That sentence is not from the guy who made “Back Dat Azz Up.” It is from the ancient Roman poet Juvenal and is roughly translated as “Who will watch the watchmen?” or “Who will guard the guardians?”
And while it is used to describe the impossibility of checking unbridled power, in the case of Milwaukee police officers who shot an unarmed man while the district attorney, the police chief and others kept the evidence secret for more than a year, we must ask, without poetry or the eloquence of Latin:
What the fuck, yo?
Newly released bodycam footage shows Milwaukee police officers shooting an unarmed black man in a 2017 incident. And while people had already suspected the cops’ malfeasance, the video confirms that the incident was even worse than anyone initially thought.
On August 21, 2017, officers Melvin Finkley and Adam Stahl chased 19-year-old Jerry Smith Jr. to a rooftop in Milwaukee, the Journal-Sentinel reports. The officers said that Smith had run from them after a street fight and they received reports that Smith was armed.
During the rooftop encounter, officers acknowledge that they shot Smith three times but insisted that it was only after Smith reached for a gun he had hidden behind an air conditioning vent. Cell phone video filmed by a civilian appeared to show that Smith was unarmed, but the footage was not definitive. Both Stahl and Finkley were eventually found to have acted appropriately and never faced charges.
But on Friday, forensic investigator Daniel Storm released previously unseen bodycam footage showing what seems to contradict the district attorney’s narrative.
In the video, Smith appears to comply with the officers’ demands. As soon as the cop spots the suspect, the officer yells, “Turn around!” which Smith does immediately. Smith clairvoyantly begins to get on the ground before cops even tell him to do so. The teenager opens his hands, stretches out his arms and proceeds to lie on the ground.
That’s when the cops open fire.
“People just need to see this,” said Storm, who is working on a federal civil rights lawsuit with Smith’s attorney. “An unarmed man had committed no crime, no criminal history, no drugs and is getting on the ground with his fingers spread when the officer opened fire.”
“Police can buy toys and all the ice cream they want but until they’re held accountable, the black community will never trust a cop,” Storm told Fox 6 News.
Smith survived the shooting but suffered long-term injuries, including the permanent paralysis of his right leg.
The police never found a gun.
Even worse, a neighbor who witnessed the incident informed police that the person who said Smith was armed was one of the people who was allegedly fighting with Smith and that Smith had left the scene after that person pulled a knife on him. The neighbor even pointed the police to where Smith’s adversary had ditched the knife, but they were not interested.
To be clear, the police department had access to this video for more than a year. It was not until Smith’s lawsuit compelled them to turn it over to Smith’s lawyers that the public got to see it, despite the fact that Milwaukee taxpayers pay the salaries of the officers and the district attorney who found no wrongdoing and—you guessed it—taxpayers are also footing the bill for Finkley’s and Stahl’s civil defense.
So, who will watch the watchmen? Or, as another poet whose full name, I believe is Cardigan B. Careful, once said:
“They do be lying, though.”
Indeed, Cardi B. They do be lying, indeed.