SHE (Surviving, Healing, and Evolving)®
SHE (Surviving, Healing, and Evolving)®

                                        This page is dedicated to the indomitable spirit of                                              the "Crusader for Justice,"  the Honorable Ida B. Wells

 (my longtime heroine; it's a shame she can't rest, but we really need her Spirit now)

                                                      ****                                                                                     This Week's Commentary Bite  (10/o1/17)                                    Policing in Chicago (and, by extension, across the  country):

 

 "Change the Statutes."

 

 

We need to change the laws as they relate to policing.  If juries insist on exonerating police officers who extinquish other human beings' lives because a cop, in any given situation, says, "I feared for my life," then a jury should be compelled, through precise jury instructions, to examine whether this so-called "fear" was "reasonable" based on intelligent professional and community standards.  Imagine if a motorist killed a cop and simply said, "I feared for my life?"  But couldn't that very well be true and reasonable given the climate that cops have fostered as it relates to Black motorists?  Of course it could.  MANY Black people fear dying during a "routine" traffic stop over something trivial and inconsequential (like a busted tail light) because some aggressive cop, operating with stupid stereotypes of Black people swirling around in his head, freaks out.  Considering the awesome power the state confers on so-called law enforcement personnel, every Black person knows that if matters turn deadly in an innocent instant, the cop is likely to walk away without accountability, responsibility, or punishment.  

 

If you look closely at the videotape that was released four days after the trial concerning the Philando Castille tragedy, you will see that as soon as Castille announces that he has a firearm in the car, the man in the uniform immediately puts his right hand on his firearm. (He does not deserve to be called a police officer because that implies some degree of intelligent judgment.)  At that point, Castille had every right to fear for his life.  We all know what happened next.  In the span of mere seconds, the man in the uniform mortally wounded Castille--who was in compliance with the uniformed man's directive.

 

It should not be left to an officer, subjectively and mendaciously, to say the magic words that he "feared for his life," when there is clearly no threat that a reasonable, rational person with good judgement could have perceived.  These videotaped police shootings, that people with a conscience have been traumatized by, suggest that better screening concerning the mental stability of police candidates needs to take place.  

 

Also, when police departments fail to conduct investigations into police complaints (or when the inquiries are perfunctory) that is, quite simply, a prescription for disaster.   Further, when a cop has complaint after complaint after complaint filed against him by citizens, and no one bothers to address that officer's behavior, that is clearly another invitation for trouble.  When police officers shoot citizens, or suspects, who have already been subdued, that suggests obvious recklessness, or that the cop was unable to control his own behavior to the extreme detriment of a citizen.  Out of control officers threaten and potentially endanger the citizenry as a whole everyday. 

 

There are so many systemic problems with departments like the Chicago Police that they make it:  1) difficult for officers with good intentions for joining the force to do their jobs with competence and integrity; and 2) impossible for many citizens in marginalized communities to receive protection.  Many people are rightfully afraid to call the police in times of crisis for fear that the officer will cause something to go horribly and irretrievably wrong.  So, what we have is an ineffective system--a tangled mess and complete disorder.  Citizens who need service or protection are afraid to call for it, and officers who are sincere and capable of exercising good judgment and human decency are unfairly maligned.  The police, protected by an extremist and fanatical union, refuse to entertain constructive criticism as they unrealistically pretend that bad cops do not exist, while they obfuscate devastating problems with Pavlovian responses. At the top of the list is the automatic response about how difficult and dangerous it is to be a cop.  Obviously, this is a bad situation all the way around.

 

The way things stand now, a "law enforcement" officer can kill at will.  This is an atrocity that has to be addressed by legislators.  We must demand that law makers write tighter, more precise laws that will not allow a "law enforcement" officer to kill Black people for no rational and defensible reason.  If a police officer "fears for his life" or gets nervous, rattled, and cowardly everytime he encounters a person with Black skin, then he needs to seek other employment.  Human life is much too important to be snuffed out by a cop who is frightened to the point of not being able to police intelligently and humanely.  Why should Black people die because a cop, White or Black, who harbors ridiculous beliefs about Black people, born out of White supremacist thought, wildly over reacts?  I have listened to officers try to justify cop killings by describing a "good shoot," and the things I have heard are absurd, offensive, and frightening.  Basically, any shoot can be described as a "good shoot," if the cop says the magic words: "I feared for my life."  

 

As activists continue to insist that this problem be properly addressed, one remedial suggestion is that police officers should not be allowed to stop people for minor, "ticky-tacky" offenses, including busted tail lights.  The officer should simply take the license plate number down and the owner should receive a notice in the mail to repair the light (or whatever needs fixing) and bring proof of the correction to court on an appointed date.  Police officers ought to be relieved of the right to write tickets for small matters. They can stop a motorist and neither party should ever exit his or her vehicle. The officer can simply copy the license plate or take a picture of it, and allow the driver to leave.  Again, the officer should never exit his vehicle during such a stop; all he would have to do is submit some paper work so the driver can be notified of the problem in writing. Some type of signal can be devised to alert the driver to the fact that he has been pulled over for a minor violation and must stay in his car.

 

We have to arrive at solutions that will enable Black citizens to live without fear of the people whose salaries they pay.  Black people do not have equal protection under the law; they are being killed for no reason.  This is true even as we know that there are White people who curse, berate, spit on, lung at, swing on, and point guns at cops, and yet live to tell about it.  (On can simply perform a Google search and pull up videotape documenting these facts.) 

 

Also, there are some armed and extremely dangerous White people out there who are routinely gingerly apprehended by police officers.  Therefore, we know that many, if not most, cops know how to perform their jobs without the need for deadly force.  Remember, Dylan Roof, the terrorist who slaughtered nine innocent, unsuspecting, and welcoming Christian people in a church after sitting in on their Bible study?  He commited an unspeakable crime, yet police officers outfitted him with a bullet proof vest to protect him, and escorted him to Burger King, because, presumably, one gets hungry after a day's work of massacring nine beautiful, trusting Black people.

 

And what about James Holmes, who shot up a theatre, killing twelve people and wounding 70 others? He was taken in without incident after an evening of killing unsuspecting people trying to enjoy an evening out.  So, how is it that cops can claim they were so afraid of someone, like LaQuan McDonald, for example, who was walking away from the police? None of this killing of Black people, who don't deserve to die, at the hands of the police would be tolerated if it were White people being executed for no reason.

 

This society cannot consider itself "civilized" if it insists that using the state apparatus to kill Black citizens is okay.  Fair-minded people simply have to educate themselves so they can see this issue for what it is, and stand for the truth while they stand against injustice.  We all have to collectively say, "No more." There is a problem with our police culture and no amount of useless, superfluous rhetoric about the difficulties of policing is going to change that.  The overwhelming majority of police officers go home after every shift having worked a mundane day; and there are people in the culture who perform jobs that are harder than policing, but they don't get to savagely kill people in unprovoked interactions and walk away with no consequences.

 

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about needing leaders who are "in love with justice."  We need law enforcement officers who are in love with justice.  If a prospective officer is entering the profession for any other reason, police academies should be more vigilant about dismissing that person, and courts should be more empowered to severely discipline unjust people who sneak through.  We, the people, must demand just that.

 

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