Failing to Comply with Police Requests Does Not Justify Murder
-By Tanairi Hernandez-
On April 20, 2021, former police officer, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty of the murder of George Floyd. Not only did the entire nation witness Floyd's murder in May 2020, but even enraged individuals in countries abroad took to the streets to protest the senseless murder of a Black man with a knee to his neck.
The guilty verdict brought about a sense of justice to the African-American community, who continue to endure racial discrimination and excessive police force compared to individuals of other racial groups for years. While justice has prevailed in the case of Floyd, many still believe that Floyd caused his death by resisting arrest. In comments posted on social media and during discussions among peers, it is prevalent to read or hear, "well, he shouldn't have resisted arrest."
In fact, in just about every murder case at the hands of police officers, the victim is often blamed. The media scrutinizes the victim's history in an attempt to explain the actions of the officer.
In September of 2014, African-American Eric Garner died while in a chokehold by a New York City police officer. Despite crying, "I can't breathe," police failed to offer Garner aid. The district attorney did not charge the police officers in this case. Nonetheless, the police department did fire the officer who executed the chokehold.
A few days before the Chauvin verdict, nine miles from where the trial took place in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, a young African-American male was killed during a traffic stop when he attempted to resist arrest. 20-year-old, Daunte Wright, died when a 26-year veteran of the police force fired her gun, mistaken it for a Taser.
These are just a few of the cases in which African-American men have died at the hands of police officers. However, the common belief that if these individuals had complied and not resisted arrest, they would still be alive today is erroneous. It is a belief that fails to hold accountable the same men and women who are supposed to serve and protect us.
It fails to take into consideration that there is a history of mistrust between police officers and African-Americans. Recent media coverage on cases involving the death of Black men at the hands of law enforcement has strengthened the distrust and fear the Blacks community and law enforcement.
When Floyd died, he was on the ground with his wrists handcuffed and a knee to his neck. There were four police officers present, and the arrest could have easily been handled without there being a death, especially when the police officers already had Floyd subdued.
The same scenario played out in the Eric Garner case and the recent death of Daunte Wright, multiple police officers present, and one suspect. A lack of compliance does not cause the problem. Yes, it is always advisable to comply with the request of police officers, but this does not necessarily ensure that Blacks are safe at the hands of police officers. The problem lies in that police officers are more likely to use firearms and excessive force in cases involving African-American men.
This past month in Norfolk, Virginia, authorities released a body cam video of Army officer Caron Nazario being pepper-sprayed and handcuffed by police officers during a traffic stop. Nazario, who is also African-American, described fearing for his life as one police officer yelled at him to keep his hands up and another officer demanded he exits his vehicle. Unsure of which request to comply with, this is an excellent example of how things could have quickly become fatal for the young Lieutenant.
The Black Lives Matter movement and other activist organizations want new laws enacted and the defunding of police departments. In his address to the nation, President Biden advocated for Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
Under the George Floyd Act, racial profiling by all law enforcement officials would be illegal. Certain types of restraints, such as chokehold and carotid holds, would be banned, and no-knock warrants at the federal level would no longer be allowed. The George Floyd Act calls for a national registry for police misconduct and to do away with qualified immunity, which protects all law enforcement officers from civil lawsuits.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act provides hope that everyone, especially people of color, will no longer become victims of excessive police force, murder, and racial profiling, even when they fail to comply with police orders.
However, the defunding of police departments across the nation is not the ideal solution. Defunding police departments put citizens and police officers more at risk for these types of situations to occur. Police departments would have fewer resources and limited personnel, working longer hours and putting in overtime.
The goal is not to punish all police departments. The goal is to ensure the safety of all community members, especially those that are most vulnerable. We need more police officers out in the streets, with better training on prejudice and biases, mental health issues, and non-lethal restraints. It is imperative that police officers not work long overtime hours, which leads to poor decision-making, irritability, and burnout.
Lack of compliance during an interaction with police officers should not result in death. Restoring trust and a sense of safety between the Black community, other minority groups, and law enforcement is the only way to solve this problem within our nation.