The Kick that saved a life?


Sometimes truth is murky. Just as I was thinking about these issues involving race that have been so much in the news lately, we had an interesting incident in Winnipeg. A video surfaced—as they always do—that showed an indigenous man lying on the ground with 2 police officers holding him down and a third one kicking him twice for his own good while a fourth officer was also there pointing a gun at him. The officers said the kick might have saved his life. Is that possible? The Winnipeg police seemed proud when they revealed the video. Of course by then multiple videos had already been released by bystanders.

Finn Nolan Dorian is a 33-year old indigenous man who was kicked twice while being kneed repeatedly by a police officer. The police had answered a call that reported an intoxicated man destroying property and brandishing a hand gun near Winnipeg’s Centennial Concert Hall an area in which indigenous people are prominent. The gun turned out to be an airsoft replica. Not a real gun but it looked at least a bit like a real gun.

The Winnipeg Police department takes the position that the kicks were justified in the circumstances because the man had a knife in his waistband and might have been reaching for it. The police department pointed out that if the officers had shot and killed the man it would have been one more case of police shooting an indigenous person. Had the man grabbed the knife the officers suggested they might have shot the man  in which case the situation would have been much worse. As a result of the kicks, they said they were able to get the situation under control without lethal force. So the man was lucky he got kicked rather than killed!

This makes some sense. The police department says it strives for exactly this result—i.e. non-lethal force that subdues a potentially dangerous man. Had he been killed, people would have asked why didn’t the police just subdue him?

Yet the situation is still disturbing. Is it really necessary to kick him while he is on the ground when there are 4 police officers present, he is intoxicated, and lying face down on the ground with two burly officers holding him face down? Does this meet the smell test?

Yes sometimes truth is murky, but sometimes we have to make the best judgement we can.

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