People who read my posts about policing know that I’m pro-cop. They know that when police officers use force against people who are violating the law or refusing to follow reasonable instructions, I’m inclined to give the officers the benefit of the doubt, if there is doubt.
That’s how I view these cases whether the person shot by the police is a street criminal, an antifa thug, or a right-winger. The standards of conduct and the presumptions should be the same regardless of who has been shot.
However, there are, indeed, standards of conduct that apply, and police officers must be held accountable if they don’t adhere to them. In addition, there must be transparency.
It will not do to conceal the identity of police officers who kill people. Nor, as far as I know, has the identity of such officers been withheld for long in cases involving police shootings of Blacks. In fact, most police departments are required to release an officer’s name within days of a fatal shooting regardless of the race of those involved.
Furthermore, it will not do to withhold from the public the stated reasons for police killings or the circumstances that caused the officers in question to resort to lethal violence. Again, this information was not withheld in any case I followed where an officer killed an African-American.
Yet, it’s been half a year since a member of the Capitol Police Force shot and killed Ashli Babbitt on January 6. And still, the name of the officer who shot her has not been disclosed.
In this report, Paul Sperry of RealClearInvestigations provides the name of the officer who likely killed Babbitt. However, his identity has not officially been confirmed.
Nor has the public received any explanation as to why this officer shot an unarmed woman who, as far as I can tell, was not attacking him or anyone else. (According to Sperry, the shot that killed Babbitt was the only one fired in the Capitol that day.) Nor has anyone explained why the shooter was cleared of wrongdoing, as has been reported.
Why not? Why shouldn’t such information be released?
I can think of no reason why the officer who killed Babbitt is entitled to more secrecy — greater protection from publicity — than, say, Garrett Rolfe who killed Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta or Paul Huynh, Darcy Klund and Jason Schmitt, the three officers who shot Dolal Idd in Minneapolis. In the latter case, the police department made public the personnel files of all three officers.
It’s true that the Capitol Police Force is controlled by Congress, not by any municipal government. But that shouldn’t matter. Its officers should be just as accountable to the public as members of any police force. They aren’t private contractors. We pay their salaries, just as we pay the members of Congress.
It’s not even clear that Congress and its police force are doing officers a favor by withholding the name of the shooter. According to Sperry, initial reports on social media incorrectly identified the officer. Now, another officer, presumably the correct one, has been identified. But there has been no explanation of why he shot and killed Babbitt and why he was cleared of wrongdoing by the force.
The Babbitt family is seeking answers. Congress has exempted its police force from Freedom of Information Act requests, so the family is suing the D.C. Police “for documents that identify the officer who shot Babbitt … as well as notes and summaries of what the officer said regarding the shooting and the reasons he discharged his weapon.” The D.C. Police led the investigation into the Babbitt shooting, so it has the documents. A court hearing is set for September 3. Judicial Watch also is suing for the records.
I hope the family and the public will be able to find out why the officer killed Babbitt and why he was cleared. In that event, I will be inclined, as always, to give the benefit of the doubt to the officer. But it seems to me that he has some serious explaining to do for why he shot an unarmed woman who, as far as I can tell, was not in the process of assaulting anyone.