Part 1: “The Problem” – The Ferguson Missouri and New York City Police Killings
Author: Greg Tharpe
How many white suspects have been shot or killed by white police officers? How many white suspects have been killed by black officers? How many black officers have killed black suspects by using excessive force or by shooting? What do the statistics say; is there a racially-biased motive for officers to use excessive force or shoot?
It is unfortunate what happened to Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York, two young men with perhaps a full life ahead of them. It is sad for their families that they had to bury their loved one under any circumstance. However, it deepens the pain to the core to feel as if their loved one was arguably murdered by a white police officer. This circumstance would be emotionally damaging and painful for any parent or family, regardless of color.
It could be safe to assume that officer’s Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo felt they were justified in the shooting and choke hold, which caused the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Or, were they abusing their authority and power because of their uniform. Were they motivated by racial stereotype based on the fear of young blacks being labeled thugs or hoodlums? Maybe, drug and crime activity going on in the black communities across America could be another factor that could be causing police officers to be fearful, thereby using deadly force without imminent danger.
The fear of the young black hoodlum or thug stereotype often cause officers to make split second judgments that appear not to be necessary and perhaps it wasn’t in these cases. Consequently, when fear or racial stereotype motives are mixed in the adrenaline of a possible life threatening situation, where the citizen or suspect is not following the officer’s command, these types of incidents will continue to happen. These incidents are nothing new; it is that they are getting more media coverage now because of TV ratings. Many black men and perhaps some white men have been killed wrongfully by police officer’s, without receiving national attention. It would be safe to say, over the years many people know of an incident that happened in their city which can be interpreted as unjust or biased.
Many African Americans see it as police being racist and police abusing their power by being too aggressive and trigger happy. They believe the justice system is unjust to blacks or minorities. However, on the other hand, perhaps some white people look at it based on the stereotype of young blacks being thugs and hoodlums, the officer has a right to use excessive force when they feel it is necessary; the police have a right to defend themselves when they feel their life is in danger. Therefore, they feel the justice system was fair by not indicting officers Daren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo.
We know Michael Brown and Eric Garner both broke the law by resisting arrest, but did they deserve to be put to death at the hands of the officers? The question is, did Officers Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo break the law or were their actions within the law and gave them the right (based upon the way the law is written) to take the life of both men? Evidently, the grand jury felt that Michael Brown’s and Eric Garner’s actions justified their death by law. Is the law just or does it require modification to protect the innocent?
Even though, the pledge of allegiance uses such language as freedom and justice for all, more often than none there is no justice for the minority. In some people’s opinion, the law is often biased whereas the black man or minority get more time sentenced than the white habitual offender. Or a white officer does not get convicted when he uses deadly force unjustified on a black or minority suspect.
Some people become police officers for the wrong reasons. Mainly because they have huge egos and they get an adrenaline rush from being aggressive and making arrests. They prefer being reactive rather than proactive. They look for trouble like an addict looks for his next high. They get addicted to the adrenaline rush because it gives them the high they need to feel good about themselves. It is boring to them when they don’t get any action. They are waiting on the next opportunity, and unfortunately, young people don’t understand this when approached by an egotistical officer. Therefore, the aggressive or racist officer sees the opportunity to get his high and seizes the moment the suspect gets out of line, sometimes leading the officer to misuse his authority for personal reasons.
Although the law does not give the police the right to use excessive force or fire their weapon unjustifiably, there are often times some grey area in situations where the officer has to make a decision right, wrong or indifferent, whereas to use force to subdue the suspect or use deadly force to defend his life. The grey area will always be there and the decision will not always turn out be the right one when you look back on it. Therefore, what do you do as a police officer, do you make the decision to use force based on your subjective decision or do you wait to make sure that you have concrete evidence that your decision is justified? If you wait it may be too late and the officer winds up being killed. Either way no one wins. In these two current cases, you have four families that are experiencing something that is very emotionally painful and life changing. Even more painful for the family to process is the life of their loved one has been taken.
Currently, there is nothing we can do about killing and death; it is part of life in today’s unconscious society. Nothing is going to stop a police offer from taking the life of someone whether you feel it was justifiable or unjustifiable. There will be citizens killed by police and there will be police that get killed by citizens. There will be regular citizens killing other regular citizens. It is not pretty, but humans are not very spiritual at this point, and therefore, these are some of the consequences of lack of love. As long as you live on this earth, there will be unrest and drama going on somewhere at home and abroad.
We need law enforcement to serve and protect us from harm – not to cause harm to us. If there were not laws in place, the United States would self-destruct. Humans would kill one another for the sake of self-gratification, racism, anger, greed and just plain old stupidity. Would you move to a city or town where there is no law and order or police force? How safe and secure would you feel? Even though I am sure you would bear arms to protect yourself, would you still feel safe?
However, to avoid the pain of seeing our young black men get killed by police across America, we have to understand the law and that police have the right to stop you or question you whether you are innocent or guilty. Many times an officer may stop you when you know that you did not do anything wrong, you still must adhere to the officers orders and stop to see what he is saying. The officer has the right to stop you because that is the law. He does not have to be right for stopping you, but you have to be right and stop upon his order.
We have to realize that police officers have the right to use force when you resist arrest, even if you know that you are innocent. If you are arrested without probable cause, it is up to the court system to justify the arrest or the prosecutor to prove guilt. Regardless of your innocence (based upon the current laws) it is unfortunate that you as an innocent man have to go through this experience because of a false judgment made by a police officer and perhaps the judicial system. But, it is what it is, right, wrong or indifferent. If we feel that the law is wrong, we as citizens have the right to lawfully do what it takes to try and change it. Police and citizens have laws that they have to abide by and if they violate the law they should be tried accordingly. If police officers use overly aggressive or deadly force without lawful justification, they should be prosecuted as well.
Therefore, allowing these incidents and others that are being publicized on TV to cause you to hate police officers is ludicrous, especially when it is someone that you don’t even know and/or haven’t done anything wrong to you personally. We still have to keep in mind; there are many good police officers that are not overly aggressive or racist. All white police officers are not bad and all young blacks are not thugs and hoodlums. There are good and bad people in all races. So let’s not stereotype and label people by races.
Nothing justifies Michael Brown and Eric Garner being killed and there is nothing that can be done to undo what has been done. My thoughts and prayers go out to their families. However, if the two would have abided by the law, perhaps they would still be alive today and none of this would have happened. Perhaps if it would have been different police officers that answered the call, maybe they would still be alive today. No one knows with any certainty.
As negative, painful, hurtful and racially divisive as this incident is, all things happen for a reason. Lord please let us individually and collectively as a country learn, grow, spiritually evolve and become better people as the result of it. Let us find the love in our heart that prevents these incidents from happening. Do not let Michael Brown’s and Eric Garner’s sacrifice go in vain. Let us pray, Lord deliver us from our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us … and deliver us from evil … In the name of Love.