“Guilty!” A Bittersweet Narrative
Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck until George expired under this weight, has been found guilty of all three charges brought against him. The charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
It is both a relief and a reprehensible thought that we are relieved that a bad cop is facing punitive consequences for taking someone’s life without cause.
It is a relief to know that George Floyd will get justice. We can now celebrate that which we all knew and were continually denied for just short of a year: that what this officer did was wrong. It was unnecessary. It was grotesque. It was evil.
Law enforcement officers are sworn to serve and protect their communities. Sworn to uphold the law and embody a shield of protection, honor, and sacrifice for their fellow man. A stamp of courage shines over this profession, in theory, as men and women, public servants who rush into trouble to save those in distress and those under the threat of death.
We have been struggling with this emblematic view of law enforcement compared to its implemented force on the streets, where, instead of protecting the vulnerable we see them take lives, continually, without cause.
Mind you, this is not to dismiss the rightful case for use of force. No one is questioning the rightful use of force to subdue dangerous individuals. We’re calling into question the unnecessary excessive use of force, the disregard for human dignity and life, and the unnecessary killings of unarmed civilians.
We are relieved that another bad cop is removed from the streets and is paying for his bad policing.
But at the same time, it is reprehensible to think that we find relief in knowing bad cops are off the streets and we’re celebrating the first steps of accountability in a system as destructive as modern-day policing.
Why has it taken this long?
Mind you, our celebration is bittersweet because Floyd had to die so that Chauvin, a repeat unnecessary excessive use of force offender, could be taken off the streets and removed from a position of power and authority. Someone had to die, blood had to be shed, and life sifted from our world so that one bad cop could face the music.
Now, the bittersweetness of today’s conviction turns more bitter as we dive into the numerous high-profile cases within the American (in)justice system where bad cops managed to walk out of court free men. Free to offend again. Free to kill, again.
We can easily recall the names of the officers who wasted Breonna Taylor’s life, endangering the lives of her neighbors and whoever else could have been hit by their unnecessary flood of bullets. Plainclothes officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove attempted to serve a complicated and perplexing warrant at Breonna Taylor’s apartment and there are conflicting arguments over whether or not they knocked before bashing her door in, they traded fire with the occupants within the apartment.
Not only is the documentation for the warrant dubious but the no-knock operation was also called into question when the residents of the apartment, Breonna, who is now deceased, and her boyfriend, Mr. Walker, and their neighbors, claim they did not hear the police knock on the door. Only that the door was bashed in. To protect him and his girlfriend from would-be intruders, the residents of the apartment fired a single round in their direction.
We know the rest.
Ultimately, one of the officers involved in Breonna’s death decided to countersue Mr. Walker for emotional damage.
None of them have faced a single day behind bars as bad cops, evil cops, or killer cops.
They’re free to roam the streets under a different badge in a different city.
And one of them has since signed a book deal with a major publisher to explain his side of things and possibly make millions from the sales alone. Not to mention future speaking engagements with police departments and law enforcement conferences around the nation later on.
I wasn’t old enough to comprehend the gravity of the assault Rodney King experienced at the hands of the four Los Angeles police officers, Sgt. Stacey C. Koon, Officer Theodore J. Briseno, Officer Timothy E. Wind, and Officer Laurence Powell. Watching the low-quality video of these same officers beating King to a pulp as a kid was disheartening. Rewatching the same video as a teenager, it was evident that what happened to the man was just wrong. Rewatching it as an adult, understanding the complexities of that stop, the history of race within the United States of America, was traumatizing. They beat King until his black body turned blue and purple. They smashed their batons over his head, hands, arms, shoulders, neck, and back, and beat him even though he did not resist. He was on his knees, possibly begging for mercy, begging for his life, but they kept beating him.
This was all caught on tape, man. Evidence!
And, to no one’s surprise, the same four men were acquitted of all charges. Free to roam the streets again to beat more people, white, Hispanic, black, and Asian, to a pulp at a moment’s notice and claim they feared for their lives and that their victim was resisting arrest.
