It is not just ice cream melting off cones in the 100-plus degrees heat of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The reactions of local police chiefs to two recent high profile incidents of apparent police brutality and unjustified killing in the metroplex of around seven million people give hope that police invincibility for destructive and wrongful conduct is melting away as well.
We have heard the story many times. A cop assaults or kills an individual. The police leadership, as well as police union and government officials, immediately line up expressing great deference for the cop’s action, while painting the injured or killed individual in the worst possible light. The cop, at most, is put on desk duty or on paid leave for a while. Even if evidence stacks up that the cop behaved wrongly, the local prosecutor decides not to seek an indictment of the cop or goes through a prosecutor-orchestrated grand jury circus designed to ensure no indictment is issued. Much later, the harmed individual or the family of the deceased may be able to settle for some monetary compensation, often with a stipulation of keeping quiet about the matter.
Police invincibility is real and powerful. But, with the increased recognition among the public that police have become a great danger to the safety police are supposedly charged with protecting, this invincibility is melting away here and there.
Two recent examples from the metroplex cities of Arlington and McKinney are illustrative.
The latest sign of the melting is the firing Tuesday of Arlington, Texas cop Brad Miller who is alleged to have shot dead Christian Taylor at a local automobile dealership at around 1:00 a.m. on Friday. While the standard cop-protecting narrative had started to run, it was cut short Tuesday when Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson announced Miller’s firing for actions related to the shooting. Patrick McGee and Manny Fernandez explain in the New York Times:
'Based on a preponderance of evidence available to me and facts revealed by the investigative team,' Chief Johnson said, 'I have decided to terminate Officer Miller’s employment with the Arlington Police Department for exercising poor judgment.'In June, McKinney, Texas cop Eric Casebolt resigned four days after being caught on video in what appeared to many people, including Ron Paul Institute Advisory Board Member Andrew Napolitano, to be an illegal assault at a local pool party. And Casebolt may have resigned just moments before he would have otherwise been fired. As in Arlington, the official narrative in McKinney abruptly turned around as the facts came out and public interest grew. Sarah Mervosh relates the narrative transition in the Dallas Morning News:
The chief’s announcement represented a shift in the official police narrative of the events leading up to the shooting. Previously, Chief Johnson told reporters that Officer Miller and his training officer had a confrontation with Mr. Taylor inside the dealership as they tried to arrest him, and that led Officer Miller to fire his weapon. The chief had declined to describe that event, explaining that investigators had not determined 'the nature of the confrontation.'
But in Tuesday’s news conference, Chief Johnson offered a detailed account of the confrontation, saying that Mr. Taylor never made physical contact with any of the officers at the scene and indicating that Officer Miller’s own actions had escalated the confrontation.
The chief also said that the officers had said they saw a bulge in Mr. Taylor’s pocket. It turned out to be a wallet and a cellphone. 'It is reasonable that officers were concerned that a weapon may be present,' Chief Johnson said. 'This further underscores the questionable nature of Officer Miller’s decision of entering the building alone and without an arrest plan.'
The officer’s terse, two-word resignation did not include an apology or acknowledgment of wrongdoing, said McKinney Police Chief Greg Conley, who on Tuesday condemned Casebolt’s actions as 'indefensible' and 'out of control.'These relatively prompt decisions of two police chiefs to hold cops accountable for acts that brought pain and death to the local communities offer some reason for hope that the old narrative that ensures police invincibility and stands in the way of justice may be melting away — at least in this corner of America. Yet, melting requires heat, and, in this case, that heat must come from public pressure. It is notable that in both the Arlington and McKinney instances the cops’ actions had been under widespread public examination. Such public scrutiny of police conduct is likely critical for putting to rest once and for all the old narrative that encourages police abuses and then sweeps those abuses under the rug.
The chief distanced himself from his former employee on the same day his department dropped charges against the sole person arrested at the scene, signaling a swift shift in police’s handling of the video-recorded encounter that went viral.
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