The images of violent out of control police officers have provided the necessary evidence to prove not only endless police criminality but also resembles the violence of an occupying force.
The never-ending police violence that administers death as a default mode, and murdered Black bodies are treated as spectacle. Yet, not only does the killing and destruction continue: criminal cops seldom go to jail or are even punished at all.
The protests and violent aftermath of the George Floyd murder is a response to the centuries of police state terrorism. These murders are modern-day lynchings, with a badge and a gun now replacing a tree and a rope.
The Louisville police shooting of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery’s killing by white vigilantes in Glynn County, Georgia, and George Floyd in Minneapolis has been a recent exhibition on how a country fails to protect and provide justice for its Black citizens.
The police reforms, including the ban of chokeholds, diversity in hiring new police, diversity training, dashcam, and body cams, have still shown overwhelmingly white police criminality towards Black victims. The police violence has been unleashed on Black victims by Black officers. The sergeant on-site during the Eric Garner murder was Black. Of the six officers charged in the Freddie Gray killing three of the six were Black.
The skin color of these police officers is neither Black nor white; it is blue. The DNA of the police is rooted in violence, suppression, control, and a code of silence. Too often, the code of silence is synonymous with a system of cooperation where police act as accessories in complicity with criminal police.
The Chicago Tribune’s editorial on May 27th remarked on the damage to another police force’s reputation. The Chicago Tribune wrote, “the damage to another force’s reputation has been done,” but the Minneapolis police department has had longstanding issues with the Black community. According to a recent New York Times article:
African-Americans account for about 20 percent of the city’s population, but they are more likely to be pulled over, arrested, and have force used against them than white residents, Police Department data shows. And black people accounted for more than 60 percent of the victims in Minneapolis police shootings from late 2009 through May 2019, data shows.
Firing a killer cop will remove the gun and badge and is a necessary and fundamental procedure when someone is terrible at their job. The expectation is that it will be heightened when an individual harms or kills someone.
In the Eric Garner case, one NYPD officer used an illegal chokehold on Garner during a scuffle with police. Multiple officers at the scene piled on Garner, resulting in his death due to compression to his chest and rib cage. The Justice Department refused to prosecute Officer Joe Pantaleo for choking the life out of Eric Garner. The New York City Police Department fired police Pantaleo; this is not justice. This form of “justice” is not an anomaly. We’ve seen police either not charged at all or escape convictions at trial.
Rekia Boyd’s shooting in March of 2012 by Chicago police officer Dante Servin is another in the endless tragic stories of Black corpses stacked up across the country by an amped-up militarized police force, whether on duty or off. Servin was off duty when he shot Rekia Boyd in the head and Antonio Cross in hand. Boyd died the next day.
Eddie Johnson, later named Chicago Police Superintendant, was the designated on-call incident commander at the scene. Johnson’s investigation of Boyd’s shooting could only be called a tragic parade of errors, sloppy police work, and incompetence. One example, Johnson and “police investigators waited six hours to administer a blood alcohol test.”
The Intercept reported, “Detectives also discovered cameras mounted on Servin’s house that looked directly over the scene of the shooting. When Servin said the cameras didn’t work, instead of insisting on inspecting them or obtaining a search warrant, detectives dropped the matter, eventually asking him to sign an affidavit swearing that the cameras were inoperable.”
On the Official Use Of Force Report, Johnson did not check the box to indicate the case be recommended for additional investigation. Johnson stated in his report, “Officer Servin fired his weapon at the offender after the offender pointed a firearm at Officer Servin.”
Servin was charged with manslaughter that was eventually dismissed. According to the judge in the case, Dennis Porter, the prosecutors did not file charges sufficient to prove to Servin acted recklessly. “It is intentional and the crime, if any there be, is first-degree murder,” Judge Porter said in his seven-page ruling, implying prosecutors should have charged Servin with murder, not involuntary manslaughter.
Servin quit the police force two days before his police board hearing, knowing full well that the conference would most likely lead to his termination while Servin still receives his $48,500 a year pension. The city of Chicago awarded Rekia Boyd’s family a settlement of $4.5 million.
What has been consistent in both the Garner and Boyd cases and an overwhelming majority acts of police misconduct and criminality has been the systemic injustice from top to bottom by police departments in criminal acts and fellow officers and or supervisors acting in concert with them.
The use of dashcams, body cams (which officers routinely forget to turn on), and more focus on police training implemented to help in addressing police criminality and misconduct as part of reform efforts have failed miserably.
Police departments consume vast portions of city budgets in America, mirroring the defense budget, which is near $1Trillion. Chicago Police Department accounts for 39% of the budget, which includes over $95 billion on the West Side police academy, and $33 million to police Chicago Public Schools. There are also millions in settlement suits and taxpayer dollars for attorney fees involving police misconduct cases.
The New York City Police Department’s 2020 budget is $5.6 billion. In the New York Post author and Professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College, Alex Vitale writes, “New York City spends more on policing than it does on the Departments of Health, Homeless Services, Housing Preservation and Development, and Youth and Community Development combined.”
A defund the police movement may be an answer. A primary definition being: remove police from the schools (this a well-researched article by Kenwood High School teacher Dave Steiber) mental health crises and no longer interacting with the homeless. No more money allocated for purchasing militarized weapons and vehicles. It is a good start saving lives and freeing up revenue for schools, housing, and human services. Ensuring criminal police are charged, prosecuted, and jailed will always be at the forefront of justice.
Note: As I was finishing this story, Minneapolis City Council announced it was disbanding the police. My hope is there will be more cities to follow.