If you’re wondering why police officers feel like they can shoot down unarmed people and feel like it was necessary, the rulings in these Supreme Court may have the answers.
On a surface level, homicide seems to be very justified in the eyes of many law enforcement officials. You can get strangled for selling loose cigarettes outside of a convenience store like Eric Garner and you can get shot while selling CDs in front of a gas station like Alton Sterling. While police officers harming and killing Black people is a trend, an even bigger trend is them getting off for it, that’s if they get charged to begin with.
While the conversation about police brutality has often ended with people feeling that “police are protected by the badge” or that “good” cops never speak out against the bad cops, it’s not just the badge and the blue uniform that covers things up. It goes as high as the Supreme Court.
We can’t assume that every cop that has killed an unarmed Black person has actually read about the judgements in these cases and can quote them after firing their pistols. But, it’s not a reach to assume that the lawyers that protect them know them like the backs of their hands.
Two cases in particular have pretty much set the stage for police shootings to continue to happen.
The first, Tennessee vs. Garner ruled:
After a police officer has given notice of an intent to arrest a criminal suspect, the suspect flees or forcibly resists, “the officer may use all the necessary means to effect the arrest.”
This ruling was reached in a case where two Memphis police offers shot a 15-year old who was fleeing from a house that just robbed. He was running away from the cops with no weapon, just the purse and $10 that he found. The Supreme Court ruled that since Garner was caught committing a crime and ran, that the police were right in thinking that he was a threat to others. So they shot and killed him, “legally.”
Constitutionally, cops are allowed to shoot and kill people if they they have committed a felony and feel that if they get away they can be a threat to commit more felonies. So, basically, if you commit even one felony, weapon or not, which could be car theft or burglary, you are at risk of getting shot and killed immediately.
Basically, if you want to live after committing a crime, your options are to either not do it in the first place, or don’t run.