When a parent accidentally backs over a toddler and kills their child, we cringe and feel the pain of their intense sorrow, knowing they will live with that memory for the rest of their life. The thought of having them criminally punished probably doesn’t enter our minds. After all, it was an accident, right?
The accident that befell Justine Damond is different, because she died as a result of a police officer making a mistake and police officers should be above such things — right?
After writing a previous piece for these pages on the unfairness of charging former Minneapolis Officer Mohamed Noor with second-degree murder and reading the subsequent comments I found that there was a wide, as in Texas-wide, range of opinions as to what was “fair.”
A great many people voiced their disagreement, saying Noor should be basically “nailed to the wall.” Now that he’s been convicted (of third-degree murder), and sentencing in the case approaches, I’m sure we will hear from those who want the guillotine — and from those who believe the public vilification, humiliation, firing, guilty verdict and worldwide condemnation might be enough. Oh, and that other thing — like the parent who accidentally killed the child, Noor will live with what he did for the rest of his life.
I have never met Noor, but I assume a day does not pass when he does not relive the actions of that fateful evening. I’m sure he relives the revelation that the person he just shot was an innocent citizen and the sight of her dying in front of him, which he watched happen in real time.
The phrase “officers have to make split-second decisions” is used so often it has become a cliche. As a retired police officer, I have walked in Noor’s shoes and have made my share of mistakes. They are inevitable in the profession. Every officer is going to have “close ones,” making the proverbial split-second decision that, by the grace of God, turns out to be the right one. After a deep, cleansing breath, we thank God and ask that he help us with the next one as well. Or at least that the mistakes we make will be of the smaller, more insignificant variety rather than life-altering tragic ones such as what Noor made.
I don’t blame the family of the victim for their harsh words about the police department, the union and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Any impediment to whatever their definition of justice was would be viewed as nefarious.
However, as far as the union goes, its job is to ensure that officers receive every protection available. So while it may seem they were trying to protect a guilty person, they were doing their job. Remember, in America we are all presumed to be innocent until we are proven guilty in a court of law.
Of course, there is no true justice when an innocent life is taken.
Whatever sentence the judge comes up with will be considered just by some and a miscarriage of justice by others. Ms. Damond is gone, lost to her loved ones. That tragedy cannot be healed through any sentence.
Richard Greelis, of Bloomington, is an author and retired police detective and teacher.