How Some Police Officers Use a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Pass After Killing Unarmed Black People

Killings by Police

30 May How Some Police Officers Use a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Pass After Killing Unarmed Black People

Will the cops who killed unarmed Blacks ever be convicted?

Will the cops who killed unarmed Blacks ever be convicted? Please check out my opinion piece below that ran in The Dallas Morning News.

The reinstatement of recently acquitted Tulsa police officer Betty Jo Shelby for the killing of unarmed Terence Crutcher is yet another nail in the coffin of community relations between police and black people. Despite community policing, joint ball games and barbecues, it will be impossible to build trust between the police and the African-American community without police reform.

Shelby used the five-word phrase that is a get-out-of-jail-free pass for cops who kill unarmed black people: “I feared for my life.” According to The New York Times, Shelby joins a growing list of police who felt threatened by a person without a gun, fatally shot them and were acquitted. I understand this five-word phrase exists to defend the use of deadly force in the face of an imminent threat. I suggest that the police officers felt comfortable pulling the trigger because they had a reliable escape hatch ready and available.

Here is the rub, black people whether they are criminals or saints, do not have any escape hatch from police brutality and deadly force. The only thing we know for sure is that we live our lives on egg shells when it comes to police. A routine traffic stop is never a routine event for us. Most of us fear the police, especially if we have done nothing wrong.

I am the daughter of a police officer, and I believe that the five-word phrase is justified in many instances by solid and respectable members of the police force. Yet a few use it as a cloak for racial bias and discrimination.

If the unarmed black people killed in the high-profile shootings had been viewed by those officers as sons, daughters, mothers and fathers, instead of black and lethal, they would be alive today.

In court Shelby said, “I did everything I could to stop this.” She added, “Crutcher’s death is his fault.” I submit that she saw a large black man, then drew upon her stereotype and saw no other recourse than to shoot.

Black people do not hate the police. Black people hate the improper behavior of a few police. Black people do not detest law and order. They detest police profiling, harassment and disrespect. Harmony would exist between us and the police if we knew we were treated as persons of worth.

Respect begets respect. Trust comes when we know with certainty that a routine traffic stop is only about the traffic issue. Trust comes when we dial 911 and are treated as the victim and not the criminal. Trust comes when an officer does not automatically fire a weapon when there is concern about an encounter with a black person.

I am watching this Tulsa case closely for two reasons. First, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum called for racial peace in the wake of the decision. I am curious how racial peace will be accomplished after what some residents see as racial injustice. Racial peace should not mean asking black residents to silence their cries. Racial peace means hearing what they have to say and why they are saying it, and addressing their concerns.

Second, I am watching Tulsa with the late Jordan Edwards in mind. The teenager who was shot by a police officer in Balch Springs was not a thug, he was an honor student. He was not in the streets committing a crime. According to news reports, he was fleeing a setting that became dangerous.

I am watching and I am wondering if a Dallas County jury will see the humanity in this young, sterling life and convict former Balch Springs policeman Roy Oliver of murder.

Most of all I wonder, can America see that black Americans fear for their lives every day?

This article first appeared in The Dallas Morning News on May 30, 2017.

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