I can’t breathe. Those were Eric Garner’s last words before he was killed by police officers. Garner was approached by officers, as they accused him of selling a loose cigarette. Garner questioned why he was being arrested, the officers did not answer. Once Garner began to resisted arrest, claiming he did nothing wrong, Officer Pantaleo placed Garner in a chokehold, and officers then began to help wrestle Garner down to the ground, even though he was no longer resisting. Garner was held with his face down against the cement. Garner was not perceived as a threat to the officers, he had no weapons on him, and he wasn’t yelling or screaming. Garner was surrounded by other police officers, and also innocent pedestrians that were recording the officers abuse. Garner yelled, “I can’t breathe” to the officer holding him down; the officer did not stop. Eventually, Garner runs out of breath, and was later approached by street medics. Garner was pronounced dead from compression to the neck, from Officer Pantaleo’s chokehold, and compression of chest, from being restrained against the ground.
More recently, police officers have been over reacting to a black man’s behavior as if their behavior were life threatening to the police officer.
Some police officers react irrationally to a perceived threat. A threat is a declaration of an intention to inflict punishment, injury, etc. Garner was not a threat to police officers. He simply questioned why he was being arrested, and with no answer from the officer, he resisted arrest until the officer had a reason. The officers then overreacted to his decision to ask why he was being arrested, and choked him to death. There could have been many ways to avoid killing Garner. He was only asking why he was being arrested, with a simple explanation, he could have still been alive today.
In Missouri, Michael Brown was gunned down because he was under suspicion of stealing a cigarillo. He had no weapons on him, but he was perceived as a threat to the officer. The officer confronted Brown though his car, Brown proceeded to walk away. The officer gets out of his car, and shoots Brown six times, twice hitting Brown in the head. Police are trained to miss their target purposely, just to scare the victim and have them surrender. In this case, the officer purposely shot him in the head, intending to kill him.
Similarly enough, Tamir Rice, a twelve year old boy was shot and killed at a playground, after playing with a toy gun. Someone called 911 telling the operator, a little boy was playing with a gun, they specified that it had an orange tag on it. The orange tags shows that the gun is a toy gun. The officer shows up to the park, and within two seconds the officer shoots Tamir Rice, leaving him dead at the park. The officers could have simply approached Rice, and calmly asked him to put down his gun. The officers posed Rice as a threat, but he was no more of a threat than the others boys who were unarmed. In all of these incidents these boys should have been simply arrested or taken to the station, but instead they were all shot and killed.
Police perceptions on threats are directed towards black people. Police usually kill more black people than anyone else, because they claim to feel more threatened by them. Josh Correll, a psychology professor from the University of Colorado, ran test with a video game. His findings showed police officers avoid shooting unarmed targets of all races, but as soon as they were allowed to shoot, they would shoot more quickly against blacks suspects over white ones. This shows that officers do display some racial bias in shooting suspects. Also, in another study by Correll, research found that the public and police are less likely to view black people as innocent. In the real world, this can lead officers to shoot black people more often than white people. According to Correll’s study, if a cop is inclined to shoot at a black suspect more quickly this can lead to fault such as, shooting a innocent suspect. Only different sorts of training can diminish this bias, that cops have acquired.
Tragedy sparked across the nation after Eric Garner’s death. His final words, “I can’t breathe” became a national protest movement. The death of Garner is what sparked the questions of correlation between race and killing from law enforcement. He died in July, in November Officer Pantaleo appeared before the grand jury at court. Officer Pantaleo claimed he didn’t intended to choke Eric Garner, even though Garner repeatedly stated he could not breathe. The jury then declared there was not enough evidence to further continue an investigation, and Officer Pantaleo was sent free, case was dismissed. Not only did this happen to Eric Garner, but it also happened to Michael Brown. Brown was shot down due to a suspicion of stealing a cigarillo. Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, was dismissed with no charges. These cases were two weeks apart, and protest across the United States broke out.
Victims of the excess abuse and their families deserve an approach towards a resolution to this problem. The justice system is dishonest towards citizens and indefensibly supports law enforcement every time. It is difficult to play the victim when going against someone in law enforcement. A three year $263 millions package for police officers’ use of body cameras and an improvement of law enforcement changes was announced, in order to build public trust and to examine police violence with more evidence. This is a great step to coming to a resolution, but unfortunately it doesn’t help much. Better police training to overcome racial bias would be the best resolution for the families and victims.
Humans have stereotypes for every different race. One of the most common is linking blacks to crime and aggression, and to get rid of this stereotype a lot of time and training would be required. The training would consist of shooting stimulations, such as body language, cues, and what it seems like someone is holding in their possession. This would help officers focus more on indications opposed to race. This type of training is not required by law, but it is becoming more common with racial profiling growing in the justice system. Also, another effective training that is becoming more popular is called deescalating. This requires officers to try to calm down the victim and reduce the intensity of the situation, before they result to their guns. There is not a single quick fix to this situation. But with a systematic approach and time the correlation between law enforcement and racial bias will begin to diminish.
Al Baker, J. David Goodman And Benjamin Mueller. “Beyond the Chokehold: The Path to Eric Garner’s Death.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 June 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/14/nyregion/eric-garner-police-chokehold-staten-island.html.
Dianis, Judith Browne. “What Really Killed Eric Garner Was More than Just a Chokehold.”MSNBC, NBCUniversal News Group, 5 Aug. 2014, http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/what-killed-eric-garner.
Post, The Washington. “492 Died in Police Shootings This Year.” The Denver Post, The Denver Post, 2 July 2017, http://www.denverpost.com/2017/07/01/fatal-police-shootings-2017/.