Police rarely punished for shooting black civilians



Opinion columnist Abbi Cobb discusses the issue of police violence against black Americans and the disproportionately low incarceration numbers for police officers involved in related shootings.

ABBI COBB, Opinon Columnist

Last week, Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II proved yet again that American law enforcement officers are seldom held accountable for use of deadly force against civilians.

Salamoni and Lake, two white officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are responsible for the 2016 shooting death of 37-year-old Alton Sterling.

On Tuesday morning, Louisiana’s Attorney General, Jeff Landry, announced that the two officers will not face any charges.

For a multitude of reasons, this decision comes as no surprise. Among these reasons is the fact that out of 10,000 police-involved shootings between 2007 and 2017, only five officers were incarcerated after killing a black civilian.

And three of those five officers were convicted for the same case (murdering a 92-year-old woman).

Additionally, black Americans are consistently overrepresented among victims of police use of excessive and lethal force. In 2012, despite constituting only 13 percent of the U.S. population, black Americans accounted for three percent of all people killed by police and 39 percent of people killed by police while they were not attacking officers.

It doesn’t matter if you’re six-years-old or you’re 92. It doesn’t matter if it’s your wedding day or your birthday. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling cigarettes or CDs. It doesn’t matter if you can’t breathe, can’t see, can’t comprehend.

It doesn’t matter if you’re holding a cell phone, a toy gun or have a real gun that you’re permitted to carry on you. It doesn’t matter if it happens in front of your child, your mother or your grandmother.

It doesn’t matter if the cops raided the wrong home or failed to obtain a warrant. It doesn’t matter if the incident is recorded or if the officer’s body/dash cam wasn’t operating.

It doesn’t matter if they shoot you once at close range or 16 times in the back. It doesn’t matter if they claim, “I’ll kill you, bitch” before taking your life or if they have shot other black civilians before you.

It doesn’t matter if you’re Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Korryn Gaines, Freddie Gray, Tyre King, Samuel DuBose, John Crawford III, Sean Bell, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Jerame Reid, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Philando Castile, Kenneth Chamberlain, Keith Lamont Scott, Stephon Clark, Amadou Diallo, Rekia Boyd, Patrick Dorismond or Terence Crutcher.

It does not matter because American law enforcement has always been a tool of hegemonic classes used to preserve their status and social norms.

It does not matter because these white officers will always hide their skittish, racist tendencies by convincing juries that are comprised of their white peers (if there’s even a trial) that the officer “feared for their life.”  

It will not matter until investigations of misconduct are no longer carried out by the internal affairs division of officers’ respective departments. It will not matter until the war against drugs is no longer waged against black bodies. It will not matter until black youth are no longer perceived to be dangerous, grown adults.

We say black lives matter because the consequences of having a black identity are real and they are inescapable. Say their names; say their lives matter.