Asking for Police Accountability Isn't Racist or Anti-Cop -- It's Just Fair

 A sign held at a march against police brutality and racism in front of the White House in Washington, DC on July 7, 2016

It's become quite clear that in this country all lives do not in fact matter. Regardless of how much we recite the Declaration of Independence or the Pledge of Allegiance, all men are not treated as if they are created equal -- and there certainly is not justice for all. It truly baffles me how many horrifying videos there are of people being gunned down and beaten by cops in the news (and on social media) -- and yet we continue to make excuses as to why prejudice and profiling are okay, but seeking accountability for those in a position of power is not.

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Is it such a crime to demand policy reform that makes it harder for officers who give their shield a bad name to not get away with murder? Are those who have an issue with countless videos showing excessive -- and sometimes illegal -- use of force automatically "police haters"? It's very evident that #BlueLivesMatter, as those who target and attack police officers are punished. And they should be.

But what about people like Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, and a long list of others who were unjustly killed by an officer? The sad truth is that many cops skirt indictments, because the system serves to protect those holding a badge -- even if they're in the wrong.

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Now, let's be clear about something: I don't hate police. If I did, I would have to hate my father, who served his community for almost 30 years before retiring. I had the privilege of growing up around other cops' families and know firsthand just how scary it is to kiss your parent on the forehead, not knowing if he will return home to you. I can only imagine how stressful the job is and what it takes to keep your calm in the face of danger.

That, however, does not give anyone a license to kill and become both the jury and executioner. Everyone must be held responsible for his or her actions, and it's dangerous to treat officers as if they're above the law.

What bothers me is that, for some reason, many people (some police officers included) take offense to those who seek better accountability. And instead of coming to the table, in an attempt to find a solution, many against the idea simply recommend that minorities "learn to respect police" more and take additional steps while talking to an officer, in efforts for things to go smoothly.

Really?

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Yes, respecting police is important, but let's not assume that everyone who's experienced police brutality -- including death -- did anything malicious to provoke an officer. Police dash cams proved Marcus Jeter complied with officers and was still punched in the face when they ran him off the road in yet another case of misidentification. And what about Floyd Dent, the 57-year-old man whom cops kicked and tased for running a stop sign? (Yes, a stop sign.)

It saddens me to see that many officers I know are looking for anything they can to reel this all back to respect -- including sharing a FB post of a black man discussing respecting authority, as if it proves you don't have to be a victim of police brutality if you simply comply. (I won't even touch the fact that this young man admits to being pulled over "countless times" and being interrogated for hours. But, hey, if he's okay with it, sadly that's on him.)

So, I guess I was not respecting an officer when a cop pulled his gun on me and my friend because we were driving around in an expensive car. (There was no warning, except to come out of the car with our hands up, as a blinding bright light shined inside the vehicle. Even after the incident, we never got an apology.)

I guess Harold Thomas -- a now-retired NYPD officer who recently spoke to Time about being assaulted by fellow officers while off duty, and was wrongfully accused and charged with resisting arrest -- also did not respect the police ... even though he technically was the police. (He even showed responding officers his badge and they still tried to say he was involved in an incident hours prior.)

And let's not forget about retired tennis pro James Blake, who was arrested and slammed to the ground by a cop (in plain clothes) while standing outside a hotel last year because the officer misidentified Blake as a suspect in a credit card scam. (James said the cop who arrested him never had a badge and didn't identify himself.)

Hell, Philando Castile got shot four times for reaching for his identification that a cop reportedly asked for. Can we now stop focusing on respect and focus more on why this officer thought he was justified in pulling Castile over? And I am looking for a reason that does not include that he had a "wide nose" like a robbery suspect.

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How is it so easy for the prejudice plaguing this society to stare you in the face and yet some people still try to make excuses for why it's not that big of a deal?

"But, Tanvier, what about black-on-black crime?"

Are you truly concerned with a major issue affecting certain communities within this country? Or are you trying to somehow use it as an excuse as to why it's okay for law enforcement to use excessive force on people and not give them their due process? (If all lives do matter, can we not be troubled by both?) The FBI estimates that 82 percent of whites die by other whites, and that more cops are killed by whites than blacks, but that negation doesn't make the news -- nor should it dictate who deserves to be unjustly treated. (Unless an officer's life is truly at risk, everyone should have his or her day in court.)

Speaking as someone who is heavily involved in my community, please know there are many coalitions and people working hard to reshape their neighborhoods. Just because our efforts don't make the front page does not mean they aren't effective -- or are not happening.

We in this nation are smarter than our refusal to deal with our country's prejudice, and we need to do better. As a black woman, I am so scared my husband and sons won't make it home to me. They are respectful. They aren't involved in criminal activity. (My boys better not be -- they're 2 and 1.) And yet, time has proven that that's not always good enough.

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In order to truly heal, we need to admit that we have a problem and look for ways to find a solution. But sadly, those in power are working against the people by doing things -- like making police body cams unavailable to the public -- that remove liability so many have fought hard to establish.

No one can (or should) deny praises for the wonderful cops, like Officer Tommy M. Norman, who are engaged with their communities and making our country a safer place. That does not, however, mean we stop trying to fix the epidemic of police brutality head-on -- or turn a blind eye to it.

This is best sign I have seen so far. Notice race isn't brought up. We bring up the pressure of being a police officer, but don't address what goes through a persons mind when a gun is put in their face by a police officer. I sympathize with anyone being killed unjustly. That includes the 5 police officers in Dallas. I hope we keep having open dialogue between law enforcement & the communities which they protect. We need as a society to think outside of ourselves. Do I think all cops are bad, NO. Do I know what it's like to be black, NO. But I'm raising black kids. So this issue is important to me. When I hear Black Lives Matter, what I think ppl are saying is Black Ppl want to be safe & treated fairly.

A photo posted by Gary Owen (@garyowencomedy) on

Violence and bloodshed are certainly not the solution. (My heart aches for all the families who lost loved ones to senseless violence.) We need healing and reform to truly help make America great again.

 

Image via Rena Schild/Shutterstock

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