A few months ago, I heard the sad story of 17 year old Laquan Macdonald – a young black man shot dead by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. Laquan was shot 16 times in 14 seconds, and all this despite being unarmed. This case once again brought forward the issue of police brutality against black people in America.
By definition, the police are:
“the civil force of a state, responsible for the prevention and detection of crime and the maintenance of public order” (Oxford Dictionary)
However, many parts of this story do not fit well with this definition. Footage of this incident was captured by the dashboard camera of the police car, and it showed that Laquan was moving away from the officers at the time the shots were dispatched. The first shot spun him round and knocked him to the ground, at which point he was no longer a threat to the police or the public. However, officer Van Dyke proceeded to shoot him another 15 times while on the ground.
If an officer felt particularly threatened by an individuals actions, enough to open fire, wouldn’t they stop firing once the suspect was down? Alternatively, wouldn’t the use of a tazer or stun gun be more appropriate (depending on circumstances) to prevent the unnecessary loss of life?
The footage of the shooting was only released a year into the investigation, leading to widespread anger, criticism and speculation of a police cover-up. Not only was the footage released late, but it also contradicted the original police report which suggested that Van Dyke acted in self defence:
“In defence of his life, Van Dyke back-peddled and fired his handgun at McDonald to stop the attack.” The boy, “fell to the ground but continued to move and continued to grasp the knife, refusing to let go of it” (Guardian Newspaper, UK)
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this case, is the fact that its not an isolated one – far from it in fact. Recent statistics have shown that US police killed at least 336 black people in 2015 alone, more than any other race. In 102 of those cases, the victims were unarmed, which begs the question: Why? Why does this keep happening? Why has nothing changing? Why so many victims? Why..Why..Why..?
Without wanting to make this a black vs white issue, it is important to note that there have been victims of police brutality from other races too (some cases without as much coverage as others). However, the problem is that the statistics are staggeringly stacked up against black victims:
One final stat to help put this into perspective:
37% of unarmed people killed by police were black in 2015, despite black people being only 13% of the U.S. population (Mapping Police Violence)
When will this end?
Trayvon Martin . Mike Brown . Jordan Davis . Eric Garner . Oscar Grant . Rodney King . Sean Bell . Ezell Ford . Jordan Davis . Emmett Till . Jonathan Ferrell . Johnie L Cochran . George William Dunn . Deaunta Farrow . Reginald A Dunn . Aiyana Jones . Rondre Lamar Hornbeak . Emerson Clayton Jr . Tommy Yancy . Yvette Smith . Jerame C Reid . Tamir E Rice . Tanisha Anderson . Zikarious Flint . Antoine Dominique Hunter . Charles Goodridge . Jason Harrison . Gregory Lewis Towns Jr . Howard Wallace Bowe Jr . Kaldrick Donald . Cameron Tillman . Jordan Baker . Hallis Kinsey . Lavon King . Robert Storay . Victor White III . Akai Gurley . Darrien Nathaniel Hunt . Jeremy Lake . Laquan Mcdonald .
HOW MANY MORE NAMES?
Guardian Newspaper, UK – http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/05/laquan-mcdonald-knife-police-report-chicago
Mapping Police Brutality – http://mappingpoliceviolence.org/unarmed/