Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Slaying of African Americans by Police Require Federal Response

By Mildred Robertson

Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland , and the list goes on and on and on.... So many lives snuffed out for no reason.
And no one is accountable.

The police officer who murdered Eric Garner used an “illegal” choke hold. That’s a violation of police policy, but not a prosecutable offense. The fact that Eric kept repeating, “I can’t breathe…I can’t breathe,” seems to be irrelevant. Clearly, the intent of the choke hold is to restrict the airway. And the fact that paramedics and police officers alike stood and watched this unarmed citizen suffer and eventually die, convicted of nothing and guilty of at most, being big, black and selling loose cigarettes,  does not appear to give authorities or many in the main-stream public pause.
Mike Brown was an obvious threat. Again, big and black, he had just robbed a corner store…right? The police officer was so in fear for his life that he shot a fleeing Brown in the middle of the street, leaving his body lying there for hours. It was almost like the days when they would leave black people strung up on a tree so that all could see what happens to bad Ni_ _ as.

The cop who shot Tamir Rice was probably given bad information, and assumed he was in danger. So it was okay for him to shoot the young boy playing with a toy gun. I mean, how was the officer to know Tamir wasn’t a grown man with a loaded weapon? And of course, it would be too much to ask that he take a moment to investigate the situation to determine the threat. I mean after all, Tamir was black, and he was male…obviously a potential threat.  And this officer had only about 2 seconds to determine whether Tamir was a boy or a man; whether it was a gun or a toy. In those 2 seconds, he snuffed out a young life, and society does not appear to believe he should be held accountable.

And then there is Sandra...Angry Black woman that she was. On her way to a new chapter in her life, her journey was interrupted by a traffic stop that went horribly wrong when Texas State Trooper Brian Encina pulled her over for failure to signal. Bland, who was initially accused of only a traffic violation, was later forcefully removed from her vehicle, threatened with a Taser, and manhandled because she refused to put out her cigarette. She was then arrested for battery on a police officer, and inexplicably died several days later in police custody. Suicide, they said. Sad, they say, but no one is responsible other than Sandra herself.
All these “Oops” moments have received a pass from those supposedly set in place to protect the public from abuse of authority. Grand juries have refused to hold any of the officers in these and numerous other murderous situations responsible; that is, even when a grand jury is convened.

The grand jury system, clearly flawed, seems to give undue weight to the perspective of the officer. The fact that you were murdered by a police officer makes you no less dead. And your right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not diminished because it is a duly sworn officer who chooses to deprive you of these God-given rights codified in our Constitution. They must be held accountable.
The fact that a black life can be snuffed out for little or no reason, and this action can be deemed unfortunate, but “reasonable,” by institutions supposedly designed to protect citizens from corrupt governance is overwhelmingly disheartening. And the fact that there is no cohesive, organized government response to these actionable assaults on American citizens is blatantly outrageous.

Just as the Civil Rights Movement required a federal response to local assaults on its citizens, so does this current assault on the Black community by authorities sworn to protect and serve them. It is clear that many police departments and local municipalities have a symbiotic relationship that makes it difficult, if not impossible to bring to justice those officers too corrupt, biased or untrained to serve communities of color with fairness and objectivity. It is imperative that outside forces bring pressure to bear on these entities so that a general expectation of justice and fairness in the review and prosecution of police misconduct and/or criminal acts can be attained.  
Until such action is taken, people will continue to gather in the streets. Social media will continue to churn with accounts of injustice and inequality, and social unrest will continue to grow. Without a unified government response we will continue to be a divided nation catapulting toward anarchy.

That is a place where no one really is accountable.