The family of Breonna Taylor received a $12 million settlement from the City of Louisville, Kentucky today. This is the largest settlement ever given to the family of a black person murdered by police according to attorney Ben Crump who represents the Taylor family. We think that this is a major step in the right direction, but ultimately not good enough. It is not good enough because Louisville Police Officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove remain free men. None of them are facing criminal charges, but at the same time that lack of accountability in this case could serve as a beacon of hope for other victims of police brutality that have also been denied justice in criminal courts.
We have not talked about the Breonna Taylor case a whole lot here on Cop Blaster mainly because so many people are talking about it that until now we have felt that anything we had to say would have just been more of the same. Breonna Taylor was an innocent law abiding woman gunned down in her own home by police officers that literally went to the wrong house serving a no knock warrant intended for another person that had not lived there for many months. Taylor’s boyfriend thought they were burglars and fired shots at them, when the cops returned fire Taylor was killed. This was a difficult case for anyone seeking justice or trying to uphold the rule of law. That is because even tough the police in question had no right to be at her home in the first place it is hard to say that a reasonable officer in their shoes would not have feared for their safety once shots were fired in their direction. That is the main reason why criminal charges were not brought against them. The lead detective, Brett Hankison, has been fired because he did not do good detective work when he recklessly obtained a no knock warrant based on outdated information. The other officers are hard to fault in this case because of the command and control culture of law enforcement in general. When a superior officer tells a rank and file officer to do as they are told they do it, which is what Officers Mattingly and Cosgrove were doing when they followed orders to help Hankison serve the warrant. They seem to have been operating within the policies of the City of Louisville and since those policies failed Breonna in the worst possible way the City of Louisville rightfully shoulders the blame for those policies.
Hope for Others
The fact that Breonna’s family has prevailed in a lawsuit despite the refusal of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron to hold any of her murderers criminally accountable should give the families of other victims hope. We are thinking specifically of the family of 25 year old Hannah Fizer of Sedalia, Missouri who were dealt a demoralizing blow just yesterday (https://copblaster.com/blast/25966/stephen-sokoloff-calls-the-murder-of-hannah-fizer-justified). That blow was the refusal of special prosecutor Stephen Sololoff to criminally charge Pettis County Sheriff’s Deputy Jordan Schutte with Hannah’s murder. Like Daniel Cameron, Sokoloff’s job was to protect the accused officer, so we knew that absent undeniable proof that Schutte was lying that Sokoloff would give Schutte the benefit the doubt. Such practices are in stark contrast to how criminal investigators approach civilians. When the accused is a civilian their job is to find any excuse they can to charge the person with a crime. As a result civilians are falsely charged with murder at a far higher rate than cops are rightfully charged with murder. It is a double standard that continues to enable law enforcement to break the law and hide behind the rule of law to avoid accountability. That is why people seeking justice against police officers must disregard the rule of law.
What Made Breonna Different
Breonna’s case was different because her supporters proved that they were willing to disregard the rule of law in large numbers until justice was done. There were several mostly peaceful protests in her name in which a small minority committed criminal acts, there was a black militia that marched bearing arms, and in one case a huge group was arrested for trespassing on AG Cameron’s front lawn (https://copblaster.com/blast/25847/protesters-arrested-at-kentucky-attorney-general-daniel-camerons-home). These actions made it clear to the government that the rule of law could not protect them unless they found an option within those laws to give the protesters what they wanted. If one is going to use unlawful conduct to compel a government entity to do something they always have to give that entity a way to meet their demands without citing appeasement to unlawful conduct as the official reason. That is one reason why it can take a long time for the government to finally cave and decide to choose a legal reason to give the people what they want. If they don’t have an option at their discretion within the law they won’t cave, but if they have an option at their discretion and the people show that exercising that discretion is the only way to stop them then the government will.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when protesting the government is choosing on their own accord not to break the law. When people say that they are just decent law abiding folks the government breathes a sigh of relief knowing that they will respect the rules that allow them to do what they want. That is why people like Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond responded to yesterday’s decision saying “We at the Sheriffs Office have allowed to Rule of Law to properly take its course.” Because Kevin Bond and Stephen Sokoloff had no reason to think that choosing to make the rule of law take the course that it did would result in any consequences for themselves, they felt free to take whatever course they wished. This lack of personal accountability allowed Bond to prioritize protecting Deputy Schutte, whose father was reportedly one of Bond’s best friends, over minimizing consequences for himself. That was not the case in Kentucky with Breonna Taylor. In her case thousands of people made it clear that they would not stop seeking justice for Breonna unless the state made justice a priority. The government knew that the only way to keep angry crowds off their door steps was to do what was right for the people and not just their own people.
