear. Understand fear is a necessary emotion. Society must want to work towards living with the fear and not as it currently is now, living in fear (and suspicion) of others.
As I write here, I am fully aware that what happened to Charles Kinsey could very well have happened to me.
Charles Kinsey is a behavioral therapist. He was attempting to calm an autistic patient when he was shot. Fear of Kinsey’s blackness and the perception that police officer had based on that blackness was the basis that led to his shooting. His hands were up in a position of surrender. He was never a threat…And still he was shot.
Is there such a thing as genetic PTSD?
No. However there is ingrained fear as one lives, waiting alertly and vigilant for the negative and possible life ending act to happen. As black adults we do this. The shooting into the vehicle of Philando Castile by a police officer with a four-year-old child in the back seat weighs heavily on my heart. It is evident that our children and adolescents must are now forced to endure the same.
John Rivera, president, Miami-Dade County Police Benevolent Association is correct when he made the following assessment involving the North Miami police officer,
“Sometimes police officers make mistakes. They are not computers. They are not robots. They are God’s creation.”
Ms. Breaion King, the 26-year old black teacher in Austin who was body slammed into the concrete by the police officer stated:
“I have become fearful to live my life. I would rather stay at home. I’ve become fearful of the people who are supposed to protect and take care of me.”
A fine point that is often forgotten is that the black citizens who the police are sworn to protect and serve are God’s creation as well.
Until the next crossroads… the journey continues.