As protests and even riots fill our nation’s streets, what will be the outcome? Will authorities in our communities take a serious look at the way minorities are treated compared to whites? Will changes be made resulting in respect for those in authority, or will distrust for law enforcement continue?
These and more questions have been raised throughout the United States. The truth is that police are protected by their own. The failure to at least issue an indictment in Ferguson and New York is the cause for unrest and even anger erupting in the streets.
The latest killing of a young black man may be the most upsetting of all. The reason for this young man’s death may be a combination of poor training and racial prejudice.
A 28-year-old black man was in the stairwell of a New York apartment complex. With him was his girlfriend. Other residents in the building claim that rookie police officer Peter Liang shot and killed Akai Gurley without warning or identifying himself.
If this was the entire story, it would be another cause for anger and a demand for justice by the black community; but it becomes far worse.
Neighbors called the police when shots were fired. Supervisors attempted to contact Liang and his partner who were assigned to that area. They couldn’t be reached. What was Liang doing after killing Mr. Gurley? What he didn’t do was call for paramedics to assist. He didn’t call dispatch to report the incident. What he did do was text his union representative. Six-and-one-half minutes elapsed before contact was made with his commanding officers. According to those in the police department, Liang and his partner were not supposed to be inside the apartment building.
Is this demonstrative of the lack of respect law enforcement has for minorities? Does this confirm that the deaths of Travon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Akai Gurley were the result of overreaction by the police and a volunteer? Another truth is that if these victims were white, the officers involved would face legal action. The parents and families of these men deserve no less than a fair trial to reveal the truth about their untimely deaths.
I believe that the people of New York and other cities should prove New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton wrong. He devalued the protestors marching for Eric Garner, when he casually made the remark that these things ‘peter out;’ that eventually interest regarding the issue will dwindle and it will all come to an end. Now that another killing has occurred in the city, what can police expect from the city’s population?
If anything positive arises from the deaths of these young men, it will be the expose of police harassment and violent action in communities which are predominately a minority population. It has never been a secret, but it has never been seriously addressed.
Sadly, tragedies must occur all too often to spur governments to initiate action to resolve previously ignored situations. And today they cannot be hidden or denied. These tragic incidents are revealed immediately with the use of social media. There is no delay in the dissemination of a deadly incident.
The answer to the question I proposed at the beginning of this article is obvious. There are more poor, and near poverty level people in our nation than those who are affluent. There is the answer; the majority of our nation’s citizens distrust and disrespect law enforcement.
Change will not come entirely with the institution of new policies. Training which encompasses psychological aspects and community awareness must be included with the instruction of how to accurately shoot a gun.
By James Turnage