Proof Positive

August 17, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

First, some foundation…

Citizens grant authority to the state to regulate and control populations. These forces work to ensure that the citizens within that society adhere to the established rules and behaviors of expectations. These “rules”, also known as laws, are constructed by the society and subscribed to by those who enter into it. One who disagrees with these laws has an ability within the system to express his or her ideas and work towards a change, removal or creation of different legislation. This is the model of society we have developed through time and the one in which we function on a daily basis.

But what about a crisis?

On August 9, 2014 an unarmed eighteen-year-old was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Without discussing the details (all of which are readily prevalent on this domain known as internet), the event set off a series of protests.

My aim here is not to consider the justification for the reaction by either side. Reacting to a tragedy with violence and actions that destabilize a community cannot be condoned regardless of outrage or perceived abuse of power. Sadly both sides, the police forces and those aligned with the victim’s perspective feel an abuse of power has occurred and are responding with an increased use of force.

My question here is with whom does the burden of proof reside? Given that the event has occurred, it is my opinion that the burden of proof exists with the state. The power invested in the state to enforce laws, and in this situation deploy lethal force, demands a justification after the fact. As citizens we must see evidence that justifies the officer’s actions. For the benefit of all involved, the state must provide evidence that explains the situation. There is no justification for rioting or reacting in any way that further destabilizes the community.

Additionally to this point, a community that perceives any potential need for lethal force (aka every community) must establish a set of tools to gather evidence in case proof to justify action is needed. In other words the forces of the state must recognize the incredible power of force granted to them by the citizenry. Entrusted to protect the laws, they are given immense amount of power. Such power expands beyond the use of force and also includes the responsibility to justify action and display to the citizens that each and every action is justified.

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