This was the best they could come up with:
The officer “thought Kinsey’s life was in danger,” John Rivera, head of the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association, said at a news conference.
The idea is that if they throw words against the wall, others will take them seriously, or at least seriously enough to discuss them as if there was some potential they could be an accurate reflection of what happened. This is, of course, a gambit. The police union knows that its job is to cover its cops, and its efforts to test how gullible the public is have often proven shockingly effective.
This all refers to the shooting of Charles Kinsey in a ubiquitous video, with Kinsey lying in the road, hands up, trying to explain that the autistic man next to him was playing with a toy truck and not a gun. Or even a Wii. Kinsey was picture perfect in his conduct, compliant to a fault. So, Aledda shot him anyway, with a long gun from a distance, because you can’t get too close to an autistic man with a toy truck or it could be thrown at him and take his eye out.
Do we take seriously the claim that Aledda’s gravest fault was bad aim, that his purpose was to kill the truck-threatening autistic man when he shot Kinsey in the knee instead? No. Even Elie Mystal, who has grown quite cynical of late about police shootings, gives it the barest credence.
That’s just not a credible story. Those just aren’t the actions of a person.
Either the cops here are monsters, or they are liars. Either way, something pretty awful went down in Miami.
Or perhaps they’re neither monsters nor liars, but cops. When they do wrong, they feed the public tropes to cover their actions. It’s a lie, but they aren’t exactly liars. They’re cops, and what cops do is throw their laundry list of cop excuses for failures against the public wall to see what sticks. Even if nothing sticks, they’ve muddied the waters enough that their die-hard fans will find enough to seize upon to believe and forgive.
As for the good people who may not exactly adore cops enough to believe anything, at least they can sleep at night believing that they aren’t so flagrantly incompetent or malevolent that they need fear the police more than a crackhead.
But that doesn’t make the tropes, the excuses real. It’s just part of the job, covering up the bad ones because it reflects poorly on the job. After Aledda shot Kinsey, he cuffed him, rolled him and left him on the ground to bleed. There is no magical explanation for this. Aledda wasn’t sure he wasn’t a threat, and wasn’t about to take any chances.
“It appeared to the officers that the white male was trying to do harm to Mr. Kinsey,” Rivera said. “In fearing for Mr. Kinsey’s life, the officer discharged his firearm trying to save Mr. Kinsey’s life and he missed.”
It was the best Rivera could come up with. What else could a cop union president say in defense of his member? Remember, among the purposes served by police unions is to present the most extreme, outrageous defense of his officers no matter what, so that later excuses offered by officials seem less ridiculous. The big lie makes the lesser lie seem less absurd.
The union released a statement, putatively from Aledda, though that too is a test of our gullibility:
“I took this job to save lives and help people,” the officer said in a statement released Thursday by the union. “I did what I had to do in a split second to accomplish that and hate to hear others paint me as something I’m not.”
It may not be a masterwork, but it covers a few more tropes. “Save lives and help people.” Hey, Aledda is a good guy, well-intended, here to help. So he screwed up? Cut him a break, as he’s a good guy. “Did what I had to do,” a meaningless phrase beloved by people for whom action without thinking is the American way. This covers a lot, as we see a situation that appears to call for action, and Aledda acted. Since Americans prefer not to hurt themselves by thinking too hard, we can well understand that the same was true for Aledda. We’re a people who appreciate action, even wrong action, when the situation demands we “do something.”
And then, of course, there is the primo rationalization, the “split second” decision. Of course, there was no need for a split second decision here. Take a full second. Take an hour. Take all day. Americans have long since accepted the proposition that police have better things to do with their time than not shoot, not kill, people. Repeat this nonsense phrase enough, and it almost seems real.
There was no decision to be made, except perhaps to listen to what the people on whom your scope was trained are saying. Then look at what they’re doing, what they’ve got in their hands. to verify that the austistic man was holding a toy truck rather than a Glock. You can tell the difference because one is a gun and the other has toy truck wheels. Can’t see it from 50 yards away? Well, there are hi-tech means of making distant objects appear closer so that you can see them better. If Aledda wanted to “do what he had to do,” pulling out some binoculars would have been worthwhile action.
Still, some will reject the notion that sometimes it’s all just a huge, total botch, driven by the First Rule of Policing in combination with the knowledge that any mistake will be wiped clean by the latitude we give the police to “save lives and help people” and the security of platitudes about nobody being perfect. They will demand an explanation for why Aledda did what he did, as if he was an evil player, a racist, a killer, a monster.
The answer can’t be proven, because it resides in Aledda’s head, but it’s really not a tough question to answer. Aledda arrived at the scene in response to a call that there was a suicidal man with a gun. He began under the belief that there was a potential for harm to him. He wasn’t about to bet his life on the truthfulness of what Kinsey was saying. He was trained with the fear that a man with a gun could aim it at him and pull the trigger in a split second and kill him. And he wasn’t going to die that day, so he fired first.
So you see, it’s not that the cops lied. It’s that they’re cops, and Aledda “did what he had to do” to make sure he made it home for dinner. Thankfully, because they’re cops, Aledda’s bullets killed no one because he was a lousy shot.