The release this past week of statements by the two Lodi police officers who shot Parminder Shergill in January provided new clarity in the case.
If the statements had been released earlier, they would have informed and perhaps calmed the community.
The statements show why the police officers did what they did. They paint a picture of careful observation and deliberate decision-making. The interviews also reveal the agitation Shergill was experiencing.
Although some witnesses question whether Shergill rushed at the officers, the officers’ descriptions of the lightning-quick incident are precise and consistent.
It is not our place to render the final judgment in this tragedy, but we are sure that the public is better informed having the officers’ statements to consider.
Which brings us back to the question we have tried to push before the public and officials since Shergill’s death: Wouldn’t it be better if government didn’t slam the lid on the evidence when police officers take the life of a citizen?
Lodi has been spared the violence that inflamed Ferguson, Mo. this past week. When 18-year-old Michael Brown, who is black, was shot by a white police officer, that community erupted in protest and violence.
Shergill was from a Sikh family and his family, friends and attorney have strongly questioned police tactics and judgment. Despite the anger among Sikhs and those who sympathize, Lodi has remained peaceful. Expressions of doubt about police actions have been civil.
Peace is being restored in Ferguson largely because the local police have been replaced by a Missouri State Highway Patrol unit with black leaders who have begun communicating with protesters.
But another quieting move in the Missouri case has been the release of more information. In Ferguson as in Lodi, openness has played a part in calming the anger that almost inevitably follows these incidents.
Yes, police officers deserve a “fair trial” just as all accused and all litigants do. But there is much more at stake in these situations than assuring that jurors are untainted and therefore ignorant of the facts before entering a courtroom.
Long before the legal battles shape up, the shock of a police shooting creates a widespread rush to judgment in every community.
Sharing the results of ongoing investigations can go a long way to restoring trust by the people in their police.