This week, I walked out of the barber shop this week and asked a friend, an African-American professional, to name his top concern of 2015.
Without hesitating, he said with conviction, “Police brutality and racial justice.”
His response did not come as a surprise. I suspect that other Black men and women feel the same.
Just days after our conversation about the troubling number of police assault cases against Black men and women in America, we learned that a Baltimore judge declared a mistrial on Wednesday in the trial of Baltimore police officer William Porter, who was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Freddie Gray.
The jury of seven women and five men was unable to reach a verdict after about 16 hours of deliberations.
“I do declare a mistrial,” Williams said. He said an administrative judge would set a new trial date this week.
Porter is the first of six Baltimore police officers to stand trial in Gray’s death. Three of the officers, including Porter, are Black. The mistrial highlights the ongoing difficulty for some jurors: Delivering a guilty verdict against a police officer. And Gray’s death adds to a growing list of cases involving the questionable killings of Black men – and women – by police officers across America.
It’s become a crisis is this republic – a description that some would prefer to downplay. But what’s needed is a continued bright light shined on the issue of police brutality and excessive use of force among police officers so, perhaps, some cops will think twice before assaulting – and killing – unarmed Black people.
Numerous cases of police abuse have sparked protests by the advocacy group “Black Lives Matter” and civil rights activists and congressional leaders are calling for investigations of police departments across the country.
In Chicago, for example, the U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the Chicago Police Department after a police officer was caught on video shooting a black teen 16 times.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch is also conducting investigations of police departments in Baltimore, Cleveland, New York, Seneca, S.C., and Ferguson, Missouri, following the deaths of Black men involving police officers since 2013.
“Every American expects and deserves the protection of law enforcement that is effective, responsive, respectful and constitutional,” Lynch said.
“When community members feel they are not receiving that kind of policing, when they feel ignored, let down or mistreated by public safety officials, there are profound consequences for the well-being of their communities,” she said.
Here are a few other cases listed in The New York Times involving police and Black men that warrant attention:
- Protesters are demanding that San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr resign in wake of death of Mario Woods, young black man who was shot at least 15 times by police officers.
- Former Oklahoma City Police Officer Daniel Holtzclaw was found guilty of 18 of 36 counts of sexual assault in attacks on 13 black women.
- Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies fatally shot Nicholas Robertson, who had a gun, in front of gas station using 30 bullets. Cops say Robertson fired six times during altercation but residents say the case underscores the tension between the Black community and police officers.
- Chicago Police Commander Glenn Evans, accused of putting a gun in a suspect’s mouth and holding a Taser to his groin in 2013, was found not guilty of felony charges.
- A Florida deputy sheriff was indicted for the shooting death of a man with an air rifle. It is the first time in 35 years that an officer in Broward County, Florida has been charged in an on-duty fatal shooting.
Unfortunately, the list continues to grow.
Here’s how Charles Blow, a black columnist for The New York Times, put it: “The only reason that these killings keep happening is because most of American society tacitly approves … If America wanted this to end, it would end.”
Tough talk? Yes.
Does Blow have a point? Absolutely.
And so does my friend from the barbershop.
What do you think?