Calling the police is supposed to make us feel better, make us feel safer, like someone is on our side. But the shooting of a mentally ill teenager by cops has people feeling anything but safe right now. Keith Vidal's parents had called for help with their son who was going through a schizophrenic episode.
The 18-year-old high schooler was wielding a screwdriver, but his parents say officers were in the process of calming him down when a third officer arrived on the scene and shot the boy.
At least one officer, a nine-year veteran, has been placed on administrative leave as police in Boiling Springs Lake, North Carolina review the shooting. What comes of the investigation could well determine whether he will ever work as an officer again. In one report out of the Vidal house, the 90-pound teenager had supposedly already been tased when he was shot! What kind of threat could he have presented, screwdriver or no screwdriver, if he'd been tased?
Granted, we don't know enough about what happened in the Vidal house to say why the teenager is dead. What we do know is that of late there have been too many situations where folks turned to the cops for help only for the police to be fingered for causing tragedy.
Just this past October, a family in Georgia made the news after a woman said she called for an ambulance for her diabetic fiance because she was worried about his medicine. Instead police showed up and said the woman's 43-year-old fiance, Jack Lamar Roberson, was combative. They shot him, dead, in front of his family.
Then there's the case of Tyler Comstock. After an argument with his dad, the teen took off in the dad's car. Thinking he'd teach the boy a lesson, the father called police and reported the vehicle stolen. Comstock led the police on a chase that ended with the allegedly unarmed teenager being shot -- six times -- by police.
Like the case of Keith Vidal, both Roberson and Comstock would be here today if members of their family hadn't gotten the authorities involved.
How scary is that for families? To wonder if calling the cops will actually make things worse, not better?
I happen to have a lot of respect for law enforcement and the work they do. A number of relatives and friends work as police officers, and I know they take their jobs seriously. I know too that they put their lives on the line daily in order to keep the rest of us safe. They deal with some really scary situations, situations most of us would never dream of approaching.
It's my respect for officers like my cousin and my friends that make these sort of cases so troubling. As a whole, law enforcement is full of good people. But then there are these folks who make a bad name for the rest of them, who truly make you wonder whose side the cops are on.
As a society we depend on our police officers to be there when we need help the most. To think that people would be better off without them is a scary thought indeed.
How do you feel about the police in your area? Are they likely to help or hurt a situation?
Image via zigazou76/Flickr