Where is the justice for people of color killed by cops?

Joseph Langan

In the wake of the school shooting that left 17 people, many of them teenagers, dead — the latest episode in the tightly-scheduled programming of American mass murders — gun control proposals permeate the discourse. While the mass consciousness is fixated on gun violence and solutions, now is as good a time as ever to draw our attention to one of our country’s paramount problems: police brutality and racism.

Lone gunmen with semi-automatic weapons are not the only killers terrorizing American cities. In practice, “protect and serve” looks more like punish and slay as we’ve endured the third year in a row that police have killed nearly 1,000 people in this country — 987 in 2017.

Black males are the most at risk for experiencing unjustified and excessive force. Black males aged 15 to 34 are nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police. In 2017, over 10 percent of the people who lost their lives to police violence were unarmed. If you don’t consider a car a weapon, then 20 percent of the population was unarmed when gunned down by police.     

Philando Castile was 32 years old when he was shot and killed in his car. The day of his death began like any other: He ate breakfast, got a haircut, had dinner with his sister and picked up his girlfriend. He got pulled over for a brake light problem. 103 seconds elapsed between when Castile was pulled over and when he was shot seven times.

As he was supposed to do, Castile disclosed to the officer that he had a gun and that he was licensed to carry. While Castile was repeatedly being shot, his 4-year-old daughter was crying in the backseat.

Like so many other tragic cases, Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who shot Castile to death, was acquitted of all charges and continues a free man.

After the trial, Castile’s mother said: “Where in this planet do you tell the truth and you be honest and you still be murdered by the police of Minnesota while you have your seat belt on and you’re in the company of a woman and a child?”

How many more Philando Castiles, Sandra Blands, Eric Garners, Mike Browns, Tamir Rices, Freddie Grays and Trayvon Martins have to be murdered before something is done about the problem of systemic racism influencing our criminal justice system?

From Ferguson to Palestine, the issues of police brutality and military-style occupation have been condemned locally and internationally. However, deaths have continued to rise in the United States.

In the United Kingdom, just five people were shot and killed by police in 2017. Four of those five people killed were terrorists. In 2016, only four people were killed by U.K. police. Even adjusted by population, the rate of fatal police shootings in the U.S. is roughly 64 times higher than that of the U.K.

It’s the job of our police departments to protect our communities. What other occupation exists where you can fail so miserably at your job that a non-combative person is killed, and you get “punished” with paid administrative leave?

Joseph Langan is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected]