Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch came to Charlotte to tell me in-person that Officer Matthew Janish’s actions were “lawful and proper.”
Sure, Chief Rausch was super nice, and apologetic. But, in the end – holding a gun on an unarmed citizens who isn’t threatening your life is justified.
I can’t say I’m surprised, but I am disappointed. I’m not sure why. After all, time and time again, we’ve seen police officers cleared of any wrongdoing after they have shot and killed unarmed citizens. Why did I think my incident would be any different? At least, I’m still alive.
As I suspected based on my telephone interview with the internal affairs investigator, the fact that I arrived in an unmarked taxi that sped away sealed my fate. It didn’t help that Officer Janish thought I was a teenage Black boy. There’s other stuff in the interview transcripts too, about me looking around the neighborhood and carrying a duffel bag. But, like I told the Chief, the police always find a reason to clear the officer of any wrongdoing.
My biggest takeaways from this incident:
- After reading the transcript of the Internal Affairs interviews, the questions are set up to protect the officers. I suggested using multiple people to conduct interviews in these investigations so the questions aren’t tainted by previous interviewees in the case.
- The biggest thing I learned, however, is that de-escalation applies to citizens not police officers. Chief Rausch made it clear that my calm reaction helped de-escalate the situation. The audio transcript showed that Officer Janish was amped. I, however, was calm and compliant. According to the Chief, I handled the situation perfectly and it ended peacefully. Thanks (I think).
In all the weeks that I’ve been writing about and talking about this incident, I have focused on the need for more de-escalation training for police. It doesn’t matter.
The reality is that it’s up to us – the person in the crosshairs to keep calm. It’s up to us not to prove that we are lawful abiding citizens. The police will always protect each other. There is always some reason to justify an officer’s use of force. There is always some reason that an officer can claim his/her safety was threatened.
It doesn’t matter that might life was threatened at the other end of the gun. Unfortunately, it is up to us to not to agitate the situation by being loud or making any sudden movements.
It’s up to us to ensure the people who are supposed to protect us don’t kill us.