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Hundreds of innocent lives are taken every year by law enforcement. Whether it is due to bad judgment on the police officers behalf, or intentional targeting due to internalized biases, there are lives being wrongfully taken far too often in our nation today. While people of all racial groups have fallen victim to police brutality, Black men and women are most susceptible to it and suffer from it more than any other group. On average black men are 9 times more likely to be shot by law enforcement than white men (Swaine). The issue with the recurring cases we see regarding police shootings or police harassment is the fact that the officers who abuse their authority don’t always get the punishment they deserve. Misbehaving cops are often spared punishment by colleagues and bosses who cover for them in order to keep them around. There is much controversy regarding how to punish these officers due to the fact that it is difficult to determine whether their actions were justified or not. Even if the victims were proven innocent, courts may still rule the actions of the officers as justified. These circumstances in which officers aren’t held responsible for murdering or severely harming black folks is the reason police brutality is still a serious issue in our society. If a police officer takes an innocent life, they should be immediately removed from the police force and should face further punishment, because if not, law enforcement will continue to abuse their power.
This issue is quite complicated in the way that everyone has a different opinion about whether police officers should be fired for making the mistake of harming an innocent person. Some could argue that not all men and women should be fired from their job because some officers have legitimate reasoning for shooting an unarmed person. They could object my claim by saying not all police officers deserve to lose their job just because they had bad judgment and made a one time mistake. Instead, the option that is proposed on this side of the argument is that these officers should only be suspended and if it happens again, then they should be fired. The issue with this option is that there is the possibility of a second time, the possibility that another innocent life could be taken. While I agree that it isn’t fair to say that every officer who is fired deserves it, or that for the reinstatement of all cops represents the failure of justice, I think killing or severely harming an innocent civilian cause for the removal of the police officer regardless of the circumstances. If we let officers get away with such actions then we cannot expect any progress to be made. For those in law enforcement who want to or do abuse their power, they may begin to believe that they can do so without suffering the consequences because others have gotten away with it in the past.
In an essay written by Assata Shakur, she tells the story of how she was wrongfully accused of murdering Zayd Malik Shakur and state trooper Werner Forester after a traffic stop that went terribly wrong on May 2, 1973. Shakur stated that Trooper Harper claimed he had initially pulled them over due to faulty tail light, yet It became clear that Harper had a racial bias against Black people and that Shakur and her friends were innocent targeted and harassed because of it. Harper claimed he became “suspicious” of their behavior and the resulted in the shooting and killing of Malik. To respond to the events that took place that night, Shakur stated: “The truth is that there was a major cover-up as to what happened on May 2, 1973” (Shakur 65). She continued to explain the ways in which Harper lied in court and to the authorities about who had really shot officer Forester and Malik. This quote is important because it shows the ways in which white police officers whom unlawfully use their power to get away with murder. Since Shakur was a black woman, her side of the story didn’t have much an impact even though she had strong evidence supporting her defense. This story is an example as to how law enforcement holds so much power over minority groups. Harper had lied to cover himself and the court system ruled in his favor because he was a powerful white man. Circumstances like these prove that we cannot excuse officers actions just because they claim they had justified the reasoning for killing an innocent human being. Sure there are instances that are real accidents, but any one of these officers could lie about their true intentions and that is another reason we must hold every officer accountable.
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Similarly to Shakur’s experience, there are thousands of African American citizens around the nation today that are still dealing with police brutality and the reality that many guilty officers often get off with little to no punishment. Organizations such as the Black Lives Matter movement continue to fight against police brutality through protest, marches, and sometimes even riots. The group strives to prevent and stop the violence that is inflicted on the black communities by the state and others who unrightfully intervene. In a statement written by the creator of this group, Alicia Garza, she discusses the ways in which the Ferguson case had triggered the momentum within the Black Lives Matter movement. The death of Mike Brown by the hands of police officer Darren Wilson lead to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement that we know of today. Garza stated that “People were hungry to galvanize their communities to end state-sanctioned violence against Black people, the way Ferguson organizers and allies were doing” (Garza). This statement shows that the BLM group used what happened after the death of Michael Brown and brought the anger and passion that they had within the protests back home. Rather than peaceful, non-violent protesting that black rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. practiced in the past, they used the tactics of rioting to gain the attention of the masses. This form of protesting shows how black communities have been pushed to their breaking point due to the oppression they face from the authorities.
Currently, within our society and particularly the media, Black Lives Matter has been given a bad reputation due to the riots that have occurred around the nation. While not all members of BLM agree with the behavior of those involved in the riots, there are a lot of people within the movement that uses violence as a way to point out the injustice black communities face. Members of this group use their anger to damage property and even enforce more violence upon police officers, and this just leads to more bloodshed. In an article written by Joy James in 2015, titled “Moving Targets”, she examines how authority figures within the justice system respond to the riots and violent protesting that have happened more recently by groups such as Black Lives Matter. She stated, “Even as police continued to violate black communities, Attorney General Lynch instructed ‘the Baltimore community’ to adhere to nonviolence” (James). This statement is significant because it shows how someone with so much power within our country responds to cases of police brutality. It touches how police aggression is seen as necessary by many law enforcement officials in our current society and it is often protected by our government. We see this through Lynch’s decision to defend the oppressors rather than the oppressed. Lynch suggests that the solution to this issue is to have activists protest peacefully without violence, instead of holding the police officers who are abusing their power within black communities accountable. This U.S. Attorney General neglects to understand that when groups of Black men and women feel they have to resort to violence in order for change, this shows how big of an issue this really is. If police officers were forced to face the consequences of killing an innocent black person, such as losing their job, and there was justice for those who were killed by law enforcement, groups such as Black Lives Matter wouldn’t feel the need to react with violence.
The loss of a job does not compare to the loss of life. We must prioritize the safety of Black lives and the public over the protection of law enforcement labor rights. If we let these police officers who abuse their authority keep their jobs or merely just temporarily make them pay for their mistakes, we cannot expect police brutality to end. All over the nation, police unions are helping many of these cops to get their jobs back, often through secretive appeals. But we cannot keep reinstating these guilty officers or keeping them employed because we are essentially risking the lives of those belonging to minority groups by doing so. We must stop worrying about the status of these law enforcement officials, and rather we should be focusing on the ways in which we can end police brutality against Blacks within America by any means possible. I believe the first step our country must take to put an end to police brutality starts with Law enforcement officials immediately removing guilty officers from the police force. Because if they don’t, officers will continue to abuse their power and innocent lives within black communities will continuously be at stake.