Police officers are sworn to protect, however recent events seem to question police loyalty to lawfully serving their community. The recent decision to bring criminal charges against all six officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray is a grand gesture in the right direction of delivering justice, but is it enough? Going to trial and then being found guilty are completely different. The ultimate decision still rests upon a system that has presented itself to be biased. The law is in favor of the officer and this has been true in the fatal shootings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
Prior to the decision announced by State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, to bring charges against the six officers, a series of protests broke out in the city of Baltimore. Some of these protests were peaceful and then there were some that turned violent. There comes a point where a community, a race, or a family has had enough with the disrespect and the belittlement of their character and identity. This is not to be interpreted as a justification for people destroying property and looting, however Gray’s death comes after Eric Garner’s, which comes after Walter Scott’s death, which comes after Michael Brown’s death, which comes after Trayvon Martin’s death and so forth. In all of these cases listed, justice was not served, consequently frustration and anger has built up. “Freddie Gray’s death merely let loose the frustration of the whole African-American community, and is just one “in a series of tragedies,” said Cornell Williams, President and CEO of The NAACP.
Police brutality has become all too frequent in the United States of America and repercussions for officers being a slap on the wrist has become the sad normality. Daniel Pantaleo was the officer that placed Garner in a chokehold position; he was banned under department policy. Despite the illegal apprehension method used and previous allegations brought against the officer for unlawful search and arrest, his gun and badge was confiscated and he was placed on desk duty. Yes finally justice has been served…No! A man’s life has been taken and Pantaleo gets a temporary demotion. According to the court, there was not enough evidence to move forward with charges against the officer. There is not enough evidence, however video footage of the incident exists. Pantaleo can be seen placing Garner in a chokehold position that had been banned by his police department and Garner repeatedly told officers that he could not breathe.
Apparently,video footage no longer suffices as enough evidence, however it is quite ironic how Peter Liang was recently indicted for shooting 28-year old Akai Gurley whereas in these circumstances video footage does not exist and there are limited witnesses.
According to a NPR report, Liang and his partner were patrolling a dark stairwell inside a Brooklyn housing project when Liang’s gun was accidentally fired. The bullet is reported to have ricocheted off a wall and into Gurley’s chest. “We don’t believe that Officer Liang intended to kill Mr. Gurley. But he had his finger on the trigger, and he fired the gun,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson. Why wasn’t the same said to be true for Darren Wilson, the officer that shot and killed Michael Brown. He was not indicted despite numerous witnesses that stated Brown had his hands up surrendering before being shot multiple times.
The only obvious difference in these two cases is the racial ethnicity of the two officers; Liang being Asian American and Wilson being White. Again this is not to be interpreted in a way that suggests charges should not have been brought against Liang, however skepticism exists when similar situations do not bring about the same outcome. Minorities are negatively affected whether they are employed by the system or not. This suggests that as long as there is a white man doing the killing it is justifiable. Arguments have been made that Liang is being treated as a scapegoat and that he wouldn’t have been charged had he been white. This is what has become of the legal system; a racial pendulum that picks and chooses who will be protected by the law. One can only wonder how the trial of the six officers involved in Grey’s death will pan out. Will all the Black officers be scapegoated as well and again the white man walks away with a clean slate?
The issue is that there are too many interpretations of the law and a lack of emphasis placed on what is wrong versus what is right. For a moment let’s just remove race form the equation and focus on the two ideals of right and wrong. Is it wrong for an officer to apprehend suspects that have committed a crime? No, society needs law enforcement. Is it right for police officers to abuse this given power? Absolutely no. So how do we put an end to this phenomenon of police brutality? The answer is by continuing to place pressure on the court system, because although officers are committing the crimes if the court does not see the injustice more officers, such as Darren Wilson or Daniel Pantaleo will continue to walk free. It is not enough to speak about change it is time to be about change. We have to become apart of the law. We have to continue to stand our ground together and most importantly we have to never give up. Any great victory takes time and that victory is soon to prevail.
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