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Est. April 5, 2002
July 27, 2017 - Issue 709

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Ending Police Shootings
Regardless of the Victim’s Race
Can the Minneapolis police shooting
be a game-changer?


"In a nation where Black lives rarely matter
and where Black people have been relentlessly
pointing out the deadly disparities in policing,
will this be the time when white America’s
empathy translates to solidarity with the
endless pain of Black and Brown communities?"

Since my last column about cops playing the fear card as their irrefutable justification for unnecessary deadline force, it happened. The very scenario that I written about that had not happened anywhere in this country. At least not according to the unofficial survey by Redditt Hudson, a former St. Louis cop and current department reformer. I’m talking about the shooting of a white, unarmed citizen by a Black police officer.

The news of the fatal shooting of Australian-born Justine Damond by a Somali-American police officer has gone around the world and back again. Mohammed Noor was apparently startled by a noise at the same time Damond appeared at the driver’s side of the police car after calling the police to check on a possible rape. Noor fired across his partner, Mathew Harrity, hitting the Aussie women in the stomach. The soon-to-be married woman died minutes later.

With lightning speed, the public had information that often takes weeks, months to get when a white officer kills a Black citizen. The names of the officers involved in the incident were quickly released. (Two months out, the community is still demanding the names of the St. Louis officers involved in deadly SWAT attack.)

We know Noor was fast-tracked to become a trained, sworn officer; he got about seven months of training. We also know that in the two short years of being on the street, Noor was hit with three citizen complaints and one lawsuit. Neither Noor or his partner had their body cameras on, a violation of department policy when police are called to a scene and a firearm is involved. That’s right, we knew all of this within days of the shooting.

Police Chief Jannee’ Harteau was summarily fired by the Mayor. Ok, let’s do Minnesota “nice” and say she was forced to resign. This is the same chief on duty when Black bodies were shot, including the murder of Jamar Clark which sparked community protests for weeks. Harteau was retained and the officers involved in the Clark shooting faced no charges. Black folks in Minnesota—and elsewhere—have been swift to note the stark differences in the way this police shooting is being handled.

Meanwhile, white folks in Minneapolis and Australia are fired up about the police murder. One Aussie newspaper ran the headline “American Nightmare” to reflect their country’s repulsion towards this deadly epidemic. Unlike the U.S., Australia has tight restrictions on gun ownership and fatal police shootings are unusual.

Back in Minneapolis, the reactions are hostile and focused. Tensions are high and demands are many. The attorneys of Harrity have even received death threats that I doubt came from any person of color.

In a nation where Black lives rarely matter and where Black people have been relentlessly pointing out the deadly disparities in policing, will this be the time when white America’s empathy translates to solidarity with the endless pain of Black and Brown communities? Will it result in policy changes of police interactions and the use of force regardless of the skin color of the citizens involved.

What about Noor? He was trained to shoot when he felt his life was in jeopardy. His negative encounters with at least four civilians didn’t raise an eyebrow. He still enjoyed support from fellow offices and the top police brass. Will Noor’s comrades in blue rally around him when he faces criminal charges?

Cops play the fear card every time. They often say they live by the motto “it’s better to be judged by twelve then to be carried by six.” It’s been well established (especially by juries) that the fear of Black citizens is totally justifiable. Can we conclude that the fear experienced by a Black cop in a dangerous situation is the same as that of a white cop? Does the fear factor work in reverse, meaning do non-white police suffer from the fear of whiteness in the way that white cops fear blackness?

These questions and others remain to be answered. There will be many who will be waiting to see the fate of a Black cop who was startled at the sight of an unarmed, white woman. Editorial Board member and Columnist, Jamala Rogers, founder and Chair Emeritus of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis. She is an organizer, trainer and speaker. She is the author of The Best of the Way I See It – A Chronicle of Struggle.  Other writings by Ms. Rogers can be found on her blog jamalarogers.comContact Ms. Rogers and BC.
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is published every Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

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