April 29, 2017 is a day that will be marked in history as one of the most appalling, unjust, and eye-opening days of police brutality. I predict that the shooting of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards by police officer Roy Oliver in Balch Springs, Texas will be as influential if not more as the past most high-profile police shootings including those of Michael Brown, Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice, and Walter Scott. The original recounting of the shooting from Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber was that the police officers were called to investigate reports of underage drinking at a house party. When they arrived at the house, they heard what they believed to be gunshots. A car of teenagers leaving the party was driving toward the police in reverse in an “aggressive manner.” Officer Roy Oliver, feeling threatened for his physical safety, opened fire, striking Edwards in the head through a passenger-side door.
On this past Monday May 1st, Haber announced that after watching body-camera footage of the incident, the first recount of shooting was false. The car on which Oliver fired was in fact driving away from the police. He said, “I unintentionally [was] misspoke when I said the vehicle was backing down the road. I’m saying after reviewing the video that I don’t believe [the shooting] met our core values”. My first issue with the actions taken in response to the event by the police department is why Haber announced in the first place that the car was driving towards the police when they had not even reviewed the available footage. Clearly anyone who witnessed the event would have seen that the car was driving away from the police not towards it, so this means the only person this lie could have come from was Officer Roy. While I’m sure this type of action takes place more than any of us would like to imagine, this case blatantly exposes the inner workings of police departments. The police culture that bonds fellow officers so tightly together often results in officers and chiefs believing the stories of other officers at face value. Haber did not bother looking at the body-camera footage of the event before announcing to Edward’s brothers who witnessed the violent murder of their brother, Edward’s parents who lost their 15-year-son, and to the entire nation that Officer Roy’s actions had a certain level of validation (due to the car driving towards him in an “aggressive manner”). Haber’s assertion that he “misspoke” in his original announcement is a wildly understated way of putting what he really did which was believing the word of Officer Roy right away.
I believe this case is such an important one because it is the first high-profile police shooting of Trump’s presidency, and it will most likely offer significant indications on the direction of police reform in the U.S. today. While we did criticize much of what the Obama administration did and did not do in class, I would argue that the Obama administration was generally supportive of the reform movement, pressing for better statistics, the use of body cameras, and strict oversight of police departments. In stark opposition, Donald Trump’s attorney general, Jess Sessions, has promised to reverse many of Obama’s stands. He has sought to withdraw from a pre-negotiated oversight agreement in Baltimore due to his belief that federal investigation greatly damages police morale. In addition, Trump has been dismissive of the Black Lives Matter movement, and made alliances with some of its most strident critics. I will be curious to see what Trump and Sessions will do or not do after this startling tragedy.