It is fair to say Beyoncé won the Super Bowl with a political performance we won’t soon forget. She has received praise and criticism for using platform to take a strong pro-black stance. The “Formation” video, released Feb. 6, has been called a visual anthem, with explicit references to hurricane Katrina, all-too-familiar images of police in riot gear, and a plea to “stop shooting us.”
Meanwhile in Texas, the shooting hasn’t stopped.
On Feb. 5, another black man in America was shot and killed. His name was Antronie Scott.
The 36 year-old was gunned down by San Antonio police officer John Lee. According to witness reports, a statement by San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, and audio footage of the shooting itself, Lee fired “almost immediately” after ordering Scott to show his hands, which held nothing deadlier than his cell phone.
“It happened in the blink of an eye,” McManus added.
On Feb. 8, 17 year-old David Joseph was fatally shot by Austin Police Officer Geoffrey Freedman. After ordering Joseph to stop repeatedly, Freeman opened fire within seconds of the confrontation. David Joseph was unarmed and naked.
Another Victim, Another Victim Smear Campaign
The attempt to blame the unarmed black victims for their own executions has become standard fare in these indefensible tragedies, and Antronie Scott is no exception. Headlines focus solely on Scott’s warrants and Lee’s fear, and if we come across an image in the reporting, chances are it’s a mug shot.
When an unarmed Eric Garner was choked to death by the NYPD, the media immediately rolled out his arrest record. When Freddie Gray’s voice box was crushed and his spine severed after a ride in a police van, Baltimore PD insisted it was his own fault. And after a 12 year-old Tamir Rice was gunned down by a Cleveland cop for committing the unpardonable crime of playing with a toy gun, the headline read, “Tamir Rice’s Father Has a History of Domestic Violence.”
San Antonio Has a Use-of-Force Problem
In 2014, off-duty SAPD Officer Robert Encina shot and killed 23 year-old Marquise Jones in the drive-thru of Chacho’s and Chalucci’s. Last August, Bexar County Sheriff’s Deputies Greg Vasquez and Robert Sanchez shot and killed 41 year-old Gilbert Flores. And last Thursday, SAPD Officer John Lee shot and killed Antronie Scott for “spinning around quickly.”
San Antonio is one of only four major American cities where officers are not required to give a verbal warning before firing on civilians. Given the city’s history over the last few years, that policy should be reversed immediately.
Law Enforcement in General Has a Use-of-Force Problem
According to the Police Executive Research Forum, on average law enforcement officers receive 58 hours of firearms training, 47 hours of defensive tactics training, but only eight hours of de-escalation and conflict resolution training, respectively. If our cops spent as much time learning to talk to people as they do learning how to shoot them, perhaps we could escape this tragically vicious circle.
Don’t Tune out Beyoncé or the Black Lives Matter Movement
Incensed by the allusion of “Formation” to the Black Lives Matter movement and the lingering image of the words “stop shooting us” emblazoned on a brick wall, members of the National Sheriff’s Association turned off the show in protest and some are boycotting the star altogether.
Beyoncé’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement is something law enforcement should be engaging with rather than tuning out. Black Lives Matter activists’ demands are sensible reforms with which hardly anyone could disagree: among them, de-escalation, the elimination of the chokehold, and a requirement that officers intervene when their fellows exert excessive force on civilians.
But the first reform being called for is by far the most important: “make life preservation the primary principle shaping police decisions about using force.”
Is that too much to ask?