This police killing cost taxpayers over $10 million

On January 18, 2016, Daniel Shaver, 26, a Texas pest control worker, was killed in cold blood in the hallway of a Mesa, Arizona, hotel by a police officer who was later acquitted of murder by a jury (read details here).

Shaver, who was intoxicated, didn’t exercise perfect judgment. He had a pellet gun in the hotel room that he used in his work to shoot birds in grocery stores, and he pointed out of a window, prompting a witness to call police.

But when he obeyed police commands to exit the hotel room, he didn’t have the pellet gun or any other weapon, and did his best to comply with their following commands, although he appeared confused at times. He even said, “Please don’t shoot me.”

The video of the shooting (below) is blood-curdling. It makes human life look cheap.

For a long time afterward, Mesa city and police officials tried to cover up what really happened — and what they did. The police bodycam videos had to be pried out of them. They hid that the shooter, Philip Brailsford, also 26, who was fired, had a disciplinary history with the department that called into question his suitability for police work, and was administratively reinstated for 42 days, doing no work, to enable him to medically retire on a pension of $2,500 a month.

His dad was a Mesa police sergeant; maybe that had something to do with their coddling of Brailsford.

Meanwhile, Sgt. Charles Langley, who didn’t shoot Shaver but is the officer heard barking commands and threatening to kill Shaver in the video, also retired on a pension. He relocated to the Phillippines.

The city would eventually settle with Shaver’s parents for $1.5 million. In November 2022, the city settled with his wife and children for $8 million.

The $9.5 million paid to Shaver’s family doesn’t include the money being paid to two cops who no longer serve the public, or the city’s legal expenses, or its other costs associated with this incident. As usual, taxpayers are footing the bill, which this time is well over $10 million.

Police work is difficult, sometimes dangerous, and many people aren’t suited for it. But it’s one of the few well-paying blue collar jobs left in America, which attracts people who shouldn’t be there, but get hired anyway because police hiring practices aren’t rigorous enough.

We need police; without them, we’d be at the mercy of criminals. Most cops are decent hardworking professionals who do a great job, and we should value and respect them. But the profession has problems, often stemming from recruiting, hiring, training, and supervision shortcomings. The readiness of police to pull a trigger, which seems to exist all across America, suggests a fundamental flaw in police training and doctrine.

In a typical year, American cops kill about 1,000 civilians, and about 100 cops die in the line of duty, half from gunshot wounds. The rest are from various causes, such as vehicle accidents. During the Covid-19 pandemic, by far the biggest killer of U.S. cops was the virus — and many cops’ politically-motivated refusal to get vaccinated, another indication that we’re hiring the wrong people for police work.

Experience elsewhere suggests that police shootings aren’t inevitable. For example, in the U.K., police kill 1 or 2 people a year, on average, in some years none. They don’t have a worse crime rate than we do.

Here at home, activists want greater accountability for violent cops. Powerful police unions prevent disciplining bad cops, and keep them on the job. In this case, the killer cop and sergeant in command have left police work, but nobody went to jail and taxpayer money still flows into their pockets. Until there are more consequences, activists argue, questionable police killings will continue.

On the political right, talking heads and rightwing politicians support and glorify police violence, and demand unquestioning support of police even when they’re in the wrong. Thoughtful people will take the middle ground: Defunding (which no one is seriously talking about) or demonizing police isn’t the answer; the solution is better police. You get there with better recruiting, training, supervision, disciplinary outcomes, and oversight. It’s not rocket science.

Return to The-Ave.US Home Page

Comments are closed.