The release of footage showing how Caron Nazario was mistreated by police in Windsor, Va., and the killing Sunday of Daunte Wright in a suburb of Minneapolis coincide with the ongoing trial of the former police officer charged with the murder of George Floyd, a case that ostensibly prompted a national reckoning on racial inequities in policing. Has nothing been learned from that tragedy? Do police think they can act with impunity? Why are these things still happening?
Those are the questions that come to mind watching how police interacted with Lt. Nazario in the Dec. 5, 2020, incident that is now the subject of a federal lawsuit. Even though the serviceman, dressed in his Army uniform, had committed no crime, was respectful, had his arms up and was clearly confused about why he had been stopped, the officers treated him with contempt and belligerence. When Lt. Nazario said he was “honestly afraid to get out” of the car, one officer said, “Yeah, you should be!” The officers refused to answer why they had stopped him and allegedly threatened to destroy his military career if he spoke out about his mistreatment. Once the video went viral, town officials announced that one of the officers, who pepper-sprayed Lt. Nazario, had been fired.
More information is needed, and investigation is underway, into the death of Mr. Wright, a 20-year-old shot after a routine traffic stop went tragically awry. Brooklyn Center, Minn., Police Chief Tim Gannon said the officer meant to fire a Taser but instead made an “accidental discharge” from her gun. During a news conference Monday, the chief played an unedited clip of police body-camera video showing the officer yelling “Taser! Taser! Taser!” firing a gun instead and then exclaiming “Holy sh-t. I just shot him.” Such a mix-up seems incomprehensible and raises obvious questions about training.
Police said they stopped Mr. Wright because he had expired registration tags. They discovered he had an outstanding arrest warrant for a misdemeanor offense and say he resisted police. He seems to have posed no immediate danger, and he surely could have been found at another time if serving the arrest warrant was so vital. Was the use of force a prudent decision? Part of the way police have traditionally been trained is to think they have to win at any cost, but that cost is far too high.