I wanted to take a few moments to comment on a police shooting which occurred in the town where I work.
Today, Hummelstown, PA police officer Lisa Mearkle was found not guilty of all charges against her for the February shooting of David Kassick.
I have worked in Hummelstown for about 8 years. I’ve seen Lisa many times over the years either driving by or eating in one of the many favorite lunch spots of the HPD. I never had any personal interaction with her but I knew which cop it was when small town buzz shocked me with the news that a female cop from the HPD had shot a man.
I have never meet or heard of David Kassick before the name became popularized by the circumstances of his death. I know nothing of his character or record. I do, however, feel very sad that he was killed. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.
The video from Mearkle’s stun gun was released today. During the trial the judge ordered that it not be released. I just watched it for the first time.
The video is graphic. After being tased repeatedly, David Kassick, lying face down in the snow, was shot twice in the back by officer Mearkle. She was afraid he had a gun though by watching the video it is clear that he had given up as a result of the shocks. At one point he even spoke the words OK! OK! With his palms showing as she finished administering the non-lethal stuns.
Of course the video and the fact that the charges were dropped have a lot of people talking. Was she justified? Did she overreact? Was he reaching into his jacket? On an on it goes, back and forth ad nauseam.
The comments I’ve heard and read on the subject seem to be rather shallow and predictable. I have a very different outlook on issues such as this; views that I have not heard expressed at all regarding self-defense and use of force as it pertains to this particular incident.
I am a market anarchist, libertarian, and advocate of a statesless society. I believe in liberty. I understand the desire to be free of the restrictions and limitations placed on otherwise free individuals and how regulation, manmade laws, and enforcement of those laws are threats by one class towards persons of another.
It’s all simple in my mind but admittedly I’ve never done too well explaining or convincing others of my views. But I feel compelled, as the sun sets over the verdict of not guilty, to share a few thoughts.
Cops and politicians are people. People just like every other human on this planet. People have Rights. These rights are present as a result of the state of Nature, the laws of nature, or in other words Natural Law.
The Rights at play in this situation are property rights and the right to self defense. The right to self defense is simply an extension of property rights. Property rights are derived from the axiom that each person owns the self. In other words, we all own ourselves and as such, our self is our property. Any attempt by force or threat of force, to control someone other than oneself, is a violation of the property rights imbued in each individual by the very state of being human. This translates into the idea that no person has the Right to initiate harm on another person. The initiation of harm on another person is an act of aggression. Libertarians believe a principle known as the non aggression principle does a great job at discerning morality across the gamut of possible human action. NAP states that all aggression is illegitimate action. There is no justification for aggression – EVER!
Logically then, if all people have the right to live free of aggression, any person who violates that right is in the wrong and has acted immorally. Self defense then is simply the logical right to defend oneself against aggression.
No Rights are added to a group of people. A group is nothing more than a gathering of individuals. The rights afforded each individual by Natural Law are not added to magically when a group of people gets together. The reason being; A right cannot justly be granted to another that is not originally the right of the individual.
Consider this. If 10 people get together and decide that they want to endow 1 member of their group with the special right to kill and conquer people outside the group, there is no moral, ethical, foundation for doing so. The reason again is simple. A right cannot justly be granted to another that is not originally the right of the individual. Since no person in the group has the right to kill and conquer who they choose naturally, they cannot give that nonexistent right to another.
If you are with me so far I’ll make the leap into the present day situation.
Lisa Mearkle belongs to a group who works for another group. Well actually they are just one big group. Some people in the group were actually picked by people outside the group. Others outside the group wanted to pick different people to be in the group. Others still want to choose to put no one in the group. Nevertheless, the group is formed and they claim that they serve all people – even those not in the group. Hypothetically, they decided at some point in the past that everyone in a certain area has to buy a sticker and put it on their forehead (not really but go with it). Part of the group was tasked with coming up with the rule and another portion of the group was tasked with making sure that everyone complied.
Now of course some will rush out eagerly to comply because they believe in the authority of the group and that it’s moral and ethical for non compliant people to be coerced into cooperating. It’s people stuck in this mindset that argue whether or not the enforcers are just in the amount of force they employ to gain compliance. This small region of thought is where most or possibly all of the talking points surrounding Mearkle and Kassick reside.
As I see it, we have what amounts to aggression by one portion of society against the other. Yes, even people outside the group engage in aggression from time to time. And yes, it’s this fact that largely convinces people outside the group that the group is needed for their own safety. That’s another topic and I’m not going down that path here tonight.
The picture I’m trying to clarify here is that Mearkle is a human being. She poses no special authority or rights above and beyond those she may justly claim under the laws of nature. Consider her actions out of uniform. It may be easier to see the truth that way.
A person who believed it was her duty to uphold and enforce the rules made by the people who pay her salary, forced another person to the ground, electrocuted him, pointed a gun at him (a death threat) and ultimately delivered on that threat by burying 2 bullets into his back. For what? Because he didn’t have the right sticker. When pursued, he fled away from the source of the aggression, in self defense.
Mearkle initiated aggression. No person, regardless of the costume, has the Right to initiate aggression on another person. Kassick was justified to act in self defense since it was he who was being aggressed upon. He chose to flee. He would have been morally justified to stand and fight back as well – to subdue the illegitimate and immoral threat against his person for failure to comply with the arbitrary rules of individuals who are not morally equipped by nature to enact or enforce them.
Mearkle claimed she feared for her life and that fear justified her actions which she and others incorrectly classify as self defense. Kassick was not armed. He no doubt feared for his own life given that he was chased, tased and had a screaming person pointing a loaded weapon at him. Perhaps, if Mearkles act was justified due to her fear of losing her life, there is room to see how Kassick’s behavior in the video could be resulting from the same justified fear for his own.