Police brutality. Remember that? The issue that gripped our nation, catalyzed a movement, and got the attention of the world for two straight years.
This week, Sandra Bland would have and should have turned 30 years old. She should have never been pulled over by police in Texas. She damn sure shouldn’t have been threatened with violence, assaulted by police, arrested and thrown in a local jail, where she died days later.
From the summer of 2014 until the start of the presidential election, it would be hard to argue that police brutality was anything other than one of our nation’s most pressing public issues. But the extended election cycle, from the primaries to the general, sucked the wind out of almost every important issue being discussed and debated across the country.
Instead, like clockwork, our nation primarily obsessed over Donald Trump’s latest tweets, the wide variety of white supremacists and neo-Nazis who professed their undying love for him, and the latest twist and turn into the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails.
And here we are.
Trump is President, the Justice Department is now in the hands of Jeff Sessions, a racist Attorney General who could care less about police brutality, and we just experienced the deadliest month at the hands of American police since 2015.
Donald Trump’s first month in office ended with at least 105 people killed by American police. That’s the highest number of people killed by American police in any one month since 2015. And because Trump’s claiming jobs gained for January, and because the major police unions all endorsed Trump, I’m going to go ahead and place this number squarely on his desk.
While January 2017 marked the deadliest month for police brutality since 2015, one thing marks a stark contrast between now and then. Then, we knew the names of the victims and their stories dominated the American media. Now, I’d be hard-pressed to find a single person in this country, outside of a few activists and the families who were affected by this violence, who knows the names and details of a single person killed by American police last month.
I get it.
Having Trump as the President of the United States is a huge deal, but we cannot afford to divert so much of our attention to him that we neglect people who are suffering and other essential issues. Some of us need to break away from the herd and give issues like police brutality the around-the-clock attention it deserves. If not, the problem will continue to get worse and worse on our watch.
I want to know what really happened that caused police to shoot and kill 18-year-old Steve Salgado in Santa Ana, Calif. The outrageously generic police statement that “something occurred that led to an officer involved shooting” (yes, that’s their actual statement) is simply not good enough.
I want to know if police right outside of St. Louis were wearing body cameras when they shot and killed 25-year-old Elijah Smith in his own home last month after his family called 911 for help. Police claimed he lunged at them with a knife and that they had no choice but to kill him, but they seemed to have concealed the shooting from the public until pressed by the local media. Local police appear to have been aware that Smith was having a mental health crisis. Were medical professionals called?
Did the NYPD really have to shoot and kill another man, 28-year-old Jahlire Nicholson, in his own home over a screwdriver he held in his hands?
Police in Hawaii shot and killed an unarmed man last month — claiming he hit the police with a truck. Did witnesses see that? Could the officer have simply gotten out of the way? Was he wearing a body camera?
An unarmed man, Marcus Jones, who had schizophrenia, was stunned to death with a Taser in Virginia. His family called 911 for medical help and pleaded with police to treat him humanely. After he was repeatedly shot with a Taser, he died. Did it have to happen like that?
A Georgia man died after police “sat him on the ground” following a domestic dispute. Did they beat him? Choke him? Or did he just randomly combust? Police have not yet released any details about how he died.
I could tell you nearly 100 more stories like this — all from people who were killed by police in this country in January alone. I know Trump’s very presence is problematic, but while we monitor we him, we cannot afford to lose touch with the issue of police brutality in the process.