Monday, November 24, 2014

"The Long Haul"

 A 12-year-old boy in Cleveland died Sunday, a day after being shot by police who mistakenly believed he had a real gun, officials said.

The Cuyahoga County medical examiner identified the boy as Tamir Rice. An attorney for his family, Timothy Kucharski, said the boy went to the park with friends Saturday afternoon, but he did not know the details of what led to the shooting.

The incident began Saturday afternoon at a local rec center, when witnesses reported a male was in the playground area waving a gun and pointing it at people.
A man who called 911 told dispatchers the boy was on a swing set and pointing a pistol that was "probably fake" and scaring everyone.
The caller said the boy was pulling the gun in and out of his pants.
"I don't know if it's real or not," the caller said.  (

When I was a lad the age of the boy killed by the police I played with toy guns in public. Much of my generation of boys did. As I recall they were realistic replica pistols rifles, and such.

Most were cowboy hardware. My favorite was the Mattel "Fanner Fifty". Which was an exact metal replica of the U.S. Navy Colt of the 1850's. Known better as the historic "Six Shooter" of the Old Western mythology.

My friends, and I so armed played cowboys, and bad guys on the streets, and parks of late 1950's, and early 60's Brooklyn, and Queens. Boys like us did the same all over the country then. 

I imagine going to a playground with the above today would be a death sentence. This is how we've changed in just 40 to 50 years. Back in the early 1980's laws were made to have toy guns colored in bright orange. This because exact replica toy pistols were being used in robberies, and assaults.

Even I had to admit this was called for.

Being a Police Person is a hard dangerous, and thankless job. You have to make split second decisions of life, and death. Sometimes you make a mistake. Mind you I speak here of those Police officers that truly uphold the law, and have as their goal the protection of the innocent.

This as opposed to the other sort we know of so well that abuse, and outright murder.

Which sort of cops were involved in this case we don't know yet. If I were one of the Cops involved in this case I'd be in Hell right now. Having killed a kid that was just playing. If the cops in question on the other hand are of the other sort...well.

No point going into the history of Cops, and Black males of 'any' age. We are already very painfully aware of that sad story. It keeps going on, and on.

I guess bottom line is that it takes an extraordinary sort to be given the responsibility of being a Police Person today or at any time. I say "Extraordinary", and not merely a "line grunt" as with soldiers in war.

A Grunt's job is battle is relatively simple. "There's the enemy...kill him." The "enemy" is as trained as motivated as you, and usually just as heavily armed.  A police person's job is far far more complex. So it would indeed take a person of extreme skills to be one.

Sadly such persons are rare.

Even more scarce now that the Police forces all over our country have been militarized. That, and the "Grunt" mentality such encourages has taken hold. This state of affairs is tragic beyond words.

Was the kid foolish to play with a realistic pistol in a public place,...yes! 

I sure as hell would not have done it. Then I'm an adult with an awareness of consequences, and a knowledge of the grave state of our culture in the so-called "Age of Terror".

This boy was no different than I was so long ago. He was 'just' playing. Playing with no understanding of the profound danger he was putting himself, and other in.

Again that split second decision.

What told the officers involved that this person clearly a child. Not an adult not a hefty teen not a deranged drunk or junkie. What told them that this required deadly force. They say he reached for the gun. If so that added to the tragedy to come.

However I have to ask. Black history with law enforcement forces me to ask this. What if this lad...again very clearly a young boy, and not as I just said a person that could be dangerous. 

What if this kid were white sandy haired blue eyed, and with freckles.  

What if he looked like he could have stepped out of a 1935 cover of the "Saturday Evening Post" as illustrated by Norman Rockwell. Would 'that' have given him at least a 'chance' of survival?  A second thought just a moment's worth? A shadow of doubt as they say when trying a Death Penalty Case.

Would that moment have spared the kid?

Would he have been given a warning? The dangerous toy confiscated, and the lad taken home to his parents. That, and the boy's grateful folks thanking the officers for their thoughtful forbearance?

Perhaps one day.

Social advancement is very slow. Changing laws is the easy part. Real easy. Only takes a few generations, maybe a century sometimes. However changing Hearts calming fears enlightening ignorance. Well that's another matter. For that we're in for the long haul.

Peace to you all.

Stay tuned.

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