How they see us: America’s culture of violence
Australia wants answers, said The Australian in an editorial. Australian citizen Justine Damond, 40, was doing the right thing when she was killed by a Minnesota police officer. The yoga teacher, engaged to be married to an American casino executive, heard what she thought were sexual noises outside her Minneapolis home and feared a woman was being raped, so she called 911. When the police arrived, Damond ran out in her pajamas to greet them and may have tapped the squad car, causing a noise. As she approached the driver’s window, Officer Mohamed Noor opened fire from the passenger’s seat, past his partner, fatally striking Damond in the abdomen. The killing, as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said, is “inexplicable.” Damond’s grieving family here in Australia is “anxiously seeking answers,” but U.S. authorities are providing none. There’s no video record, because the two officers in the car both failed to activate their body cameras. And Noor, a jumpy rookie cop with “a long list of disturbing allegations” against him, won’t talk to investigators— and his bosses can’t make him. That’s simply not acceptable.
We all know what killed Justine: America’s insane gun culture, said David Penberthy in The Advertiser. The Second Amendment was intended to guarantee that citizens could form an armed militia to battle foreign invaders, but it now means that “criminals, macho men, psychopaths, doomsday preppers, and terrorists can all get their hands on the deadliest weapons, no questions asked.” No wonder police are so afraid that they shoot without warning. They operate in a heavily armed, “unpredictable, triggerhappy society.” If only America could shake its love of guns, said Aubrey Perry in The Sunday Age. Australia did that in 1996, after the Port Arthur massacre, when a gunman killed 35 people. Aussies said “Never again,” banned semiautomatic weapons, and patriotically handed in their firearms in a government buyback program. “The social psychology shifted around guns, and that’s what needs to happen in the United States.”
It’s the police mindset that has to change, said Paul McGeough in The Sydney Morning Herald. Australians may find it incredible, but the U.S. doesn’t have a unified police-training program— there are 18,000 state and local departments and 73 federal law enforcement agencies, each with its own culture and its “own policies on recruitment, training, discipline, equipment, weapons, and operating procedures.” Those police chiefs who do try to reform their forces to focus on de-escalation rather than confrontation face intense pushback, both “from police associations and from politicians.” Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department created reform plans for “dozens of dodgy police departments,” but the Trump administration is scrapping those agreements. There’s little hope that Damond’s death will be the “catalyst for change” that America so desperately needs. ■