As you can see in the above video, police officers in Albuquerque, New Mexico murdered a man by the name of James Boyd.
There is so much wrong with this beyond the fact that a man died unnecessarily that I don’t even know where to begin and when I do begin I’m not sure that I’ll be able to stop.
Wrong 1: The officers who shot and killed the man have not been charged with murder despite proof in the form of clear video evidence of said murder.
That is how untouchable the police have become in the United States; they can kill someone who was not a direct threat to them, video-tape it, voluntarily release that tape and not face any punishment for it.
Wrong 2: The police were there in the first place.
As this report by KOAT the local ABC affiliate for Albuquerque shows, someone called the police station and reported “some homeless” had been living in the hills behind his property for a month. (Apparently living or sleeping or camping on what I presume is public land is illegal in New Mexico. Problem 2b: Illegal camping is a thing.) I could understand that if Boyd had been threatening hikers in the area or something to that affect, which I concede is definitely within the realm of possibility given his apparent background, then sending officers to check it out was the proper thing to do. Nowhere, however, in any of the news reports I’ve read does it state that he was causing any trouble in those hills, so, yeah, “illegal” camping and fear of property-value depreciation were the reasons for the police being there and eventually killing a man.
Wrong 3: James Boyd was not receiving care in a mental health facility.
Why was a man who clearly needs help and potentially posed a threat to the public not being helped? Because America’s you-can’t-tax-me attitude means that the United States has probably the worst social welfare network in the western world.
Wrong 4: There was at least one military veteran involved.
Weapons manufacturers and security consultants are constantly trying to sell their wares and tactical plans to police departments around the US and they have been quite successful in doing so. This is why some police departments now own APCs, use flash-bangs, wear body armor and carry assault rifles. So, what better men for these police departments to hire than those who are already trained in the use of those weapons? Having already had the always-protect-never-betray-your-brothers mindset that the police love drilled into them and experience in killing people are nice plusses on their resumes, too. At the very least these ex-military bros and wannabe green berets seem to be the type of people who don’t mind using violence against others as is evidenced by the “booyah” in the video.
Wrong 5: There was a K9 unit on the scene.
Dogs should work with the police for one reason and one reason only: to find something or someone. If your goal is to have someone calmly submit to being handcuffed then bringing a large, vicious-looking dog to the scene and then having that dog jumping and barking aggressively right in front of the person you are trying to talk to is the dumbest thing you could do. This will automatically escalate the situation. Especially if the person you are trying to apprehend is mentally ill. In this case the dog was quite obviously there specifically to ratchet up the intimidation and general threat of violence. I don’t know at what point the dog was introduced to the scene (apparently this standoff lasted some 3 hours) but doing so at any point was a mistake.
Well, let’s stop there. I’m not going to get into the numerous other horrible, inhumane and stupid things these adrenaline-junkie-asshole-paramilitary-cops did because they all produce the same headache-inducing, soul-crushing why?
As for offering alternative strategies or ways of resolving the situation that would have prevented the death of Boyd, I’m sure there are a hundred ways that could have happened. I’m sure that even children know enough about tasers and riot shields that they could come up with a smart solution. So, why then could several grown men who we trust with our safety and protection not devise a single, non-fatal, solution?
Beyond the shock and rage felt over a sick man being murdered by police officers, there is the continuing tragedy that none of the root problems that led to this situation are going to disappear anytime soon. The mental health care network is not getting better, homelessness (and the criminalization thereof) is an ongoing, serious issue and the militarization of policing steadily marches on. I’m certain, sadly, that James Boyd’s life will not be the last one taken by this idiocy.