Without accountability, will this ever get any better?
We are only 31 days into 2023, but the level of violence and deadly occurrences between the police and Black men is already trending towards a record and tragic high.
In just one month, we have witnessed tragic “use of force” incidents that have led to the death of at least three Black men at the hands of the Los Angeles Police Department, a brutal and senseless death of a young Black man at the hands of five Black police officers in Memphis, Tennessee, and the shooting death of a double amputee by Huntington Park police officers, just to name a few.
In none of these tragic incidents were any police officers injured and none of the men killed were armed with a gun. Tyre Nichols is the latest victim of senseless police brutality caught on video.
What made this one so out of the ordinary is that all of these officers were Black that gave the heinous beating upon Mr. Nichols, unlike George Floyd or even Rodney King, who were both severely beaten by White officers. But, the reality of the situation is the “Blue Shield” of protection provided by the peace officers’ union and the laws passed called the “Peace Officers Bill of Rights” provide a shield of protection to callous offenders.
Assemblyman Mike Gipson, who is formerly worked as a police officer and whose district covers both parts of South Los Angeles and Compton, has been the biggest proponent of police reform. He has introduced and passed several state laws regarding police reform and has been has huge proponent of requiring police officers to carry liability insurance to personally cover the cost for the actions of rogue officers.
Gipson points out that it is time for a new vision for policing and says that what concerns him is that in the nation’s most populous state between 2013 and 2021, at least 1,402 people were killed by officers.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore like Memphis, Tennessee has had his own share deaths at the hands of police in 2023. In the first week of 2023, LAPD killed three Black men. All three men suffered from some sort of mental illness and at no time did LAPD call in the Mental Evaluation Unit (MEU), which was designed to address and prevent these types of instances.
Keenan Anderson, a 31-year-old teacher and father was tasered, handcuffed and hog tied by LAPD after calling upon police because of a traffic accident. Anderson died at the hospital after being tasered several times for extended periods of time with over 50,000 volts of electricity. At no point did Anderson possess a weapon or make any threats towards the police.
Police claim that a toxicology test run by the LAPD’s Forensic Science Division Toxicology Unit on blood samples obtained from Anderson tested positive for “cocaine metabolite and cannabinoids.”
Takar Smith was killed on January 2 after his estranged wife and the mother of his six children notified police that Takar was violating a restraining order and had shown up to his wife’s apartment. Shameka did inform police that Takar suffered from schizophrenia and again, police showed up without the benefit of a Mental Evaluation Unit (MEU).
In body camera video, Takar is shown talking with police. During the conversation, Takar makes several incoherent statements. The police ignore the mentally disturbed man and tell him to “quit playing childish games” and “act like an adult.”
Takar goes into the kitchen and is followed by multiple police with guns and tasers drawn and pointed at him. After Takar picks up a butcher knife, several police deploy their tasers and at least one cop fires a “less lethal” bean bag round.
Takar drops the knife and falls on his knees. None of the police move in. Instead, they hang back and continue to tase him. Once Takar reaches for the knife again, while still on the ground, at least two police officers fire several shots at him.
The third person killed by police was Oscar Leon Sanchez. As was the case with Smith and Anderson, despite Sanchez displaying signs of mental illness, the LAPD did not deploy their mental health unit alongside police.
The body camera footage released by police shows nearly a dozen armed cops confronting Sanchez, who was living in an abandoned house and who was confronted by police outside on the second story of the house. Sanchez eventually went inside and shut the door. The police are shown following him with guns drawn and a riot shield.
The body-camera footage is heavily obscured because of the shield. What is clear is that within 10 seconds of opening the door, Sanchez was shot by police, multiple times.
In the latest death involving the police, the Huntington Park Police Department said that on January 26, Anthony Lowe – who was a double amputee with no legs – was shot and killed by officers after he stabbed a man, then threatened responding officers with a 12-inch butcher knife.
Lowe’s family members had a very different version of the story at a recent press conference. “He’s out of his wheelchair, he’s amputated in both legs at the knee, and he’s moving away from the officers,” said Cliff Smith, a member of the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is leading the investigation into to the officer- involved shooting. The police officers who fired the shots are now on pai, administrative leave, which is standard operating protocol. Many believe that this is the real problem and the reason these types of instances keep on occurring.
“If you are able to continuously violate and persons rights with no real accountability or repercussions, how can we expect any real change,” said one citizen.
“The reason why this continues to happen and happens all across the country is that police officers are allowed to operate with a sense of being above the law. Until they are held accountable there will never be any real change!”