Every time I see a police vehicle, my heart drops and I immediately fear for my life because I have been the victim of unwarranted physical assault by police officers (as detailed in my article “Ungrateful is the new Uppity”). Many men and women with darker skin can relate to this feeling. There have been many articles on both sides of the argument that demonize all police officers or grossly label all urban areas as “ghettos” with unruly citizens. This article will do neither because, despite my experience, I believe there are far more good cops than bad ones. I believe there are certain situations in which a police officer may have to use deadly force. I also do not believe that every life lost at the end of a police officer’s gun is justified.
We cannot start any conversation about police reform without mentioning that black people are disproportionately the victims of police violence. In 2016 alone, more than 250 black people were killed by police in the United States. A study by the Washington Post also showed that 34 percent of unarmed people killed by police were black men. Despite making up less than five percent of the total population, 15 percent of all deaths by law enforcement had black male victims. Out of that 15 percent, per The Guardian, 25 percent of them were unarmed.
In recent years, Hispanic Americans have found themselves with a target on their backs as well. According to the Washington Post, out of 715 people shot and killed by police officers in 2017, a little over 100 of them were Latino. Hispanics make up less than 20 percent of the population, yet account for over 20 percent of traffic searches and over 25 percent of all arrests.
It is clear to see why citizens in black and Hispanic communities do not see the police officers in the same positive light as many white Americans. This is not new. Since the 1960s, many black and Hispanic civil rights organizations have demanded that police answer for their mistreatment of minorities. The 1960s and 1970s saw many race riots in these communities due to the police abusing their power. Have the race riots of the ‘60s and ‘70s changed interaction within the black and Hispanic communities of today? YES. According to a poll by NPR, about three in 10 people in black communities reported that they have not called the police when in need or when witnessing a crime. Forty percent of Hispanics are less likely to call police, according to PolitiFact. This means that real criminals are able to terrorize these communities at a higher rate than white communities. This in turn means that the crime rate will be higher, despite the number of reported crimes being lower.
There have been incidents in both the black and Hispanic communities where citizens called police for help, and they were murdered by said police. One of these victims was Charleena Lyles, a black woman, who called Seattle police on June 18, 2017, to report what she thought was a break in. The officers, both white males, arrived at her residence and she allowed them to enter. According to audio of the incident, she was explaining to officers what she believed was stolen. During this conversation, police opened fire on her, and Charleena was killed in front of her four children. She was also noticeably pregnant. Police claimed that she opened the door wielding a knife. With that said, even if she did wield a knife (which is highly unlikely as she CALLED them for assistance), I am sure a Taser or a baton would have subdued her.
When critics of police reform throw the “Blue Lives Matter” defense, they are missing the point. When critics complain about kneeling, they are missing the point. When a police officer is killed in the line of duty, regardless of their record as a human being, they are sent off like a hero. When a black man, who is the pillar of his community, is assassinated in the passenger seat of his girlfriend’s car by police, we are informed that said car “smelled of marijuana,” as if this justifies his murder. When critics use the “black on black” crime argument, they are missing the point that thugs don’t make an oath to protect, cops do. Critics are also overlooking a very important statistical point that black people have a higher risk of being killed by another black person, as a white person has a higher chance of being killed by another white person. The point is that black and Hispanic lives matter just as much as white lives.
And before the “All Lives Matter” critics address their concerns with that, read this next sentence slowly and carefully: Right now there is an epidemic of unwarranted murders occurring primarily in black and Hispanic communities, so right now the urgency is concentrated on increasing the value of their lives up to the degree of importance that the public holds the lives of white people. While black and Hispanic lives are the focus right now, police reformation is needed for the benefit of everyone. We need better communication between the community and police force to decrease the crime rate. Until police officers recognize that black and Hispanic lives matters, all lives can’t possibly matter. No race of people should be exterminated at the hands of overzealous police officers for which their tax dollars have paid. Police officers are paid to protect and serve everyone. They are not paid to be judge, jury, and executioner.
Contributing Editor: Ken Mejia-Beal
Ken Mejia-Beal is a concerned citizen, who cares deeply for his country. Ken wants to make the world a better place for all people. A capitalist with a heart who believes in free thinking and human rights. Ken wants to use his words in order to shine a light on political ventures in order to allow those without knowledge to form strong positions through fact based conversation. Ken resides in DuPage County, within Illinois. He has ambitions to motivate those around him to communicate differing ideas while remaining civil.