On the way to work the other morning, traffic slowed to a stop. When I finally got to the source of the backup, I saw police tape on both sides of the road and police cars blocking all but one lane in either direction. I turned my radio to the station that provides the breaking news and quickly found out that there was an officer involved shooting. And, much like when the Marysville High School shooting occurred, I thought to myself, “Why is it that this is ‘just another’ officer involved shooting?”
But my next thoughts — and maybe the worse ones — were, “I bet it was a minority involved,” and “If this is ‘just another’ officer involved shooting, it surely will not hit the national news.”
And even though this shooting was “minor” (a single suspect who is expected to make a full recovery), there are many other shootings and events that occur that do not make the headlines. I spoke with one of my best friends who reports the news in San Francisco about a shooting that occurred there a year ago. And, honestly, I told her that I am becoming more and more skeptical of the police. And as someone who used to want to go into the law enforcement field, I never thought I would be skeptical of the police.
Her response was simple and, I think, fitting. She said, “Well, it’s always important to be skeptical just not cynical.” And it is true. As people who have access to a wealth of information, we are often jaded by what seems to be the status quo. And we lose sight of what we can do to affect change. And, eventually, when the problem seems like it is just too big, we lose hope.
Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Do justice. Doing justice can take many forms. But I would argue that doing justice has to start with recognizing a source of tension and asking questions. Asking questions of peers can shed light on issues, different perspectives, and can create a movement.
Shining a light on an issue does not necessarily mean that there is a problem, but it helps to ensure that all parties involved are accountable and that subsequent procedure requires the utmost transparency. It is like an annual audit — a check and balance system.
For me, seeking justice will both be raising continual questions but also challenging myself. I will remind myself that there are both justified and unjustified officer-involved shootings. I cannot jump to conclusions and should never assume that I have the entirety of information necessary to make that determination. But that does not dismiss me from the need to gather and analyze — even be critical and skeptical — of the information I do have.
Simply put, I do not have a solution. I have never been in a scenario in which I have truly feared for my life nor have I been in the shoes of any of the officers in the recent shootings. But, as with the deaths of Otto Zehm and Antonio Zambrano-Montes, a high number of people with mental health issues are involved in altercations with police. Maybe the first step is an increase in the required hours of sensitivity training regarding mental health and how a mental break can look and/or manifest (an informal sensitivity training could be as simple as riding the bus and observing some common occurrences there, like from this article). Or maybe the first step is reaching for a taser rather than a gun.
While I may not have the solution, I will strive to do justice by asking questions and contributing to a conversation that, hopefully, will lead to clarity, transparency, and justice.
Kyle A. Franklin is a recent graduate of Gonzaga University, where he earned his Master’s in Religious Studies. He completed his bachelor’s degree in history and religion at Pacific Lutheran University in 2007 and has worked in both the ELCA Lutheran Church and the United Methodist Church.