Kenosha disaster further shows why major policing reform is needed
Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times- Fairfax criminal lawyer weighs in
Kenosha, Wisconsin was barely noted in the national psyche before police officer Rusten Sheskey on August 23, 2020, shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back after he walked away from police and reportedly — according to one of the two known incident videotapers — had a scuffle as the videotaper heard police yell “Drop the knife. Drop the knife.” The disturbing footage of the shooting can be found by searching for “Jacob Blake” on YouTube, rather than my adding any footage to the recent Milwaukee Sentinel article here. My ongoing reaction and disgust at this in-the-back-shooting remains strong and raw. It is a wonder that Jacob Blake survived this deadly ordeal, but his father reports the shooting paralyzed him. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know that if I were approached by such a shooter who was being prosecuted, I would go right to work for the defendant if retained, but that does not at all diminish the disgust I feel about what Officer Sheskey did to Mr. Blake.
Jacob Blake’s three children apparently witnessed the Kenosha police shooting of him
When Jacob Blake got shot by Kenosha police officer Sheskey, his three children were in the back seat of his vehicle that he was approaching (leaving me wondering how much Blake’s walking away from the police was motivated by feeling a need or anxiety to attend to his children, who probably were already freaking out if they saw police and Blake scuffling). I recognize that the downside of reaching immediate conclusions about what happened in this incident with Jacob Blake can serve to backfire on future criminal defendants who are not only entitled to the presumption of innocence that all accused people have up until being found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt at trial, because no criminal defense lawyer nor criminal defendant wishes to be prejudged by the trial jury nor trial judge. Yes, the current discussion about this shooting is before any criminal prosecution has proceeded forward, and it is right that people constructively and productively discuss this shooting, both because of how revolting it is int he first place, and about where it fits in on the need to overhaul the criminal justice system so that we shrink the criminal justice system enough so that we heavily minimize having the wrong police officers on the street, and so that governments are hiring, training, supervising, and promoting the best possible police, and taking them off the street when they stray to the point that justifies relieving them of some or all of their duties.
What should you do if police try to engage with you or to stop you?
As demeaning as it might sometimes feel to do so, if the police try engaging with you or stopping you, whether in Kenosha or anywhere else, your best avenue to avoiding the worst possible scenario of an arrest (and even conviction) or injury from police is to stop, show your hands if told to, and to ask “Am I free to leave,” and not to leave until being clearly told you may leave. And remember your right to remain silent, to refuse police searches, and to decline field sobriety testing in DUI investigations.
George Floyd’s death and Jacob Blake’s paralysis by police shooting need to be the last of such tragedies
While George Floyd’s shooting and Jacob Blake’s paralysis in Kenosha need to be the last of such tragedies. we know that such tragedies will continue. The Black Lives Matter movement and other peaceful activism have been spurred further by these tragedies. Police and government authorities must fully protect people’s First Amendment rights to protest this situation and all other causes, and limits on any protests must never to be content based and never censorious, and must not themselves result in unjustified arrests and prosecutions. When violence, vandalism and looting take place by people nearby or joining peaceful demonstrators, they make matters more difficult not only for the peaceful demonstrators to maintain their right to demonstrate, but also for them to keep their voice and messages clear.
Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan L. Katz believes strongly in the need to shrink and improve police forces, and also recognizes that even people who commit or are accused of even the most heinous crimes are entitled to the same full protections of the law that everyone is entitled to.