Columnist: Dialogue, not hate, needed after shootings
Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 9, 2016
Recent killings of police officers in Dallas and killing of black males in America demand dialogue, not hatred.
I have said it in previous articles as clearly as I could that if the continued wave of police shootings of blacks in the United States did not end, law enforcement could conceivably find itself at the receiving end of such shootings by individuals, black and white, distrustful of the law.
Last year I had the opportunity to be a guest speaker, along with two prominent lawyers, at a Georgia University. The local police chief was also an invited speaker. Students at the University role played several of the 990 encounters blacks had with law enforcement in 2015 that resulted in death.
Students were adamant, however, about respecting the law, even providing advice as to what a person should do when stopped by the police. Such advice included speaking in a respectful manner, not making sudden moves and not arguing with the officer.
Several hundred students were in attendance that evening. When it was my turn to speak I asked how many students had been stopped within the previous 12 month period by law enforcement. I was astonished — the majority of the students, male and female, raised their hands!
There was a radical element in attendance that night who felt that too many police officers operated under the protection of their badge to violate the rights of others who happen to be black. One student had even come up with an acronym for the word “cops.” To him the word “cops” meant (c)razy (o)fficers (p)atrolling (s)treets.
Although I was a little bit chagrined at what the student said, I was even more shocked that some students felt that they could conceivably engage in an armed confrontation with an officer whom they felt could conceivably take their life. Since my lecture that evening I have discovered that some blacks are privately saying that they would be unforgiving of an officer whom they felt would unjustly kill their loved one, especially a child.
Remember the case of the father who several years ago at a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, airport, shot and killed a man convicted of raping his son? Well, most blacks are telling their children to respect the law, but do not rule out revenge against an officer who would cause harm to their child.
The African-American community appears to be fed up with police shootings of blacks such as those that recently occurred in Baton Rouge and in Minnesota. Judging from the demonstrations around the country against the shootings, it appears that a broad cross-section of people in the United States are also against what seems to be the targeting of blacks by law enforcement.
The governor of Minnesota even seemed to condemn the recent shooting of an African-American male by law enforcement in his state. In essence, the governor, in addressing the recent killing in his state, stated that it is highly unlikely that a white person would’ve been killed under similar circumstances.
Judging from the animus against law enforcement spreading in the black community it is not surprising that officers themselves could become targets, such as what has taken place in Dallas, Texas. As of 9 a.m. (July 8, 2016), Eastern standard time, five officers have been declared dead as a result of an intentional sniper attack.
It is without a doubt that the black community has become suspicious of law enforcement. The use of force by law enforcement against black men has come under heavy scrutiny.
Police have a civic duty to protect and serve individuals, but like most people who hold a great deal of authority, their powers are sometimes abused. Unfortunately, police brutality is a common occurrence around the world, and it’s often accompanied by several other examples of police misconduct.
The Washington Post, in fact, reports that the Minnesota killing by police was the 123rd black person to be shot and killed by American police this year. In total, 509 Americans have been killed by police this year.
The Post goes on to say that 10 percent of black Americans shot and killed by police were not armed, while 61 percent had guns. In 2015, The Post created a database cataloging every fatal shooting nationwide by a police officer in the line of duty, collecting data on those who were killed and details of the shootings.
The effort began because data compiled by the federal government was unreliable and incomplete. The post discovered that 990 people were fatally shot by police in 2015. As of a week ago, there have been 27 more fatal shootings this year than at the same time last year.
To accurately define police shootings in the United States, the Post will send open-records requests to every police department involved in a fatal shooting to compile information on the officers who fired shots, something no federal agency tracks.
Something has to occur. The recent shootings of law enforcement and killings of blacks in the United States should not be politicized. America is a country of laws. Dialogue on these important issues is the solution to these problems — not hatred and suspicion.