Police Chief To White Officer:
Ya’ all Should Have Shot That Black Guy
Didn't think he needed killing, sir
Police Chief: You’re fired!
February 13, 2018
Chronicle news & opinion
Former Weirton Police Officer Stephen Mader. (Photo: City of Weirton Facebook account)
(Weirton, West Virginia) – This one news story may speak volumes about several things; the state of race relations in America, the collective state of mind among some police officials in today’s “militarized” police forces or the way in which police officers are taught in America to view a “threat” and to respond to a perceived threat.
Threat training that is vastly different than the way most European and other police officers around the world are trained. The story also may say something about just the way they’ve always done things ‘down south.’
What your collective life experiences, education, race, prejudices, previous encounters with police and political leanings are will most likely predict how you view the information contained herein.
After all, there are no real hard-as-rock facts anymore, are there?
With the Trump era we now live in a world of “alternative facts,” where the news media is designated the “enemy of the people” by the President of the United States for reporting things the President does not like.
A world where the extremist right wing media echo chamber promotes some of the weirdest, most outlandish and dangerous conspiracy theories and false/fake/phony “news” you’ll ever run across – and that millions of Americans buy into heart and soul, day in and day out.
What cannot be denied by anyone however, is a basic, singular fact about this story: the white police officer in this case acted with restraint, using his professional judgment and training in making a decision that he should not shoot a person of color because he did not think that person posed to him a lethal threat.
And for that, he was fired.
Welcome to ‘Merica. A place where if you’re a cop and you don't draw that .40 caliber Glock and put two or three in some black’s guy’s center mass when you’re police chief thinks that guy deserved it, then you’re gone.
Fired. Go apply at Starbucks pal. Leave the police work to us tough guys who know how it needs to be done. You’re weak buddy boy. Indecisive. Gonna get some real cop killed some day.
Well, thank goodness for Stephen Mader, a former police officer in Weirton, West Virginia (population about 19,000) who sued after he was fired for not shooting a black suspect during a standoff in 2016, the city has come to an agreement with him that (in essence) he is not a “bad cop” for not blowing that 23-year old black man away that day.
He has settled his wrongful termination suit with his former bosses for $175,000 and a pledge that his now former police department would not prevent him from getting a new a new job in law enforcement someplace else.
Mader says he’s “happy to put this chapter of my life to bed.”
A day of decision, 2016
Mader was the first responding officer to a 2016 domestic disturbance call involving a man named RJ Williams, a black man who was believed to be suicidal at the time. Mader assessed the situation and determined that Williams did not pose an immediate threat to him or his fellow officers, even though Williams was holding a gun.
Why did he come to that decision? “He wasn’t angry,” Mader previously told the British newspaper The Guardian. “He wasn’t aggressive, he didn’t seem in position to want to use a gun against anybody. He never pointed it at me. I didn’t perceive him as an imminent threat.”
So Mader tried to talk the guy down – what any well trained European police officer would have done because that is what would be expected of her.
But as he was doing that, two other cops arrive on scene and almost immediately after showing up, shoot and kill Williams. Boom boom. Problem solved. Another black man down. Next.
Those were the “good cops.” The ones that did not get fired. Mader gets his termination letter 10 days later which said he failed to respond to the threat and that an, “Unfortunate reality of police work is that making any decision is better than making no decision at all.”
But the crazy part is, Mader had made a decision. He assessed what was in front of him – hey, Mader's an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, he knows what the hell a deadly threat is - and decided he did not need to send that black guy to the nearest morgue with bullets in his chest.
He just didn't make the decision his good ol’ boy West Virginia Police Chief wanted him to make. That is what was at the center of his termination.
So Mader filed suit for wrongful termination. The city said in a statement that the decision to settle was a call made by its insurance provider and that the police department stood by its decision to fire Mader.
That’s legal boilerplate nonsense. What it really means is, we were afraid to go to court on this one for fear some jury would award Mader a million bucks and set a precedent around here and drive up our cop insurance rates. Lot cheaper and less dangerous for us to hand him a lousy $175K and walk away from this thing while we can.
There is one other fact of this story that got lost in the news coverage. The message that police chief sent by firing Mader to all other cops is this: don’t matter whether you consider that black guy with a gun a threat or not, you blow his ass away or you get fired.