The Ashli Babbitt Killing: Where's the Outrage?

There is an obvious double standard in deciding if a police officer should be charged with violating a use-of-force policy

On January 6th an unarmed 5' 2", 110 pound Caucasian female was shot by police with minimal media coverage and even less outrage.  A Google search reports approximately 1,060,000 results for Ashli Babbitt and 293,000,000 for George Floyd.  

Ashli Babbitt was a decorated Air force veteran and a Trump supporter.  

George Floyd, despite what the media is attempting to portray him as, was a criminal.  George Floyd's family received a $27 million settlement.  Barbra Streisand donated an unknown number of shares of Disney stock to his daughter.  Kanye West donated $2M for an education plan for her.  She also received a full scholarship from Texas Southern University in honor of her father's "powerful legacy."  The outrage was international, and several U. S. cities burned resulting in $2 billion in damage and 12 people murdered.   

Both individuals were involved in a criminal act.  Floyd was resisting arrest and his fate would have been different if he had cooperated.  Babbitt was not given an opportunity to submit or resist arrest. 

The officer involved in Floyd's death was convicted of murder.  His conviction may have been influenced by a fear of riots.  Defense attorney Eric Nelson said, "The emotional response that that case creates sets the stage for a jury to say, 'I'm not going to vote not guilty because I'm concerned about the outcome.' "  

The officer in Ashli Babbitt's death was cleared of any crime.  The Justice Department determined, "the officer could reasonably believe he was firing in self-defense or in defense of members of Congress."  Every incident where a White police officer is involved in the death of a Black individual is immediately publicized, including the officer's name and frequently home address.  These incidents often lead to riots. 

Yahoo reported that Babbitt's, "death became a rallying cause on the right."  So far there have not been any riots in response to her death.

Babbitt’s lawyer, Terry Roberts, will file a lawsuit against Capitol Police.  He claimed, “This was an egregious act of excessive force.”  “Witnesses confirm that the officer did not give Ashli a single verbal warning prior to firing.”  This incident raises the question of the Capitol Police' s Use-of-Force Continuum.  This policy outlines the stages of permissible force use by law enforcement.  The first level is Officer Presence which requires no force for compliance.  Next is verbalization.  This is crucial in letting a subject know what is expected and what are the consequences of non-compliance.  Next is physical restraint.  At the lower level it involves controlling the subject through physical means.  It can escalate to the use of chemical weapons and tasers.  The highest level of restraint is use of a lethal weapon.  It should only be used if the subject is a serious threat to the officer or another individual.  The officer should also take note of the surroundings.  It is unwise to shoot into a crowd.  

The officer who shot Ashli Babbitt also had plenty of time to decide to use his taser.  This was not a split-second decision.  There is no mention of any disciplinary action taken for this officer's violation of the use-of-force policy.

Following recent protests, the D.C. Council passed reform measures that require the city to swiftly make public the names of officers who use force on citizens, but this applies only to District of Columbia police, not Capitol Police.   

The reason why the officer who shot Ashli Babbitt remains anonymous may have more to do with embarrassment rather than for his protection.  With the government's increased emphasis on removing "extremists" from government, it would be inconvenient if it were learned that the officer had any kind of extremist background.  There is speculation that the officer is possibly an extreme supporter of Black Lives Matter.  This could mean the difference between a justified shooting and a cold-blooded execution.

The total secrecy surrounding the Justice Department's handling to the Babbitt investigation is a cause for concern.  They claim they conducted a 3-month-long thorough investigation.  It was held in secret with no public testimony and no media were allowed in to report on the proceedings.  Jonathan Turley claims, "If the officer intended to shoot Babbitt, it would not likely meet the standard for a justified shooting under governing cases like Tennessee v. Garner (1985)."  He also noted that "the Babbitt decision leaves more questions than answers for the public and police alike."  The U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. Department of Justice have offered condolences to Ms. Babbitt’s family.

Photo credit: Twitter via the Times of Israel

John Dietrich is a freelance writer and the author of The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy (Algora Publishing).  He has a Master of Arts Degree in International Relations from St. Mary’s University.  He is retired from the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.  He is featured on the BBC's program "Things We Forgot to Remember:" Morgenthau Plan and Post-War Germany.

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