I Like My Cops Like I Like My Surgeons: Cautious, and Not Looking to Kill Me

May 15, 2020
(Source: McSweeney's )

"Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was asleep in her Kentucky home just after midnight on March 13 when police entered with a search warrant for someone else and opened fire, killing her. Now, a lawsuit filed by Taylor's family accuses the officers of wrongful death, excessive force, and gross negligence."

- - -

Surgeons are extremely well-educated people.

You only become a surgeon by excelling academically in school, getting a great grade on your MCAT, successfully completing your medical degree, successfully completing your medical residency, successfully completing your specialization in surgery, passing your board exams, and successfully interviewing and beating out several other candidates for an available position.

And even still, despite all this education and training, and in the face of ample evidence of sound judgment and decision-making ability, surgeons STILL use a big black marker to draw a large 'X' on someone's leg so that they don't accidentally amputate the wrong limb.


Not because they're dumb, not because they don't know which leg is the left leg and which leg is the right leg, not because it's not readily evident which leg has gangrene and which leg doesn't.

They draw a large 'X'… JUST IN CASE.

Just in case they're wrong.

Because the consequences of making a mistake, although not necessarily life-threatening, are at the very least life-altering, and because surgeons have the common decency to ensure that they're doing their job correctly before taking an action that has potentially profound consequences for another human being and that human being's family.

I know this is going to sound crazy, but maybe our police need to adopt that same sort of precautionary attitude and approach before breaking into somebody's home.

Just by having someone who waits outside of the home with a photograph of the suspect, for example, and who's responsible for comparing the person in the home to the person in the photo, and who, if the two don't match with 100% certainty, would be responsible for saying something on the order of, "The person who lives here is 7-feet tall with three arms, but the person in the photo is 2-feet tall with four legs. Weird. It's almost as if they're entirely different people. Perhaps we should take a beat to double-check everything before proceeding."

Or maybe they could have someone responsible for cross-referencing the address of the raid with the address of the suspect? "Is this 123 Drug Dealer Lane, where the suspect lives? It's not? It's 456 Paramedic Avenue, where we believe the suspect might be receiving mail? So we're here for reasons that are… postal? In plain clothes instead of uniforms? At 1 AM? With a no-knock warrant? And, like, a ton of guns? Seems weird, doesn't it? I mean, at the very least it doesn't seem not weird. Maybe we should double-check everything before proceeding."

Or maybe they could have someone that confirms the operation with headquarters before proceeding? "Hey there, we're going to proceed with apprehending badguy33. Oh, they were already apprehended earlier today? At a completely different address than the one that we're at now? Weird. Makes you wonder what the hell we're doing in front of this random person's home, then. Alright. Reminds me of the time I was looking for my keys when, wouldn't you know it, they were in my hands the whole time. So silly. Less murderous on that occasion, but silly nonetheless. Alrighty. Thanks for the update. Guess we'll get a fro-yo instead."

I don't know, I'm just spitballing. And maybe this is too complex a solution. Who knows?

But here's what I definitely know: if a surgeon somehow DOES amputate the wrong leg accidentally, what they definitely DON'T do is double down on their mistake and PRETEND that that leg was SUSPECTED of needing amputation. "I mean, sure, with the benefit of hindsight it appears that I was wrong for amputating the wrong leg, but I wasn't wrong for SUSPECTING it of needing amputation and DETERMINING if it needed amputation by taking the drastic and irreversible step of PERFORMING its amputation. It was a SUSPECT, after all! And how else to confirm my suspicions if not by methods both extreme and enduring?" That doesn't happen. Because surgeons aren't idiots. Be like surgeons. Be not idiots.


If you read all this and insist on being not not idiots, then here's my suggestion: don't just amputate the wrong legs of black people, and of black people only. That'd be, like, HELLA suspicious. Even if the only wrong legs you want to amputate belong to black people, still, for your own sake, don't just continue making the same mistake with only black people. You have to sprinkle some white people in just to throw everyone off the scent. So it doesn't seem like race is playing into your murders mistakes.

And not just regular white people, either. You need to sprinkle in important white people. Rich white people. Relevant white people. People who historically would never expect to walk out — er, roll out — of a hospital with more legs amputated than previously agreed upon.

That's my suggestion.

Because otherwise you're just drawing attention to yourselves, and inviting super uncomfortable questions like, "Why do you only mistakenly kill black people in their homes? That seems statistically improbable. Almost as if the way you treat and think about black people is demonstrably different than the way you treat and think about other people. I mean, I'm OK with you being a bad surgeon, but a RACIST bad surgeon? That's a bridge too far."

And who wants to deal with that line of inquiry? Ugh. Such a buzzkill.

So, that's it. That's my suggestion. Be more precautious, or, should precaution prove too annoying, be less racist, even if not genuinely less racist, as even just superficially less racist would go a long way.