The story of Korryn Gaines is a very complex one. It highlights multiple failures by police, social media and ultimately the system. It exemplifies everything that is wrong with our police state culture. It highlights the misappropriation of resources by municipalities, and the disproportionate use of force and failure to use reasonable judgment by police. Escalation as opposed to de-escalation is the only route that police choose to take in any given confrontational situation. In this case, police had a legal right to enter the Gaines’ home, however if common sense would have prevailed, Gaines’ death could have been avoided.
There were several failures on the part of all involved in this tragic case. The police were clearly at fault for allowing this situation to escalate to the point that a scared mother was executed in her own home. Korryn Gaines, however, should have known that by arming herself, she would surely complete a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“They are here to kill us,” Gaines tells her five year old son as police bang on her door. Tensions are rising on both sides. The question is: why were police so adamant to arrest Gaines in the first place?
According to court records and police statements, Gaines was wanted for a traffic violation and a failure to appear in court warrant, for an altercation she had with the officers at the time. Baltimore Police were also looking for Gaines’ boyfriend, who had already left the residence and was arrested elsewhere.
According to police, after attempting to convince Gaines to open the door for ten minutes, they were able to obtain a key to the apartment. This action represents a crucial factor in the escalation of the situation. U.S. law, as determined by the case of Payton v. New York, allows police to enter your home if they have an arrest warrant, regardless of whether or not the charge was a felony or a misdemeanor. While established as legally permissible, many agencies across the country have strict policies that govern this particular issue.
Using common sense and weighing the risks vs. the rewards, opting to make entry on a misdemeanor warrant poses a greater risk to police officers than the initial offense did to public safety. Making entry on a misdemeanor warrant, in the first place, is a demonstration of the uniquely American cowboy cop mentality that has become commonplace.
As the police tactical team entered, Gaines held her child and a shotgun. At this point, police unfortunately do have a legal entry, even if their original charges were minor.
In the U.S., police don’t care about proportionality in regards to the original crime vs the response. The case of Freddy Gray is a perfect example. They killed him and didn’t even have a crime to begin with. Once the cops “thought” they had a reason to chase and beat him, at that moment it didn’t matter to them if a crime had occurred or not. They were confident in their legal justification and just happened to get it wrong. This should speak intensely to the nature of the police mind.
The ultimate response to Miss Gaines’ traffic violations and resisting, was to kill her, however, when you follow the legal footprint of what police did, this case will undoubtedly fall in their favor. Step by step, until the first shot was fired, police followed legal protocol.
The single biggest problem police face, and which they cannot justify, is firing the first shot when a child was present. Police knew that the child was not in danger from his mother. They could have waited days and not entered. They chose to escalate an otherwise calm situation because of the inherit Rambo mentality police embody today.
There is no other reason other than the might makes right mentality that has become the norm in the United States. “Perceiving not only her actions, but the words she used, we discharged one round at her, in turn she fired several rounds back at us,” Baltimore Police Chief Jim Johnson told the media. “We fired again at her, striking and killing her. Tragically in this circumstance, the child that was also in the dwelling was struck by a round.”
As we all now know the story, how could police have perceived her actions and words as requiring the brutish response of assassination? Knowing the facts and circumstances as we do, the police justification of a rush to action is nothing more than mere disinformation, which will be largely bought by the public. Once again, police have played judge, jury and executioner when other avenues and solutions were present.
Another privacy issue, which has been brought to light, is the role of Facebook and social media in this case. According to police, Gaines was live streaming the police encounter on Facebook and Instagram. They contacted the social media companies and had Gaines’ profiles turned off prior to her being shot.
Police claim she was communicating the events as they unfolded on scene, claiming it posed a great risk to officers. Gaines posted photos of her child, ensuring the public that he is not a hostage. Police say that Gaines pointed a shotgun at them, which ultimately led to their firing the first shot. Another video posted by Gaines shows an armed officer coming in through the front door and attempting to speak with her. At this time, there is no evidence that Gaines pointed her weapon at police. Many of her friends on social media have come forward stating that this behavior would be drastically out of character for her.
This is a case where the ultimate failure lies within the system, with its allowance of citizens to be killed over minor offenses. The police have to be held responsible for allowing this incident to escalate – to the point that death was the final outcome.
Korryn Gaines, despite her mistakes in this incident, did not deserve her fate. Her videos posted show that she was a scared mother who believed the police were there to kill her, and she was right.
The current system of policing needs to reexamine its fundamental priority, which is preservation of life above all else. Cases like this expose the systemic problems that lead to increased violence and killings and police escalation. Recognizing these systemic flaws is the first step in solving the issues of police violence we are now seeing on a daily basis.
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