In late December of 2010, we posted about John T. Williams, who was shot and killed by Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk. Mr. Williams was fifty years old, a chronic alcoholic, and was deaf in one ear. He was walking down the street, holding a whittling knife with a 3-inch blade when Birk chased after him, yelling for him to drop the knife. Mr. Williams appeared not to hear Birk (he was hard of hearing, after all), and was shot by Birk in a matter of seconds (original article here).
At an inquest into this matter, jurors unanimously found Mr. Williams was carrying an open knife when first seen by Birk. However, four said “no” and four answered “unknown” when asked if the blade was extended when Birk fired (here). Thus, it is reasonable to conclude Mr. Williams was shot for hobbling along with an unextended knife. Since the shooting, Birk has been on paid leave (what a sweet job! You get to kill someone and still get paid on the taxpayer’s dime — where do I sign up?!).
King County Prosecutors have recently decided not to file criminal charges against Birk the murderer. Although no criminal charges were filed, the Seattle Times reported that the department’s Firearms Review Board reached a final decision that the August 30th shooting was not justified.
The incident was subject to several reviews, one by a San Diego Police Department homicide commander, and another by the Austin Police Department in Texas. The results of both these reviews are worthless and too negligible to mention in detail because they did not come to the necessary conclusion that this killing was murder and instead lodged petty criticisms against the Seattle Police Department for “conducting too many telephone interviews” and not giving an officer an opportunity to “orally explain their decision to use deadly force” (according to the Seattle Times). Unsurprisingly, the investigation of this particularly despicable police officer was conducted by other police officers, not an independent entity.
The Seattle Times reports prosecutors faced a legal hurdle in deciding whether to charge Birk because state law protects officers from criminal prosecution when they claim they used deadly force in self-defense unless it can be shown they acted with malice and lack of good faith. As the prosecutors have declined to file charges, it is reasonable to assume they believe chasing down a slow, hobbling, half-deaf elderly man and shooting him in a matter of 3-4 seconds is not an act characterized by “malice” or lacking in “good faith.” Effectively, as long as an officer claims he used deadly force in self-defense, even murder is excusable under the law.
At any rate, it’s quite clear what is going on here. Police officers have the legal authority to commit murder. In the event they do commit murder, they get a special panel composed of people highly sympathetic to them to judge and review their actions, before any possibility of criminal prosecution is considered. This is to contrast with an ordinary murderer, who would likely be immediately arrested and charged, and certainly with no free pass decreed by a panel of loyal and sympathetic comrades.
After review by three panels of highly sympathetic peers (San Diego, Austin, and the Seattle police department’s Firearms Review Board), even if one of them does find the officer engaged in an unjustified shooting, criminal charges still do not ensue. The Seattle department’s Firearms Review Board apparently found the shooting unjustified, yet Birk will still escape criminal punishment. The more succinct word for “unjustified shooting” is murder.
After committing murder, and three useless reviews by useless people in uniforms, a murderer escapes with only resignation from his pathetic job. We cannot be too cynical here, though. Police serve a very important function in society. Without them, there would be no one to ticket people for playing chess, no one to fine people $2,000 for recycling, no one to Taser 64-year old cancer patients, no one to Taser 10-year-old children, and no one to torture people into confessing to crimes they did not commit.
There would be no one to fuel gang crime with drug prohibition. There would be no one to arrest those damn do-gooders trying to feed the homeless. There would be no one to loot and destroy stores under the protection of the law, just to steal cigarettes and candy for themselves. Without police, rape would decrease. Without police, there would be no one to harass and arrest random people (with a tendency toward minorities) for a plant that was decriminalized 30 years ago. Without police, who would dress in all black, kick down doors in the middle of the night, and murder your grandfather? Above all, and most importantly, without police, who would perform the indispensable task of shooting caged kittens?
Without all this murder, animal abuse, rape, theft and torture, society would surely become disorderly and eventually descend into chaos.
Therefore, we must not judge these hard working members of law enforcement because of the crimes of just one man. And his pal from San Diego. And the entire crew involved in the Austin review. And all the King County prosecutors involved who refuse to file charges. And Birk’s entire department who stands idly by. And everyone in the city government responsible for a policy of continuing taxpayer-funded paychecks to a degenerate while he sits at home, jerks off, and laughs about how he got away with murder.
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