Alwaght- The systematic destruction of black lives in the United States is a national and moral crisis and not a new issue. Police officers have killed children like 12-year-old Tamir Rice, young men like Michael Brown, 18, and adults like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd for years. Despite all the cruelty, every time after the protests of blacks and anti-racist movements, regardless of the initial optimism of politicians to create preventive laws, society still witnesses such events.
Internalization of the culture of violence in the American police system
In recent days, despite the ongoing protests against George Floyd’s murder in various American cities, another similar event has taken place that has angered the black community, which again shows the violence of the white police against blacks. Jacob Blake is a 29-year-old man who was shot dead by US police on Sunday. He tried to get into a nearby car in the middle of a fight between two groups, but was beaten by police in front of his wife and children and then shot.
While the blacks in America are victims of centuries of trauma and pain, millions of people have taken to the streets in protest of the deadly culture of police violence and systemic racism, desperately calling for justice and change. The protests, which are widely reported in the media and even supported by some American politicians, have often been ignored.
Just over two weeks after George Floyd was killed in May, more than 2,000 protests were held in all 50 states. The demonstrations were very large, spreading even into cities and states that were completely white populated. According to Count Love, the protest database, on June 6 alone, at least 531 protests were held nationwide.
But the result of these widespread protests has been Trump's emphasis on widespread repression, and painting the protesters as rioters and looters. US President Donald Trump called protesters who had gathered in front of the White House in Washington on Thursday night as “thugs” during his speech to accept his Republican presidential nomination, and called for the national guard to be sent to deal with what he called a "chaos."
However, while emphasizing on the peaceful nature of the protests, protesters say that repressive behavior of the police is leading to violence. Martin Luther King III stated, we must always find a way to hold peaceful demonstrations. King III was organizer of the 2020 March, which took place exactly 57 years after his father took a stand to advocate for causes that further the civil rights and liberties of Black Americans. Dr. King’s eldest son, Martin Luther King III, described President Trump as “a president who confuses grandiosity with greatness” and opts for chaos over community. “We need you to vote as if your lives, our livelihoods, our liberties depend on it. Because they do,” he told the crowd. “There’s a knee upon the neck of democracy, and our nation can only live so long without the oxygen of freedom.” “We didn’t come to start trouble,” he said, in an implicit rebuke to critics of the summer’s racial protests. “We came to stop trouble. You act like it’s no trouble to shoot us in the back. You act like it’s no trouble to put a chokehold on us while we scream ‘I can’t breathe’ 11 times. “Mr. Trump, look right down the block from the White House,” he added. “We’ve come to Washington by the thousands.”
Why are such tragedies repeated?
For years, the question has been posed to many American civil society activists and experts, that why is the cycle of police violence against blacks unstoppable despite repeated popular protests?
In response to the question, at The Brookings Institution, Dr. Rashawn Ray’s opinion has various components, including the lack of standard processes for accountability of police officers, the way police officers pay civil fines to victims of police brutality and the re-recruitment of expelled officers are some of the factors that play a role in skirting police racism and brutality.
According to this study, the blacks are killed 3.5 times more often by police than the whites. Furthermore, Black teenagers are killed by police 21 times more often than white teenagers. In the United States, a black person is killed almost every 40 hours. One in every 1,000 black men can be expected to be killed by police violence during their lifetime.
Despite these statistics, the US police accountability system is highly inefficient and opaque.
After release of a video showing a white police officer beating Rodney Glen King by in 1991, a series of changes were made to increase police surveillance. For example, in-car cameras in police vehicles and police body-mounted cameras were put in place. However, these changes have not resulted in police officers taking responsibility of their actions. Officers normally are not charged with the murder of unarmed blacks. It has become a rule that even if police officers are accused of doing wrong, they are almost never convicted.
Prosecutors need to spend a lot of time making sure a case is solid before making charges. The criminal process moves faster only when video evidence is recorded by citizens and posted on social media. In recent incidents, from Christian Cooper in Central Park to Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia to George Floyd in Minneapolis, it was the smartphones of ordinary citizens that evidenced the crime and led to police interrogation. An issue that completely undermines the nature of police internal oversight of officers' performance.
On the other hand, Dr. Rashawn Ray concludes in his investigation that even despite sufficient evidence and conviction, there is no great punishment waiting for the offending officers.
Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed George Floyd, has been involved in at least 18 police misconduct cases. He has been involved in police misbehavior and in cases where the majority of eyewitnesses called it police violence. The main issue is police immunity becoming a rule. Racist Cleveland police officers who killed Tamir Rice, a black teenager in 2014, also killed another black teenager, Antwon Rose Jr., in East Pittsburgh in 2018. More interestingly, these officers were fired from the Police Department in 2014 for being convicted of murder!
As a matter of fact, when an officer is fired, the Fraternal Order of Police usually helps them to resign quietly instead of being fired. This allows errant and racist police officers to get hired by other police agencies.
Another interesting point is that complaints about the misconduct of officers are often referred to the Internal Affairs Unit of the police for investigation and not to the federal judiciary. If the plaintiff’s complaint can go beyond the internal affairs, it then gets passed to a jury, which normally consists of three police officers, whom would decide whether the accused officers have committed misconduct or not. In fact, the police, as accomplices, are practically the judge and the jury themselves.
Dr. Rashawn Ray's research shows that in the outcome of most misconduct cases regarding police officers, black officers face more toughness than white officers.
Another issue relating to racism in the United States Police Departments mentioned in Dr. Rashawn Ray’s research shows a systematic gap in the process and manner of paying fines to victims of violence due to police misconduct. Under the Qualified Immunity Act - a law that often prohibits officers from facing civilian fines - officers are usually immune to the financial effects of such fines, and victims are paid out of taxpayers' pockets. That being said, the protesters against racism and police violence will be paying the fine for the murder of George Floyd!
Since 2010, St. Louis has paid more than $ 33 million, and Baltimore citizens have paid about $ 50 million for police misconduct. Over the past 20 years, Chicago has spent more than $ 650 million on police misconduct. And so, over the course of July 2017 to June 2018, New York City paid $ 230 million for about 6,500 police misconduct cases.
The existence of these legal loopholes and escape routes for racist officers means that unless there is a real will on the part of the governing body to address the racist problem in American society, we must witness a repeated cycle of police violence against blacks and witness a domino effect of ineffective protests against injustice.