When one thinks about law enforcement, it’s safe to assume that its purpose is to ensure the compliance of the law; its purpose is to serve the greater good of its people. If the law and government fail to give justice to its citizens, then what good is it? The government is meant to provide a set of rules for people to adhere to and when not obliged, there are consequences for that action. Under the government there are police who are there to oversee that the law is being followed. So why is it that when the police are killing innocent people, they are not being punished as equally as regular civilians? Is it that the badge or title plays a role in how severe the punishment is, or that the police even get punished at all? Is the badge a “get out of jail free card”?
Bethania Palma Markus, “Journalist Calls for Accountability in Police Killings,” Truth Out, March 18, 2014
Student Researcher: Shasha-Gaye Santiago, Indian River State College
Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen,Ph.D., Indian River State College
When police die in the line of duty, the coverage and media attention to accurately report the events of what happened and the people responsible is extensive. The pursuit to capture the individuals responsible and to seek justice is a priority. But in cases where police officers have shot and killed innocent people, the situation gets little to no attention and is only left to the families of the victims to grieve and hope for justice. This is evident in the cases of Aiyana Jones and Eugene Mallory, both innocent of crimes and both shot to death in a police raid of their homes. Why is it, though, that a police fatality is more important than a civilian fatality? Every incident of police fatalities is recorded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, so why not also take note of the mistakes of unjust police killings? Officers killed an average of 41 people every year from 2007 to 2013, and that’s only in the city of Los Angeles. What about other cities and states in the U.S? How many innocent lives are being taken without justification? In L.A a 94 pound schizophrenic woman, was shot and killed; In Michigan a mentally ill homeless man was shot and killed; a 15 year old autistic child was also shot and killed by the hands of police officers.
Brian Burghart, a professor and journalist, launched a website to track casualties of innocent people at the hands of law enforcement after wondering, “In 2014, how could we not know how many people our government kills in our streets every year.” The statement made by Burghart couldn’t be more bold and true. If civilians came together to create awareness of what the officers are doing to innocent victims and are getting away with it, the government would have to intervene, to investigate, to make changes, and punish the officers based on the facts. It is immoral to kill or murder someone for no good reason and not be reprimanded for it. Is one human life more valuable than another because of the position of the murderer? Justice should be served for every individual regardless of the badge.
As stated in the article by Patrisse Cullors-Brignac, in the US, law enforcement officers are trained as both military and as part of the community. Police officers are around civilians and should be trained as such to protect and serve the people, not kill them for a simple mistake that could have been avoided. In the incident of the 2011 beating death of the homeless man, Kelly Thomas, if the beating were not caught on tape, the event would not have gotten the amount of media coverage that it did. Even worse, the officers who were originally charged with murder and manslaughter were both acquitted of their charges. The reporters are intimidated by the officers to only cover part of the story or to leave out certain information about the occurrence of what happened. As stated by Burghart “Sometimes, they done even come back and find out who got killed. They don’t show a picture of that person; they don’t humanize them because they’re afraid that the police will see that as inciting the public against them.” As a whole, something needs to be done. Action needs to be taken to prevent law officers from abusing their power and killing innocent people. The government needs to stand up for its citizens and not fail them. The victims need justice regardless of the position of their killers.