Tony Robinson

Today is March 6th, two years since Tony Terrell Robinson was killed by Madison Police Officer Matt Kenny. Chief Koval continues to defend Kenny, who has now killed two people. In 2007, Kenny received a medal for killing another man in a mental health crisis, who happened to want suicide by cop. The Robinson family received a paltry $3.35 million in a settlement with the city. Paltry because no amount of money can bring back their son, grandson, brother, cousin, and friend. Paltry because no amount of money will fill the hole which exists in their family and in their soul.

In response, Koval said that “Every officer wants their day in court.” He is right, there should be a criminal trial on police officers that kill a civilian. The standards we hold them to must be higher than that we hold untrained civilians. We should have a higher use of force standard than the base legal minimum – which Koval in question with the Police Police & Procedure Ad-Hoc Committee stated was not the minimum.

Officers can kill a civilian, can kill you, if they are afraid – trained officers can give into their fear and face no consequences for killing someone. Civilians are not awarded this leeway, especially when they are confronted by officers. Kovals excuse for the killing of Robinson was that he was high on drugs and was erratic, Kenny was scared, so it was OK to kill him.

By his statements about officers wanting their day in court, and justifying Robinson’s death the way he does, there is a strong implication that Koval does not believe that Robinson deserved either mental health help, or his day in court.

Someone in the middle of a mental health crisis can act erratic, and aggressive orders or behavior from any individual might set them off. They might not be able to tell an officer from a stranger, meaning that a trained officer should and must understand this, and attempt to defuse the situation – which Kenny didn’t do.

A mental health crisis should not be a death sentence. Being high on drugs is not justification to kill someone. If this was actually the case, State Street would be flooded every weekend in the blood of white college students. Any individual that believes this justification for the death of Tony Robinson is a sick individual.

The Robinson’s family lawyers clearly pointed out contradictions in Kenny’s statement and the evidence … contradictions Koval dismisses.

“A mental health crisis should not be a death sentence. Being high on drugs is not justification to kill someone. If this was actually the case, State Street would be flooded every weekend in the blood of white college students. Any individual that believes this justification for the death of Tony Robinson is a sick individual.”

But there are larger things at play here, let’s explore.

We need to hold officers accountable. I don’t care about what is the base, minimum legal standard. Legal doesn’t equal moral; legal standards are not moral standards. This is about accountability for misconduct and mistakes. In every other profession, if you make a mistake, even in “good judgment,” you are not given a medal or protected for it, you faces consequences. Koval has shown no value or sympathy of the loss of life his officers have caused. Why are Koval and other police officers so fragile in response to those asking for accountability? Why are police the only profession beyond reproach?

Koval has clearly shown time and time again that he can’t handle anything that criticizes his officers. He stands behind them no matter what, just as he sits behind his blog at night, spewing threats to the Madison Common Council. Behavior that is similar to many late night Internet basement commenters deciding to go off on a tirade, six-fingers deep into some whiskey.

Koval keeps passing the buck. He won’t take responsibility for any life lost at the hands of his officers and he won’t take any responsibility for the ridiculous arrest disparities in this city.

What is more disturbing are residents of this city defending Kenny, believing Tony deserved to die because he ate hallucinogenic mushrooms. That if he didn’t want to die, he shouldn’t have done that. Again, doing drugs should not be a death sentence. How many of these same people believe that those suffering from the mainly white heroin epidemic going on deserve death? Deserve no humanity? Deserve the harshest punishment for their actions?

The twisting and turning for them to justify Tony Robinson’s death is disgusting. They should ask themselves why they must justify this death and why they don’t believe that Robinson should have been awarded a life mistake as many of them have made and as many white students make on campus every single night, and as many heroin addicts make every day?

No, the blame lies squarely on an officer, who responded to a known mental health call, without backup, who decided to enter the premises on false pretences, and then be fearful of a black man in front of him and decided against the protection of life, but indulged in his own deep, implicit, fear of the black boogie man.

Through all of this, Koval has continued to show he is unfit for his position as police chief. Through all of this, this city has shown that it is not ready to face its deep-seated racism, as the fragility of many of the residents is apparent and some leaders have shown cowardice. As they show the inability to reconcile themselves with the violence that they are OK with, that officers can kill, that we should punish the homeless, that it is OK to kill someone in a mental health crisis, and that we set our black kids up for failure and poverty. Social violence is still violence.

To the Robinson family, you deserve so much more than $3.35 million. You deserve your loving son, brother, cousin, grandson, and friend. You deserve everything this city has stolen from you. You deserve peace, and may God smile upon you one day and grant you the peace your are missing. And because of the violence, this city has brought upon you, may you find a new city with the paltry amount given to you and attempt to rebuild. For those that care, our hearts go to you.