There are some things you just don’t need a gun to handle.
Look, I get it. Police officers sometimes feel threatened because there are people out there who are willing and able to use guns against them. Officers feel that their only way to protect themselves against those people is to use guns, too. But, other times, there is just no excuse to use guns, and yet officers still do. Jordan Edwards’s death showed exactly how that can go horribly wrong with no justification.
Last Saturday, 15 year-old Jordan Edwards was at a house party with his friends. At 11 PM, neighbors called the police to report underage children walking outside seemingly drunk. The police reached the house to investigate the supposed alcohol and, at that point, Jordan and a few friends felt threatened and decided to leave. They got in a car, Jordan in the front passenger seat, and began to drive away from the scene and away from the officers. One officer, however, saw the car and decided to pull out a rifle and shoot at it. The bullets flew and one struck Jordan in the back of the head, killing him once he was finally rushed to the hospital.
At first, this is not how the police department reported the incident. Balch Springs Police Department released a statement saying that the vehicle was “backing down the street toward the officers in an aggressive manner,” thereby justifying the officer’s decision to shoot at the car. But, body camera footage proved this claim wrong. The vehicle was actually driving away from the officers and no one inside the vehicle was armed. They were simply trying to leave, but the officer decided to shoot anyway. Jordan’s death has been ruled a homicide but there is still no certainty as to whether the officer will be convicted.
My first reaction is that body camera footage, although not perfect, is incredibly important. The department, before seeing the footage, took the officer’s testimony that the vehicle was threatening him at face-value and I have no doubt that the department would have continued to believe the officer despite any contradictory witness testimony. But, the body camera footage showed that the officer was simply lying to cover his guilt, demonstrating the importance of capturing officer actions on video to hold officers accountable.
My second reaction is one of incredulousness: why did the officer feel the need to even have a gun? The police were responding to reports of underage drinking, thereby eliminating any risk of facing fully-grown men. The officers knew they were going to be confronting children at a house party. Thus, the officer’s decision to use a gun is even more ridiculous than the decision of the officer in the Tamir Rice case because this officer knew he would be facing children before he even arrived at the scene. Additionally, there was no report of any violence whatsoever at the house party. So, the officers should have had no reasonable expectation of violent confrontation that would have warranted the use of a gun in self-defense. At most, the officers would have needed to restrain some teenagers that may have tried to resist arrest in some way. But there was no need for any officer to even have a gun.
So, my recommendation is that police departments should be more reactive to situations and only allow officers to even bring guns to investigations when the complaint warrants a reasonable expectation of necessity. When a department knows that the case is one of minimal danger, it should not let its officers bring lethal weapons to the scene. If Balch Springs were more reactive, Jordan would still be alive.