View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, July 09, 2003

One of the big stories here recently has been the story of a mentally-handicapped teenage boy, who was wielding a knife, and threatening his mother. The cops showed up and shot and killed him. Evidently, they were within official procedures for this sort of thing, but several officers on the scene had tasers at their disposal, and these weren't used. Also, the 9-1-1 operator didn't seem to allow the boy's sister, who called in the problem, to explain his handicap.

At first, it seemed as though the racial angle was going to dominate this story, with certain firebrands showing up on TV, threatening "explosions" and asking if a white kid who didn't know any better and who was chasing his mother around the table with a knife, would have been confronted with the same suspicions. It turns out that this particular officer also shot and killed a deaf black teenager in another incident last year. Previously, I didn't know the race of the officer. Therein lies enough irony even for Mr. Berlusconi.

It turns out the officer is half-asian. What the other half is, I don't know, but I assume his father is white. According to the Denver Post, he had been denied positions on 4 other police forces, and was the last of 158 trainees admitted to his class. He was only admitted because of a court-ordered "diversity" plan, and clearly had no business carrying a weaponand a badge. What's ironic is that it's usually the Asians who get the short end of the stick under affirmative action. Here's a case where one benefits, and he screws is up.

The mistake, the carelessness, the death of this young man, have nothing to do with the officer's Asian mother. But they do show what happens when race trumps qualifications. Jayson Blair's lack of character is unrelated to his skin color. But his skin color helped put him in a position to do tremendous damage to a great paper's credibility.

The good news is that the alliance of black ministers has proposed a variety of measures, none of which has anything to do with race. The bad news is that they also have requested a civil rights investigation, the mere prosecution of which could make the police more passive and embolden criminals. This is just what happened in Cincinnati after the riots, and crime rates have risen far faster than the national average there. Since Denver has suffered from gang violence in the past, seems to be undergoing a resurgence of such violence now, and since most gangs are ethnic, Denver may be particularly vulnerable to this dynamic.

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