Opinion: A violent outcome that needn’t have happened

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

My Opinion.

I was waiting in an airport Wednesday night when I saw news on my phone about the shootings at the site of what protesters derisively call “Cop City.”

I was out of state that day to bury my last living uncle. He was a Black man. A military vet too.

More to the point here: For four decades, he was a police officer.

Credit: TYSON HORNE /TYSON.HORNE@AJC.COM

Credit: TYSON HORNE /TYSON.HORNE@AJC.COM

So I’m sure he would have been equally disgusted and dismayed by the violence Wednesday at the future site of a training center for the Atlanta Police Department in southwest DeKalb County.

You’ve likely heard the story by now — the GBI says a protester opened fire on Georgia State Troopers “without warning.” A trooper was shot in the abdomen, underwent surgery and was in stable condition at the ICU unit of a local hospital.

And the alleged shooter?

The activist’s fate was what you’d expect when armed human beings — either civilians or law enforcement — are being fired upon. The suspected armed protester was shot and killed.

That cause-and-effect is human nature when lethal threat assaults the instinct to survive. It was an unwritten law of the streets where I grew up. It claimed people I knew.

The violence Wednesday morning was as predictable as it was outrageous, unwarranted and unnecessary.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Editorial Board has said so more than once as we’ve offered our opinion on the 85-acre proposed training site that city and police officials say is badly needed by APD.

In an October editorial, we wrote, “It’s understandable that some would be opposed to the idea.

“And peaceful protest is a right all citizens enjoy.

“But regardless of where you fall on the issue, we can all agree that a small group of people do not have a license to engage in violent behavior.”

In that editorial, we urged peaceful activists and officials to “bring those intent on breaking the law to justice.”

“If not, it’s just a matter of time before someone gets hurt or killed.”

That time came on Wednesday.

No other outcome could have been reasonably expected when hooligans repeatedly make a mockery of peaceful civil disobedience by throwing Molotov cocktails and other missiles at police and contractors going about lawful business.

It’s always struck me as bitterly ironic, bordering on nonsensical, that this level of vehement, at-times violent opposition exists to the idea of creating a place to better train police for their role in 21st-century society.

Who in their right mind believes we don’t need police officers who’ve had the best, most-comprehensive training society can provide them, including time spent on best practices to peacefully de-escalate risky conflicts that are so commonplace today?

Lives might be saved by better preparing police officers for their work.

And who can truthfully deny that the current waves of violence we’re seeing on our streets does not prove the need for competent, diligent, ethical policing? If you don’t believe that’s so, there are a lot of homicide case files piling up that you’re willfully — and dangerously — ignoring.

And, personally, too many of those murder victims look like me.

I thought about all that Wednesday as I talked with my sister, who still lives in the neighborhood where I grew up. The burglar bars and multiple stout locks on her doors testify to the violence that’s traversed generations in my hometown. I remember some of those murders, shootings, rapes, robberies and the violent like.

My sister marveled at those in places high and low who oppose the concept and practice of policing. That idea certainly has not made neighborhoods like hers any safer. The opposite is actually true as crime stats keep accruing in metro Atlanta and across the U.S.

Society needs well-trained police in tune with the communities they serve, just as it needs mental health crisis professionals on the streets, too, who might help defuse volatile episodes by troubled people.

Are cops invariably without flaw?

Certainly not.

My late uncle knew that.

I know from our conversations that he had no use for two categories of people: Criminals and bad cops. He joined police ranks because he wanted to make a difference, help protect innocent people -- and be better than the bad cops of his youth who, as he once reminisced to me, “would knock you around for no good reason on a street corner.”

Largely as a result of his work and fortitude, at least one unfit cop was removed from the force and faced criminal charges for a controversial fatal shooting long ago.

A crime-torn Atlanta desperately needs the best police department we can muster.

Ensuring that the training center site is secure enough to safely build the new facility is a necessity, and law enforcement should continue doing what’s needed to make that a reality.

Andre Jackson, Opinion Editor.

A note of disclosure

The James M. Cox Foundation, the charitable arm of Cox Enterprises which owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has contributed to the training center fundraising campaign. It is among several Atlanta-based foundations that have contributed.