Shooting of an unarmed Charles Kinsey

A bizarre incident this week has handed ammunition to the Black Lives Matter movement, the shooting and then handcuffing of Charles Kinsey, a North Miami therapist who was unarmed and following the instructions of the police.  According to news reports, Kinsey works for a group home for disabled adults and was trying to bring back an autistic resident who had wandered away when law enforcement arrived in response to reports of an armed man blocking traffic and threatening suicide.  One of the officers fired his weapon—referred to as an assault rifle in The Washington Times report—hitting Kinsey.  Kinsey himself said to reporters at his hospital bed that he asked the officer why he shot and that the officer replied, “I don’t know.”  Kinsey was then cuffed for some twenty minutes while awaiting medical attention.  He is expected to recover.  The autistic man had a toy truck, and no gun was found at the scene, other than the weapons brought by law enforcement.

If the “I don’t know” answer has been reported correctly, that suggests to the the possibility that the officer was exercising poor trigger discipline.  As a reminder, let us recite Jeff Cooper’s Third Rule:  Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target and you are ready to fire.  I’d have expected that message to have well and thoroughly permeated through law enforcement to the same extent that it has among members of the gun community on the Internet, but perhaps I’m being optimistic.  But as has been pointed out many times, a properly functioning firearm will not go off unless the trigger has been squeezed, and this whole business sounds like some officer got jumpy and shot before his brain realized what he’d done.

But there are larger questions here.  One is the police response to a citizen in distress.  Money spent on law enforcement has focused on paying for more officers, but not for sufficient training.  This is especially a concern when mental health comes into the picture. Police departments are waking up to this problem, but we still have cases such as this one in North Miami in which a person with mental illness is seen as a danger, despite the fact that such people are no more violent than the rest of the population.

More than that, as Chief Brown of the Dallas Police Department said following the attack on his officers, the police are being asked to handle more and more things that are outside their expertise and jurisdiction.  We expect law enforcement officers to seek out criminals, to be a measure of deterrence against crimes being committed, and to provide aid in emergencies.  But generally speaking, they are not medical professionals or social workers or marriage counselors.

If we really want to solve this situation, we’re going to have to accept the burden of greater spending, both for training of police officers and for mental health services.  The objections from the right will be many, but psychologists and social workers have to be paid.  They need facilities and other resources.  And there have to be enough of them to deal with the people in trouble.

This is an example of spending some now to forestall much greater costs in the future.  And it’s an example of solutions that would work, rather than preserving us in our current difficulties.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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