"Shoot first, ask questions later" used to be a joke, meant to emphasize the idea of getting things done more efficiently by dealing with questions off the cuff. It meant doing something to solve a perceived problem by nipping it in the bud, pushing the button, pulling the trigger. But nowadays it appears that the latter seems to be a new part of how law enforcement deals with citizens, and it's frustrating to watch the consequences.
If you are one of those folks who believe that the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown was justified, take a look at the recent cell phone video of another St. Louis shooting, which occurred this past August 19.
The video is pretty raw and direct. It shows an African-American man, Kajieme Powell, who apparently just stole two cans of soda. In the video, the man paces around until police show up, who then make an attempt to ask the man to put down a small knife, and then proceed to shoot him five to seven times. They then handcuff the dead man and call for backup. The video was brutal to say the least.
What's disturbing is the lack of tact by police in incidences like this. No calls to a supervisor. No tasers to disable the man. No use of alternate means to protect themselves until they can assess the situation. Just draw your gun, say a few words, then pull the trigger.
Shoot first and ask questions later.
In the old days, when a police officer was Barney Fife, who carried a single bullet in his shirt pocket, crime just wasn't a big deal. But today's crime calls for bigger guns and heavy-handed tactics. Crime today involves big money, drugs, carjacking, and assault weapons. But to shoot a guy with a small pocket knife who stole some soda is just over the top wrong. Really. Sure, the officers have a right to go home at night, but at what expense and for how many lives? I have friends in law enforcement who even look at that and say, "Yeah, it might look bad, but it's justifiable." Spoken like true police officers.
So is this the new wild west? Do police have a new rule on their side that allows them to shoot anyone they want to, as long as they think they can justify it? That's what it looks like to me. I just hope the trend isn't an omen of bigger things ahead. Law enforcement has the right to be safe, but they also have the responsibility to deal with situations fairly, and accept when they're wrong.
Because "shoot first and ask questions later" is supposed to be a joke... not an organizational policy.