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Bad cop to join ministry

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Sometimes the best thing a person can do in regard to a job is quit it. Yes, I said ‘quit,’ not ‘get.’ If someone is not suitable for a position, he should recognize he isn’t. If his unfitness might cause harm to other people, he should act on that knowledge as soon as possible. A Portland cop implicated in the shooting of an unarmed motorist has done just that. He says the shooting, and community anger at him, did not influence his decision. The Oregonian reported his resignation yesterday.

Jason Sery, the Portland police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man five months ago in North Portland, has resigned from the Police Bureau, saying his decision has nothing to do with a pending internal investigation into the shooting.

Sery, 29, the focus of angry protests and an unusual public inquest into the March 28 shooting of James Jahar Perez, submitted a letter dated Monday to Chief Derrick Foxworth. He said he planned to become a minister and a teacher at his Beaverton church.

“I want to stress that my resignation has nothing to do with the events of this year,” Sery wrote. “Rather, I am resigning because I feel that I cannot pass up the opportunity to grow in my faith and take part in this ministry.”

Sery was the second white police officer to shoot a black motorist in Portland, Oregon, in a matter of months. The situation was described at Mac-a-ro-nies.

In Portland, we recently had the second shooting of an unarmed African-American in just 10 months. For the record, the black population of Oregon is about two percent. Less than 4,000 black men between 15 and 29 reside in the region. (And, nearly all African-Americans in Oregon live in Portland, Salem or Eugene.) Yet, despite the tiny population of African-Americans, police stops and arrests of persons of color are extremely common. There are good grounds for attacking racial profiling here.

. . .The latest victim of a police shooting is a man with an impressive record of felony convictions and drug use. James Jahar Perez , 28, had nearly toxic levels of cocaine in his system and baggies of the substance stuffed in his mouth and pockets when shot by the police — 24 seconds after he was told to get out of his car. Since the shooting occurred eight days ago, the city’s minority citizens have expressed both outrage and fear.

There is a good fact-based argument to be made that this shooting should not have occurred. There doesn’t seem to have been probable cause to stop Perez. Less than 30 seconds is not very long to give a driver to get out of his car. The two policemen Tasered him for three minutes after shooting him. The manufacturers of the Taser say they have never heard of anyone using a Taser that long. (The blast is supposed to last a few seconds.) The cop who fired the shots has a record of pulling his weapon on unarmed people. His psychological profile says he was borderline mentally for being hired as a policeman.

Sery says that he is leaving the police force to become a minister. I am not sure what to make of that. I’ve known people who have used religion as a foundation for compassion and caring for others. But, I’ve also known people who use religion as a confirmation of their own self-righteousness. Not only do they approve of whatever they do, they believe God does, too. Though, predictably, Sery was not held accountable for killing Perez, the circumstances of the shooting are enough to give a reasonable person pause. Sery’s record of pulling and pointing his weapon at unarmed people confirms one’s doubts. I believe metropolitan Portland will be a safer place with Jason Sery wearing vestments instead of carrying a gun.

Note: This entry also appeared at Silver Rights.

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