The acquittal of killer
cop of Dominique Heaggan-Brown in the shooting death of Syville Smith
was the third in one month; two cop acquittals happened in one week.
They just keep on comin’.
acquittals are the accumulation of police violence suffered by
communities of color, particularly by the Black community. The
message was loud and clear: You are always justified if you kill a
Black person, and if you should ever be charged, don’t worry,
there will be no consequences. That’s whether you’re a
Black cop as in the case of Heaggan-Brown, if you’re a female
cop as in the case of Betty Jo Shelby, if you’re a Latina cop
as in the case Jeronimo Yanez or most definitely if you’re a
good ole white boy in blue.
appears that the mostly white juries find it easy to understand the
mythology that Blacks are criminals and deserving of deadly force.
But they have a hard time getting past the patent defense by police
that works every time: I feared for my life.
for one’s life as a police officer can come within two seconds
of seeing a little blackness. That’s how long it took police to
mow down 12-year old Tamir Rice in Cleveland. Syville Smith’s
death came in 12 seconds. St. Louis native Philando Castile’s
horrifying death took a whopping 40 seconds by St. Paul cops.
for one’s police life seems to have no real criteria. Everyone
looks big and black to a cop. Police procedure and training get
thrown out the window when blackness is involved. In cases like Tamir
Rice, there was no way that police could’ve assessed the
situation in less than two seconds. The officer exited the police car
with his weapon already drawn. They didn’t try to use their car
for cover in case live rounds came from a toy gun.
in the case pregnant Charleena Lyles in Seattle, police discussed and
confirmed that the 30-year old mother had a “mental precaution”
on file before they killed Lyles in front of her children. Lyles had
a known history of mental illness by the very police who showed up at
the homeless shelter where she was staying. Their prescription for
the problems of the petite Lyles that day were deadly bullets.
Recently In St. Louis,
a still unidentified Black off-duty cop responded to a police chase
right outside his home. The armed cop was immediately ordered to the
ground by his so-called white colleagues. The responding officers
ordered him to stand up and walk towards them. Another cop just
arriving at the scene saw a black man, fired his gun and hit the
Black cop in the arm later explaining he what—feared for his
safety. A local sub-headline read “Friendly fire injury at
crime scene is under investigation”. My suggested headline
would be ”Lucky Black cop wounded by unfriendly fire.”
There’s nothing friendly about a bullet in your body regardless
of where it can from.
do Black and Brown communities get justice in police-involved
shootings? I think there are several ways but let’s discuss two
unconditional use of “fearing for one’s life” as a
defense for cop murders of black citizens needs to be debunked.
Redditt Hudson is a former St. Louis cop and a driving force of a
newly formed coalition, National Coalition of Law Enforcement
Officers for Justice, Reform and Accountability. Hudson has traveled
from end of this country to the next challenging former and current
police (or anyone else) to cite a case where a Black officer killed a
white citizen in the last 50 years. So far, Hudson has been
unsuccessful in finding one case--a fact he uses to illuminate the
training and restraint Black cops draw upon in the face of danger.
The same kind of danger that all officers should know comes with the
other proposal is to educate prospective Black jurors on the
importance of serving on juries, especially in the cases of
officer-involved shootings. We know the paltry stipend is little
incentive but imagine being a defendant and expecting to have a jury
of your peers, then having to watch Black folks opt out and the few
Blacks who get through get struck by a prosecutor or defense
attorney. At this point, you pretty much know your fate is sealed.
After that, the rest of the courtroom machinations are a blur because
the outcome is now pre-determined.
St. Louis, the Organization for Black Struggle has launched a Black
Jurors Matter campaign. The group urges Blacks to “jam the
juries” as their civic duty. The group hopes the campaign for
an educated black juror will result in different outcomes in future
prosecutions like the upcoming one of a killer cop Jason Stockley by
the first African American city prosecutor.
of police come with too much ease while the anger of Black
communities intensifies with each unrepentant murder of a loved one.
Prosecutors in the Heaggan-Brown case allege the officer had “bragged
about being able to do whatever” he wanted “without
repercussions. (His acquittal obviously confirms the practice.)
Justice-loving citizens must change this unbalanced dynamic. It will
go a long way towards relieving the pressure that builds in the toxic
relationship between communities of color and the occupying police