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NOLAN FINLEY

Finley: Video confirms cops aren't always wrong

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

The video of the George Floyd killing by Minneapolis cops told an undeniable story, one of racism, police brutality and the lack of trust between minority communities and the law enforcement agencies that are supposed to protect them.

The video of the killing by Detroit cops of Hakim Littleton also tells an indisputable story of what America would look like if those who are controlling the conversation today succeed in neutering police. 

Detroit Police Chief James Craig wisely released the bodycam recording showing a man identified as Littleton firing a handgun point blank at an officer who was attempting to arrest a suspect in a triple homicide.

It didn’t stop protesters from trying to fit this shooting into the George Floyd mold, but it did raise important questions about whether the Black Lives Matter movement is really after justice, or simply chaos.

A bodycam recording showed a man identified as Littleton firing a handgun point blank at an officer attempting to arrest a suspect in a triple homicide, Finley writes.

Justice was what the officers involved in the incident Friday were trying to deliver — justice for three people who were killed and five who were wounded during a July 4 block party.

While trying to arrest a suspect in the shootings, Littleton allegedly intervened, drew a gun from his pocket and fired at an officer’s head. Only his bad aim stopped this from becoming yet another murder of a cop doing his duty.

Craig suspects gang activity is involved in the block party killings. Criminal gangs are a serious problem in Detroit; they’ve been involved in a number of drive-by shootings, many of which have killed innocent children.

The police department has tried non-traditional approaches to dealing with gang violence, many of which fall in line with the reforms demanded by the Defund Police movement.

But sometimes violence is only deterred by violence. There’s not much room for negotiating when a bad guy is pointing a gun at your face.

Police must be smarter in how they do their job, but they still have to be able to do that job.

And that’s the worry. Will cops take the risk of confronting those engaged in criminal activity, or will they look away, calculating the consequences of a confrontation going bad?

In Detroit, homicides are up 30% this year, and shootings are up 50%. Cities across the nation are reporting similar surges in violence. 

Violent criminals, says New York Police Chief Terence Monahan, believe "cops can’t do anything anymore, that no one likes the police, that they can get away with things, that it’s safe to carry a gun out on the street.”

In Detroit, Chief Craig says cops are not "depolicing" — ignoring crime because they don’t feel supported by their department or community.

Evidence of that, he says, is that his officers walked into a risky situation to make an arrest in the block party killings, knowing it could turn volatile.

That’s why he moved so quickly to release the video.

"They were in the neighborhood because of the July 4th shooting," Craig says. "They were met by an individual who had one focus — taking the life of a police officer.

"The protesters put out a false narrative, angering many, trying to incite violence against police officers."

Too few politicians in America have the courage to push back against that false narrative. Craig sees clearly what’s going on.

"The real motive is not about the memory of Mr. Floyd," he says. "The motive is to undermine our society as it is today. It’s always this small group who is launching coordinated attacks around the country focused on law enforcement."

While a majority of Americans support policing reforms, just 25% back reducing police funding. 

The majority get the connection between an effective police force and their quality of life. And they aren't willing to offer up their communities, as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggests, for experiments in other models of maintaining order. 

Cops get it wrong sometimes. But certainly not every time. 

Watch the video of the Hakim Littleton shooting. And ask yourself what you would have done differently had you been the officer staring into the barrel of that gun. 

Twitter: @NolanFinleyDN

Sign up for the Nolan Out Loud morning report at detroitnews.com/newsletters.

Watch Finley on DPTV’s “One Detroit” at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays.