By Hardy L. Brown
Patricia Small, President of the San Bernardino Branch of the NAACP said it best, “It is about lives and police violence”. One of my questions to our community is “what is the value of your child’s life? How much would you settle for with the city after they report to you that your son has been shot nine times in the back by police and reportedly had a gun that was never found?” In the case of 19-year-old Tyisha Miller of Riverside, it was twelve times in the back while she sat unconscious in a locked car needing medical attention. How much would you settle for? Would you settle for $200,000, $500,000, $1 million or $3 million and sign a written confidential statement that no one did anything wrong if a police officer killed your son or daughter?
On the flipside of those questions is a sworn police officer that has been properly trained to make a split decision in the heat of the moment while thinking at the same time my life is at stake. This is a valid concern that the NAACP wrestles with each and every time a complaint is registered in their office. I know there are some dangerous streets in our society with people who will take a life if given the chance. I also know that we have some police officers who are quick to pull the trigger because of preconceived ideas that African American males and Latino males are violent with criminal records.
Walter Hawkins, Chair of the NAACP Political Action Committee said, “these shootings have gone on for a long time and for that reason the NAACP is investigating to see if race, training of officers and other things might be contributing to this pattern. The State NAACP did a report back in 2005 on police shootings and some of the same concerns were raised with some improvement in other urban areas, but for some reason San Bernardino has not improved.” I know that some officers spend their entire career and never shoot at or kill anyone, while some officers are repeat shooters. Only an investigation will let us know the answer to these concerns and get the proper protocols in place that will instill better relationships between the police and the communities for Blacks and Latinos.
Only a complete and thorough investigation by a community-trusted outside independent investigator can bridge the divide between the police officers and minority communities. Blacks and Latinos are the people who suffer from these shootings that our local District Attorney always find as legally justified in the eyes of the law. People of color in the City of San Bernardino make up over 75% of the population and the police department is comprised of 67.7% Whites. Not all police but some do have preconceived images of what they will do when standing in front of a Latino or Black subject. Some of you will remember when the police used the image of a Black man on their target range to shoot at. It was through protest and investigations that those kinds of practices were removed. I recall in 2007 where the police association endorsed Joseph Turner for city clerk. Joseph Turner had a questionable relationship with groups who hate Jews, Latinos, Asians, and Blacks so the public rejected him.
We must seek ways to move forward if we are to build a bridge over this divide and it will not be easy because the Black and Latino community has a long list of legitimate issues that must be addresses by the city council and police department.
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