What Charles Kinsey Means to the Police Debate

When I saw the case of Charles Kinsey, I was immediately reminded of a friend who has an adult brother not unlike the patient Kinsey was trying to help. As someone with several police officers in her family tree, the response from the officer who shot him was infuriating.

“I don’t know.”


The problem goes far beyond that officer, and includes practically every choice made by all the responding officers. Yes, it is understandable that they would be concerned about an ambush, given the attacks on officers lately. That begs the question why no one thought about the possibility of checking out the scene from a distance, perhaps by having an officer or two take a position on a roof. Remember, the call was about a possibly suicidal person in the open on the street, not someone acting in a menacing or dangerous manner toward others.

If they had done some kind of observation from a distance, perhaps they wouldn’t have chosen to go in so heavily armed.

If someone had actually listened to Kinsey, perhaps most of the officers would have lowered their weapons. Maybe the situation would have been resolved without bloodshed.

If someone had called in to dispatch, and requested an ambulance to be on standby at a safe distance, perhaps Kinsey wouldn’t have been left bleeding, face down on the street.

If someone working with the officer who shot Kinsey is brutally honest, we might find out that this situation was predictable. Maybe the officer is too young. Maybe the officer has shown signs of being too skittish in high pressure situations. I’m not leaping to racism on this, because there are so many other reasons that could apply here. Honestly, the “I don’t know” reply the officer allegedly gave to Kinsey implies inexperience more than racial malice.

No matter what, this case should be opening conversations about how police departments respond to calls, standing plans that they have for situations when they draw weapons which should include reducing response times of emergency medical personnel, and ongoing screening processes that should be in place to hopefully weed out officers who really aren’t cut out to be on the street for whatever reason. This was not a situation with a criminal in the street. Kinsey was simply trying to do his job, and protect an autistic man. Bluntly, the only thing he was guilty of was being on the street while black. There is no arguing that point, and while it might indicate racism among responding officers, that is a rush to judgement because of the recent violence against officers across the country.

We need to have meaningful discussions about this case, because of who was involved.

As for my friend, he’s already indicated that he fears for the safety of his brother. He is afraid of what would happen to him if the police came across him, and were unaware of his condition. Yes, that also means we’re doing it wrong.

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