As an outspoken critic of police brutality, non-accountability and militarization, I have often advocated violent self-defense against police officers. This is, to many people, a very radical position to take, and I get more than my fair share of push back whenever I articulate my position on this point. So naturally, when a local police officer, Kerrie Orozco, was recently murdered by a suspect in another shooting as she approached his home to serve a search warrant, I was immediately inundated with a barrage of comments. The content of these comments were harsh and accusatory. Since I had publicly advocated violent self-defense against police, their argument went, this officer’s murder was a natural outgrowth of my rhetoric, and the rhetoric employed by leftist radicals more broadly. The purpose of this short essay is to clarify my position on this issue, and to draw a line between the random killing of police officers and the direct attack on police officers who have committed crimes for which no justice was served.
Kerrie Orozco, by all accounts, was a stand-up officer and human being. She coached an inner city little league team, was known to get out of her cruiser to shoot hoops with young members of the community in North Omaha, and had no record of misconduct. She had recently given birth to a daughter, and was about to go on maternity leave when her life was taken by a criminal who was a suspect in another unrelated shooting. The reason she was targeted was not because she had taken the life of someone else unjustly, or because she was known to be corrupt; but simply because she happened to be the officer who approached the suspect’s door to serve a legal search warrant. Her death does nothing but depress me, and I am brought to the brink of tears when I contemplate her infant daughter growing up without a mother.
How is my position on this officer’s death conducive with my position on violent self-defense against police? Well, the answer should be obvious, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be obvious to my detractors, so I will explain. I advocate violent self-defense against police who abuse their authority and inflict criminal violence against citizens for no good reason. When an unarmed black man is shot in the back multiple times while running away, or when a young girl is forced to perform a sex act to get out of an arrest, or when a sleeping child is killed by a trigger-happy cop entering the wrong home in search of drugs, and when those officers are not, in any meaningful way, investigated, charged, convicted or punished for their behavior, I support retaliation from the community. The form this retaliation can take is diverse, and should be proportionate to the crime committed by the officer. Additionally, this retaliation should only come when all other options have failed. Protests, rallies, writing our representatives, and even rioting are all tactics that should be tried first. If these strategies fail (as they often do), and the officer is back on the beat, I view that officer as a threat to the citizenry, and I think a valid moral argument can be given in support of retaliatory measures by the citizenry (for whom the police work, and to whom the police should be directly accountable). Please note that I am not making any threats against any specific police officers, nor am I advocating wanton violence against police officers. I am merely articulating my position that valid moral arguments can be made in certain cases for retaliatory measures against certain police officers who commit violent crimes against the citizenry for which they face absolutely no punishment via the normal means of the justice system. These retaliatory measures should not be taken lightly, and should only be used as a last resort. The reason I take such a position is because, far too often, police are allowed to abuse their authority with no consequence. The very system that employs police is too often the system we rely on to hold them accountable, and time after time it fails to this job. Since police hold a very unique and powerful position in society, and since they are here, in theory, to protect and serve the citizenry, they should be directly accountable to the citizenry when their crimes go unpunished by the normal social and judiciary mechanisms. This position falls out of my belief that human beings have a natural right to self-defense and to eliminate existential threats to themselves, their families, and their communities. If a specific police officer has a history of unwarranted violence against the very citizenry that officer is supposed to protect, and if these crimes go utterly unpunished (paid leave is NOT a punishment, for the record), I believe the citizenry has not only a moral license, but perhaps a moral obligation, to defend themselves and the innocent.
According to this line of reasoning, the murder of Officer Orozco was totally unjustified and tragic. Orozco’s murderer was killed on the scene by other officers, but had he survived, I would support the harshest penalties allowable by law against him (which in Nebraska, would be life in prison without the chance for parole). My heart goes out to Officer Orozco’s family and friends, not because she was a police officer, but because she was a human being who did not deserve her fate.