WASHINGTON: “It will take a long time for me to heal. It will take a long time for the family to heal.” – Rayshard Brooks’ widow Tomika Miller during the family press briefing today. A press briefing that ended in the very emotional tears of a family who has been ripped apart. Because regardless of what you might think of the Miller-Brooks family, or the Floyd Family, black Americans are being killed by white cops. And it is happening too often.
Before jumping to any conclusions, this writer supports the police. Defunding the police is not the path to peace. That the number of “good” cops does outweigh the number of “bad” cops. But the American in me recognizes that the riots, the looting, the killings are a result of police unions that protect cops who have multiple complaints against them.
That those same unions are not providing the resources necessary to protect, through training, not only the Americans they serve but the cops themselves. At the end of the day, black neighborhoods need policing. But it needs to be compassionate policing with reasonable levels of force.
Some people will say, or write, that blacks are not targeted by whites and start spouting statistics. And those stats really don’t matter. White cops have way too often killed blacks who simply did not need to be killed.
We have heard the President say that one death of one American is too many. We will see in the upcoming days if this applies to blacks being killed by police. And then walking away. Today the President has said that he is watching the development of police reforms to ensure safety and justice for the police and the people they serve. But will it be enough to make a difference?
Who are the people being killed by cops
No matter your preconceived conception of our city blacks, living in the projects or elsewhere, they are a family. Not unlike your family. There are wives, husbands, parents, children, cousins, aunts, and uncles who are all suffering because their family has suffered a devastating loss. A loss that could have been avoided.
The pain is real. The pain of the Floyd family is real. Of the Taylor family is real. The pain of the Brooks family is real.
This is the one element that people are forgetting when they report on the protests. The reason behind the demands for police reform. And the reasons are legitimate. Because the loss of someone you love is painful regardless of your color.
There are massive reports that state blacks are not killed by police in greater numbers than whites. The Boston Globe offers an excellent article The statistical paradox of police killings – In the numbers of fatal encounters with the cops, one kind of discrimination masks another.
“There is overwhelming evidence of racial bias in the criminal justice system, in everything from policing to sentencing. Nonetheless, the ongoing protests against racism and police brutality have prompted a familiar, fallacious reply from armchair statisticians in op-eds, social media, and police departments: that racial bias in the use of force by police is a myth, easily debunked with statistics.”
The Globe writer, Aubrey Clayton, a mathematician, continues:
Consider two extremes of police encounters: traffic stops and active shooter scenarios. Suppose, hypothetically, that a white suspect is killed by police in one out of 100,000 traffic stops and nine out of 10 shootings. And imagine that Black suspects are killed by police after 20 out of 1,000,000 traffic stops and in 10 out of 10 active shooter incidents. In each kind of incident, Black suspects are killed more often than white suspects. In aggregate, though, the percentage is higher for white people: 10 out of 100,010 white people are killed vs. 30 out of 1,000,010 Black people, because the white people tend to encounter the police in more grave situations.
Agitator groups obfuscating, and silencing, the real protestors
Black Lives Matter is a group, like ANTIFA, whose origin is via funding from George Soros’s Open Society Foundation. Which sounds lovely, but really is a front for anarchy within America in their quest for a global society.
Only Black Lives Matter, the protestors demanding judicial reform, has been hi-jacked and the calls for police reform are taking on a new focus with the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Joshua Rayshard Brooks. More people, white, black and brown are seeing with eyes wide open what is actually happening in America’s cities.
Remembering just some of those that have been recently killed
Breonna Taylor was a 26-year-old African-American emergency medical technician when she was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers on March 13, 2020. Three LMPD officers, executing a no-knock search warrant entered her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky allegedly looking for drugs. None were found. The shooting of Ms. Taylor hard to justify.
George Floyd was killed during a misdemeanor arrest in Minneapolis Minnesota. He died after police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the man’s neck and back, constricting his ability to breathe for over eight minutes. The killing of Mr. Floyd hard to justify.
Rayshard Brooks is the 27-year-old black man fatally shot by Atlanta police Friday night outside a Wendy’s. He died of organ damage and blood loss from two bullet wounds in his back.
Remember Philando Castille
But before Taylor, Floyd, and Brooks there was Philando Castille, whose shooting was captured and live-streamed on Facebook by his girlfriend. Castille was a cafeteria supervisor and when he was stopped for a broken taillight. Instead of a warning and notice to repair, he was shot four times by Officer Jeronimo Yanez, a 28-year-old Hispanic-American police officer. Castille was shot in front of his child and girlfriend.
The trial of Yanez began May 30, 2017, and after five days and more than 25 hours of deliberation, the 12-member jury decided that the state had not met its burden for a conviction. Castille left behind a family that loved him. A community that loved him. A workplace that loved him.
Remembering Alton Sterling
On July 5, 2016, Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was shot dead at close range by two white Baton Rouge Police Department officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sterling, reminiscent of. the police killing of Eric Garner who was killed after selling cigarette “singles” outside a NY convenience store, was selling DVDS.
