Burden vs. Consequence

I’ve been working on a fairly long post attempting to articulate some of my thoughts on the responses I’ve seen, particularly on the internet, to the ongoing protests concerning the recent police shootings.  I’m not ready to share that yet, but here’s a thought that I decided to share separately rather than find a way to work it into that already bloated piece that’s in work.

I’ve seen a lot of people make remarks along the lines of “Well, if so-and-so-now-dead-person had just done this or had not done this, then they’d still be alive.”  And, yes, those statements are completely true.  The incredible thing about hindsight is that it is always 20/20.  Nearly every bad thing that ever happened to anyone could have not happened had they just done something differently.  Sometimes that different choice was obviously the better choice, sometimes not.  Sometimes it’s only obvious looking back.

But whether they could have made a better choice doesn’t (or shouldn’t) put the blame on them.

Here’s an analogy.

Where I work, there are a lot of separate buildings and thus quite a bit of foot traffic outside.  There’s also vehicular traffic.  Company rules state that pedestrians have the right-of-way.  Everywhere.  The parking lot, the streets, the alleys between buildings.  Vehicles are always to yield to pedestrians, regardless of whether they are in a cross walk.  Period.

The burden is on the drivers to avoid hitting the pedestrians.  It is their responsibility.  But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s the pedestrian who will pay the price if they don’t.  It’s the walker who will be squashed like a bug if the driver isn’t paying attention.  The pedestrian suffers the consequences.

It’s the same thing with police.  The burden is on the police to control the situation in an appropriate manner.  It’s their job to keep it from escalating.  It’s their job to keep their cool.  It’s their job to determine when deadly force is appropriate.  It’s their job to not jump to the wrong conclusions.  It’s a difficult job, no doubt about it.

But it’s the person the police approaches who pays the price if they don’t.  As such, it is wise for them to not be provocative.  To do what they are told.  To swallow their pride.  But it is not their responsibility.  It’s still the police officer’s responsibility.  The officer is the one with control and training.  The officer carries the burden.  Or should.

One final note of comparison.  Someone several years ago was driving a vehicle on company premises and didn’t see a petite woman walking. He hit her and caused severe damage to her ankle.  She was out of work for quite some time and it took a very long time for her to recover.  She suffered the physical consequences of the driver’s carelessness.

She was so small, she was probably difficult to see.  The driver didn’t mean to hit her.  He felt really bad about it.  He still lost his job.  The responsibility to avoid the collision had still been his.

That’s how it’s supposed to work.

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