They were free to return to their position of power and authority where their operational methods would never be questioned again.
We revisit the unnecessary murder of a military officer from Maryland, Roman Ducksworth Jr., who was on emergency leave from his duties in order to be present for the birth of his child. He was on a bus on his way to the hospital when Taylorsville, Mississippi, Police Department officer William Kelly stopped the bus, pulled Roman Ducksworth, Jr. out, and claimed that he fired a shot into the military officer’s chest in self-defense. The case was closed because this was ruled as justified homicide.
Mind you, the only reason Southern officers were pulling buses over is that students and citizens from all across America were bussing from their hometowns to the South to join civil rights desegregation protests.
Riding a bus to desegregate the south was worthy of criminal charges. Of death!
In Roman Ducksworth, Jr.s’ case, he was a military officer who was excited to meet his new baby but was mistaken for a Freedom Rider and killed without cause.
His surviving family members were later forced to relocate because they would wake to a burning cross in their yard.
What. The. Hell.
I recall reading an article written by the University of Alberta professor of sociology, Temitope Oriola, Ph.D. In it, he delves into the different ways we can better our policing in hopes of maintaining a healthy stream of communication between police departments and their community without severing that tie through unnecessary use of force and unnecessary killings of unarmed civilians.
Concerning de-escalating police-related violent interactions he states:
“The evidence in support of reducing deadly force by hiring more women in police departments is overwhelming. Female officers are less likely to use (excessive) force as they deploy de-escalation techniques and engage verbally.”
And I’m all-in on hiring more women, competent women, of course, to police our cities because there exists an unhealthy rate of male officers sexually abusing civilians and too many male officers high on testosterone. So please, by all means, let’s diversify the sexes within our police force if that’ll help reduce the number of fatal interactions in this relationship between cops and their community.
Professor Oriola then suggests that:
“Officers without university degrees populate the ranks of killer cops. Officers with university degrees are more likely to request mental health support for suspects and demonstrate a higher appreciation for the complexity of social life, individual problems and subtleties of working in an increasingly diverse environment.”
And listen, I understand this can be a financially weighty burden placed on our police departments but listen to me, no, listen to the facts, I don’t care if police unions and departments are complaining about allocating funds initially set apart for tanks and frag grenades over to education banks for their trainees. I would prefer a well-educated police force that has a broader arsenal of tactics by which to resolve their problems other than batons, mace, tasers, and service weapons.
If they’re trained well enough to understand the difference between a civilian who is having a psychotic-mental episode, one who is having a drug-induced episode, one who is dealing with emotional stress, and one who is threatening a terror attack, that helps everyone involved.
Because a well-educated and trained officer will reach for his phone or radio quicker than he will his service weapon. This will have more persons hospitalized and in treatment than people rioting and burning down businesses to the ground because someone died at the hands of the law enforcement as a result of a mental episode.
On the matter of an ethnically diverse police force professor Oriola adds:
“Evidence from the United States is less settled regarding racial characteristics of killer cops. However, most studies find that white, non-Hispanic officers are more likely to shoot or kill civilians. A few studies suggest Black officers are more likely to shoot and kill civilians. These have been criticized for poor methodology.”
And listen, here is the thing, I understand colored people may be averse to joining a publicly funded force that had and continues to terrorize them but we need them to join. We need to see our community better represented in every industry, especially the industry sworn to serve and protect us.
I understand that we ought not to judge an officer by the color of his skin but history in the United States of America has been tarnished by the fact that far too many white officers have been complicit in committing crimes against innocent colored community members and hiding behind other white officers who help them cover their tracks.
If we have a more diversified force we can better instill trust between police departments and their communities.
If residents of Mobile, Alabama are 51% black and their police force is 80–90% white, I’m theorizing here, even if 100% of these officers are great cops, which isn’t the case, there will be a level of misrepresentation between the force and the community it represents and serves.
