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Paige Courtney

How Often Are Police Officers Convicted For Excessive Force?

Why are black Americans sick and tired of police brutality? At a moment in history where a second great awakening to the reality of racism is occurring, if new ears are listening, it's worth instructing. It is helpful for all of us to refresh our memories of those who were murdered and what occurred in the justice system in the month and years that ensued.

Extrajudicial Executions By Police

Below is a timeline of just six of the many high profile extrajudicial executions of black men by police in the last six years. The red circles indicate instances where police officers violated protocol and were not held accountable by our criminal justice system.

In the case of Michael Brown the officer acted as judge, executioner and jury. He suspected the teen of selling drugs, and shot him in cold blood. A few months earlier, in a case that received less publicity, a police officer used a choke hold to suffocate Eric Garner. Choke holds are explicitly prohibited by the NYPD, yet the officer still was not convicted of a crime. One year later, in the case of Freddie Gray, a report revealed that six officers of the Baltimore PD not only used excessive force, but also delayed medical treatment after they assaulted Gray. The officers then concealed the misconduct. In the case of Alton Sterling, the police officer had a history of excessive force, was not charged and actually overturned his termination.

The case of Philando Castile was another heartbreaking instance of a man who was completely innocent and still murdered by the police. Castile had a permit to carry a gun, and simply notified an officer that the weapon was in his car when he was pulled over. The police officer responded by shooting Castile to death in front of his girlfriend and his child.

The case of Walter Scott is the only high profile case in which the officer was charged and convicted.

Violent Resistance To Civil Rights

It would not be possible to chronicle a comprehensive account of police brutality in America because so many cases happened in the shadows long before cameras were commonplace, and social media was a prevalent tool. Nonetheless, a simple examination of history reveals that the American government responded to emancipation by Jim Crow segregation. In the 1960's the police greeted peaceful protesters working to combat Civil Rights violations with fire hoses, tear gas, and attack dogs.

In the 21st century struggle for equality, the first step towards justice will be to ensure police who wield excessive brutality are convicted of murder. A second step would be to eliminate resistance to the pursuit of justice. When a man is murdered it is insensitive at best and biased at worst to assert that police must be supported, even when they violate protocol. America's freedom rests on the concept of checks and balances which ensures that no one branch of government, or law enforcement official, can enact all the powers of judge, executioner and jury.

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Hi Ms. Barnes. I read your recent article in the NCR today and recognized a high-quality writer. NCR reminds me of reading the NYT or WP because of the skillful, thouroughly researched (hopefully) articles. As I read this article (Police Officers) I thought of a podcast I heard by Sam Harris (website below). Not that you have time to sit around listening to podcasts, but I would be very curious about your reaction to his thoughts about police violence on African Americans. Harris is a leading atheist/liberal/woke (I think) intellectual and he despises Donald Trump. He also believes that facts must not be ignored, no matter what the cost. If you get a chance to listen, please let me kno…

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