911 Call and Charles Kinsey

I have a new piece up at CNN on the shooting of Charles Kinsey, protected a Latino autistic man named Arnaldo Rios [Edit: See below for correction information] and the intersections of racism, ableism, and the #CultOfCompliance.

Kinsey later told reporters, “I was really more worried about him than myself. I was thinking as long as I have my hands up … they’re not going to shoot me.”
Then they shot him.
While the specifics of this case are unusual, the general pattern is not. Compliance-based policing — when police treat noncompliance with their instructions, on its own, as a threat — puts everyone at some risk.

The piece is about racism and ableism, compliance-based policing like ask-tell-make, and exploring the broader pattern that led to the inexplicable specifics of the incident.

Two things are missing from my CNN essay. First, after I filed, the officer, through his union, has claimed he was shooting at Arnaldo to protect Kinsey. I do not think this is credible, but is rather an attempt to create an “objectively reasonable” standard from which to defend his actions. It’s astoundingly brazen but again plays on the ableist idea that people with disabilities, especially non-white individuals, are erratic and prone to violence.

Look at this picture. It’s just not objectively reasonable to conclude there was imminent danger and I hope both the department and the legal system agree with me.

Second, though, why did the police arrive at the scene believing there was danger? That’s the 911 call which, according to our best information, claimed there was a person armed with a gun contemplating suicide.

  • We don’t know who made the call, but we do know that Arnaldo is relatively non-verbal and was holding a toy truck when he wandered off from his home. 
  • Given those facts, how did someone decide he was suicidal and dangerous?
  • I’m guessing – and that’s why I couldn’t put it on CNN – that this 911 caller was afraid of a Latino acting “odd” who was holding something in his hand, so made the call. 
  • It’s possible of course that they were maliciously trying to get someone killed

I don’t know how we build systems to prevent this kind of 911 call. There’s got to be protections so that callers are safe to phone in suspicions without fear of reprisal, but we’ve also got to protect civilians from being targeted like this because their race, disability, or other markers of identity make someone uncomfortable.

Reminder: Both John Crawford and Tamir Rice, to pick two names you know, were killed after 911 calls indicated threats where none existed (though Rice’s called said ‘probably fake’).

Correction: The individual’s name was widely reported as Rinaldo, but is now reported as Arnaldo Rios. Changed in this and previous posts. 

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