Thursday, May 28, 2009

Impunity again

The police have announced that they will not be charging the officer who shot and killed an innocent civilian during a confrontation with an armed offender.

As I have noted before, we expect a high degree of care from the people we trust with guns, to the extent that accidentally shooting someone is regarded as careless pretty much by definition. Any ordinary citizen who shot and killed someone accidentally would end up in court, charged with either careless use of a firearm, or, in cases where there is a higher degree of negligence, manslaughter. This man will not, because he wears a police uniform. The message is clear: the police believe they are above the law, able to kill with impunity.

That attitude is not acceptable in a democratic society under the rule of law. We have already seen its horrific consequences in the police rape scandal and the multiple trials which arose from it, and we see it again every couple of months when the police cover for their own on assaults,abuses of power, drunk driving. This isn't just unjust - it reduces public confidence in (and hence respect for) the police and the law. And its time it stopped. Those who uphold the law also need to be subject to it. Otherwise, we live in a tyranny, not a democracy.