To Mr. Smallwood: Let’s be clear, a retreating Daniel Hambrick posed no ‘deadly threat’

EDITORIAL BOARD | Nashville Voice

In the fiery aftermath of a grand jury’s decision to indict officer Andrew Delke for fatally shooting Daniel Hambrick three times in the back as he fled from police, the Nashville Fraternal Order of Police has continued in its adamant defense of the officer’s inexcusable actions.

In an anger-fueled op-ed published in The Tennessean (incidentally on the first day of Black History Month), FOP president James Smallwood embarked on a bitter attempt at firing back against District Attorney Glenn Funk’s critical analysis of Delke’s defense.

Smallwood boldly proclaimed, “Funk’s decision to charge Delke with a crime for doing precisely what he and every other police officer in Tennessee are trained to do is an attack on law enforcement itself.”

Smallwood extended Delke’s defense attorney David Raybin’s assertion that his client acted in compliance with his training when he executed Hambrick, even though Tennessee state law upholds that it is unconstitutional to use deadly force against a fleeing suspect who does not pose a threat to others.

We say that Hambrick’s decision to retreat, and run from Delke without firing a single shot hardly measured up to Smallwood’s characterization on Hambrick as a “deadly threat.”

Although both Raybin and Smallwood have clarified their interpretations of Metro Police Officer training and protocol, the people of Nashville continue in their wait for an official representative of the Metro Nashville Police Department to clarify whether or not shooting a man three times in the back as he runs away is in compliance with the training of Nashville officers.

If our officers are in fact trained to ignore the Supreme Court’s 1985 declaration that such a use of force is unconstitutional, then Nashvillians are justifiably in need of a new police force.

The FOP president also argued that the “targeted glance” Hambrick allegedly gave the officer justified his death.

In Smallwood’s own words, Hambrick “looked over his shoulder,” which prompted Delke to begin firing shots.

Did Hambrick’s brief over-the-shoulder glance make him a “deadly threat?” If so, then does looking at an officer the ‘wrong way’ give that officer license to justifiably shoot and kill any Nashville citizen?

In his commentary, Smallwood routinely expressed disregard for the inherent value of human life outside of a blue uniform.

Time and time again, he blindly overlooked the countless, unarmed victims of police brutality in exchange for the opportunity to gush over the value and importance of men and women in blue, and expound on his fear of “more police officers being hurt and killed in the line of duty.”

According to Smallwood, punishing an officer who is supposedly following their training can lead to a “disaster.”

In response, we ask Mr. Smallwood to also acknowledge the many disastrous encounters between law enforcement and unarmed civilians that plague the nation:

  • Wasn’t it also a disaster when 12-year  old, unarmed Tamir Rice was shot and killed by a white police officer who feared for his life?
  • Wasn’t it a disaster when unarmed father of five Eric Garner was strangled to death on a street corner by a police officer?
  • Wasn’t it a disaster when a four-year-old child was forced to comfort her mother as Philando Castile bled to death in his car after being shot through the window by a scared police officer?

Smallwood’s habit of placing more value on the life of a man in uniform is extremely problematic. Such logic has placed the safety of the general public in jeopardy.

Hambrick’s life—although he did have a criminal history, as Smallwood was sure to point out—was just as valuable, and mattered just as much as officer Delke’s, regardless of his decision to “look over his shoulder.”

If the FOP and the Metro Nashville Police Department cannot recognize this fundamental truth, then the people must act to rectify this breach of the social contract that initially granted the police department its authority.

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