by Dr. E. Faye Williams
(TriceEdneyWire.com)—Caron Nazario, Daunte Wright, Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, LaQuan McDonald, Tamir Rice, John Crawford III, Michael Brown, and Elijah McClain comprise, with the exception of Army Lt. Nazario, a list of African Americans who have become the victims of fatal encounters with police. This list is long and hasn’t come to an end.
Arguably, Lt. Nazario’s active-duty status spared him from a similar fatal fate. The fact that the police used multiple lies as cause for his detainment and assault gives reason to reexamine misrepresentations that support the deaths of the others named.
Daunte Wright was “accidentally” killed when a 26-year veteran in MN, police officer “mistakenly” deployed her service pistol (2 pounds loaded) instead of her Taser pistol (8 ounces). After a scuffle with police in an Atlanta Wendy’s, Rayshard Brooks was shot in the back twice, after which the shooter exclaimed, “I got him!” Breonna Taylor was fatally shot in bed by police who erroneously made a no-knock drug raid on her home. Sandra Bland “committed suicide” while in police custody in Texas after a questionable traffic stop.
LaQuan McDonald was accused of threatening and charging police with a knife until video showed him moving away from police as an officer shot him 16 times. Within 3 seconds after police arrival at the park in which 13-year-old Tamir Rice was playing with a toy pistol, he was fatally shot by police. John Crawford III was fatally shot in a Wal-Mart in Beavercreek, Ohio, for holding a BB gun which was on open display. Few can forget Michael Brown who was fatally shot walking down the middle of the street. Some will remember Elijah McClain from a recent article.
This list is unending, yet it has common threads. Among them is the reaction, regardless of gender and size, of the police to apply lethal force. Each was considered a mortal threat whose “Blackness” was their deadly weapon. Their treatment was justified by a specious explanation for use of force with little, if any, judicial review.
My purpose isn’t to rehash these encounters—nothing can return the dead. My questions today are, “Where did these police go?” “What are they doing?” Some have rightfully been charged with the crimes they committed. Others have been found guilty and are in prison or await a verdict. Others simply “resign” prior to disciplinary action and seek employment with another department ‘down the road.’ They escape criminal consequence and move elsewhere to repeat their foul activities.
There is a remedy—The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Passed by the House of Representatives, this bill addresses policing practices, and increases accountability for law enforcement misconduct, restricts the use of certain policing practices, enhances transparency and data collection, and establishes best practices and training requirements.
Briefly, the bill does the following:
• Lowers the criminal standard to convict an officer for misconduct
•Limits “qualified immunity” as a defense to liability
•Grants subpoena power to DOJ in pattern-or-practice investigations
•Establishes a framework to prevent and remedy racial profiling by law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels.
•Limits unnecessary use of force and restricts no-knock warrants, and chokeholds
• Creates the National Police Misconduct Registry to compile complaints and records of police misconduct
•Directs DOJ to create uniform accreditation standards for law enforcement agencies; requires law enforcement officers to complete training on racial profiling, implicit bias; requires the duty to intervene when another officer uses excessive force.
The Senate now controls the fate of this legislation. We must take control of our future and demand that our Senators support passage of this bill. We cannot wait for their benign consideration.
(Dr. E. Faye Williams is President of the National Congress of Black Women.)