Monday, November 20, 2017

When dealing with police, is it justice or ‘just us’?

September 16, 2014 by  
Filed under Highlights

BY LOUIE OVERSTREET

LOUIE OVERSTREET

The use of deadly force by “peace officers” remains a racially divisive and seemingly intractable problem across the United States.

Year in and year out, individuals and advocacy groups sound the alarm on the startling number of Americans who die each year at the hands of law enforcement. To put it in perspective: Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than twice as many citizens have been killed by police than died when those planes struck the Twin Towers.

In an overwhelming majority of the cases, white officers kill African-American males. These tragedies are usually followed by a ruling that the slaying was justified.

While it is too early to speculate on the outcome of the shooting death of Michael “Big Mike” Brown in Ferguson, Mo., we do know this unfortunate fact: He is just one of the estimated 500 citizens who will be killed by cops in 2014.

Regrettably, any attempt to affirmatively address the root cause of this problem is likely to fall prey to campaign sloganeering about whom can be the toughest on crime.

For African-Americans, it stems from the fact that far too many cops view their duty as controlling the black community. In white communities, they see their mission as patrolling and protecting.

To my way of thinking, here’s what needs to be done: Law enforcement needs to stop addressing crime as a race problem. Rather, it should be treated as a social problem — in that, statistically speaking, the victims of deadly force are overwhelmingly poor, uneducated, young persons of color.

This fact is underscored by the relatively low number of people of color working in the criminal justice system, and officers’ lack of cultural/racial awareness training. Police departments must understand that good law enforcement goes beyond locking up and overcharging persons of color, and killing citizens at a rate of more than one a day.

While holding out hope, a lifetime of observation leads me to conclude that all too often, justice in the United States means “just us!”

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