I don’t know Alton Sterling, but I do know plenty of people like him. I don’t know the police officers who ended his life, but I am quite familiar with both exemplary and egregious law enforcement. Unfortunately for Americans, we are all well-acquainted with shootings of every stripe. What does it say about our country that shit like this is so common? Nothing good, I’m afraid.

First, let me say a couple things about Mr. Sterling’s long criminal record, which was uncovered last evening. The guy is not a forcible rapist, although you could call him a ephebophile and a statutory rapist. We don’t know all the details of the case, only that he was convicted of the felony version of “carnal knowledge of a juvenile.”

The statute itself is worded thusly…


Creepy and criminal, no doubt. But I don’t think summary execution at the hands of the police is justified as a result of his offence. He had other run-ins with the law, as I mentioned. He got busted for selling weed and had a weapons charge. Many more crimes are on his rap sheet, including resisting arrest. Mr. Sterling was definitely not a choir boy.

Then again, neither am I. Even though it’s been 6 years since I’ve been arrested…I have been arrested. Unlike Alton, I don’t have any felonies. There are no weapons charges or statutory rape flare-ups. Still, when I see arrest records cited as a reason someone deserves to get shot and killed, I get a little bit taken aback. I know that I run a tabloid-style site where I dig thorough people’s past and sometimes reveal their closeted skeletons. But this isn’t some rhetorical dispute. A guy got shot and killed. I don’t think his record should hold much weight, if any

Now, it’s fair to point out why the cops were called. Mr. Sterling allegedly threatened someone with his weapon outside his friend’s convenience store. The cops came and we do have footage of the incident, but it’s incomplete. We don’t see the beginning of his confrontation with police and we don’t see the very end. It could be that he reached for his weapon, even knowing that he was outgunned. Stranger things have definitely happened. I kinda doubt that he did, but even him having a gun was illegal, given his felon status. Not only that, the police allegedly had reason to believe he had a gun. That might have had them on edge from the get-go, which is of course understandable.


Now, do I believe BOTH cops legitimately had their body cameras disconnected? No. Does the footage make them look great? No. But, as I said, it also doesn’t prove 100% that they weren’t justified, plus the footage is missing the ending. Unless the CCTV reel from the convenience store shows more, I don’t think there’s enough evidence to say for sure that the cops were in the wrong. Also, this guy was a convicted felon who was illegally packing heat. Any prosecutor would have a hard time convicting these cops absent more video evidence. There is one caveat to all this: Alton Sterling was allegedly shot 7 times, which does seem rather excessive. Even though I’m somewhat receptive to that argument, I’m not sure a jury would be.

At the end of the day, unless there is video showing that he did not reach for his gun, then I don’t think charges will be filed against the officer(s) (and if they are, I don’t see convictions forthcoming). I’m not making a value judgement there, just giving a prediction.

Let’s set this case aside, though. Opinions will of course vary wildly. My thing is, something is drastically wrong with policing in our country. Almost 600 people have been killed by police in the United States during 2016 alone. That’s a staggeringly high number for a Western democracy. You can blame whatever you want, including the communities where the police have to work. But this number needs to come down.

It’s not a black and white thing, either. Police get away with crimes against citizens much too often and their misconduct is not limited by race. That’s not to say many cops aren’t awesome people. Some of them are undoubtedly doing a great job. It’s hard to be a cop. That’s not a line of work I would ever want to go in. Still, there is a perception among people all over this country that police are above the law. We should try to change that if at all possible.

There are fixes that I believe would help immediately. I think some common sense gun regulation would be a good thing. I’m not for banning guns (I own a gun), but I think there’s provisions that could be enacted around the margins. However, I’ve long ago given up any hope of something like that actually making it through Congress. Plus, I don’t believe this would do as much as my next suggestion would…

The other fix that I would recommend would be the immediate end of the War on Drugs. I don’t think this is news to you all, but that’s a war that can never be won. Not only is it unwinnable, we are currently getting our ass kicked by Drugs. We’re the biggest user of illicit substances on Planet Earth and it’s not even close. Oh, and this war has turned police departments nationwide into quasi-military. That’s not how policing is supposed to go. They’re meant to be part of the community, not an occupying force. Still, if modest action on gun control is hopeless, ending this bullshit is right there next to it.

So, what do we do in the absence of those reforms? I wish I could tell you, because if I could, I would be making a lot more money than what AdSense doles out.