RADLEY BALKO: A (sort of) defense of South Carolina state trooper Sean Groubert.

Let’s first state the obvious: This shooting was completely and utterly without justification. Jones did nothing wrong. He was pulled over because of a dumb law, did what he was told, and was subsequently shot for it. Groubert should never be a police officer again. Both he and the state of South Carolina should not only pay Jones’ medical bills, but a substantial sum of money for Jones’ pain and suffering.

All of that said, watch the video again. Does Groubert look like a cold-blooded killer? I doubt he got out of his car intending to shoot Jones. It looks to me like Groubert was terrified, possibly jumped to some conclusions about Jones based on his race and appearance, and reacted out of fear. Which is to say that this looks less like a rogue cop and more the product of poor training, possible racial bias, and a cop who has been conditioned to see threats where none exist.

When cops are caught on video administering an extended beating to someone who is clearly incapacitated, I say throw the book at them. But this was a split-second decision. If Groubert’s actions were due to poor or inappropriate training, poor hiring practices by the South Carolina state police, or a police culture that conditions cops to see every interaction with a citizen as potential threat, sending him to prison isn’t going to change any of that. Individual cops who abuse their authority should certainly be held accountable, and a system that consistently held them accountable would be something of a deterrent. But focusing only on the individual cop in a case like this lets the police agency that hired and trained him off the hook.

Read the whole thing.