‘You’re Fucked’: The Acquittal of Officer Brailsford and the Crisis of Police Impunity

Two words stick in my mind when I think of the video of Daniel Shaver begging for his life before he was shot and killed by Officer Philip Brailsford of the Police Department in Mesa, Arizona. The two words were written on the dust cover of the AR-15 rifle Braisford used to kill Shaver:

“You’re fucked.”

We have seen this movie before. Daniel Shaver was not armed or committing any crime when was he shot to death by Brailsford. Like many previous police shooting videos, this one shows police behaving much more aggressively than Mr. Shaver. And like previous videos, a jury acquitted the officer of all criminal charges. But this video showed us two things about policing culture in America that stand out. First, the video shows Shaver begging for his life while he tried to follow contradictory instructions screamed at him by an officer. And Shaver was white.

Shaver had a job killing pests. Sometimes he used a pellet gun to get the job done, and he was seen holding the gun by people at the hotel. When the police were called, they were told a man had a gun so they had to be careful.

I get it. But how far does that information take us?

At trial, the officer emphasized the danger of a potentially armed person and claimed that what he did was consistent with his training. But if that ends the inquiry, it will be almost impossible to convict a police officer of a crime for shooting anyone. There is an argument that this is already the reality in America.

In the 12 years between 2005 and April 2017, only 80 officers have been arrested on murder or manslaughter charges for on-duty shootings, according to work by Philip Stinson, an associate professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. The Washington Post reported that between 2015 and 2017 police shot and killed 2,884 people. Police shoot and kill numerous people every year and are hardly ever held accountable.

Shaver and a companion had been ordered out of a hotel room and told to get on the floor. The video shows him being neither hostile nor resistant. On the video you can hear one of the officers screaming, “If you make a mistake, another mistake, there is a very severe possibility you’re both going to get shot … if you move, we are going to consider that a threat, and we are going to deal with it, and you may not survive it.” The police are screaming that the cost of a mistake is death — what kind of training teaches that as a proper way to deal with people?

Do you think an innocent person might get nervous if an AR-15 was pointed at him while the police officer was screaming commands, including, “Make a mistake and I will kill you?” Would you get nervous?

Not only was the officer shouting in a very hostile voice, the orders were contradictory. “Do not put your hands down for any reason,” he tells Shaver. “Your hands go back in the small of your back or down, we are going to shoot you, do you understand me?” Shaver, who is now in tears, says, “Yes, sir.”

But immediately after, the commands change, “Crawl towards me,” and Mr. Shaver lowers his hands to the floor and begins moving toward the officers.

A few seconds after beginning to crawl, Mr. Shaver seems to twist slightly to his right, and as he does so someone shouts, “Don’t!” Officer Brailsford begins firing the first of five shots. As predicted by the other officer, Shaver did not survive.

There is no training that justifies the behavior seen on the video. Screaming at a person that is crying cannot be a legitimate technique for officer training. And if Shaver did something threatening, why was Brailsford the only officer who fired his weapon, not just once or twice, but five times?

And Daniel Shaver was white. Deliberate or unconscious racial bias played no role. Black or brown skin was not a proxy for a threat. This video demonstrates how far we have gone as a country in accepting the culture of police violence. Policing in America has advanced to the state where anyone can be killed for no good reason.

The jury that acquitted Brailsford did not hear about the two words that were on his dust cover because the judge excluded that evidence. The laws in virtually every state do a great job of protecting police. Snoop Dogg has said that policing in America is a “Resident Evil, it’s all on camera and they still don’t believe you.” This is the police/community relationship we have created for ourselves.

Discussion of police training is not unimportant — it can be the difference between life and death. Don’t assume that police violence will be limited to Black and brown people — the culture of violence will not exempt white people.

Eugene O’Donnell, a former police officer and a professor at John Jay College of Criminal, was quoted in The New York Times saying “What people as humans will see is someone drunk and emotionally distraught…The police will read that differently. In some sense it’s an argument without end: The police are just going to add this up a different way.”

Can any of us be safe in a society where police officers are trained to have a perspective that is other than human? How is it possible that a trained officer thinks the appropriate response to a mistake is five bullets from an AR-15? If Americans don’t work to change laws so that police can be held accountable for unnecessary violence, get ready for more executions and more brutal videos.

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Anonymous

As much as I appreciate this article for calling out the "You're Fucked" evidence that was excluded from trial, I am actually very bothered by the ACLU's (yes, the ACLU's) characterization of "you don't have to be brown to get killed....yes, people, things are actually THAT BAD".

I had to do a double-take and confirm that this article was, indeed, coming from the ACLU.

THE FUCK???

Yeah, so now that an actual WHITE DUDE got shot in the face for no reason you better listen up, people, BECAUSE THINGS ARE THAT FUCKING BAD!

Anonymous

That also really bothered me. I get that they are trying to point out to people who considered themselves "safe" that there is no safe. But still, just not cool, ACLU. No one should get shot like this, and that should just be the only perspective.

Paige De Ieso

I totally agree I thought the exact same thing and was suprised by their slip up. Stupid mentality that when all these black kids are being killed by cops its somehow their fault, but when a white kid gets shot we now finally have a problem. I actually found out abou this case because my dad posted about it on facebook so outraged, and my gut intuition was to ask him why he had never posted anything remotely about police violence in the black community (not like my Dad is racist what so ever, I come from a very hippy, open-minded family and his Dad survived the holocost) but regardless I do feel like it sadly made it more of a problem now that we have video proof and aquittals of white kids being shot for no reason by police, now the problem seems so much bigger and out of hand, but that right there is a problem way of thinking by itself and shows how much work we have to do as individuals and society to change the way we act, think, and serve justice, because right now we suck pretty bad!

Non soy boy

If any of you can get the cop's address, put it on 4Chan or 9gag. If the state won't bring justice, there's plenty behind their computer screens who have all sorts ideas do bring justice to him. Deep web is also putting in effort right now. Also, information on the judge and jurors would be a nice bonus.

Anonymous

Yes, let's let the unwashed internet mob handle this. They always exercise such good judgment.

Start Killing T...

Gee, I hope that no one takes justice into their own hands by blowing out Philip Brailsford's brains with a sawed-off 12 gauge shotgun (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

jorge

one more mother fucker killed a innocent person.where is the justice?

Anonymous

If monetary funds from sucsessful lawsuits against the police were paid coming out of the department in questions yearly budget and not from the tax payers, then there would be less abuses from the police

Angie

I've a better idea. 1. If you are on duty, your bodycam is on. If we can't access a recording of you doing it, you weren't on duty, you were not a police officer, your actions have no color of law to them.

2. If you shoot an unarmed person period, you get fired. Why did you pull a weapon on someone who didn't have one?

3. If you don't have bodycam footage, you are tried as a private citizen, your actions indefensible by the government. Also, permanently fired from your public service job.

4. A register of known abusers. You are assumed to be an abuser if you are at any point caught turning off your body cam while wearing a uniform. If you don't want us to see it, we assume it is wrong.

Cops do not deserve the benefit of doubt, that we give citizens. They have power that we do not. They have responsibility that we do not. If we simply placed that responsibility on the shoulders of the individual, this problem would cease.

Anti-hooknose

The Bolsheviks running America have made it impossible to change anything. After all it's groups like ACLU, ADL, NAACP, AJC, and AIPAC that have molded America into a segregated community. There’s no use in complaining. Accept the deals we’ve all made with the satanic Bolsheviks we call allies.

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