Black Lives Must Be Humanized to Stop the Killing for Good
Why restructuring police departments from the ground up is a good place to start
The trauma is never-ending.
Each time a Black person is shot or murdered without just cause by law enforcement, fresh salt it poured into the wounds of Black Americans.
Jacob Blake is the latest victim of police brutality. He was shot seven times in the back as he attempted to get into his truck, while his three small children sat in the car and witnessed the entire incident.
Miraculously he survived, however according to reports from his attorneys, he is likely to be either partially or completely paralyzed for the rest of his life. And he is only twenty-nine years old.
From Michael Brown, to Alton Sterling, to Atatiana Jefferson, to Tamir Rice, to, Aura Rosser, to Stephon Clark, to Botham Jean, to Philando Castille, to Freddie Gray, to Michelle Cusseaux, to Janisha Fonville, to Eric Garner, to Akai Gurley, to Gabriella Navarez, to Tanisha Anderson, Breonna Taylor, to Ahmad Aubrey, to George Floyd, to Rashard Brooks, and all other victims whose fates did not make headlines, there is MORE than enough proof, data, justification, and Black bodies to demand the restructuring of every police department in America.
Law enforcement was never designed to treat Black Americans with the same regard as their White counterparts. This is why “re-training” is not the answer. The policing system in this country isn’t broken. It’s doing exactly what it was created to do, which is to inflict the Black community with racially biased treatment and deny the simple constitutional right to due process.
The Foundation of Policing — What Americans May Have Forgotten
Although some argue that today’s police departments do not exhibit systemic racism, taking a look at the history of…
Shoot first, figure out what went wrong later.
This is embedded within every precinct in this country and no amount of “reforming” will ever change that. It’s deeper than just dealing with the officers who are on the front lines slaughtering Black bodies. It extends to the unions, the local elected officials, the lawmakers at the state level, all the way to the White House where the Commander-in-Chief is quoted as proclaiming:
“When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” This was his response to protestors who took to the streets after the video of George Floyd’s brutal murder was viewed by the entire country. (There was no acknowledgment from Trump on the inappropriate use of lethal force in this case.)
The chances of this president having any concern for Black Americans wrongfully targeted and brutalized by the police officers he vehemently supports, often proclaiming “law and order!” via Tweet, is slim to none. We have to take another route to begin saving the lives of Black people, and this starts with dismantling the current process of law enforcement and restructuring it with an equitable system that works to protect ALL Americans.
The following is my wish-list for revamping police departments to help keep Black people alive.
Pass legislation that holds police who murder without cause accountable.
This must happen across the board in every city in America. There is no incentive to stop the killings of Black people at the hands of police officers if there are no repercussions. There must be laws in place that not only encompass harsh consequences for cops who senselessly kill out of anger or racism, but also conditions that affect their salaries and pensions. If the future of their family’s security and livelihood is on the line, they might be less inclined to make impulsive decisions to deprive Black families of theirs.
Require police officers to live in the communities they serve.
If someone in law enforcement sees their neighbors on a daily basis at the local grocery store, leaving their homes in the morning for work, mowing their laws, playing with their children, going for a jog, or taking prom and graduation pictures in their yard, those neighbors become HUMANIZED. They are no longer viewed as the malevolent forces falsely portrayed in the media, but instead they become people who love, have families, live normal lives, and simply want to keep their children safe -just like anyone else.
Dismantle and rebuild police unions.
These organizations yield entirely too much power. They enable the bad behavior of rouge, racist cops and then shield them from accountability. There is a fine line between protecting officers and completely excusing any abhorrent behavior they exhibit. The current process allows the denial of justice for too many wrongful deaths and to create a better climate in this country, this has to end immediately. The legislation suggested above must also include guidelines for the unions to ensure that officers are both protected while they are serving but also ordered to face swift and severe discipline when they abuse their power.
Immediately discharge any officer that has three excessive force complaints — NO EXCEPTIONS (with immediate termination and convictions for fatally wounding citizens without cause)
All employees in the workforce on ANY job are given three chances after committing an offense:
1st offense — Verbal Warning
2nd Offense — Written Warning
3rd Offense — Corrective Action with Work Plan to Enforce Requirements
4th Offense — TERMINATION
No other institution deems dangerous, racist, and discriminatory behavior as acceptable for any of it’s employees. When this type of transgression is reported, the employee has immediate consequences to face. Why should police precincts be any different? What is the deterrent to committing murder if the only punishment is a paid leave of absence, which is basically a vacation for taking a life?
For a job as important as protecting the lives of U.S. citizens, there is no room for “bad apples.” Would you want the bus driver taking your kid to school to be one of the few “bad apples” in the school district? Would you want the cardiologist placing a stent in your spouse’s heart to be the “bad apple” in the surgical department? Would you want the care giver at your child’s daycare to be one of the “bad apples” at the center? Would you want the pilot flying your plane to be one of the “bad apples” in the aviation industry?
Then WHY is it okay for any police officer on the force who carries a gun and has the capacity to KILL to be one of the “bad apples” in the department?
The answer is, it is NOT okay.
Every time another Black person is shot or killed by police, I am reminded that what I thought was progress a few months ago is still in the exact same place it was before the world witnessed George Floyd’s murder. People still justify shootings by saying “Well, what did he DO to get shot?” or turn things around by saying, “What about Black on Black crime?” and of course the famous, “But ALL lives matter” deflection.
Enough is enough. Things must change and they must change NOW.
We are DONE DYING. We are DONE being treated as if we are less than human. We are DONE seeing grieving mothers on television. We are DONE hearing the world protect the officers that murder our families in the street, in BROAD DAYLIGHT. We are DONE with these modern day lynchings. We are DONE worrying what will happen if our own children will come face to face with law enforcement.
We are DONE.
It is past time for the restructuring of the law enforcement process. The answer is not pouring MORE money into a system that was build with malicious and insidious intent. The answer is to redirect any additional funds to create programs within the community to bring resources (jobs, better schools, training centers, mentoring programs) that empower people in EVERY neighborhood.
Those who have access to what they need to not just survive, but THRIVE have less need for police presence. This is why you do not see large amounts of law enforcement in White suburban neighborhoods. I grew up in such a town and my exposure to police was the courtesy officer who came to the Friday night football games. So I know for a fact that if Black people were afforded the same opportunities as White America on a large scale (access to higher-paying jobs, fair lending practices, etc.)that would dramatically affect our current situation.
Jacob Blake, although facing grueling surgeries and the possibility of life without the ability to run and play with his children, was indeed one of the lucky ones. He survived when so many others have died instantly at the hands of police. But what happened to him wasn’t inevitable. There were many other options that officer could have chosen, but he chose to shoot him multiple times while his children looked on, because he did not view any of them as human beings.
Jacob’s sister gave a powerful and moving statement when she spoke to the press about her brother. One comment she made stood out and artfully encompassed how every Black person should be regarded by ALL people in this country:
“When you say the name Jacob Blake, make sure you say FATHER, make sure you say COUSIN, make sure you say UNCLE, make sure you say SON, but most important, make sure you say HUMAN.” — Letetra Widman