Hillary Clinton said this week that the attack on police officers in Baton Rouge was “an assault on all of us”.
I don’t disagree with Clinton’s statement. In a civilized society, it is unacceptable for citizens to target those who have taken an oath to serve and protect the community. Police officers come from the communities in which they serve, so we should feel a kinship with them that they do represent all of us. They are officers commissioned by the people, and their authority to do their work of serving and protect comes from a social contract with the citizenry.
Clinton’s statement was perfect in describing the role of police, but it was incomplete. If we are to accept that an assault on the police is an assault on all of us, then we must also accept that the unjust killing of an unarmed black man by the police is not done only by the police but all of us. When that killing goes untried and without persecution, we are implicitly giving it a stamp of approval. By not reprimanding officers who step out of line, we too become guilty. This is even more pertinent today as the highest ranking officer in the Freddie Gray Case has been found not guilty of manslaughter. The problems that have led to these shootings are on the shoulders on the officers in question, but they are also societal problems, that if gone unaddressed with fester.
Let’s take a minute to remember a few police officers who shot and killed that have not been convicted:
Trayvon Martin (Sanford, FL) – Neighborhood Watchman George Zimmerman (acquitted)
Michael Brown (Ferguson, MO) – Officer Darren Wilson (cleared by grand jury)
Eric Gardner (New York, NY) – Officer Daniel Pantaleo (not indicted)
Tamir Rice (Baltimore, MD) – Officer Timothy Loehmann (no charges, settlement with city)
Walter Scott (North Charleston, SC) – Officer Michael Slager (facing trial Oct. 2016)
Jonathan Ferrell (Charlotte, NC) – Officer Randall Kerrick (not indicted, settlement with city)
Samuel DuBose (Cincinnati, OH) – Officer Raymond Tensing (charged, settlement with University of Cincinnati)
Laquan McDonald (Chicago, Il.) – Officer Jason Van Dyke (facing trial)
These are just a few of the shootings. It doesn’t include those in St. Paul, MN and Baton Rouge, LA from the last weeks. Every day there is the fear of this happening in our towns, with our family and friends. If we don’t accept these deaths on our behalf, them as a whole society, we better start acting like it.