In the wake of so many recent news reports of unarmed black citizens being shot by police, tensions in the U.S. are high. On Dec. 2 a Phoenix police officer shot unarmed 34-year-old Rumain Brisbon. An investigation into the matter is ongoing. The lines are becoming blurred in regard to the cause of so many of these killings especially in the African-American community in regard to the fact that police continue to kill unarmed black citizens. There have been a variety of suggestions for resolve and even some suggestions that there is no resolve necessary.
Brisbon is just one of many unarmed black men killed by police officers in recent months. The shooting death of Ferguson teen Michael Brown has ignited protests all across the country. Tensions grew when a Ferguson, Missouri Grand Jury ruled not to prosecute then Officer Darren Wilson who was responsible for Brown’s death. These tensions only intensified when Brown’s stepfather emotionally ranted in a crowd to burn the city down. Protests and excessive destruction of the city followed.
Unarmed New York resident, Eric Garner died in Jul. 2014 when a police officer put him in an illegal choke hold. The incident was recorded revealing Garner’s unanswered pleas that he could not breathe. It seems that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “pledge to bridge the police-community divide” is now more urgent than ever and not only in New York. Akin to events of the Ferguson incident, New York protesters took to the streets after a New York grand jury ruled not to charge the officer who shot and killed Garner.
Akai Gurley also a New York resident, was shot by Officer Peter Liang on Nov. 20. Reportedly the officer and his partner were violating protocol by even being in a stairwell of the housing project where the shooting occurred. The head officer of the local housing command, Deputy Inspector Miguel Iglesias had previously ordered officers not to conduct vertical patrols at the location for safety reasons. Liang’s case has yet to be presented before a grand jury.
Among other similarities of these cases, the victims’ blemished histories have been a repeated topic of discussion. Many residents believe that the victims’ histories are irrelevant. Granted some of these victims were allegedly breaking the law. Reportedly, Garner was selling loose cigarettes and Brown stole some items out of a local convenience store. Citizens are debating whether or not any of these victim’s actions warrant the police continuing to kill unarmed black men.
Former Senator Eric L. Adams wrote an article describing how he was brutally attacked by a police officer as a citizen and the racially charged attitudes he encountered from his white counterparts when he was a New York City police officer. According to Adams, one officer admitted that when he encountered a white man with a gun he would be concerned not only for his own well-being, but also for that of the white man with the gun. In contrast, if this same officer encountered a black man with a gun, he would only be concerned for his own welfare.
Community leaders across the country are outraged and are getting involved in the discussion of possible solutions to prevent repeat incidents. Ann Hart, Chairwoman of the Phoenix African-American Police Advisory Committee declared that this “gives you the impression that it’s open season for killing black men.” Hart went on to say that there needs to be an understanding as to why “police officers are feeling compelled to shoot and kill as opposed to apprehend and detain-arrest and jail.” Only time will tell what the resolve will be to strengthen police-community relations and halt the killings of unarmed citizens.
By April Brown
Photo by Shawn Semmler – Flickr License