How Do We Make The Issue Of Police Brutality A Campaign Stump Issue?

September 29, 2014  |  

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According to this report on the website Firedoglake.com, at least twenty-three people have been killed in the United States while in police custody in the past week.

This list includes:

  • Charles Smith, who according to published reports, was shot by an officer after handcuffed, placed in the back of the patrol car in Savannah, Georgia. According to reports, cops allege Smith was able to somehow move his arms to the front of his body, kicked out the patrol car window and reached for a gun. That’s why the cop had to shoot him four times, including a shot in the leg, head and back.
  • Kimberlee King, an African-American woman, was arrested in Pagedale, Missouri for traffic warrants and was later found hanging in her cell. Police said she did it herself however her family, who found out she was dead upon arriving to bond her out, say” King was not suffering from any sort of depression and had no history of mental illness.”
  • Cameron Tillman, a 14 year old Black teen from Terrebonne Parrish, Louisiana, who was shot and killed by a policeman while playing in an abandoned home. According to reports, Tillman answered a knock at the door when he was shot point blank by the officer, upon him opening the door. The cops say he had a BB gun, which looked like a real weapon. However His brother, who was with him at the time, said Tillman had no toy or real weapon in his hand at the time the officer gunned him down.

It’s hard to tell if these killings were justified; but in the wake of a number of highly publicized questionable police actions, it’s also very understandable (and advisable I might add) if these incidents give one pause. And at the very least, we have to acknowledge that there are way too many police killings period – “justified” or not.

There is some debate about whether police brutality is on the rise again. It’s especially hard to figure out considering the Department of Justice or FBI does not keep and provide stats on departmental conduct. Some argue that it’s the availability of cellphone cameras and other recording equipment that have made us more aware of what have been some massive breaches and violations of both constitutional and civil rights against the citizens, particularly Black people. And that is a good thing.

The not so good thing is that while modern technology has done wonders to open our eyes about just how pervasive police brutality and misconduct is in this country, the reality is that you can videotape, audio record, take a picture, write it down, and have all the evidence you want against the police, and Internal Affairs, the grand jury, and the rest of law enforcement will conclude that the offending officer did nothing wrong. That your harassment or even death was just a result of procedure.

As noted in this article from a couple of months ago in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, cops accused of using questionable, deadly force are rarely convicted. And in fact, an expert tells the paper that the reason behind the poor conviction rates is that the Supreme Court specifically gives police “wider discretion” in self-defense claims than would the average citizen.

Well as an average citizen, I say that is pure malarky. I am a firm believer that cops should not have a wider discretion but rather as enforcers of the rule of law, police should have an even greater responsibility of caution Likewise, those who violate laws they are bound to uphold should be prosecuted worse than the average criminal. And since it seems that a sizable chunk of addressing police brutality and misconduct is a matter of some paperwork (and by that I mean policies, procedures and existing laws), then obviously it is the rules and procedures which need changing and monitoring.

And that brings me to my question: why hasn’t the issue of police brutality been a major stump issue, particularly for the Black political community?

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