A diversified police force can rebuild their community.
Diversify and diversify now.
And lastly, professor Oriola speaks on accountability and as he calls it, ‘the way forward.’
“I propose a two-pronged policy — a “kill-and-go” policy and “three strikes policy” — for police accountability.
Kill-and-go means any officer who kills an unarmed civilian or a suspect who had a weapon but did not deploy it against an officer is dismissed from service and prosecuted.
The three strikes proposal is similar to the disused California anti-crime law of the same name. Any officer involved in three excessive use-of-force incidents in which a civilian is mistreated and sustains injuries is automatically dismissed from service and prosecuted. There should be no expiry to each strike across an officer’s career.”
And listen, listen to this man, a genius at work but compassionate where I lack compassion.
He proposes a ‘kill-and-go’ shift in policing where if an officer is involved in a shooting where an unarmed civilian is killed he should be let go from the force. Terminated. This is such a common-sense approach I don’t think I need to elaborate further but because I’m a sinner I will.
Interrogator: Did you shoot the suspect/civilian?
I: Did he/she have a weapon?
I: You’re fired.
O: But I feared for my life.
I: Get a job elsewhere.
O: But my life.
It’s that simple!
And then he proposes a three-strike system, which is reflective of the racist American three-strike drug laws that incarcerate black Americans for deplorable lengths of time for nonsensical and non-violent crimes. So, if you’re caught dealing weed on the streets three different times you will be given a lengthier sentence on the time you’re caught. Lengthier than that of a convicted pedophile. It’s crazy.
But here, professor Temi proposes that if an officer is accused of using excessive force three times he is fired from the force and prohibited from joining another force elsewhere. And listen to me. Listen. I’m shouting in my head as I type this stuff.
There is so much common sense involved in professor Temi’s approach to police reform that we can call it police reform instead of police defund.
We wouldn’t have the inflammatory moniker “Defund the Police” if “Reform the Police” had caught on, say, sixty years ago and things had actually changed.
I am content with this verdict. I am also distraught by how many other officers have escaped justice over the years. Not just abusive brutes who wielded their power and authority around as a means to control and abuse civilians but I am also referring to the socio and psychopathic killer cops behind the badge who have never faced a day behind bars.
Chauvin is a small fish in a sea of bad, corrupt, and evil cops. Killer cops who may never face justice.
But they will. In life or in death. They will.
Let us hope that Chauvin’s sentence is just. That he is not treated like an animal nor that retribution be the aim here. We’re civilized even when our protectors are bestial. We’re not asking for black America to be given the chance to kneel on his neck until he dies. We’re asking that he serve the maximum sentence for each of his charges, of which he was found guilty by a jury of his peers. Faithfully and justly so.
Let us hope the judge overseeing this case uses prudence and righteous metrics by which to sentence him. We hope that no matter how long Chauvin sits in a cell that his life is preserved. We’re not calling for the death penalty. We’re calling for this dangerous man to be held accountable. That he be taken off the treats so he doesn’t kill again.
We hope for peaceful times. Times without riots. Without the pain induced by cops killing unarmed civilians; the pain felt by cops killing black people. Unarmed black people. The history is weighty there and has yet to be reconciled in this would-be great nation.
Let us hope that Chauvin’s case sets precedence by which killer cops are held accountable. Unlike the cops in Taylor’s, King’s, and Ducksworth Jr.’s cases who all walked away from justice without an inkling of moral perturbance over their immoral acts and behaviors behind the badge.
When evil thrives undeterred the people revolt and riot. It is but the consequence of brokenness in our society. Evil must be stamped out and we have civil metrics by which to hold these criminals accountable. Because when we do our nation rejoices.
The old Proverb said it best:
“When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.” Proverbs 11:10
Let us rejoice, but for time. Let us shout, but for a time. There is still much work to do. Many more killer cops who need to face justice.
Originally published at http://olivettheory.com on April 21, 2021.