Black Lives Matter vs. the American Police Department: A Collective Essay

By: Jenna I.

wpid-Photo-20150428203748340.jpg Photo: Courtesy of Mike Luckovich

You know the fight for people’s lives from police is bad in 2016 when modern day events can be corresponded to the name of a #1 smash hit by N.W.A., in which I cannot say the title of this song because this is a school newspaper and I will get a very disapproving glance from admin, but let’s just say the name isn’t very flattering to the police department in the US of A.

Black Lives Matter, a trending hashtag, movement, and topic among liberal activists and backwoods-hillbilly-Trump supporters alike, is taking over the internet specifically on Twitter and Instagram, and for good reason. Innocent African-Americans, predominantly males, are being wrongfully targeted by police, especially because recent victims of police violence who have been killed that are showcased in mainstream media in this movement has been unarmed and were showing little to no criminal activity near their time of death; some of the only real offences were loitering and a busted tail light – nothing worth getting killed for.

To date, U.S. police have killed at least 194 black people in 2016. Now, a normal person would look at those statistics and say, “Well, that’s a lot, but it’s not a very large amount of people in the grand scheme of things, you know?” Well, according to data collected by The Guardian, black males between the age range of 15-34 are nine times more likely to be shot and killed by police than any other gender, race, and age demographic, which is extremely shocking, as that demographic makes up only 2% of the American population yet they were the victims of 15% of all law enforcement related deaths in 2015. And, in 2015, from different sources, approximately 258-306 black people were killed in that year by police. When examined critically, these statistics are extremely shocking, especially because people would expect that we, as a Western society, have evolved since 25-30 years ago when this was a common issue, yet we haven’t, and if we have, it’s been very slight.

Now that I shoved statistics in your face, let’s talk about the reasoning for the movement. Protests have started all across America since 2014, when 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, when he was not involved in any illegal activities. Since then, it has been shown that police have arrested and killed more black men compared to any other racial group in America. And, because of this wrongful epidemic, activists decided to make a campaign out of it, in which they use hashtags and peaceful protests to get their point across, and that point is that black people should not be shot by police just for having a different colour of their skin. Some of the most popular stories corresponded with this movement are:

(Disclaimer: these stories do feature shootings. If you are sensitive, I do not recommend you read these stories. Also, no disrespect is intended to the families and friends affected by these events. You’re in our prayers.)

Terrence Crutcher of Tulsa, Oklahoma: officers saw his vehicle stalled in the middle of the road. Police demanded him to put his hands up because they thought he was armed. The police said he didn’t, resulting in him being shot and killed. Released videos afterwards showed that he did in fact put his hands up.

Philandro Castile of Falcon Heights, Minnesota: was pulled over by police for a busted taillight. Police thought he was armed, so they ordered him to put his hands up. His fiancee, Diamond Reynolds, filmed a video of her fiance bleeding to death from 3 gunshot wounds the police gave him afterwards. What resulted in shots being fired was when Castile was reaching for his gun license. The video was broadcasted live on Facebook. So far, the footage of his last minutes have been played millions of times.

Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, Louisiana: the two officers that approached Sterling were responding to a call saying there was a man carrying a gun who was threatening people along with selling CD’s in front of a convenience store. When police called for him to disarm himself, they shot him at close range. Videos were released afterward that Alton was not reaching for anything in his pockets like police claimed; there wasn’t even anything in his pockets during the shooting. He was a father of 5.

These deaths caused heartbreak in the black community, causing more protests and online publicity to be caused because of them.

This article is not meant to anti-police though, as the police that have killed these men and women are just a small fraction of a caring and more well-trained police force in America. The American justice and police system is far from perfect, but most of the police officers in the States are well-trained and kind enough to decipher right from wrong; most of them are wives, husbands, parents, friends, and family as well. Some of the kindest police officers have also been negatively impacted by this campaign as well, but it is not Black Lives Matter’s fault directly either- this year, after Castile and Sterling’s deaths, during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, Texas, five police officers were shot and killed and seven others were wounded by an ex-military vet by the name of Micah Xavier Johnson. Johnson, 25, was apparently mad at the police for all of the deaths of African-Americans, causing him to aim at the cops during a peaceful protest. Protesters said they did not mean for anything like this to happen though, as they were trying to prove a point and save people instead of killing men who were just doing their job. Johnson was later killed.

As this fight between activists and the police goes on, it’s harder and harder to find a solution to find closure for these deaths, let alone prevent them or stop them from happening. Since you can’t walk up to every police officer in the United States and ask the simple question of “Are you racist?” while expecting a legitimate and truthful answer as the officer’s confused response, I’ve come up with a semi-tangible solution to at least not let police members get off the hook with these kinds of actions, as most of these deaths result in the police member who caused the murder to walk freely with no charges, along with them being allowed back on the job. Since I find that extremely unfair that police can abuse their power to get away with manslaughter, I pooled together my slight knowledge about the Canadian justice system and created this solution:

  • Any police officer that kills any person wrongfully (unless the person commits a serious crime in which the only result is to shoot to kill) should at least be charged with the minimum sentence of manslaughter unless they are proven guilty, along with the individual having an indefinite suspension from their position. Pay will be administered if the police officer is eligible.
  • After they are charged, they can be taken to court along with having a psychiatric evaluation. If said police officer had a murderous intent to kill the unarmed victim and if they are psychiatrically unwell, he or she can be charged with second degree murder (unless he knew the man/woman killed, than first degree murder could be an option). In Canada, the minimum sentence for second degree murder is life in prison without parole for 10 years.
  • If the psychiatric evaluation comes back and the officer is fine, it is up to the judge to determine jail time or any money being charged to the individual.
  • No matter any extra charges, if they are released without any jail time, they should be temporarily or permanently removed as an officer of the law, and they should only go back if their advisors allow it. When they’re back on the job, they need to follow stricter guidelines, and if the same thing happens again they should receive jail time and a much more serious sentence.
  • Every police officer who kills any unarmed man/woman without any logical justification for their actions (saying “I thought they were armed” is not an appropriate reason) is ALWAYS guilty until proven innocent.

All in all, the fight between activists and the police is getting really rough in the US, as the number of black people shot wrongfully is on the rise, and, because of that, police are intimidated to respond to some civilian calls as they may be labelled as a “racist” if they take any action, along with the fact that they could possibly be harmed as well. These actions are not good for the safety of civilians, protesters, and police in America, and something must be done, and soon. Donald Trump could be the president, and let’s just say there may not be any steps forward in ending this fight; Donald Trump will be the person on their phone filming the scruff going down while yelling Worldstar in the background. And, let’s just say, no one should contribute to this subject unless the contribution is nothing but positive.

Disclaimer: these are my opinions. I do not mean to offend anyone – this is just a compilation of information I’ve collected combined with my personal thoughts and opinions. You are free to disagree or agree with any statements made in this article.

P.S., if you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy this recent video from CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/neil-macdonald-black-lives-matter-revisited-1.3821204

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