If Trump had any chance of winning the election in November, it should have been completely obliterated yesterday. The internet exploded over the senseless murders of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte. Millions of people watched the video of an unarmed Crutcher being shot by a white office as his car stalled in the road. As that video was circulating, we learned that Keith Lamont Scott was shot by an officer as cops attempted to serve a warrant on an unrelated person. Details of whether Scott had a gun at the time of the shooting are heavily disputed by his family.
It’s impossible to keep up with the seemingly weekly shootings of African-American men by cops and the calls for federal investigations by the US Department of Justice. There are no clear answers as to how to end this brutality and we can be guaranteed that without continuing the work begun by the Department of Justice under President Obama, more Black men will die at the hands of police. This alone should be enough to end any chances of a Trump presidency.
Sadly, despite the national media attention and the public outrage it’s clear that there is no end in sight to these shootings. There are 18,000 police departments in the United States and they all have different policies, training procedudured and approaches to the use of deadly force. Notwithstanding, in every fatal shooting that we have witnessed over the last several years, they all follow a typical pattern. Families express outrage. Community activists demand justice. Police are placed on administrative leave. The media covers the shootings for 24 to 48 hours. There’s a civil lawsuit and subsequent settlement announced a year later.
If we are to break this pattern and what has become a cycle of police abuse involving African-Americans, we have to ramp up our fight on every level. Most importantly, we must ensure that we channel our outrage into action at the polls on November 8. It is clear from the countless numbers of African-Americans shot by police that the typical approach outlined above is not moving the needle or causing police to respond differently when they encounter Black men in particular.
Some suggest that it’s a matter of training. Others say we need to overhaul entire police departments and rid them of white supremacists that have infiltrated their ranks. Many suggest that making police officers personally responsible for damages in civil lawsuits is the answer.
As a civil rights attorney, I submit that the answer lies in changing the current laws that provide the legal defense for the shootings, thereby allowing swifter prosecution of police officers. We know that prison time can be a real deterrent to criminal activity for civilians. If officers faced a real threat of prosecution and incarceration and were forced to prove more substantial evidence of a perceived or real threat of harm, they would be forced to use escalation practices and other tactical maneuvers that would result in saving rather than taking lives.
The only way we can change the existing standards that govern police shootings and have greater accountability for officers is by continuing the work begun by the Obama Department of Justice. Under former Attorney General Eric Holder and our current AG Loretta Lynch, there have been more investigations of entire police departments and officers than in recent history. Although the Justice Department has not challenged the seminal Supreme Court case which establishes the standard of review of police involved shootings, it has the ability to do so and the demonstrated will.
This work will not continue under a Trump administration. He and his team have already given us a glimpse into their policies and actions on criminal justice. For them, police shootings of Blacks pale in comparison to Black on Black crime, which they say has made African-American communities the “worst ever ever ever.” We should expect all of Trump’s time in office to be focused on stricter laws governing African-Americans and urban communities rather than on addressing the systemic racism in the criminal justice system which leads to a disproportionate number of Blacks being harassed, detained, arrested and attacked by cops.
This should be enough to cause millions of Blacks to register to vote and to vow to never “ever, ever, ever” let Trump step foot into the Whitehouse. Obama said, “don’t boo vote.” I say, these latest shootings are enough to make you cry, but they should also be enough to make you vote in record numbers.