Against the Grain II

Wright’s death a result of police mentality toward Blacks

Vaughn Wilson

It just doesn’t add up. In the hours following the news of the death of Daunte Wright, hearing Brooklyn Center, Minn., Police Chief Tim Gannon say that 26-year veteran officer Kim Potter made a “mistake” in shooting Wright at point blank range added to the ridiculousness of police shootings of Blacks for non-violent offenses.

It sent me to the Web to research both the possibility and frequency of law enforcement mistaking their issued weapon for a taser. The evidence was overwhelmingly in favor of safeguards put in place to prevent exactly that situation from occurring.

The main practice to prevent this “mistake” is the location of the taser. It is clear overwhelmingly that officer keep their firearm on the dominant side of their body, meaning if you shoot tight-handed, the firearm is on the right side. The taser is then placed on the weak side. This simple straight-forward method was developed in order to assist officer in the heat of the moment from grasping the wrong device.

The first taser was developed in 1969.  In 1976 the first taser was offered for sale. By 1993, police forces across the country had implemented them in their regularly issued gear.

As a 26-year veteran, there is no doubt Potter had received training on proper use of a taser and the difference in discharging a firearm.

What makes more sense in light of the events of 2020 and 2021 of police aggression towards unarmed Black men, is the mentality of officers has transitioned to a “shoot first” mentality when it comes to Blacks.

While everything she was trained to do was engrained in her head, the aggressive psyche of targeting Blacks took precedence. There was never a threat to her safety. There was never mention of Wright having, attempting to look for or even gesturing as if he had a weapon. Additionally, Wright was not an imposing figure. A small-framed man of his size should be able to be restrained by an officer trained in the techniques.

Gannon himself claims not to understand the logic as he stated, “We train with our handguns on our dominant side and our Taser on our weak side.”  That theme permeates through all law enforcement references.

By every account, mistakes of this nature are truly rare. One of the latest incidents was a 2015 and that was a volunteer officer.  

The law journal of Americans for Effective Law Enforcement documents just nine cases from 2001-2012.

All the evidence of a mistake seem thin. What is prevalent in the news of the times is the ratio of Blacks shot by police is exponentially higher than that of any other race. In a pandemic year, where we were locked down for a major portion of the cycle, 241 deaths by police based on a report were actually up from 2019 where a full year of activity resulted in 235 deaths of Blacks by police.

The numbers reveal an almost militant approach by police to Blacks. So, what would make Potter any different. If there is an underlying mentality to shoot Blacks first and answer questions later, this case is “Exhibit-A.”