One year after the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, protesters returned to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. The death of Brown catalyzed nationwide movements like “Black Lives Matter,” which attempted to bring awareness to police brutality against minorities but there has not been nearly enough change to the system.
Change and accountability is crucial if we want to see a reduction in the deaths of American citizens. I can only wonder why the number of deaths due to lack of police accountability has increased over the years. A police officer’s first responsibility needs to be to protect and serve. Is that not their motto?
The African American community protested and rioted following the case of Michael Brown.
But a year ago, Brown robbed a convenience store using excessive force against the owner as he walked out. By no means do I believe Brown deserved to die, but he was not completely non-violent, either.
We owe due justice and just as much of our attention and respect to those who posed no potential threat as an alleged precedent for their death.
Eric Garner, who was choked to death by an officer for trying to sell cigarettes.
Sandra Bland, who ended up dead in her jail cell because she made an illegal lane change.
Sleeping 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Johnson who was shot in the head when officers knowingly raided the wrong side of a duplex.
Jamycheal Mitchell, who died in his jail cell for an alleged $5 theft.
And these are only a few.
Reports of other African Americans fatally shot at the hands of a white cop seemed to skyrocket following the attention garnered by Brown’s death.
Protesters marched in memory of Brown on the anniversary of Ferguson, but they were mostly fed up with the fact that nothing is being done about the racial targeting of African Americans by law enforcement.
Despite events in cities like Cleveland and Baltimore, there is still little change between police authorities and minorities.
The Obama administration and Congress are trying to improve how police officers are responding to minorities by providing incentives to departments that adopt reforms. Congress is also trying to enforce the use of body cameras and reduce the militarization of police departments.
It is absolutely ridiculous that law enforcement is not being held accountable for the very lives they are suppose to protect. The FBI’s website reports that “During 2012, forty-two percent of the FBI’s total civil rights caseload involved color of law issues, [falling] into five broad areas: excessive force, sexual assaults, false arrest and fabrication of evidence, deprivation of property and failure to keep from harm.” That is an absurdly large percentage of officers clearly violating the rules.
Many officers who have used their weapon to kill are not charged and get away scot-free. Officers are not allowed to use excessive force unless the person is blatantly resisting arrest or causing direct threat to the life of the officer or others.
The Federal Government requires the Department of Justice to keep track of the use of excessive force by law enforcement and publish an annual summary. The DOJ reported that police brutality has some racial bias, but could not accurately report the number of deaths due to those biases.
There is a clear issue of race targeting by the police, but police brutality is a major issue on its own. Cops need to be held responsible for their actions and need to have more training in deescalating a situation and less training on how to fire a gun.
Opinion Editor, Monica Houston
Monica is a transfer student from Norfolk State University studying English. Her dog, Furby, is an in-office celebrity and frequently attends production and meetings with Monica.