Editor’s Note: These are my thoughts amid the unrest in our country over current events of police brutality which appears to be happening far too often to unarmed Black males. My purpose in writing this is to move people to do something positive to help make the necessary changes in our local communities, state and nation. Please research the recent nationally reported and protested grand jury decisions in the deaths of Michael Brown, Ferguson, MO and Eric Garner, Staten Island, NY. There are other incidents around the country similar to those two, including one less than a month ago, involving a Cleveland police officer fatality shooting 12-year-old Tamir Rice over a fake gun – only seconds after arriving at the scene.
First and foremost, my heart still aches and goes out to the families who have lost their sons, husbands, fathers, uncles, etc in each of these killings especially within the past few years. These are videotaped accounts of Black males walking (for the most part), unarmed and killed by police officers for no good reason – in my book.
Second, in general, we appreciate and respect the police. Police officers patrolling our streets are there to protect and serve all of us – every citizen. We also know that there are good and bad cops.
So where do we go from here?
The level of trust has to be improved, especially between local police departments and the Black communities they serve. There has to be some genuine dialogue and plans for change within the community and among law enforcement / judicial officers.
I know there have been discussions before – at least in the Central Florida communities which I’ve lived….not sure how long ago but it’s time to act not just talk – just as President Obama has said recently on this topic.
Do we want body cameras for every officer patrolling the streets? Do we think they will help, when these recent incidents were videotaped and there are no indictments against the police officers? It should make officers and citizens think twice about their actions. We just need some very specific guidelines on how the body cameras will be used and how the recordings will be stored and made available to the public.
What happens to officers who are involved in a fatal shooting of a citizen? If no charges are filed against them but they did break one or some of the department policies (as in the choking homicide involving NY Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo), why keep those officers on the force? The Ferguson police officer quit his police department shortly after the grand jury announcement that no charges would be filed against him. There has been no report (to my knowledge) that the NY police officer was ever disciplined (other than paid administrative leave). Chokeholds are prohibited by the NY police department. There are some officers who don’t need to be in law enforcement at all.
How is excessive force defined by our local law enforcement? Are district attorneys and state attorneys (prosecutors) too close to police departments to make objective decisions on whether to bring charges against officers involved in shootings that result in deaths? Do police use stun guns anymore? How is intimidation addressed in police training?
On the flip side: How do we effectively disseminate information with our young Black males on knowing their rights AND responding properly when confronted by a law enforcement officer? Let’s face it: We can’t believe talking with the youth who attend our churches will put a dent in the blatant police brutality AND disrespect often shown to Black males in general. How do we reach and try to save, specifically, our young males who don’t go to church…maybe with some sort of unique but clear and frequent communication through the school system? Is there a need/desire for accessible parenting classes for young parents, especially those raising boys as single parents?
On an individual level, we each have to take a stand. This challenge is for each one of us. We all should feel we can trust that the police on our streets will protect and serve us.
Do something positive, protest peacefully, sign petitions, show up for public meetings on the topic and voice your concern. Make it like a party. Get as many folk you know involved as well. Do not relent. Keep it going until things change.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Trish Martin, Founder and Editor
© Orlando Community News, 2014