by Carl Nakajima (reprinted from Real Change, July 13-19, 2022, p. 9) Carl is a Real Change vendor and an Advocacy Intern for Real Change.
[for background information, see https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/lyles-charleena-1987-2017/ ]
I am upset about Charleena Lyles’ inquest, and I have a lot of questions about our countries’ policing. I was born in Chicago, but I also lived in Japan and Hong Kong. I was able to grow up in a different culture, and I was able to know a little about other police systems.
In the July 8, 2022 episode of “Democracy Now,” host Amy Goodman said, “in 2021, there were 10 shooting incidents in Japan and just one gun death. By comparison, the U.S. typically records 45,000-gun fatalities each year.”
Of course, almost no one in Japan has a gun, but Lyles’ weapon was a knife. I heard that more than 90 percent of police officers in the United Kingdom don’t carry guns. Anyone there can get a very big knife.
Nevertheless, the British still solve most cases without using a gun. In Japan, the police must shoot a warning shot before they can aim at a person. This might sound nonsensical in this country, but there are many people who freeze after a warning shot. In Charleena’s case, The Seattle Times reported that both officers had batons and pepper spray, but the jury decided that those would not have been effective at stopping the five-foot-three, 110-pound lady and would put the officers too close to her and endanger their lives.
I heard that police batons are at least 16 inches long and both officers’ arm lengths were a lot longer than Lyle s’ arm. She also had a small knife. The problem is not Lyles, but the small knife she had, so removing the knife would solve the problem; I bet some brave officer could have taken her down by hand, although that’s probably against the rules in American policing. How about an alternative weapon in the room, like a broom, baseball bat, golf club, kitchen tools or whatever?
I wonder how much training they give for baton and barehanded combat? Maybe they just use most of the training for how to hit the bull’s eye (head or heart) and kill. In Lyles’ case, no one knows what really happened, but God. But one or both of the officers must have done something to make her so upset that she grabbed a knife to protect herself.
My simple question is why did they need to shoot her seven times? They are not shooting a lion in a safari. They were more than seven feet from the target. They can tell exactly what they’re hitting at. Is she some kind of warrior that swinging the knife is worth a few fatal wounds to her body? They shot her baby, too. For me, the purpose of that shooting is not to stop her, but to kill her. This is okay in our country’s policing. Because there are so many police killings, I often think it’s organizational murder.
Sometimes, I even imagine that the police department says something like, “Okay, you guys, from now on forget about everything you learned in academy. When using a gun, use it properly. I mean, shut them up good. That way, they never show up to the courthouse and you are testifying against a dead body. Whatever story you make up will be justified. Most importantly, our police department and our police union never lose a single penny from a lawsuit. Again, never spare them. I guarantee that they will take you to court, so just finish it good and your reward in this world is so big that you can be captain someday.”
Or something like that.
I often feel that this country does not respect human life. Will America properly teach about the preciousness of life? That every person has human rights? Everyone is equal, regardless of gender, age, race, or ability. Everyone was made in the image of God. Anyone can make mistakes, but anyone can get better. Learning the value of human life is of utmost importance.
The country where we were born, the parents and family we got, the physical and mental health we received, these weren’t because we did something before we were born. It’s all a grace from God. That’s why we must never judge other people.