“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” — Lord Acton
I’m a black person and I’m scared right now about what I’m seeing. Almost every day, there seems to be a questionable shooting of a black male by the police. The numbers are so alarming that if this was a disease, we’d be calling it an epidemic, and summoning the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to eradicate it. Perhaps the disproportionate numbers of black men being shot by the police should be declared an epidemic. The victims have not all been suspected of in a crime. One victim was shot during a traffic stop as he reached for his wallet. The policeman later said he felt threatened.
I can’t say whether the shootings of unarmed black men by the police are racially motivated, even though the majority of cases that we know of involve white policemen. To a lessor degree, some black policemen have been involved in such shootings as well. But given our history and the racial climate that exists in America, it’s entirely plausible that race is a contributing factor in these hair trigger shootings.
No longer is it unusual to hear about incidents in which police shoot unarmed individuals first and ask questions later. —John Whitehead
There are always risks in challenging excessive police power, but the risks of not challenging it are more dangerous, even fatal. —Hunter S. Thompson
The police have great latitude in exercising their law enforcement power. We say the police are not above the law, but convictions in police involved shootings of black suspects have been rare, even in the most egregious of cases where improprieties by the police were obvious as in the case of the latest victim Baltimore’s Freddie Gray. In that case, police knowingly put a handcuffed Grey into a cargo van to subject him to what police refer to as a “rough” ride. They sought to punish him. It is likely that this rough ride contributed to Grey’s injuries and, subsequently his death. We await the autopsy report.
So should the police involved be charged with simple negligence for failing to buckle Grey in his seat as the Police Commissioner suggested? Hardly, Grey’s death should rise to the level of 3rd degree murder or involuntary manslaughter. It remains to be seen what the charges will be, if any. Unlike the police, I could never say, I shot somebody in self defense because I thought they had a gun and posed a threat to me. I would be charged with a crime. The law says that the person would have to put their hands on me before I could use that as my defense for my actions.
Police have no such burden on them. They can shoot and make up an excuse afterwards. It’s been suspected, but now thanks to live action videos, we know police lie, plant guns on dead suspects and fake evidence to clear themselves. These abuses by law enforcement should not be swept under the rug. If the policeman on the beat knows his actions are under intense scrutiny, and that his account will no longer be the only deciding factor that could exonerate or convict him, perhaps he will think twice before shooting to kill a suspect in the absence of verifiable probable cause.
People with power not only take what they want because they can do so unpunished, but also because they intuitively feel they are entitled to do so. — Psychologist Andy J. Yap
It’s fair to say that every black person isn’t a criminal, just as every policeman isn’t a rogue or racist cop. Often, it’s our perception of the other person that instigates conflict or prevents it. For instance, a policeman sees a black man running in a white neighborhood and gives chase. This same policeman sees a white person running in a white neighborhood and tells him to have a nice day. The late black journalist Carl Rowan used to tell the story of how he was cutting his lawn one day when a white woman in a car pulled up alongside, and asked how he charged to cut lawns. Rowan replied, “The woman [referring to his wife] in this house lets me sleep with her.” Perception is never reality.
Still the question remains, who’s policing the police? If it’s the police themselves, we’ll always question whether this fraternal order is willing to turn on one of their own — after all, they’re a brotherhood. In the past, police departments have taken a negative view of establishing civilian police review boards to oversee investigations of police conduct. Many departments prefer to do their own internal investigations, which are often viewed as suspect by the public. The next step should be federal or Congressional investigation of police conduct and equal enforcement of the law. As it now stands, the police will have trouble convincing black communities that they are there to protect them.
Disclaimer: This in no way condones violent protests in response to police actions. It can only result in more unnecessary deaths of innocent people. Live to fight another day the right way. 2 Chronicles 7:14