An unarmed African American man was shot eight times in the back by a white police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, on April 4. A bystander captures the brutal killing on his cellphone.
The gunman, Officer Michael Slager, coldly handcuffs Walter Scott, 50, who he has just peppered with bullets, and administers no medical aid whatsoever.
Then, in an attempt to make his actions seem justified, Slager can be seen dropping what appears to be his taser next to Scott’s body.
In the wake of this incident, as was the case with Michael Brown and Eric Garner, more questions are being raised about racism among police officers and incidents of police brutality.
Yet many still refuse to accept the fact that there is a systemic oppression of minorities by law enforcement officials in some areas. Why is this?
The most common reason? They are white.
It is extremely hard for many white people to understand what it is like to be profiled based solely on your skin color. A prime example of racial profiling at its finest is New York City’s “Stop and Frisk” policy.
This allows officers to stop anybody in the street whom they deem “suspicious” and search the person.
According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, In 2014, NYPD performed 46,235 stop and frisks. 24,777 of them were black, 12,662 were Latino, and 5,536 were white.
Of the 46,265 stops, 38,051 were found to be totally innocent.
This means thousands of innocent New Yorkers were subjected to public humiliation and embarrassment, in many cases for no reason other than their skin color.
Some white people choose to argue that the media is playing up racial issues for ratings, which may not be totally unmerited. Much of the Ferguson coverage after the shooting of Michael Brown was sensationalized for ratings, as well as to promote a bias. Some news stations were only running pictures of Brown from when he was younger, making him appear as this innocent, small child, when in reality he was a rather large man.
Some would argue this was to make people feel bad for him and dislike his killer, Officer Darren Wilson. This argument doesn’t hold up, regardless of evidence of the media sensationalizing, because there are so many incidents of police misuse of force against minorities that don’t make national headlines on a daily basis.
So why is it so important for white people (and all people, for that matter) to wrap their heads around the fact that areas with a high minority population have a high incidence of racial discrimination from law enforcement? Aside from the fact that in America nobody should be subject to discrimination of any kind, it is also part of the bigger issue: a gross lack of police accountability on a national scale.
Americans need to stop clinging to the notion that police officers are your friendly, neighborhood keepers of the peace, who are only here to protect you. This is not true. Police officers are trained to use rhetoric to get people to incriminate themselves.
For example, although many police departments deny the use of ticket and arrest quotas, a Huffington Post article published on October 2, 2014, cites three police officers from different precincts in New York who made secret recordings of their supervisors setting quotas for them in 2008.
One of the officers said their supervisors called quotas “productivity” and they had to report to their superiors after every shift about what they did. How does this protect anybody?
Americans need to stop placing police on a pedestal because they hold a badge and a gun. Some people will say, “When you are confronted with the police as long as you do whatever they say, you will be fine.”
This would be fine if we lived in Nazi Germany. As Americans, we have rights, so why blindly follow a police officer’s orders if they are unlawful? In states across the country, lawmakers have attempted or are attempting to pass legislation that would make it illegal to film police.
If officers are doing their jobs by the books, then why are they so afraid of cameras and accountability? Allowing people to film police officers holds them to a certain standard and ensures that they are doing what they are supposed to be doing and treating people fairly.
Why are activists and members of groups like CopBlock continually targeted by police, simply for trying to hold them accountable for their actions? Put simply, because there is corruption in law enforcement on every level from police all the way up to the judges and politicians writing the laws.
The more people deny systematic racism among police or refuse to acknowledge police abusing their power across the country, the worse the situation will get. It doesn’t make you a “cop-hater” or a bad person to want to hold police accountable for their actions. It simply means you are insisting that police are doing their jobs correctly and treating people as human beings. How many more innocent people have to die at the hands of police before Americans of all races stand together to demand reforms in law enforcement?
Jesse Reynolds can be contacted at email@example.com