By Daniel Payne
It is a genuinely open question whether an American police officer can do almost anything without suffering criminal consequences. Americans have a profoundly stupid and misguided deferential attitude toward law enforcement, one which presumes that police officers—fallible, often incompetent, and frequently temperamental human beings—are worthy of some sort of extra-special benefit of the doubt about their professional behavior. American citizens have no problem suing doctors for their back molars on the flimsiest of pretexts, but we generally cannot bring ourselves to convict police officers for demonstrably inept and reckless behavior that often costs people their lives.
That is the lesson we learn, yet again, in the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez, a St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer who last year shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop. At face value the incident is a perfect storm of a tragedy. Yanez thought Castile might have been a robbery suspect; Castile was carrying a pistol (for which he had a valid permit), and informed Yanez of this as he reached for his license. Yanez, allegedly believing that Castile was reaching for his declared firearm, consequently opened fire.
You can sort of understand Yanez’s hasty reaction—if you don’t think about it too much. Upon reflection …read more