Over the course of a decade a sheriff deputy, Jeremy Rogers, has managed to be associated and involved in three shootings. According to the Santa Barbara Independent, most law enforcement officers go their entire careers without ever firing their gun in the line of duty. Statistically, California has 8,000 cops across 54 cities and counties, among them only 27 percent said they have ever used their service weapon on the job. So how is it that a deputy who has only been in service for fifteen years been able to be involved in five deaths? He has been involved in three main incidents that have allowed the court to scrutinize and evaluate if he is still fit to be sheriff deputy.
The first incident happened on March 6, 2008. Donald George was a 64-year-old retired engineer, Vietnam veteran highly compromised, and he was severely depressed. He had recently undergone surgery to remove a brain tumor. He had difficulty speaking, could barely hear and used a four-wheeled walker to get around. At 7:44 am his wife Carol called 911 because he had retrieved his handgun and was threatening to commit suicide. When his case went to court the judge suspected the meltdown was over his brain tumor and he didn’t want to be turned into “a vegetable”. According to The Independent, in Carol’s case, she claims that once he saw how distressed Carol was he softened his resolve. Claiming that he had calmed down before the sheriff’s deputy and his backup showed up. When they found Donald they asked him to drop the gun. He refused and said “No, you won’t,” and then pointed it at them. The officers fired 11 rounds. In the lawsuit, it says, “They did not interview her. They did not assess the situation. They did not evaluate the physical layout of the property. They did not wait for properly trained deputies or for their supervisors to arrive at the scene.”
The bullets struck his chest, thigh, and forearm and shattered his right femur. Rogers then jumped onto the patio and fired a bullet point-blank into Donald’s head. When asked why he did that he claimed, “I did it because Donald appeared to “manipulate’ the gun and lift his head to look at him”. The following afternoon Rogers colleague Sheriff Brown told reporters that Rogers had acted appropriately. County attorneys worked over a five year period to satisfy Carol’s lawsuit. The attorneys argued that Donald died because of his own “negligence and misconduct.” Rogers shot Donald out of fear, Donald hadn’t even committed a crime. The case went all the way to the supreme court. Just after the trial date was set Carol took the settlement of $650,000 that released the government and deputies from official wrongdoing.
Jeremy Rogers is being scrutinized because of the alarming number of times he has been involved in shootings. He is also being scrutinized because of the way he handled the situations he has been involved in. In Donald Georges’s case, people question why he decided to fire 11 rounds at a 64-year-old man that just had a brain tumor removed. We are starting to question why he decided to shoot a man in his own home. He had every right to own a firearm and he never committed a crime. This is just one example of when people have started to take a step back to observe and question America’s justice system.
According to The Atlantic in the year 2018, 57,375 years of life were lost to police violence. The average life expectancy is 73 years, so over 786 people died at the hands of the police in 2018. In the United States, 100 billion U.S. dollars go toward our police. In comparison, North Korea spends 4 billion on its police force and Russia spends 65.1 billion on police. So how has the police force gained so much power? If we think about the police force as a large union no congressman or president wants to go up against essentially the most powerful group of people in America. Since the police have gained so much power disarming them has gotten harder and harder.
They have been allowed to use violence and weapons to control the citizens of America. Sometimes weapons and violence are needed, but sometimes they are not, and that when the lines start to get fuzzy. According to Statista, “In the United States between 2005 and 2020, of the 42 nonfederal police officers convicted following their arrest for murder due to an on-duty shooting, only five ended up being convicted of murder. The most common offense these officers were convicted of was the lesser charge of manslaughter, with 11 convictions.” It is so dangerous giving a group of people the power to kill with no retributions. Police have been given too much power for decades and no one has thought to question it until now.
According to NPR since 2015 nearly a quarter of all people killed by police officers in America have had a known mental illness. The first example I gave of this situation happening was what happened to Donald George. A severely depressed 64-year-old man was shot at the hands of Jeremy Rodgers because he didn’t know how to conduct himself when Donald was having a breakdown. Another example of this is the recent shooting of a 13-year-old boy with an autism spectrum disorder in Salt Lake City. The teen is still recovering from mental and physical wounds. In the United States, there are 46.6 million people who suffer from mental health issues. All of those people should be granted the proper care for their mental health issues. That means having people who are trained in taking care of patients who struggle with mental health show up to the scene instead of police officers who have no training on what to do in those situations. This plan could ultimately save hundreds of lives and support those who do have mental health issues.
In summary, we need to have psychiatric first responders that know how to handle people with mental health issues and we need to think about how much power we give to the police force.