We have a lot of respect and admiration for the people that have been out picketing in Pettis County on a weekly basis since Hannah was murdered, but we have been at odds with them at times over proposed tactics. Protest organizers in Sedalia have taken the position that they do not want to be seen as not supporting law enforcement in general. We found this out after doxxing Kevin Bond (https://copblaster.com/blast/25797/pettis-county-sheriff-kevin-c-bond-refuses-to-comply-with-foia) and most of his staff (https://copblaster.com/blast/25799/pettis-county-sheriffs-office-staff-roster-sedalia-state-police) shortly after the murder. Rather than being thanked for our help we were banned from the largest Facebook group seeking justice in this case (https://copblaster.com/blast/25807/sign-the-petition-facebook-group-complicit-in-hannah-fizer-cover-up). Many people in Sedalia posted comments or sent us messages saying that our way was not their way, that they would never do anything to compromise the home of a cop out of concern for their family, and that they didn’t want any type of Antifa/George Floyd riots in their town. We knew that unless they changed their mind on those issues that they would never find justice for Hannah because as long as they voluntarily cooperate with law enforcement in a case like this they are essentially rolling over for them. Such comments tell Kevin Bond that he does not have to worry about any real consequences for himself should he do what he wants. That would not have been the case had the weekly protests taken place outside his home as we recommended, but people in Sedalia seem to care more about whether or not such protests would scare Bond’s wife and kids than they do about getting justice*. We have the utmost respect for Hannah’s family, but at the same time we cannot stop thinking about what their position on not wanting to be seen as being anti-law enforcement says about the culture of their community as a whole. How deeply ingrained their customs must be for people to lose a daughter, sister, cousin, etc. and still support those customs over justice. It is like they are saying that their way of life is more important than losing a few of their people. That protecting the institution of law enforcement as a whole is more important than justice in this case because they fear a future without police more than they fear a future with a few more Hannahs. We would expect nothing less from a community of conservative Christians where sheep fear wolves so much that they would rather have a few rabid sheep dogs than no sheep dogs at all. Where people will never seek justice if doing so requires them to do anything written on ancient stone tablets after the words “thou shalt not.” It is hard to find better example of group think in a bubble gone wrong.
Anyone truly seeking justice for anyone wronged by law enforcement needs to be more like the people of Louisville and less like the people of Sedalia. They need to do all they can to show the government that justice and only justice will save the government future headaches. They need to show that they cannot be constrained by the rule of law, but do so without giving the government a way to legally neutralize them and while leaving the government at least one option within the rule of law to give them what they want. It is not too late for the people of Sedalia because last we heard the family of Hannah Fizer is represented by an attorney, but we fear that Pettis County will not settle any lawsuit they file as long as the people in that town continue to play by their rules. Playing by their rules tells county officials that all they have to fear is being found liable after a civil trial overseen by a judge whose job it is to support the county. There is no such thing as a fair trial. The people of Pettis County need to make life a living hell for county officials until they agree to pay the Fizer family millions of dollars. Only when they view settling the case as the best way to avoid consequences for themselves will they settle.
* Foot Note: We share their concern for the children of police officers, which is why we do not post their names or pictures even though officers like Bond do that to them themselves on Facebook. We also ask that whenever people protests at a cop’s house that they leave anyone alone that they see on the property. We believe that just being related to people like Kevin Bond should be punishment enough.
Published at Tue, 15 Sep 2020 17:17:58 +0000