Another Sacrifice Upon the Altar of Antiracism

Kim Potter, police officer with Minnesota’s Brooklyn Center Police Department, has been arrested in the shooting death of Daunte Wright and is expected to face second-degree manslaughter charges, which, in Minnesota, is defined as “culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another.” Potter earlier resigned from the force. Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon also resigned. Potter and her husband were forced to flee their residence after their address was shared on social media and a mob gathered outside.

Kim Potter, police officer with the Brooklyn Center police department, Minnesota

Brian Peters, former commander with the Brooklyn Center Police Department, and current head of Minnesota’s police association, says Wright would still be alive had he not “set off” a deadly “chain of events” Sunday in Brooklyn Center. “You have to look at this situation as a chain of events,” Peters said. “This is going to be an unpopular statement, but you know, Daunte Wright, if he would’ve just complied… He was told he was under arrest, they were arresting him on a warrant for weapons. He set off a chain of events that unfortunately led to his death.” Peters then put Wright’s actions in a larger context, noting that “what we’re seeing, policing in these days, is that non-compliance by the public. Police officers are tasked with enforcing the law, enforcing the law that legislators create. And it’s a very tough job right now. It’s been a very tough job and this situation unfortunately also makes it more difficult.”

Peters is suggesting that this is a case of victim-precipitated accidental homicide. I am inclined to agree. Kim Potter made a mistake, but she would not have been in a position to make that mistake had Wright obeyed her commands and the commands of the other officers. One can say, “Potter shouldn’t have shot him,” but since nobody reasonably thinks Potter should have shot Wright, it’s a rather useless observation. Clearly Wright doesn’t think she should have shot Wright. She instantly regretted her error, as we hear on her body cam. No doubt, she wishes she had that moment back. She will dwell on that moment for the rest of her life.

However, when Peters says that Wright should have obeyed the officers’ command, he is not making a useless observation. It is neither true that everybody thinks it’s wrong to resist arrest nor that victims may contribute to the chain of events, even including those the victims intentionally initiate, that ultimately leads to their death. Moreover, Wright created an extremely dangerous situation by getting into his car and driving away with law enforcement officers right next to the vehicle. His actions put officers in jeopardy of losing life and limb. He was behaving recklessly.

Recall what Peters said. We’re seeing an increasingly problem of non-compliance by detainees and arrestees. Police officers are tasked with enforcing the law legislators create. It’s their job and their duty to carry out that law for the good of the communities they serve and protect. A rise in non-compliance makes their job and duty more difficult—and more dangerous. The reason for the rise in non-compliance is a consequence of influential voices actively delegitimizing the institutions of public safety by perpetuating the myth that the criminal justice system is racist and unjust. This is how the Black Lives Matter is undermining public safety.

Let’s be clear: the chain of events that led to Wright’s death were not initiated by law enforcement. Kim Potter did not create a situation where Wright’s actions were reasonable. Law enforcement had reason to stop Wright and to take him into custody. Wright chose to resist and escape in a car thus creating a critical situation, authoring the circumstances that increased the risk of human error, as well of injury and even death. There is no evidence of racism in this case.

Daunte Wright, allegedly choked a woman and held a woman at gunpoint, threatening to shoot her, in an attempt to rob her of more than 800 dollars, according to according to court documents

According to Hennepin County Court documents, on December 1, 2019, in Osseso, Minnesota, in an attempt to rob a woman of more than 800 dollars, Wright allegedly choked and held a woman at gunpoint, threatening to shoot her. This is aggravated robbery. Wright was out on bail when a weapons charge caused his bail to be revoked, hence the warrant for his arrest. Engaging in action that puts lives at risk does not appear to be novel occurrence in Wright’s biography.

A culture of resistance is undermining public safety, which has the effect of diminishing the quality of life in vulnerable communities. That members of the ruling class, political elites, and prominent voices in the culture industry are actively delegitimizing the institutions of public safety, not only by encouraging resistance to law enforcement, but also by failing to correct the falsehoods that the criminal justice system is generally, and law enforcement specifically are racist, suggests an agenda that serves certain interests, or at least serve a convergence of interests. Since, as a matter of economic and political commitments, these entities do not represent the interests of the working class, we must suppose other interests are at play.

Citizens have an interest in the ability of law enforcement to safely enforce the law. By sacrificing Kim Potter upon the altar of antiracism, by giving into the irrational mob, more detainees and arrestees will be motivated to resist law enforcement in the name of racial justice or out of a false belief that law enforcement are racist. This endangers the safety of both civilians and law enforcement.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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