Daunte Wright was just 20 years old when Kim Potter pulled him over in a Minneapolis suburb for driving with expired license plates and then shot him to death. According to Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon, Potter mistook her handgun for her taser, and the shooting was an accident.
“This appears to me from what I viewed and the officer’s reaction in distress immediately after,” Gannon said, “that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright.” He went on to add, “[It] is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet.”
Even people like me who have never held a gun and never held a taser have our mouths hanging agape at the absurdity of Gannon’s claim. How the hell do you mix up a gun and a taser? And why did the police chief feel the need to emphasize that it was a “single bullet” that killed Daunte Wright? Is that supposed to make it better?
This week, a cop made a viral TikTok video confirming our incredulity that a cop could mix up their gun and taser.
We aren’t going to jump into the “good cop” nonsense even though we appreciate that this cop spoke up. We all know damn well we need a lot more cops to speak up in this manner and call out bullshit when they see it. This guy put his career and probably his safety at risk by posting this video. We’re guessing it’s no coincidence that his TikTok account no longer exists. Before the video was removed, though, it had received 6 million views, half a million likes, and thousands of comments.
TikTok user @brian1504 clearly demonstrates the absolute absurdity of the claim that an officer who has a gun and a taser in their possession each day could mix up these two weapons. He first loads his belt with both weapons. He taps the gun and says, “Dominant.” He then taps the taser and says, “Not so dominant.”
“Huge weight difference, guys,” he says, sitting down. “I don’t understand how we can mistake a taser for a gun or a gun for a taser.”
The cop from the TikTok clip makes the same point that I always wonder about every time the news reports yet another story about a cop killing an unarmed Black man. They always talk about “heat of the moment.” They always talk about the cop’s fear, their adrenaline. But this guy says, “If you’re in the heat of the moment and you do something like that, you shouldn’t be doing this job.”
Exactly. But we need to take it a step further: Long before a cop does “something like that,” early in their career when it becomes clear that he or she can’t handle the heat of being in law enforcement, they need to find another line of work. Let’s not wait until these people kill an unarmed citizen.
And if a cop can’t or isn’t willing to commit to using de-escalation techniques, they shouldn’t be in law enforcement. More and more, cops look like angry egomaniacs trying to scream people into doing whatever they say. And when shit gets out of hand and they end up killing someone, the excuse is that they were scared or panicked. Sorry, but choose a different profession then. The public is not the place for these people to work out their anger issues and try to learn how to handle stress.
Not only that, but for the cops who are genuinely out there trying to serve their communities and de-escalate difficult situations, the trigger-happy bastard cops put their lives at risk too. The cop in the TikTok video said as much. “I’m not going to put my life on the line to try and fix your stupidity and deal with restoring the peace with my public that I serve just because of your stupid actions.”
We desperately need more cops to speak up like this. The system is deeply broken, deeply racist, and a few guys speaking up here and there isn’t nearly enough to fix it. We have to have real accountability or the public is never going to trust law enforcement. As I write this, a jury has found Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter for kneeling on the neck of George Floyd and killing him. It’s a tiny measure of accountability — a start — but we have so much farther to go.
The problem is not the public. It’s not criminals. It’s not Black people. It’s law enforcement. They are the ones who chose their profession. They are the ones who supposedly have the training. They are the ones with the weapons. And therefore they are the ones who must be held to a higher standard.
Every other profession — hell, even civilians — are held accountable for actions committed in the “heat of the moment.” Panic is not a defense for killing someone. Ever. It’s beyond absurd that here in the U.S., the one profession where a person can so easily get away with murdering someone “in the heat of the moment” is the profession in which a society should demand that person to be capable of demonstrating the most restraint. Because they’ve been trained.
“99 percent of our job is communication,” the cop from TikTok said. “You don’t have to be quick to pull out a gun or a taser on somebody and think everybody’s a threat. Not everybody’s a threat. Try talking to them.”
Kim Potter had been a police officer with the Brooklyn Center Police Department for six years longer than Daunte Wright had been alive. But we’re supposed to believe that she panicked so badly that she couldn’t tell her taser from her gun? We’re supposed to have compassion for her because it was a stressful situation? Sorry, but no.
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