It was just two weeks ago that William Hampton was shot by a police task force just steps away from the Nevada Living Learning Community. Being so close to the university, we must further consider the implications of such violence.
In the aftermath of the fatal shooting, it is important to consider what meaning can be gleaned from violence, and how it may have an effect on the university and the Reno community at large. I’m not ready to dismiss the shooting that happened along the familiar streets that I walk every day as an isolated incident. The rise in fatal shootings over recent months across America may be a statement about the world we currently live in, and it is important to have critical conversations about incidents such as the recent Reno shooting.
What I find most disturbing is that the reaction to the shooting suggests a troubling, ambivalent attitude about community violence.
There is a rise in media attention on shootings done by officers in recent months, with Ferguson being the most well-documented example. It’s unclear if there’s been a rise in police brutality since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, or if advances in technology and social media platforms have made the public more aware of the deeply-rooted issue of police violence in America.
As the daughter of an LAPD officer, I’ve witnessed the residual effects that this dangerous job can have on an individual. For an occupation known in the media for high profile cases of use of excessive force, I believe that it is crucial to demand a call for accountability without demonizing law enforcement officials.
We need to not only be more aware, but also more involved in holding our law enforcement officers to a higher degree of accountability. With the rise in new technologies and smartphone apps, citizen journalism has never been easier. The first person to notify others of the shooting was a student who tweeted out images from the crime scene. This gives us a more complete view of the reality of police conduct in violent situations.
I first heard about the shooting via a Facebook status update, rather than text alerts issued through the University of Nevada, Reno. Social media creates a powerful network in which we can help keep each other informed. Breaking news no longer has to trickle down from authorities to the masses — we can be there first.
With powerful technologies at our fingertips, we have more influence than ever over cultural dialogue and steering awareness to tough issues, such as police violence, that affect us all. However, I believe that the commotion about the shooting taking place next to a prominent university died down uncomfortably fast. My professors did not mention the death of a person right across the street from an active campus.
A sense of normalcy seemed to return almost immediately. While I am not advocating for us as a community to be paralyzed in terror by events such as the Hampton shooting, I do think it shows signs of normalizing violence.
It is debatable whether or not Hampton left the officer many options. He attempted to harm the officer by backing his car into him. It is easy to judge while not being in that situation, and maybe shooting the man was the only option the officer had. However, I don’t think that this is an isolated incident of police violence.
Police officers have to be held accountable for the actions they take to fulfill their ultimate purpose, which is to serve and protect the public. Citizens have more tools now than ever to be faster than most sources of traditional media to photograph and record officers to tell a complete story of what happened.
We need to hold ourselves, as a community as well as law enforcement, to a high standard, so that excessive force does not continue to be the norm and we need to tell the story instead of looking away.
The worst way to respond to community violence is to become jaded or desensitized to the point where it is normalized. I don’t want to be part of a community where shootings are considered business-as-usual. I understand that this fatal shooting is an ugly, painful thing, but glossing over it is not an acceptable answer. We can take the first step in holding law enforcement and ourselves accountable by engaging in a conversation about violence.
Jennifer Marbley studies English writing. She can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @MissMarbley.