It is not my intention with this post to judge the innocence or guilt of George Zimmerman. A jury has acquitted him of charges for the murder of Trayvon Martin. The jury has seen and examined the evidence more than I nor any online armchair juror has. Rather it is reaction of the media and the public at large over the case that I find interesting, if not perplexing.
Over at the Lew Rockwell blog, Butler Shaffer makes an interesting observation about the closing argument the prosecution made in their case against Zimmerman:
Toward the end of the state’s summation, it was said that if a person wanted to do what George Zimmerman did “you’d better have one of these” (whereupon a photo of a policeman’s badge was projected onto the screen).
When the prosecutor refers to “what George Zimmerman did” he is likely referring to his activities as a private citizen participating in his local “Neighborhood Watch” program. It was under this auspice that Zimmerman was operating when he called 911 and reported what he saw as the suspicious behavior of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was operating as part of a voluntary organization of neighbors who have gathered together to protect their neighborhood, which had been subject to a series of burglaries.
The implication here is not that Zimmerman did anything wrong by finding Martin’s behaviors suspicious, nor by reporting that activity or keeping an eye on his movements. Zimmerman’s real sin was not having “the badge”. Because he was a private citizen and not an employee of the State, Zimmerman’s actions leading up to the incident with Martin were somehow less valid than if he were a “certified” member of law enforcement.
Many pundits are playing hypothetical games with the Zimmerman/Martin case. “What if Zimmerman was black? What if Martin was white? What if Zimmerman wasn’t carrying his gun on him?”
I’d like to take a different hypothetical route and ask “What if George Zimmerman was a police officer?”
Let’s say Officer Zimmerman is patrolling a neighborhood that has had a lot of burglaries recently and spots Trayvon Martin walking around in the rain. He decides that Martin’s behavior is suspicious and calls it in to the station. Dispatch tells Officer Zimmerman to wait for back up, but to keep an eye on Martin’s movements.
At some point, Officer Zimmerman decides to exit his vehicle. He is then approached and attacked by Trayvon Martin. He is overpowered, has his nose broken, and his head is slammed into the sidewalk. Martin reaches for the officers gun, at which point Zimmerman pulls it out and shoots Martin, taking his life in the process. We only have the recording of the call to dispatch as well as Officer Zimmerman’s testimony to rely on.
Does anyone believe we would see the same type of media coverage over this event? Would Officer Zimmerman be brought up on charges of second degree murder and manslaughter?
It is far more likely that we would never hear about the case at all, the officer would perhaps be on paid leave for a few weeks while the incident was “investigated”, after which he would return to life as normal patrolling the streets once again. It is highly doubtful that we would see a media frenzy calling for the arrest of the officer, nor would we likely see President Obama make a statement that the man killed would “look like his son” if we had one.
According to a list being compiled at Wikipedia, at least 587 people were killed by law enforcement officers in 2012. How many of these incidents made national headlines? How many of these incidents did the President issue comment on? How many of those cases were being investigated by the Justice Department as “civil rights violations?
This serves to highlight the double standard that exists when law enforcement officials are granted a monopoly and placed above the law. In a free market system of police and justice, officers of the “law” would face the same legal consequences as “ordinary” citizens.
It is the State which creates imbalance in the justice system. It is the State which serves to highlight certain institutes in order to create division among the masses and divert from its real crimes.