I did my job right

“I knew I did my job right” was the justification that Darren Wilson gave for shooting Michael Brown. From Officer Wilson’s account of what happened in Ferguson the incident was not straightforward. There is no point in pretending that it was a clear cut case of a policeman shooting an unarmed man, although in this case the policeman did shoot an unarmed man. There is no point in the British press pretending that America’s gun laws facilitated this crime which would not happen in Britain. With our strict gun controls a few years ago police did shoot from very close range five hollow point bullets into the head of John Charles de Menezes, a man innocent of any crime.

In the de Menezes case no police officer faced any charges; they too were doing their job right.

The defence of only doing one’s job is frequently used, by journalists intruding into matters they have no right to know, by police when killing innocent people, by Prime Ministers when declaring illegal wars. It provides these people, I suppose, with a degree of comfort that they were authorised to behave in the way that they have behaved and that authorisation came from their employer – the newspaper or television station, the head of the police or the democratic decision of the nation.

“I was only following orders” was the defence beloved of the war criminals tried at Nuremberg. “I did my job right” is the defence of a police officer who regards his job as being to follow procedures designed to protect and serve the public instead of protecting and serving the public. If the consequences of following procedures is that someone dies unnecessarily, then so be it..


9 Responses

  1. Richard I don’t think that those of us who9o live in societies where guns are less common should discount the fact that American society is awash with them and a police officer can never be sure that any person is unarmed.

  2. Robert ! Ferguson riots look like ‘gang wars’ but on a larger scale. The police/national guard and the semi military forces have become big brother’s gang. The ‘people’ just another gang but less well armed.

    Just doing your job might just depend on who you see as your employer. We believe the policeman’s job is upholding the rule of law, protecting citizens from unlawful acts and catching criminals. Unfortunately, US police seem intent on abusing the rule of law, protecting government and ignoring the crimes of the worst criminals.

    • The only justification for permitting one group of people to have more rights than any other group of people, is that the group with more rights exercise those rights to protect and advance the interests of the whole, rather than themselves. In this way we can submit to be governed, but for no other reason.

  3. The USA is an altogether more violent society than ours as Iain says. I was very shocked when I first went in 1966 to hear of a speeding teenager being shot dead because he didn’t stop when a police car flashed his blue lights behind him. I was stopped by the highway patrol because I was walking along a road. The cop was suspicious and said no one walks in California. As soon as he heard my accent he changed. But what if I was black?

  4. And when these types of society are de-armed get ready to fly folks, a long way away from your system in decline by design.

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