Letter to the editor: Police must be held accountable for lethal force
I am able to walk in my neighborhood. Rest in Peace Ezell Ford. I am able to play peacefully in the park. Rest in Peace Tamir Rice. I am able to go grocery shopping. Rest in Peace George Floyd. I am able to relax in my home. Rest in peace Breonna Taylor. I am a white American, and I don’t have to constantly worry that my life might be taken from me based on the color that I wear on my skin.
The American government has not done enough in terms of police reform and interfering with police brutality, especially in black neighborhoods. Neither have they done enough in making sure officers are justly charged based on the nature of their crime.
According to charts mapping police violence in 2019, 1,098 people were killed by the police, and 24% of those killings were Black Americans. This is significant considering Black people only make up 13% of the U.S. population. It is also important to realize that, as shown in the previously mentioned chart, that 99% of deaths by police have not resulted in the officer being charged. Police should not be able to get away with this amount of lethal force with no accountability. It is one thing if the person killed was armed, and the police officer was in immediate danger. In that case the killing was warranted, but it is entirely different when the victim is unarmed, as is the situation with many black victims. Yet still, in many of these cases, the officers are not charged.
Breonna Taylor was an innocent, unarmed black woman who was killed by police after they broke into her apartment with a no-knock warrant. An article written by the New York Times reports that police were following up on a drug case, and when they breached the apartment they were met with shots, so they started aimlessly firing back. However, it is also reported by the same article that Brianna’s boyfriend, who had fired the gun, thought someone was breaking in and, rightly so, “was in fear for their lives.” These officers were not charged, and were only “placed on administrative reassignment.”
Many people continually argue that not all police officers are bad. This is entirely true, but not the point being made. The point is, as well stated by comedian Chris Rock, “some jobs can’t have bad apples, everybody gotta be goo … like pilots. American Airlines can’t be like ‘most of our pilots like to land, we just got some bad apples that like to crash into mountains.’” Police stations should not be allowed to have “bad apples,” especially not when their actions result in taking the lives of innocent people.
There are many things that can be done both by our government, and by local police stations to encourage reform. Former President Barack Obama recommended “every mayor should review their use of force policies with members of their community and commit to planned reforms.” Obama also suggested specific reforms such as the active practice of “community policing, bias-free policing, limited pre-textual and biased stops, searches and arrests, continual scenario-based training, intervening in improper uses of force, and clear policies regarding force.” These are just a few of the recommended actions listed. Others touch on responding to crisis, the first amendment and free speech, accountability, data information, video footage and many others.
In order to encourage change and peace within neighborhoods, it is important that our own government, and furthermore our own President, recommends and enforces specific guidelines and reforms to follow. Nothing will change until people of power in this country recognize that change is not just wanted, but needed.
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