The U.S. has a problem with policing. Even admitting that has been a topic of heated discussion for years. Through killing after killing of unarmed Black citizens, Americans keep coming back to this debate – and it’s time to instead make actual progress.
On April 20, Americans across the country celebrated as police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man killed May 25, 2020. Floyd was killed in police custody while being arrested for suspected use of counterfeit bills. While this conviction was certainly a victory in the fight against systematic injustice in our country’s criminal justice system, it’s also a reminder that the fight is far from over.
Tragically, the trend of police killings of Black men has continued into 2021. According to the Statista Research Team, out of 213 citizens fatally shot by police through March 31 in 2021, 30 were Black. The same team found that between 2015 and March 2021, the rate of Black Americans killed by law enforcement was 35 per million, compared to white American’s considerably lower rate of 14 per million..
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, a series of University of California/University of Chicago studies determined that police officer participants were more likely to fire when the armed target was a person of color. They decided not to shoot quicker when the armed target was white, and participants accidentally shot unarmed targets more often if they were Black. This shooting bias was greater among participants who believed negative stereotypes about Black people.
This evidence, plus the stories of Floyd and more have led the ACLU to conclude that racial bias amongst law enforcement is more than likely alive and well in our country, despite the general progress that has been made in racial equality in recent decades. Other experts agree.
It shouldn’t have to be an argument anymore. Republican or Democrat, we should all be able to agree that something needs to change with policing in our country. Though people may have different ideas of what that change looks like or how it will happen, everyone should be able to accept there’s a problem at this point. Identifying a problem is the first step to fixing it. We can’t afford to deny it any longer – not as Black and brown Americans are paying the ultimate price with their lives and their rights to live freely without fear of law enforcement.
Some may believe that acknowledging the problems within law enforcement is synonymous with rejecting law enforcement completely or being unsupportive of the many police officers genuinely trying to help their communities, at the risk of their own personal safety. However, this is incorrect.
Our founding fathers vehemently and passionately disagreed with one another about the structure and distribution of power in the federal government. When our first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, failed, our founding fathers didn’t acknowledge the problems with the U.S. because they hated their country. They were willing to accept and iron out these mistakes because they loved our country. They loved it enough to know it desperately needed change to survive and thrive.
Our nation’s policing, and criminal justice system at large, is at a similar point. Something has to change, or tensions will again reach a boiling point like we saw last summer in 2020.
Our editorial board supports police reform and applauds the conviction of Chauvin. We believe that police reform is a nonpartisan issue that all Americans should support – regardless of race or political party. Fair and equal justice for all Americans is a cause we can all get behind.