On the evening of July 5, Alton Sterling was fatally shot during an altercation initiated by two Baton Rouge, La. police officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake. The officers responded to a call from someone reporting that he had been threatened by an armed man selling CDs outside a convenience store. Sterling was wrestled to the ground by two officers and shot dead during the scuffle.
On July 6, Philando Castile was fatally shot by Officer Jeronimo Yanez, in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. A recently released audio recording of the radio transmission between officers and police dispatch reveal that Castile was racially profiled. Moments later Philando Castile is shot dead by Yanez while complying with Yanez’s request for his driver’s license and vehicle registration.
On the evening of July 7, allegedly in response to the two previous shootings Micah Johnson, killed five law enforcement officers in Dallas during a protest over the two most recent fatal police shootings. It is reported that Johnson tried to take refuge in a parking garage and exchanged gunfire with police, who later killed him with a robot-delivered bomb.
As a result of these senseless killings America once again finds itself conflicted. Americans are asking, “How do we resolve these conflicts between the African American community and police?” “How do we establish rules of engagement between the police and the community?”
We must separate the executions of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile from the murders of the five Dallas police officers by Mica Johnson. Sterling and Castile, along with others, were not convicted by a jury of their peers for committing crimes. They were summarily executed by police officers, acting as judge, jury and executioner.
Similar to the shooting of children at Sandy Hook and the murders of Black parishioners in South Carolina, the murder of the five Dallas law enforcement officials was a horrific act carried out by a mentally disturbed individual, Mica Johnson. He took it upon himself to kill innocent police officers in an attempt to ‘settle’ a historic score that is impossible for an individual heinous act to reconcile.
They are attempting to delegitimize or misrepresent the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement as an anti-police movement. BLM is not an anti-police movement. It’s an anti-bad police movement. Frederick Douglas said: “every man will say slavery is wrong, for him.” What community does not want to stop being shot down in the street by the police like dogs?
To find solutions to these issues we must start with slavery. As Ruby Sales and Dr. Gerald Horne have correctly stated, these are not new or isolated events. Slavery is the institution that helped to undergird the foundations of this country! Slave states created slave patrols—precursors to modern day police forces.
They were constructed to routinely monitor, surveil and oppress the slave population. Today, like the slave patrols before them, modern police forces are still engaging in the same activity within the African American community.
The current spate of extra-judicial killings of mainly unarmed African Americans is a continuation of this history that’s deeply rooted in the attempt to maintain the social order and culture of White supremacy.
Then First Lady Hillary Clinton said: “We also have to have organized effort against gangs. They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids called super-predators. No conscious. No empathy.”
Today we also have gangs of police officers who are executing law abiding citizens simply because they ‘sense’ a threat or those citizens fit a profile. The Blue Wall of Silence needs to become the Blue Wall of Intolerance.
Police officials need to create an environment where good cops will stop standing idly by in silence as bad cops reek havoc in our communities.
The good cops need to create a standard of intolerance for the bad cops.
Second, prosecutors need to bring manslaughter charges against these bad cops and prosecutors need to select juries from a more diverse jury pool in order to increase the possibility of convictions. When a police officer is shot that fact is an extenuating factor in the sentencing of the perpetrator.
Contrary to the conservative rhetoric, it’s the police against the Black community—but it always has been. Hold these murdering cops accountable.
That’s how you start to rebuild trust with the community.