THE POLICE chief in the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs first said that the car 15-year-old Jordan Edwards was in when he was fatally shot by police was backing down the street in an “aggressive manner” toward officers. Hours later, the statement was changed; police admitted that the car had actually been driving away from police when an officer with a rifle fatally shot the boy in the head.
And so the questions begin. How could something as mundane as police being called to break up a teen party result in the death of a 15-year-old described as a “kid that did everything right”? Did officers lie and think they could get away with blaming the victim until video evidence proved otherwise? And will this latest, utterly needless death of a young African American male make “Black Lives Matter” more than a hashtag by spurring needed police reforms?
Jordan, a popular football player and model student shot Saturday night after leaving a party with his brother and a group of friends, is the youngest of more than 330 people who have been shot and killed by police this year, according to Post reporters tracking such shootings. About 25 percent of those killed have been black, and about 7 percent were — like Jordan — unarmed. “This has happened far too often,” an attorney for Jordan’s family said at a Monday news conference. “We are tired of making the same rhetorical demands, of having the same hashtags; our community is fed up with the same tired excuses.”
The death, ruled a homicide by the Dallas County medical examiner, is under investigation. The officer, Roy Oliver, was terminated for violating department policies, Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber said Tuesday. Authorities need to act with urgency and transparency, so it is encouraging that the department moved so quickly. It was also to the department’s credit that Mr. Haber was forthright about correcting the record after viewing body-camera footage of the incident that made him conclude the shooting did not meet “our core values.”
Thank goodness there were body cameras, underscoring yet again their value and the need for police agencies to equip officers with this technology. It would be irresponsible to use this case as a broad brush against all police officers, the majority of whom selflessly place themselves at risk to protect the public. But it’s equally irresponsible not to recognize the issues with police training and policies that historically have put minority communities at risk and too long have gone uncorrected.
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