If the shooting and killing of Oscar Grant by a White police officer of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Agency while he was laying face down with his hand on his back was not enough for police abuse, I wasn't surprised that an all- White jury only found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter. In other words, the officer was not guilty of murder even though Grant did not pose a threat to him. The officer said he was intending to pull his taser gun to subdue Grant, however other officers were holding Grant down at the time.
It is this kind of so-called accidental shooting or beating by White police officers of Blacks that reaffirms my belief that the way Blacks and Whites see police abuse and justice in America is different. We take the same evidence as presented and draw different conclusions over and over again.
There are many to draw from but let me remind you of a few: the O.J. Simpson verdict was seen differently by Blacks and Whites in America. In the Simpson case, Whites were mad at the jury for acquitting him even though the evidence was circumstantial and some police officers committed perjury. There were 9 Blacks, 2 Whites and 1 Hispanic on his criminal trial that found O.J. not guilty. Yet on his civil trial, it was made up of 9 Whites, 1 Hispanic, 1 Black and 1 mixed of Asian and Jamaican heritage, where they found O.J. guilty using the same circumstantial evidence. Many Blacks say now that O.J. is locked up in Las Vegas, Whites are satisfied.
We also witnessed the video of the Rodney King being beaten by four White police officers and we came to a different conclusion on what happened. Some of then-Mayor, Tom Bradley’s friends got mad at him for saying our eyes have seen the video and it is clear to us that abuse was evident. The officers were brought to trial and charged with using excessive force. The trial was moved to Simi Valley in predominantly White Ventura County where a jury of 10 Whites, 1 Hispanic and 1 Asian acquitted the officers of any wrong doing. A riot broke out afterwards in Los Angeles which resulted in 53 dead, 2,383 injured, 7,000 fires and $1 billion dollars in damage. Rodney put a stop to much of the violence with his now famous “Can we all get along” statement.
The horrific police shooting and killing of Tyisha Miller by four White police officers, this was also seen differently by Whites in Riverside than the Black community. Even when the District Attorney released diagrams of the shooting; showing that Tyisha was shot 12 times in the back while sitting unconscious in a locked car in a well lit parking lot at a service station, whites believed it was a justified shooting.
Russ Leach was hired as chief of the police department to bring trust and peace to the community after this incident. Progress between law enforcement and the community has moved gingerly together until recently. I say recently because the chief was caught driving under the influence and the department tried to sweep it under the rug. The way police officers and elected officials gave Leach special treatment has reopened wounds of mistrust from Blacks and Latinos in the community. It clearly demonstrates that Whites are treated differently than Blacks and Hispanics in our legal system.
In 1996, a movie called A Time to Kill was made starring Matthew McConaughey, Samuel Jackson and Sandra Bullock about a Black man who was on trial for killing two White men for raping his 10 year old daughter. Jackson was defended by McConaughey and Bullock. McConaughey realizing he was losing the case instructed the all-White jury to close their eyes as he walked them through this brutal act of two beer drinking men having their way with this little innocent girl. His last statement to them as he described this act was imagine that this girl was White. It was at that moment that the jury saw they would have killed the two men if it was their daughter. It brought tears into the eyes of many on the jury as McConaughey was bringing his summation to a close. They ruled that Jackson was not guilty of this violent act he committed. I know it was a movie but the lesson in it was people had to take a look at putting themselves in a Black father’s position of protecting his little girl.
During all of these abuse incidents and trials, people come together seeking ways to close the division between our law enforcement system: police, district attorney’s office, and court system and then we are once again reminded of this division when another police abuse incident happens.
There is still mistrust between people of color and the police department in every community throughout America because we see police abuse and justice differently than Whites.
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