Featured Letter: The benefit of the doubt

12/04/2014 6:00 AM |

To the editor:

I was driving on Route 25 the other day, a few hundred yards east of the Southold police station, when I observed three young white boys playing alongside the road with what looked like rifles. I assumed they were toy guns, although I could not tell as I drove past. 

Since they were walking near the station, police cars had to have passed them, and certainly dozens of passing cars like mine. My immediate thought was, “Thank God they were not black boys playing with toy guns, because they might have been shot dead by police.”

Recently, two young men brandishing toy guns were killed by police. In one case, the video recording of the murder of a 12-year-old was chilling, as the police car roared up right to him and immediately shot him dead. In the other video, a young man was walking around a department store with the toy gun. In each case, police claim they ordered the boys to drop the gun, and in each case it appeared that they had little time to do so before the shots were fired.

I wonder whether or not these young men would have been shot so quickly had they been white? Would the police have spent a few more minutes establishing whether or not these boys were a threat? Or, like the boys on the road in Peconic, would everyone just assume that the guns were not real and they were just playing around?

I recognize that police have to make life and death decisions, sometimes in a matter of seconds, but judgment is exactly what is needed, not immediate reactions when the threat is not clear. If we gave young black boys a few more moments of consideration, there would not be as many dead today.

Lonnie Soury, Southold