In the early morning hours of Sept. 14, 2018, a Detroit SWAT unit descended on a west-side home, acting on a lead a homicide suspect was inside. Officers in helmets and protective vests rammed down the door, according to a lawyer who reviewed the case, and encountered a Black man holding a gun. Within moments, he was shot dead.
The man, 46-year-old Detric Driver, was not the suspect, and no one inside the home was involved in the homicide. Driver, who based on the lawyer’s interviews with witnesses may have thought there was a break-in, simply made the grave mistake of grabbing a gun.
The case, which did not result in charges against the officers involved, bears strikingly similarities to the March police killing of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, which has sparked a nationwide uproar and calls for justice. An overnight raid in which witnesses say officers failed to knock, bad intelligence that led them to a home with no suspects or evidence, and a Black person killed for their distant affiliation to someone believed to have committed a crime. (Driver’s niece was the homicide victim’s half-sister.)
A growing movement to reimagine public safety in the wake of a spate of high-profile police killings sees the incidents not as flaws, but rather features of a broken system that disproportionately ensnares people of color and has a propensity toward violent confrontations.
Police officers — armed and trained to treat each encounter as a potential threat — are America’s first responders, dispatched to deal with everything from murders to homeless people in an inconvenient location. And cities spend huge sums to uphold this norm: In cash-strapped Detroit, police expenditures last year were $316 million, comprising about a third of the general fund.
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