LeBron James should explain, in detail, what accountability policing would have looked like in Columbus (Update)

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Allahpundit wrote about the incredibly irresponsible tweet that LeBron James posted yesterday about the Ma’Khia Bryant shooting. In case you missed it, it was a photo of the officer with the all caps caption “YOU’RE NEXT ACCOUNTABILITY” After a short time, James deleted that tweet and then he put up an explanation.

So he’s pretty much admitting he lashed out and anger with that now-deleted tweet. He doesn’t quite admit that he hadn’t seen the body cam video when he tweeted it but he sort of suggests he hadn’t gathered all the facts. And then he loses the thread a little by saying he’s still angry about the shooting. So anger does no one any good but he’s still angry. Okay, points for honesty I guess. A few minutes later he published another tweet.

Naturally, the guy shouting for accountability, didn’t take any clear responsibility for his own actions. He excused himself by saying he was angry. No admission that his tweet was wrong-headed and incredibly irresponsible. Instead he claims he took it down because other people were using it to create hate and to “create more racism.”

And then he suggests the real problem with the tweet was that he blamed one officer when it’s the entire system that’s the problem. And finally he makes one last attempt to rescue his earlier tweet by saying he’s just desperate for “ACCOUNTABILITY.”

Maybe “ACCOUNTABILITY” in all caps means something different than accountability. Usually what that word means is you’re held responsible when you do something wrong. So let’s parse that a bit.

In this case, LeBron obviously believes the officer should not have shot Bryant even though she had just tried to stab a woman and was a second away from trying to stab another woman. So what would accountability look like here?

This is almost certainly going to be ruled a justified shoot. When an officer witnesses someone using lethal force against himself or someone else, he’s allowed to end that threat with lethal force. That’s what happened here. The officer said as much to people at the scene seconds after the shooting. The intended victim of the knifing (the girl in pink) also understood that was why the officer shot Bryant. So there’s no real disagreement about why this happened.

But LeBron just said the entire system is the problem so obviously he thinks the system that would allow this to happen needs to be changed. And that’s really the more interesting question because, like it or not, lots and lots of people agree with LeBron.

Unfortunately, LeBron never tells us what the ideal system should look like, i.e. how was the officer supposed to handle this? Some suggested (and Ed has a post coming up about this) that the officer could have shot Bryant in the leg. But police explained why they don’t train that way. Others have asked why the officer didn’t use a taser or simply pull Bryant off the other girl.

I think the people suggesting this haven’t thought about it very much. In a situation where lethal force (the knife) was being used, the officer was allowed to respond with lethal force. But if that’s not a good standard what is the alternative? Is James suggesting we should change the rules such that when a suspect is using lethal force an officer should be forbidden to respond in kind? I honestly think that’s the logical outcome of what LeBron is saying, he’s just not willing to say it out loud because it would immediately sound daft.

Keep in mind, whatever rules of engagement apply to bystanders will apply to the officer him (or her) self. So take the girl in pink out of the equation. What if Bryant was charging at the officer with the knife? In LeBron’s world of accountability policing the only legal option would presumably be either a taser or maybe a club. In some cases that might work out. It certainly would for LeBron who, were he a police officer, could successfully wrestle with 99.9% of all suspects he would ever encounter. But not every cop is 6’9″, 250 pounds and a top athlete. Let’s face it, if LeBron showed up, most people would take one look at him and drop the knife. Unless you’re Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, you aren’t going to win a wrestling match with him. But for a lot of cops a no-lethal-force-in-response-to-lethal-force rule would effectively become the officer-must-get-stabbed-rule.

I think you’d see a wave of police officers heading for the exit if that became the standard. No one is going to take a job like this if the only choice they have when being attacked with a knife is to die or go to jail for breaking the rules.

If there’s a better way to handle what happened yesterday, and Lebron clearly thinks there is, he should explain it to us. No one wants to see a 16-year-old kid shot. But if that 16-year-old is armed with a knife and trying to wildly stab people what exactly should cops do assuming that 6’9″ top athlete LeBron James isn’t there to wrestle the knife away?

Update: In case the intent wasn’t already clear.