Police finally held accountable for killing of unarmed citizens

The Channels Opinion Pages | EDITOR COLUMN

MAC WALBY, Associate Editor

Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford and John Crawford. It seems like every week, another unarmed black man is killed at the hands of the police.

Almost 400 people have been killed by the police this year alone. But somehow, none of these cases resulted in murder charges. And it isn’t like we just get a single eyewitness or a grainy security picture, most of these events have happened on video. Until Freddie Gray.

This week, Baltimore’s State Attorney Marilyn Mosby finally took a stand against police violence, announcing that all six officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray will be charged with murder. The announcement came as a shock to many, and for good reason—it almost never happens. So why is it usually so hard just to have charges filed?

The culture of law enforcement is incredibly interesting. It’s similar to that of a fraternity or football team, lots of testosterone, but with a lot more guns.

Their job is admittedly difficult, and most officers truly believe they could lose their life every time they go on patrol. This creates a strong bond between cops, one that most people outside of it will never truly understand. It’s a very “us against them” mentality.

But this excuse is used far too often. While no one is going to say they have an easy job, the danger of the job does get blown out of proportion. Of the 38 on-duty deaths of police officers this year, only six were from gunfire and only one from assault. Ten were heart attacks, and 11 were automobile accidents. Statistically speaking, roofing and sanitation jobs are much more dangerous.

Another epidemic with police culture is what’s called the “blue wall of silence.” This means that cops will almost always side with each other, to the point of significant corruption. It’s incredibly rare to see a police officer testify against another in court. The other factors are less obvious, but nonetheless just as important.

For example, a jury is almost always going to believe a police officer over a suspect, let alone one of color.

Unfortunately, the most apparent issue is the most difficult to solve—race.

Anyone who thinks we live in racism-free society at this point is simply willfully ignorant.

The numbers don’t lie. In almost every situation, a person of color is more likely to be sentenced, and for a longer period of time than their white counterparts.

The drug war overwhelmingly affects people of color, but statistically whites use drugs more often. That just doesn’t make sense.

Policing is by no means an easy job, but we are literally placing our lives in their hands. The burden of responsibility has got to be much higher than it has been. We have given them the power to arrest us, lock us up and even kill us. It’s time for us to hold them responsible, and demand accountability on the part of the police and the entire justice system. Marilyn Mosby has taken a huge step forward in starting that process. We need to support and encourage attorneys like her in order to start fixing this problem.