It’s been days since Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed at point-blank range by police officers. Thanks to smart phones and Facebook Live, the world witnessed the moments before and after their deaths. I’m angry, just like others across the world are. So many innocent people are killed at the hands of police and it shouldn’t happen at all, at the least, as often as it does.
On top of that, most police officers that are charged rarely see jail time for killing someone. If a civilian kills someone and it’s proven in court, it’s a good chance they’ll do hard time, as they should, but not a cop. Since 2005 there have only been 13 officers (Yes, just 13) convicted of murder or manslaughter in fatal on-duty shootings, according to data provided by Philip Stinson. Between 2005 and 2011 the FBI reported several thousand “justifiable homicides” by police officers, but police agencies who report their overall crime numbers aren’t required to submit additional data on homicides, justified or not. This is a major problem, but more on that later.
Instead of continuing to dwell on the problem, I’d rather focus on the solution. Here are some ways that I believe we could end or significantly reduce police brutality and the killing unarmed blacks and other minorities.
We can all admit that there’s bias in policing and it can be intentional or unintentional. The problem is most claims of this conduct either don’t have any repercussions against the police officers in question or have little chance of being heard. Unless you’ve been repeatedly harassed by a cop, there’s no real avenue for private citizens to take the police to court when they believe they’ve been profiled. Also, if there have been reports of an officer who shows bias, it should be counted against him or her during any evaluations. This would limit racist cops from rising in the ranks within a department.
When I have an issue with someone, I go to that person with the issue. This is the same concept that has to happen with the police. We have to start having a dialogue with the police. I love what Snoop and Game did. They lead a march to the LAPD headquarters to meet with the police chief. Will that end profiling and brutality? Maybe not, but it’s the start of dialogue that I hope continues for them and other communities. What if we got to meet every cop that works in our community? This might be crazy but maybe, if these cops knew people in the community, they may be less likely to shoot an unarmed person first and ask questions later.
Get to know your local politicians. If there’s a case of police brutality, profiling or worse that they don’t address, they should be voted out of office. Let’s start holding these local politicians accountable for not representing us like they should. Some of these government officials are turning a blind eye to these matters so it’s up to taxpayers to put the pressure on them.
We need to take legal action every time there’s some sort of wrongdoing against us (civilians). The best way to hurt police brutality is by hitting them in the pocket. If the police keep on getting sued for brutality they’ll be forced to deal with the issue. Every incident of police brutality should be reported to both the government and the media. Taxpayers cut the check for the salaries of these officers. They have to start really serving the community instead of harassing people of color.
Cases against police officers should be tried by independent prosecutors, not the district attorneys who work with them all the time.
Each state should establish a fully authorized and independent Office of Police Investigations, with the authority to prosecute police officers in criminal court. The report from JusticeInPolicing.com suggests that States should establish a permanent and independent “Office of Police Investigations”, authorized to investigate and prosecute all police killings of civilians, use-of-force cases, sexual assault by law enforcement officers and any other cases of police misconduct against civilians, at its discretion. In the absence of such an office, independent prosecutors should be assigned to all cases where police conduct leads to the death of a civilian. In cases involving state police departments, attorneys general should assign an independent prosecutor.
So you’ve caught the police doing something wrong. Now, what do you do? Even if you successfully prosecute an officer or department for wrongdoing, there isn’t much infrastructure in place to promote any measures that can implement broader, long-term change.
That’s why external oversight committees — ones that oversee the implementation of reforms and proactively identify issues in police operations and practices — are important. These should be independent, and instituted at the city or county level, the report suggests. They should regularly analyze data and identify disparities. They should have full investigatory powers into the police: access to relevant documents, subpoena power, ability to compel testimony. The budget should be consistent and sufficient. And the police should be required to acknowledge and respond to their recommendations.
Jail is not a “one size fits all” prescription. Some issues — like acting erratically due to mental illness or possessing and using drugs due to addiction — are actually better served by medical attention, not incarceration.
The report suggests training law enforcement officials to address these issues at their discretion, with the aim of guiding addicts and people who live with mental illness into treatment programs instead of jail. Legislators should be involved only minimally, mostly to provide funding. Also, train police to better identify and confront these problems using de-escalation tactics, and keep track of results through frequent data collection and analysis.
If you’re a person of color, you have to go above and beyond to not get shot during a traffic stop or interaction with a police officer. I’ve had numerous run ins with cops and there’s been a couple times that I’ve been stopped for having a suspended license but didn’t go to jail (I didn’t know my license was suspended). The way you talk to a cop could be the difference between you getting locked up for something minor or having a gun pulled on you.
I recently posted a series of videos on Twitter about how to handle yourself during a run in with a cop… It went viral. Here are some things that you have to do when stopped by a cop.
"How to Refuse Police Searches" pic.twitter.com/MUH36ERhRs
— Vince Valholla (@VinceValholla) July 6, 2016
– Speak in the calm, cool tone
– Regardless how you feel about cops in general, give the cop you’re talking to respect
– Never run. If you run, you will face the wrath of a cop (or cops) and he/she may beat you or even shoot you for making him run
– Don’t touch a cop
– Maintain eye contact at all times
– Don’t make any sudden movements
– Don’t reach into your pockets without announcing your movements to an officer
When you get stop or confronted by the police, you have to remain cool & calm. Never talk back. pic.twitter.com/Pks1nZGpIJ
— Vince Valholla (@VinceValholla) July 6, 2016
Also, know your rights and watch the video above. You could follow all of these tips and still find yourself in bad situations. These tips will slim your chances of being killed, though.
Be safe and be smart. Let’s do our part to end this vicious cycle!