How Australia sees us

In normal times, the United States can do worse than having Minnesota portrayed as the image of America. But these are not normal times, thanks to a cop who shot an innocent woman — an Aussie — in a Minneapolis alley on Saturday night.

It’s not as if Australia hadn’t heard of the various controversies surrounding police killings in the United States. The killing of Justine Damond is no more tragic than others, but this one is different, Australian broadcaster and writer Richard Glover writes in a Washington Post commentary.

“She’s ours,” he writes.

Australians are astounded and baffled by U.S. police shootings and by the level of gun crime generally. We also cannot understand how the officer concerned has — so far at least — refused to give evidence about what happened. The mayor of Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges, is also concerned that Noor has refused to give evidence. In Australia, as a serving police officer, Noor would have instantly been required to answer the questions of his superiors.

In Australia, about 300 people gathered at an early-morning vigil on Sydney’s Freshwater Beach, near where Damond grew up — the haunting sound of a didgeridoo playing as the sun rose. Attendees said they were there to “honor, love and respect” the life of an “extraordinarily kind, funny, smart and loving woman.” Speaking on television Wednesday morning, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asked, “How can a woman out in the street in her pajamas seeking assistance from the police be shot like that? It is a shocking killing, it is inexplicable. … We are demanding answers on behalf of her family and our hearts go out to her family and all of her friends and loved ones.”

He writes that police in Australia have a less aggressive strategy for dealing with people than cops in America, but it’s not without controversy and it’s not settled that it’s a better strategy.

In January, a young man, having his stabbed his brother, drove his car erratically through the city of Melbourne. Police, armed with guns and Tasers, were set to pull the driver over on one of the city’s bridges, but the attempt was called off as part of a “no-pursuit” policy — part of a rethink after a period in the 1980s in which police shootings, particularly of the mentally ill, had spiked alarmingly. Later, the man drove into a pedestrian mall, killing six people and injuring more than thirty. One police officer labelled the no-pursuit policy “a disgrace” — with much agreement from the public. An inquiry into the tragedy begins in Melbourne this week.

“Right now, like our prime minister, we are just keen for answers from Minneapolis about what seems to be the incomprehensible death of a wonderful Australian,” he concludes.