Lately it seems, every week we hear of some national story of police abuse, brutality, and/or killing unarmed citizens (mostly African American or Latino and every once in a while, White), who falls victim to the madness by those who take a public oath to protect and be of service to citizens. Some of these acts of violence against citizens have left me wondering, who are these people being hired by law enforcement agencies? Better yet, when hiring, has a proper psychological evaluation been performed given that officers carry not only a badge, but a deadly weapon in the performance of their duties?
What is happening to the good people they hire in law enforcement? Is there something that is being taught after being employed that brings out the worst in some officers? Do some officers want to enforce the laws in this manner before they are hired but keep it undercover until such a time that they just can’t hold it any longer? Were they bad people from the start? These are some of the questions I have been recently asking myself on a weekly basis while trying to understand the current state of law enforcement.
Then we have those officers who know when another officer is wrong and help cover up for the bad behaving colleague. In some situations we have officers who will threaten those good officers if they do not cover for them.
There are many other questions that I have in trying to understand law enforcements actions in some of these abuse cases. The recent two cases in South Carolina and in San Bernardino County near Apple Valley leaves me to form some troubling conclusions that no law abiding citizen wants to believe. And, as I was writing this opinion, I heard of the most recent shooting involving a 73-year-old reserve deputy who shot and fatally killed an unarmed man in Tulsa, Oklahoma and stated that he thought he was firing his Taser not his revolver.
In South Carolina, a video taken by a citizen clearly shows a Black man running from a White police officer. The officer pulls his gun then as though taking target practice, fires eight shots thus killing his target. Then he walks at least twenty yards to the victim puts handcuffs on him without checking to see if the man was dead or still living. He then walks back to where something had dropped to the ground, picks it up and returns to the man’s side and drops it beside the victim. And in an audio recording released this week, the officer is overheard speaking to someone by phone and chuckles as he states, “Everything’s OK. … I just shot somebody.”
Another officer, an African American, comes into the picture and kneels down beside the shot victim but does nothing. After they return to the office they all write up that they did something that was not true as recorded on video. In other words, they are covering for each other.
The local newspaper did a story of the shooting and reported nothing unusual until the video surfaced to dispute the police officers written reports. The police chief decided to terminate and arrest the officer and charge him with murder.
This type of scenario happens all too often and is reported in most U.S. communities by the local press. They do not ask any questions but take the reports offered to them by the police departments. They take the police reports as gospel even though the community is telling a different story. This in my opinion is due to the fact that the local press has no relationship with the community they claim to report on. The reporters live somewhere else and usually do not look like the people they are covering. This is why our Black and Latino owned newspapers are so important in most communities.
In San Bernardino County, a television crew caught on camera San Bernardino Sheriff’s deputies assaulting a suspect after the man laid face down on the ground with his hands resting on his back, and legs spread in a surrender pose. Two deputies approached the man and began kicking him to the head and in his groin area. Several of the other deputies approached the incident and decided they wanted a piece of the action and began piling on the man with more kicking. It was like watching a ‘Wild Kingdom’ television show where wild animals go in for the kill of their prey in gang fashion.
San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said at first nothing was going to happen to the deputies until after an investigation but later changed his mind as national attention highlighting the incident and local people expressed outrage and disgust with what they saw on television. So now he has placed ten deputies on paid administrative leave. In other words they are on vacation without losing anything. This type of action by the sheriff is not punitive or disciplinary or demonstrates wrongdoing by the officers by any stretch of any ones imagination.
The officers should be fired and then allowed due process as employees in the legal process which is their right under current labor laws.
These incidents and others have turned my stomach. A lot of these questions I asked came about from my experience with the Tyisha Miller shooting. We had some officers covering for others and then threating others if they did not support them for their bad decision-making.
We had the local daily newspaper only reporting what law enforcement officials fed them, which was not the whole truth. Our weekly paper became the printed video to get the truth out to the public. The city council was later pressured to terminate the four White officers and eventually denied their reinstatement to the force. The mayor and council showed leadership in that decision even though it cost the city money.
But in my opinion, it was money well spent to restore some confidence in our local government. What I see in our society is a breaking down of any trust or confidence in the system that is suppose to PROTECT and SERVE all of the taxpaying public. They do a good job in protecting the business district while serving the country clubs of any community. It is this type of selective protection and service that must be stopped before all confidence is lost.
In the case of the four officers fired by the Riverside Police Department in the Tyisha Miller case, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department hired one of the officers because he needed a job and had a right to work. My question at that time was, didn’t Tyisha Miller have a right to live? Then we have District Attorneys all over the country who refuse to bring charges against officer because they view them as not capable of doing wrong.
In my opinion, as well as many citizens and communities across the nation that it appears as though our law enforcement agencies are out of control and must be reformed from top to bottom.
Hardy L. Brown is Publisher Emeritus of the Black Voice News.