Very few law enforcement agencies take accountability seriously. Even when officers are held responsible for wrongdoing, their employers find ways to soften the blow. Powerful police unions make the situation worse. The gap between officers and accountability hasn’t really shrunk, no matter how many recording devices we’ve attached to them or boards we’ve appointed to oversee them.
Nothing is going to improve if things like this keep happening. The backstory is this: Officer Philip Brailsford responded to call about a man in a hotel room with a gun. That man happened to be Daniel Shaver. Shaver killed pests so he owned pellet guns — one of which he had in the hotel room with him.
Within minutes of Officer Brailsford’s arrival, Daniel Shaver was dead — shot five times by Brailsford whose AR-15 was decorated with the phrase “You’re Fucked.”
Shaver was, indeed, fucked. He never had a chance to make it out of this confrontation alive. The video of his shooting shows Shaver never posed a threat. It shows Brailsford was the aggressor in this situation — laying down a steady stream of conflicting commands with the promise of death for any failure to comply.
This summary of Shaver’s last nightmarish minutes of life comes via the ACLU’s Jeffery Robinson:
On the video you can hear one of the officers screaming, “If you make a mistake, another mistake, there is a very severe possibility you’re both going to get shot … if you move, we are going to consider that a threat, and we are going to deal with it, and you may not survive it.”
Not only was the officer shouting in a very hostile voice, the orders were contradictory. “Do not put your hands down for any reason,” he tells Shaver. “Your hands go back in the small of your back or down, we are going to shoot you, do you understand me?” Shaver, who is now in tears, says, “Yes, sir.”
But immediately after, the commands change, “Crawl towards me,” and Mr. Shaver lowers his hands to the floor and begins moving toward the officers.
Within seconds of attempting to comply with the latest command, Brailsford decided Shaver was failing to comply and shot him five times, killing him.
Brailsford was charged with murder and manslaughter but a jury acquitted him of both charges. His employer fired him anyway, recognizing the threat Brailsford posed to citizens. All well and good, except it decided to make sure this firing caused the officer as little discomfort as possible. As Conor Friedersdorf reports for The Atlantic, it made a concession that will force taxpayers to fund the officer’s early retirement.
As for the cop who pulled the trigger, he was “temporarily rehired by the department so he could apply for a monthly pension,” The Arizona Republic reported this month. In 2018, he was reinstated for 42 days and applied for accidental disability. “An accidental disability is one that occurred while the employee was on the clock and permanently prevents the employee from doing his or her job,” the newspaper explained, adding that the pension in question “totals more than $ 30,000 annually.”
So, what disability did former Officer Brailsford claim? Pretty sure you can’t claim lack of good judgment and/or self-control as a disability, no matter how much these missing qualities have harmed your career. Nope, what Brailsford claimed was that he was the real victim in this shooting.
And the nature of the cop’s disability claim? According to an investigation by the local ABC affiliate, Brailsford said the incident in which he had shot Shaver had given him PTSD.
This is sickening. And it was enabled by his employer, which gave him the opportunity to make taxpayers pay for the mistakes he made as a cop. Being a bad cop pays just as well as being a good cop. And the agencies that could do something about police accountability simply won’t, which means we get whatever they give us, at our expense.
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