By Richard Ray
The recent St. Paul, Minnesota jury verdict of not guilty in the case of Philando Castile, fatally shot by police officer Jeronimo Yanez was so dishearteningly deflating to so many, especially because so many had seen the aftermath of the shooting shown on Facebook Live by his girlfriend who was present in the car with their young daughter.
The facts of the case are of course disputed. What is not, is that Castile was stopped for a broken taillight. He was a licensed firearm carrier. He notified the officer that he had his licensed weapon on his person (it was in his pocket). He was then shot seven times while reaching for his ID as instructed.
The murders of Mike Brown, twelve year old Tamir Rice and others of unarmed citizens actually caught on video like Eric Garner and Alton Sterling have high lighted police murders of civilians. Since 2014 there are approximately 990 murders of civilians by police officers on duty. Approximately 25% of those murdered are Black (Blacks are approximately 13% of the US population).
Here is the most telling statistic of all. in 2015 and 2016 and I believe presently through 2017- there have been 0 officers convicted related to the shooting deaths of civilians. It is rare for officers to even be indicted related to police involved shootings. Statistics are incomplete but from 2005-2014 only 47 officers were even incited related to civilian deaths and police shootings. During that same period, there were only 13 convictions for manslaughter (and not all related to shootings). Once again 0 convictions for police related to civilian deaths in 2015, 2016 and so far throughout 2017.
Clearly something is wrong, if not outright broken in such a system.
Police involved deaths of civilians vary in almost every circumstance. While I am not a big fan of the level of training (or lack thereof) that the police receive across the board, or the empathy that they display when dealing with the diversity of the communities that they are supposed to serve, I will not say that the vast majority of those police involved murders of civilians are not in fact justified on some level.
Having police are a necessary competent to any free and lawful society. The 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution allows for the right to bear arms and as such, there are more guns in America then there are people (population approximately 320 million). The police have a tough job and admittedly their lives are on the line every time they put on their uniforms.
However, they also have a credibility problem. Some of the video we have seen, including Eric Garner and Alton Sterling, show acts against unarmed citizens that minimally show gross negligence in use of excessive force. Yet, the politicians, police brass and their unions do not call out these bad actors who may be an actual minority of the work and competency of those who serve within law enforcement. Instead they try and justify the unjustifiable. They change and reshape narratives. They victim blame. You want confidence to be restored within the community and law enforcement, then indict those officers that clearly act outside the bounds of reasonableness and push for convictions by not trying to victim blame and change the narratives to show the community that there is accountability for everyone when the situation warrants. Instead, by not ever pushing for accountability and consequences, the police have no credibility by blindly protecting their own even when there is no justification whatsoever.
I was saddened by the Philando Castile verdict. However, knowing the numbers, my already low expectations for justice within the US court system for these types of acts, managed my emotions, because I knew the unlikelihood of a guilty verdict against law enforcement ever occurring. No matter how varied the circumstances, the outcomes always and unfortunately remains the same. And that must change.
America can not continue to proclaim itself as the leader of the free world. We cannot be the moral and physical police to all, when internally we protect a broken system that offers little to no protection to such a sizable part of our actual domestic population. There are many good law enforcement officers who are engaged in an admittedly tough and dangerous profession. However, that is no justification for protecting those that act badly or outside of the bounds of reasonableness in dealing with the public. Politicians, police brass and their unions need to be part of the prosecution of those bad actors as well as part of the push for their convictions. Let the public know that you will not blame victims and blindly protect your own.
The system is broken, but the first step to fixing it has to come with those in power dealing with the credibility issues that come from the public knowing their emblazoned slogans “to protect and serve” are not just self-serving testaments and meant to actually include the community at large.
Please be sure to read others within diaryofamadmind.com
#policeshootings, #BlackLivesMatter, #socialinjustice, #EricGarner, #AltonSterling, #MikeBrown, #TamirRIce, #PhilandoCastile, #CharleenaLyles