Trump, Cops, Wrong: Weed Is Not Cause of Death by Police
Guns, brutality, and negligence are far more-likely suspects.
Reality-show personality and Presidential candidate Donald Trump told listeners at the Shale Insight Convention last Thursday night that “drugs” were to blame for the protests that erupted in Charlotte, North Carolina, after a black man named Keith Lamont Scott was shot to death there by police.
The Shale Insight Convention is a gathering of oil-extraction industry leaders convened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for “important discussions on shale development” and an opportunity to “network with the most influential industry executives and innovative thought leaders.”
Addressing the Shale Insight attendees as a designated thought leader, Donald Trump offered his peculiar insight to the disorder in the streets of Charlotte: “If you're not aware, drugs are a very, very big factor in what you're watching on television,” the candidate insisted, jumping right past the ongoing series of fatal shootings of black men by uniformed police across this country.
His ad-libbed comment blaming drugs for these violent uprisings seemed to validate stereotypes about black communities—seemingly supporting the criticism that Trump's larger outreach effort to African-American voters is really an attempt to convince moderate Republican women that he isn't a racist.
Two days after Trump’s possibly crowd-pleasing Shale Insight analysis, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Kerr Putney pointed the finger at marijuana as leading to the death of Keith Lamont Scott, the black man killed by Putney's police shooters on Tuesday, September 20.
Image via Facebook
Putney was speaking at a news conference intended to address the issue of releasing police video footage of the Scott slaying.
Officers were trying to serve a warrant for someone else when they spotted Scott rolling “what they believed to be a marijuana ‘blunt’ ” in his car. At first they allegedly didn’t think much of it, until they saw Scott had a weapon and thought, “uh-oh, this is a safety issue for us and the public,” Putney said.
“Due to the combination of illegal drugs and the gun Mr. Scott had in his possession, officers decided to take enforcement action for public safety concerns.”
Keith Lamont Scott’s family, friends, and witnesses at the shooting contest the presence of a gun in Keith Lamont Scott’s vehicle or on his person. Police Chief Putney acknowledges that forthcoming police video will fail to clearly establish the existence of that weapon at the scene of the shooting death.
What is clearly established is an attempt to float marijuana as a causal agent in civilians—often African American—dying at the hands of or in custody of the police.
Police were careful to disclose a toxicology report that listed the presence of marijuana byproducts in Sandra Bland’s system.
In the aftermath of unarmed black American Michael Brown being shot to death by Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson in August 2014, the presence of THC in Brown’s system at the time he was killed was presented as somehow extenuating evidence of Brown’s impairment.
In the summer of 2015, Sandra Bland, a black woman from Chicago, was arrested during a traffic stop in Texas. State trooper Brian Encinia’s brutal take down of Bland was captured on widely distributed video. Three days after being taken into custody, Bland was found hanging dead from a jail-cell partition, a plastic garbage bag cinched around her neck. Police were careful to disclose a toxicology report that listed the presence of marijuana byproducts in Sandra Bland’s system.
Many details in the deaths of Keith Lamont Scott, Michael Brown, and Sandra Bland are in dispute. Blame and accountability have not been established in any satisfactory way. No clear path to resolving America's ongoing normality of death by police has been agreed and embarked upon by the law enforcement community and its detractors.
Blaming these terrible deaths on weed is a willful prevarication that will only deflect movement away from a course of accepted responsibility and resolution. Pot has its drawbacks. Using it as an element in a rationale for exercising lethal force against the public while supposedly protecting public safety should not be one of those drawbacks.