A homeless individual called police, allegedly, to say that Sterling had a gun. And officers “found” a gun at the scene. But at no time do we see a gun being pulled or sterling threatening the cops. Sterling was on the ground, in control of the cops when he was shot.
In March 2018, state officials decided not to file criminal charges against the two officers involved in Sterling’s fatal shooting, saying their actions were justified. But days later, police fired Officer Blane Salamoni for violating use of force policies when he shot Sterling. One police reform being demanded is a nationwide database of complaints against police officers that would keep them from “moving” from one department to another.
Remembering Walter Scott
Then there is 50-year-old Walter Scott who was shot in North Charleston, S.C. by officer Michael T. Slager, 33. Slagers claimed that he had feared for his life because the man had taken his stun gun, a non-lethal item, in a scuffle after a traffic stop. A video, however, shows the officer firing eight times as the man, Walter L. Scott, 50, fled. When Scott’s brother, Anthony Scott arrived at the scene, learning his brother was dead, he said “This just doesn’t sound right,” he said in an interview. “How do you lose your life at a traffic stop?”
A question that the family of Rayshard’s family is asking themselves. A question we should all be asking ourselves.
The manner of Rayshard’s death has been classified as a homicide, according to the office of the Atlanta coroner.
Multiple sides are emerging. There is the side that says he was resisting, despite the police acting in a calm and respectful manner. The family attorney explains this quite clearly. And in an eye-opening way.
As we can see from the video after two police officers had been talking with Mr. Brooks, one of the officers, Garrett Rolfe, attempted to handcuff him, leading to a struggle. Why, after the previously peaceful encounter did Mr. Brooks resist? The family lawyer explains quite clearly. Everyone had seen the video of George Floyd, in handcuffs, lying peacefully on the ground, begging for help, for his mother. Saying he could not breathe.
And the officer stayed on his neck, his back. And the other officers, despite those standing by begging them to stop, stood by.
Listen first to Ms. Miller speaking on her fears. Then family attorney L. Christian Stewart, who is also representing the Aubrey family, asks a poignant question. After watching the latest video of Floyd being killed while handcuffed, wouldn’t you run?
If you can put yourself in Mr. Brooks’s shoes for just one second – might you want to run away, never thinking they would actually shoot you in the back? Does anyone wake up that morning thinking they will be shot in the back?
But, we can empirically say, when officers tried to stun Mr. Brooks with tasers, he grabbed one running away. Ok, putting Mr. Brooks’s shoes back on, tasers hurt. And he ran away, with Officer Rolfe in pursuit. Unfortunately, Mr. Brooks turned at one point to allegedly fire the taser back in Officer Rolfe’s direction.
It was then that Officer Rolfe pulled out his handgun and fired at Mr. Brooks, hitting him three times in the back as he was running away.
Do you believe that the officers were in mortal danger from Mr. Brooks even though he had a taser in his hand? Not a gun. Or a knife. Not even a brick. But a taser? Which has a limited impact zone? Which hurts, but is not usually lethal?
The officers had already identified Mr. Brooks by the time he took flight.
Knowing where he lived. They knew he did not have a gun in his possession. We have not heard that there were any warrants out for Mr. Brooks. The officers could have been trained to let Mr. Brooks go, and once things calmed down, to arrest him later. Or not.
Because regardless of whether Brooks was in his car, parked, even if he was sleeping off too much drink, he did not deserve to die. Not because of his face tattoos. Or his color.
But then neither did #SayTheirName:
- Tamir Rice, a black youngster who was shot to death while carrying what turned out to be a pellet gun
- Walter Scott, shot eight times in the back running away after a traffic stop
- Freddy Gray, killed while in a police transport vehicle in Baltimore
- Breonna Taylor, shot while sleeping
- George Floyd, asphyxiated and died after a takedown for allegedly passing a fake $20 bill
- Rayshard Brooks, shot in the back while running away from police
This is only a small list of names of persons killed by police.
America has to ask that tough question as to how do we change the psycho-cultural nature of policing. How do we support black families so that they do not have to bury their children, parents, brothers, sisters, cousins following a police interaction?
Our black families have to learn to take care of themselves. Parents need to stay with their children, mothers and father active in their upbringing. Teaching them, from reading and writing to socially viable behavior.
- We need to eliminate Police Unions that protect bad cops.
- We need to stop police malfeasance.
- Bring back community policing. Cops on foot who know the store owners, and residents, of a neighborhood.
- The idea of putting a social justice officer, a cop trained to help mitigate before escalation, into the cop car needs to be discussed.
- Schools, little more than warehouses for our youth, need to become places of learning. And that learning needs to include, in addition to the basics, humanities, civics, art, music, and home economics.
There are real and positive changes we can make to bring America into a world more envisioned by our Civil Rights leaders of the past.