Now is a really good chance to start reducing racial tensions nationwide. We have a case of a white officer brutally attacking a black student, who at worst seems to have been guilty of disruptive behavior. Everyone knows he was in the wrong. Unlike many previous incidents, there's no ambiguity about the black person's innocence or apparent innocence as the cop saw it (although I still have trouble believing that the 12-year-old with a toy gun was an ambiguous situation).
In short, we have a cop using his badge to bully and assault, so this isn't the sort of case in which conviction leads to police being discouraged from doing their jobs for fear of punishment and litigation (which is, to be fair, a concern when prosecuting police officers). We have an innocent victim (except of disruptive behavior). We have a case which by all accounts should lead to a clear conviction of the officer. I'm not sure of the charges, but misuse of power and assault probably have proper legal terms to attach to them (assault being a legal term).
And moreover, since August 2014, we as a country have really needed a conviction, an obviously just one, of a white police officer for harming a black civilian. (And Baltimore, equally obvious though it seems, isn't even going to start trials for another month.)
Please don't screw this up.
Since the riots started, my first concern has been for my family there, and I'm very glad that things have calmed down. But I'm also glad that the cops in question (who appear to have been negligent at a minimum) are being charged accordingly.
Because I have a one-year-old niece, and since the riots started I've been wondering--what if she were male and black (if my sister-in-law weren't Caucasian as well, and given that gender is a matter of complete chance), instead of white and female? Or if preconceptions changed, and white teenage females were considered suspicious? In twelve, sixteen, twenty-five years would my niece be in danger because of a water pistol, or a panicked run from cops, or....
The cops, and also the grand juries who have said "oh, no charges, just doing his duty" so many times in the last year--have they ever stopped to think, what if it were my son/nephew/cousin on the other side of the gun? If the response is "well, but my relatives are white, or female, so there's no danger to them", then congratulations on both being aware of the problem and being part of it.
But I don't think they've, any of them, thought that far. I fear that the cops in the incidents in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, Baltimore weren't seeing citizens who it's their duty to protect (even from themselves), much less "what if it were my family", but at best saw "possible threat, must destroy." Not "must stop"--many of these incidents sound to me like they could have been stopped without death, so unless I'm missing key details about all of them, we have some problems with police training nationwide.
And what were the grand juries thinking? "We can't stop cops from protecting themselves, then they won't be able to do their duties"? What if it were your child, your husband, your family next time? It is true, cops need to be able to do their jobs, but part of that is making sure that they are doing their jobs. Don't you realize that each acquittal without trial reinforces this type of behavior on the part of the police, and so will lead to another dead child or young adult, possibly for doing something wrong (though not worth a death sentence), but possibly for nothing more than loitering while black?
...I just realized, I missed a key set of people. The prosecutors in these cases should have been able to come up with these arguments themselves. I really hope they do better in Baltimore, instead of protecting the cops just because they're cops (the idea that police can do no wrong would lead us down a very bad road).
We need to do better. We HAVE to do better.



June 2017

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