Opinion

It’s Not Even a Bandaid

Police reform isn’t likely for minorities in America

The jury has convicted Derek Chauvin on all counts for murdering George Floyd. Chauvin faces a maximum sentence of 12 1/2 years on the most serious count, unless the DA can show aggravating circumstances. While Chauvin is being held to account for his actions as a police officer, it isn’t even a bandaid in the field of police reform. In fact, during his trial other acts of police have caused injury and death to others. One only has to look to the suburb of Minneapolis, Brooklyn Center.

There a 25 plus year veteran officer shot and killed Duante Wright, a Black man, over what started out as a traffic stop for expired registration. It seems, according to the Brooklyn Police ex-chief, that ex-officer Kim Potter supposedly mistook her firearm for the Taser she carried. That seems absurd considering the great differences in weight, and design of the two items, but that fight is for another day. The Hennepin County DA’s Office quickly charged Potter the day after she resigned from the police department.

Duante Wright’s murder was just another example of police operating with a superiority complex. Yes, reportedly Mr Wright had an outstanding warrant, but the officer should have considered other options for taking Mr Wright into custody. It’s just a case of an officer refusing to be stopped from making an arrest. It’s become endemic within policing that an officer ignored is an officer enraged at the audacity that a person refuses to follow the authority of the officer.

Also, consider the case of the 13-year old boy shot and killed by a Chicago Police officer. Adam Toledo was shot after following the orders of Officer Eric Stillman to drop the gun Toledo appeared to be holding and to raise his hands. After raising his hands he was shot by Officer Stillman. If Adam Toledo was complying, why was he shot? Once Adam’s empty hands were raised he wasn’t presenting an immediate threat to Officer Stillman or the public. At that point Officer Stillman had options for taking Adam into custody, but failed to exercise any of them. Has policing become so skewed in this country that police now believe themselves incapable of doing anything less than using deadly force?

The conviction of Derek Chauvin is being celebrated by many, but others are standing on the other side of the jury’s verdict. Take Fox News extreme right mouthpiece Tucker Carlson. His take on the jury verdict is that the jury voted to convict because they (the jurors) didn’t want to be attacked by mobs if they acquitted Derek Chauvin.

The jury in the Derek Chauvin trial came to a unanimous and unequivocal verdict this afternoon: Please Don’t Hurt Us,” he said on his show, according to Raw Story’s article.

Now, we know Tucker Carlson peddles the outrageous. If any behavior is to be maligned or twisted, Tucker is likely the one to spout off to his viewers. His commentary shouldn’t be considered to be actual news of any kind. Even his own network argued that viewers should be skeptical of Carlson’s comments and a federal judge agreed when tossing out a lawsuit against Carlson. That said, too many on the far right look to Carlson for their understanding of the activities he “reports” on. To the American people, perception is reality. By his comments Carlson appears to think that the police are always right. Of course, he’s not the only talking head at Fox News who pander to extremist right viewers.

According to the Washington Post, there have been 984 fatal shootings by police in the last year. While only a small percentage of fatal shootings by police are classified as unjustifiable, it’s not the only evidence of the attitude of police towards the very citizens they are exercising authority over. While deadly force is the worst case, other interactions by police show their contempt for the general public and minorities especially.

A NJ.com article reports that Perth Amboy police in New Jersey stopped a group of teens, mostly Black and Latino, riding bicycles in the city. Now these teens were seen to be riding their bikes in traffic, at times causing a hazard to traffic. When the group stopped for officers, one officer told the teens that their bikes “are supposed to have licenses and all that kind of stuff.” The unidentified officer went on to promise the teens that their bikes would not be confiscated by police. That didn’t last. Another officer, reportedly a Sergeant, ordered the six officers at the scene to confiscate the bikes. When one of the teens argued with this second officer, he was arrested, handcuffed, and placed in a patrol car. Was this the way to appropriately handle this situation? Wasn’t the verbal warning by the first officer sufficient? Apparently not since the second officer decided that they needed to be showed who’s boss in Perth Amboy.

Policing is not a profession for people incapable of using good judgment and discretion. It’s a tough job and a dangerous job at times. However, it’s also a job that hardened officers against the citizenry and brought them to the position of believing they hold unaccountable authority over everyone. Derek Chavin’s conviction will no more bring positive change to policing across America than did other cases of excessive/deadly force by police.

The ultimate responsibility for the failure to bring nationwide change to the policing of this country falls on the public. Those Americans who are agitating for change aren’t enough. The great majority must join their voices to the demands for change. Unfortunately, this will not likely happen since most citizens either agree with the police, or are afraid of standing out on the “wrong” side of this issue.

The attitudes of police in general won’t change until the public forces that change.

Until next time

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