The Houston Police Department is on a 288-0 win streak. There have been 288 officer shootings without a single indictment since Arthur Charbonneau shot an unarmed teenager to death in a closet back in 2004.
From 2008 to 2012 there were over a hundred officer shootings - and a quarter of the civilians fired at were unarmed. The victims of the Houston Police Department include a double-amputee in a wheelchair and a Navy veteran suffering from a mental illness.
Making matters worse for the citizenry is the lack of dashboard cameras in the vast majority of HPD patrol cars. The lack of cameras means that there is almost never a video record of a police shooting in Houston.
Police Chief Charles McClelland has defended his officers going so far as to say that deadly force is justified even if the suspect is unarmed. During the five year period investigated by The Houston Chronicle, the department found only one of 636 officer shootings (including shooting animals and unintentional firings) was not justified.
Yes, officers are faced with making split-second decisions about how to handle a particular suspect. But the same laws that govern our behavior are, at least in theory, the same laws that govern police officers. A police officer's job is to protect and defend the citizens of their city - not to declare war on part of the population. While it is not justified for a citizen to walk down the street and shoot at someone else just because he thinks that other person might be carrying a weapon, police officers in Houston seem to have carte blanche to do just that.
The matter isn't helped by the callous attitude of the Harris County District Attorney's Office when it comes to police shootings. The attitude of prosecutors is that the police wear white hats while everyone else wears a black (or grey) hat. While prosecutors will always refer to complaining witnesses as "my victim," when a civilian is on the wrong side of a police shooting the focus turns to "my officer."
If the targets of police shootings weren't overwhelmingly black, brown or poor maybe there's be a different attitude on the part of prosecutors and the public. If the victims of police shootings lived in better neighborhoods and looked more like judges and prosecutors, maybe the attitude would change.