#Alton Sterling #Philando Castile – just two more names to add to a long list of names that have been wrongly sentenced to death by the officers that have been hired to serve and protect them. I want to state, for the record, that not all police officers are bad but they must also admit that not all police officers are good. Just as the world is made up of people who make good decisions and poor decisions on a daily basis, this is also true of those officers that are sworn to duly uphold the law and protect the citizens in their districts. Officers often react under pressure, and that reaction can have a negative or positive outcome. But one outcome that seems to be infiltrating the public consciousness, on a more and more frequent level, is that of inequality in which suspects are treated based upon the officer’s racial biases, knee-jerk reactions due to those biases can often result in a citizen’s death, a citizen the officer has sworn to protect.
Due to the prolific reporting of more and more such incidents, it is time we STOP. Stand Together as One People. We can never deny there are many races on this huge globe we call home, Planet Earth, but this does not mean that we are so different that we cannot begin to bridge the gaps and come together, in a loving and compassionate way to ensure that all people are treated equally and are afforded their constitutional rights. As such this means that we must re-envision the way in which we handle cases that involve officer shootings with deadly force. Currently, the system is designed to protect police officers and not the victims of the shootings (especially if the victims are black males).
When a police officer uses the greatest force available to them in their capacity to apprehend a suspect, if they are not able to prove without a shadow of a doubt their life was in danger, then they are acting as judge and jury for the suspect and denying that suspect their 5th Amendment Constitutional Right – No person shall be deprived of life (liberty or property) without due process of the law; their 6th Amendment Constitutional Right – In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence; and their 14th Amendment Constitutional Right – they are being denied due process and equal protection under the law.
Given the above, when a police officer engages in a deadly shooting, said officer should have to undergo a review from a panel of the victims’ peers (since the officer acted as judge and jury and deprived the suspect of the right to be judged by their peers) to assess whether the shooting was justified. If the shooting was not justified, as determined by the suspects peers, the officer should then be held accountable for their actions and should face trial for murder and deprivation of Constitutional Rights for the victim. The officer, now as a suspect of a crime, will be afforded their Constitutional Rights.
Not only must we re-envision the way in which these cases are handled, but we must re-envision the way officers are accepted into Public Service. Officers should undergo psychological testing which examines for racial biases. If the officer is shown to have any strong racial biases, their application should be given strong scrutiny before acceptance into public service. If it is determined the individual is a good candidate, that candidate must undergo extensive race relations training, at the end of which, another psychological test should be given to determine whether those biases continue or have diminished. They must also undergo extensive training that emphasizes the “least force necessary” and must take this training annually. The “shoot to kill” should always be a last resort and used only if the suspect is clearly presenting as a threat to public safety.
Any one involved in judging or sentencing a suspect of a crime should undergo this same scrutiny and testing. Research has shown, unequivocally, that black men and women are often given harsher sentences for the same crimes as their Caucasian counter-parts. This shows a strong predilection towards racial bias during the sentencing phase of a trial and this must be addressed and changed.
The states should be held accountable for the actions of their public servants. If a police officer is found to be at fault by the peers of the victim (the officer must undergo trial for murder in a deadly shooting while acting on behalf of that state as a public servant), then the state must compensate the families of the victims and pay for the medical, ambulance, and funeral costs so the family is not burdened with this financial hardship. Licensed social workers and therapists must be made available to the families to help them through the traumatic events and grieving process and should be paid for by the state. At no time should the family be made to pay for these expenses.
Local and county governments should also be held to the above when their officers are involved in said situations.
It is time we #STOP. Enough is enough. Now is the time for action, for accountability, for reparations. We the people have spoken and “we are tired of crying and people dying”, at the hands of those that have been hired to uphold the law, to protect and serve the people. They are not above the law, the law must be equally enforced.