Black men posing a threat to policemen

William T. Robinson, Jr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

All too often we have young Black men being shot by law enforcement agents generating mixed emotions within the community. Some community residents are outraged, especially when the killing of the victim is predicated upon the premise that the victim had a gun, knife or weapon and refused to adhere to specific orders from the policemen.

There are some citizens who readily side with law enforcement agencies even when these agencies try to vilify or discredit the character of the slain victim to justify the killing. The tendency to support the finding of the police without questions is frightening when there are numerous videos being shown nationally that clearly shows many of these young men fleeing from the police offering no threat to the police in pursuit other than exhibiting unadulterated fear or refusing to adhere to orders to stop. Ironically, in many cases the officers claim the slain victim had a weapon and they felt their lives were threatened or the public was in harm’s way. Does failing to adhere to orders from a law enforcement agent during a misdemeanor have to end with the death of a young Black man?

Make no mistake, everyone should follow the law and there should be consequences befitting unlawful or illegal offenses, but being shot and killed for a misdemeanor, e.g., a traffic stop, running a traffic light, or being found with drugs doesn’t necessitate an individual being shot down like a dog. Many officers claim the deceased victim had a weapon and pointed it at them or appeared to be a threat to the public. And many videos presented are not clear or transparent, bringing about doubt. Internal investigations by law enforcement agencies usually favor the side of the policemen, literally letting guilty policemen off the hook with no legal consequences.

There is a growing number of young Black professional males (my two sons included) who have gun permits. Although they have gone through proper training, I would hate it if by chance they made a mistake and were shot by an officer who felt threatened by the mere fact of seeing a gun on an African American male. Unfortunately, the thought of a Black male with a gun (however legal) still poses a problem in our society—despite guns being legally carried and accepted by our White counterparts.

There are a growing number of communities advocating for tougher consequences for chronic repeaters of felony crimes, especially aggravated robbery and drugs related violations. However minor misdemeanor punishment shouldn’t result in death, especially when you have police officers that are intimidated by young Black men in general.

There are people who shouldn’t be officers and it is apparent that contentious training procedures may need to be revisited and changed. It is understood that when an officer pulls his gun, it is not to hurt or maim a suspect but to kill. This isn’t an indictment of the brave and honorable men who put their lives in harm’s way to protect and serve our communities. But there appear to be negative elements that should be individually or systemically revisited and corrected.

Make no mistake, there is a drive and need for tougher laws and measures to keep our communities safe. Many in the Black community and other communities of color are staunchly asking for equal enforcement and treatment of the law—law that should encompass all citizens regardless of race. We all know there are a number of factors that contribute to crime, but that should not give anyone the green light to intentionally break our laws.

Without question, African Americans and people of color should be afforded the same dignity and respect given their White counterparts and not disproportionately targeted and unduly harassed.

This is our reality and whether one agrees or not, it must be addressed if police and community relationships in predominantly disadvantaged and Black communities are to improve.

Nashville may have set a national precedent by having an officer indicted for murder of a young man by a higher court judge after being denied by a lower court judge. There is the hope that justice will prevail. Too many deaths by lawmen have gone unpunished and swept under the carpet.

The formation of a Community Oversight Board is growing in many cities and is needed to better the relationship between the community and the police. Such boards offer the community empowerment by addressing complaints alleged against policemen by citizens. Think of it as a form of checks and balances in keeping the agency honest.

We all can win, and Nashville can be a better and safer place to live in if we all work together.