In both instances, the police have tried to put a spin on the incidents, in an attempt to shift the blame onto the victims. In the James shooting, we were immediately told that she was a crackhead. Perez, we have been told, had five felony counts against him. A toxicology report has been released claiming that Perez had just ingested large amounts of cocaine.
But such blame-shifting information does not exonerate the officers. Moreover, Perez's alleged drug use has not been linked to the need for officers to respond with deadly force.
Yet, in spite of the similarities between the James and Perez shootings, there is one significant difference: Police Chief Derrick Foxworth's response. In one of his first true tests as police chief, Foxworth has stepped forward with poise, sincerity, and integrity. Immediately following the shooting, he met and spoke with family members.
Foxworth also quickly huddled with the District Attorney and, three days after the shooting, requested a public inquiry. Despite a series of unsettling police shooting incidents (see pg. 10), Foxworth's request could bring about the first public inquiry into a police shooting in 20 years. But Foxworth's straightforward actions could also potentially put him at odds with the police union. It is commonly agreed upon that former Police Chief Mark Kroeker was forced out by the police union after suspending Scott McCollister for the James shooting. One of the officers involved in the Perez shooting has already sued to stop the public inquest.
The police bureau has been widely criticized for their failure to learn from mistakes and change their behaviors. On average, there has been one senseless shooting per year. Perez's death should not have happened. But it may have presented Foxworth with an opportunity: To take the control away from the police union and give it back to the public. The decision is now in Foxworth's hands.