"I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Son, let this woman be a bride to you in the restoration of my people. Let her be a mother for these people, regenerating souls through the salvation of spirit and water.'" (Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 11: Supreme Court Fail on Police Brutality

Image: Latina magazine profile.

When I blogged about the uber dangerous, environmentally racist Dakota pipeline yesterday I had not yet seen the heartbreaking news that a US Court of Appeals struck down the injunction forbidding further progress while the court case deciding the legitimacy of the pipeline proceeds. Praying for justice and strength for the courageous protesters in their sacred work.

In another tragic miscarriage of justice Sonia Sotomayor--indeed a very wise Latina--was the lone dissent in yesterday's Supreme Court decision to continue lowering standards of accountability for irresponsible and violent police officers. In this case, state police had placed spike strips to stop a suspect fleeing by car and a trooper later censured by a review board shot and killed him in defiance of his superior's order to wait and see if the strips worked.

Then Sotomayor offered a crucial fact that the court seemed to have purposely ignored.

“When Mullenix confronted his superior officer after the shooting, his first words were, ‘How’s that for proactive?’” she wrote.

“The glib comment does not impact our legal analysis,” she wrote as she explained the legal standard governing use of force. “But the comment seems to me revealing of the culture this Court’s decision supports when it calls it reasonable — or even reasonably reasonable — to use deadly force for no discernible gain and over a supervisor’s express order to ‘stand by.’”

Then came this bit of legal realism about police violence — perhaps the greatest indictment of police brutality written in a Supreme Court opinion since events in Ferguson drew the national conversation to that subject last summer.

“By sanctioning a ‘shoot first, think later’ approach to policing,” Sotomayor wrote, “the court renders the protections of the Fourth Amendment hollow.”


A Slate article has a thorough discussion of the issue with regard to recent incidents, including situations where the perception and/or reality of danger used to justify the assault or killing of citizens, is itself created by police misconduct. This includes the murder of 12 year old Tamir Rice for holding a toy gun in an open carry state, when the police sped up to his immediate vicinity rather than stopping at a safe distance, taking cover, and using the megaphone to demand that he drop the toy --which he would undoubtedly have complied with.

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