50-year-old Patrick Harmon (an African-American male) was executed by Salt Lake City police officers on August 13. Harmon, who was riding his bicycle when at the time, was pulled over by a police officer who claimed Harmon crossed six lanes and was missing his required red tail light. He wasn’t killed for the infraction, which surprises me, given the trigger happy, racist cops we have in this country. Initially calm, Harmon became increasingly agitated, especially when backup arrived and his record was pulled. It was pretty much all over at that point, bc the officers discovered Harmon had felony warrants out in his name (for aggravated assault), and proceeded to arrest him. Upset, Harmon turned away from the three police officers and bolted. Unfortunately for Harmon, one of our country’s finest (Clinton Fox, who decided to wear his Judge-Jury-Executioner hat) can be heard saying “I’ll fucking shoot you!” Three shots later, he does just that. If you’re a reasonable person looking for a justification for this extrajudicial murder by cop, you aren’t likely to find it. There is nothing in the video that offers a justification for him opening fire. Take a look:
Best I can figure, the thought of shooting a fleeing Black man in the back was too intoxicating for Officer Clinton Fox to pass up. In his defense, he (and the other officers) did say ::yawn:: he felt his life was in danger, bc a Black man who runs fast is deadly (someone ought to warn Usain Bolt). I mean, I guess its possible. You just need to get hit by a bolt of lightning and a bunch of unknown chemicals and develop super speed (instead of dying). That should enable you to run several hundred mph and leave a cloud of dust in the faces of people that look at Black people and think “target practice”. Their eyes might get cloudy and itchy. Maybe even start to water (which would be more tears than they show when they kill Black people). Heck, they might even begin coughing heavily. Under those somewhat…unlikely circumstances…I can see how that might be a potential threat to their lives.
That’s not how it went down though. Officer Happy-Go-Murder claimed that Harmon threatened one of them with a knife, which–HEY, maybe he did have superpowers, bc the video shows that he was running away from them and didn’t have a knife. It will surprise no one to know that the D.A.’s office sided with the murderous cop and released a photo of a knife supposedly found at the scene (which, even if he had a knife, the video shows him doing…what again? Oh–running, not stabbing). In a revelation that is sure to shock people, the D.A. dropped the charges against Officer Shooty McKill-A-Negro. Then, mysteriously, the above video of the incident was released. Said video does not corroborate their version of events. But why let something pesky like the truth get in the way of letting yet another cop get away with killing a Black person? Not when “I feared for my life” can be used once again to excuse the lynching of another Black body.
Sometimes, however, police cam footage comes in handy, and the victims of police brutality are exonerated, rather than executed. Of course to survive such an encounter, they have to have certain ::ahem:: privileges. Privileges like whiteness.
A few months ago, Salt Lake City, UT resident and University Hospital nurse, Alex Wubbels refused to let Detective Jeff Payne draw blood from one of her patients, who was unconscious following a fiery car crash. Wubbels, who was aware of the laws, straight up told Payne that he had no warrant to procure the blood, and that since the patient was unconscious, he could not obtain consent to draw blood. As anyone who pays attention to the police culture in this country will tell you, many law enforcement officials do not respond well to being told ‘no’. Their demeanor often changes. They become aggressive and increasingly angry if they don’t get their way. Yes, rather like a child having a temper tantrum, except these are not children, they are adults. Adult who
A: should know how to control their temper, especially when interacting with the public, bc THEY ARE NOT CHILDREN.
B: are ostensibly supposed to serve and protect the public, not harass, browbeat, and brutalize us
C: have powers granted by the state that enable them to use force to get their way. Force that ranges from detainment up through the use of their sidearm (which frequently leads to death). Such powers should be used with caution and the utmost respect and care for civilians.
As you can see from the video above (which went viral with a quickness), Officer Payne was none too happy with Wubbels’ refusal to follow his commands (many authoritarian minded people are like that), and proceeded to forcefully pull her out of the hospital, handcuff her, and arrest her. All because she dared to tell him ‘No’. I’m reminded here of all the police apologists who say that “Black people wouldn’t have any problems with cops if they would just listen”. That’s a crock of shit, bc listening still gets us killed (not to mention murder should not be the automatic punishment for failure to listen to a cop. We don’t live in a police state…right?). What would these people say to Alex Wubbels? That she should have listened to the officer? She should have broken the rules of her hospital–rules she is required to follow–simply bc a bully with a badge demanded she do so? No. Alex Wubbels did nothing wrong here and should not have been touched by the officer, let alone dragged around and arrested.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown agrees. After an investigation into the incident, Brown made the decision to fire Officer Payne, and demoted his watch commander, James Tracey:
Brown’s decision is the culmination of an internal affairs investigation that began a day after the confrontation between Wubbels and Payne. The probe ultimately found that both officers had violated a number of department policies.
“In examining your conduct,” Brown wrote to Payne, “I am deeply troubled by your lack of sound professional judgment and your discourteous, disrespectful, and unwarranted behavior, which unnecessarily escalated a situation that could and should have been resolved in a manner far different from the course of action you chose to pursue.”
Brown was similarly critical of Tracy, saying his lack of judgment and leadership was “unacceptable,” and, “as a result, I no longer believe that you can retain a leadership position in the Department.”
Isolated from a larger context, I’m somewhat satisfied with the punishment dealt to Jeff Payne. It is definitely a good thing that he was fired (though his whiny ass lawyer doesn’t agree with the decision), but I think more could be done. Moreover, more should be done (I’ll get to that in a minute). When the Wubbels case is taken out of isolation and viewed within the context of the ongoing issues of police brutality in this country, a troubling picture emerges. A picture that not only shows a stark contrast in how police deal with white vs Black suspects, but which group finds justice following such incidents.
Before I go any further, let me state this: the actions of ex-Officer Payne were unquestionably wrong. There is no defense for what he did to Alex Wubbels. Being fired should be automatic in cases like this. His termination should not be the end of his punishment, though. He ought to be prevented from working in a law enforcement capacity for the rest of his life, be made to pay an amount of money to the victim, be charged, be indicted, and punished with jailtime if found guilty (that’s a big IF, bc at every turn, the United States justice system protects, rather than punishes police officers no matter what the offense). This needs to happen with every cop that brutalizes civilians. We need police officers to stop abusing their power, brutalizing civilians, and killing suspects in cold blood. In short, we need to build a better police culture. Part of that is holding them accountable for their actions. In addition, bc of their heightened powers and responsibility, violation of police standards ought to result in significant punishment. They aren’t civilians. They hold the power to transform or even destroy lives. That shouldn’t be taken lightly and they should be held to higher standards than they currently are. But that’s only part of the problem with policing in the United States. Another part of the problem?
Wubbels and Harmon were both victimized by police officers, despite not engaging in criminal activity, but he executed, while she lived. Why?
Why were lies made up about Harmon to justify his murder, yet no similar lies were told about Wubbels?
Why was Wubbels’ assailant terminated, but Harmon’s hasn’t?
Why such disparity in the treatment of white victims versus Black victims?