We inflict an injustice upon our society and ourselves if we allow a young, pregnant woman’s death in the custody of police officers to fade into the grim reaper’s accounting, along with a substantial number of questionable deaths during police traffic stops, without understanding why these deaths continue to happen.
Here is why: City police departments place most police shooters on administrative leave with full pay. Most city policemen possess no fear of accountability because ironclad union negotiations dictate contracts that make it nearly impossible for city officials to punish questionable shooters. Police chiefs train their patrolmen to shoot at the slightest hint of lethal resistance rather than assess the threat before shooting the suspect. Usually, the police chief decides whether his shooter is guilty or innocent. District Attorneys who depend upon the police for evidence and judges who depend upon law enforcement for protection display a reluctance to hold police shooters in questionable situations accountable.
Another question that begs an answer is why Blacks continually flee police stops. A police traffic stop terrifies Black men, women, and children, guilty or not guilty of minor infractions such as a busted taillight or, in the young pregnant woman’s case, suspected shoplifting, because they fear beatings, indefinite incarcerations, and even death at policemen’s hands. Blacks live under a blanket of fear, similar to the twentieth-century Jews’ fear of being discovered by stormtroopers.
The remedies for the questionable shootings can only be supplied by you and me at the ballot box. We must require city officials to establish elected citizen review boards to decide whether a full salary is paid while the shooter is under investigation. We must insist that a civilian board decides if the shooter is guilty or not; the civilian judgment eliminates police judging police. The police must be directed to establish trust in Black communities so that when the police stop Blacks for traffic violations or suspected crimes, they will be treated like white women, men, or children.
Chuck Fair Books