Americans have been told to maintain peace during the COVID-19 pandemic. Maintaining peace does not mean kneeling on another man’s neck until he suffocates.
Americans have been told to keep police phone lines clear in case of emergency. Keeping phone lines clear does not mean calling the police when you are asked to leash your dog in a park.
Americans have been told to keep taking care of each other. Taking care of each other does not mean turning a blind eye to obvious abuses of power within the police force.
White privilege and power lust are ever-present in America today, even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. That is merely a fact. An unacceptable and inhumane one, but nonetheless a fact.
Over the course of the past few weeks, several stories have surfaced regarding racism and abuses of power within the police force: the violent shooting and murder of Ahmaud Arbery by two white men, who was simply going for a run; the violent shooting and murder of Breonna Taylor, whose home was mistakenly raided by three fully armed white policemen; now, the brutal murder of George Floyd, who was accused of forgery, restrained, and suffocated to death on the street by a white police officer while several other officers stood by and aided.
Unfortunately, this harsh reality is not a new occurrence. A recent study found that in San Diego alone, police stop black people at a rate that is 219 percent higher than white people. This discrepancy proves that police brutality and corruption cannot simply be attributed to having a few bad seeds. This is a systemic issue that needs to be addressed, as it causes the government to fail at protecting its citizens yet again and perpetuates sentiments of racism and entitlement in our society. It was found by the Reuters news organization that only 53 percent of Americans trust the police to be fair and just. Considering that the official motto of the Police Academy is “to protect and serve,” this is an absolute disgrace. By not fulfilling this message, people are left to fend for themselves not only against criminals but also against the very system that was created to protect them. The police force needs to undergo some serious systematic reflection and welcome the intervention of state officials and prosecutors in holding officers accountable for their actions.
The police should always act with the best interests of the American populous in mind, not their own racist agendas. The criminal justice system needs to actually implement punishments for those who do not abide by this and eliminate corrupt officers from the establishment rather than protect them.
Arbery was shot to death on Feb. 23, but the police department only arrested the two men who shot him on May 7. It took 74 days to bring those murderers to justice, despite the fact that there was video evidence of the crime. The only reason that the police finally took action was the immense public outrage on social media.
Taylor was murdered in her own home in the middle of the night on March 13. It has been 79 days, and the police officers that forcefully entered her home and shot her to death have yet to be arrested. Instead, the police tried to arrest and convict her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who fired on the intruding officers with a legally owned firearm in self-defense.
Floyd was suffocated to death on May 25, unarmed and without resisting arrest. While the officer who murdered him, as well as the three officers who stood by and allowed this to happen, have been fired, it has been six days and only one of these men has been arrested.
This is not protecting or serving the American people.
The police system is failing to protect the public due to the extreme internal corruption that only seems to worsen over time. Police should not need a public outburst to provoke action. They should know to react — that is their job. The system is at fault, as there is little to no action being taken to reprimand the numerous officers who have reports or complaints of misconduct filed against them.
For example, it was found that at the time of the murder, there was an ongoing investigation into Brett Hankison, one of the officers that raided Taylor’s house, after accusations of “harassing suspects with unnecessary arrests and planting drugs on them.” Additionally, Derek Chauvin, the ex-police officer that suffocated Floyd, was reported to have received a dozen misconduct complaints in his nineteen years working for the Minnesota police force. But not once was he disciplined or investigated for these actions until now.
These types of reports and complaints should not be taken lightly, and officers accused need to be removed from duty, effective immediately. Currently, due to the lack of such measures, officers with records of being reckless and racist have been allowed to continue going out into the field, which puts the lives of civilians at risk — civilians like Breanna Taylor and George Floyd.
These officers should not have been allowed to remain in the police force. It is as simple as that. The fact that these men were allowed to keep their badges and guns in the midst of these accusations tells them that they can act as they please without penalties. The lack of action that the police force, as well as the criminal justice system as a whole, has taken in the midst of these injustices perpetuates racism within American society and fuels public acts of hate by showing the population that it is okay to be racist. This inaction enables racist citizens to vocalize their discrimination and act on it.
One of the most recent examples of this has been Amy Cooper, a white woman who threatened to call the police on a black man who asked her to leash her dog in Central Park this past week. Another is Tom Austin, who called the police on a group of five black men who were using a shared office gym. These occurrences demonstrate the air of white privilege that has been provoked by governmental actions, or lack thereof.
The best thing that we can go right now is to make as much noise as we possibly can, because that’s the only way that those in power seem to listen. We need to sign petitions, make phone calls, protest, be vocal; that is how we got justice for Ahmaud, and that is how we will get justice for Taylor and Floyd. That is how we will prevent more tragedies like these from occurring. The system has failed at protecting us, so we must take it into our own hands. The news headlines providing global exposure to these injustices are causing ripples, but we need to make waves.
Photo courtesy of MPRnews.org.