Are Blacks In The US Presumed Guilty, Before Their Innocence Is Proven?

: Errol McLeish

On July 18, 2016, about 5: 00p.m., Charles Kinsley, a men­tal health ther­a­pist, who hap­pens to be black, was in the mid­dle of the road, appeal­ing to his autis­tic 23 –year-old patient, Arnaldo Rios Sato, who had wan­dered from a group home, to return with him. Both men were on the road, Arnaldo Rios Sato had a toy truck, Charles Stanley had a cell phone. The police arrived on the scene in response to infor­ma­tion that a man was armed and attempt­ing to com­mit sui­cide. Charles Kinsley indi­cat­ed to the police that nei­ther he nor his patient were armed and laid on his back with his hands in the air, in clear view of the police.

He informed the police of his patient’s men­tal state and that he was try­ing to retrieve him. Suddenly with­out warn­ing, Jonathan Aledda one of the police offi­cers, on the scene fired a sin­gle shot hit­ting Charles Kinsley. The shoot­ing was unpro­voked and the officer’s life was not in dan­ger. After the shoot­ing the offi­cer was asked, why he fired his weapon and his response was, he didn’t know. This inci­dent did not occur in any coun­try where democ­ra­cy was in ques­tion and the rule of law was not observed, it was in North Miami Florida, in the United States of America.

Jonathan Aledda

Neither was it the first inci­dent, in which there has been ques­tion­able unpro­voked shoot­ing by the police against blacks, there have been many. But what was so unique about the inci­dent with Charles Stanley, is the response that the police offi­cer gave when asked why he had shot Mr. Kinsley. He could not advance any plau­si­ble rea­son why he had fired his weapon. This was indeed telling and also an indi­ca­tion of a much more seri­ous prob­lem as it regards police & blacks in America.
Blacks are evi­dent­ly pre­sumed to be guilty and dan­ger­ous before their inno­cence is proven. This is not a con­trived con­jec­tured con­cept. There is empir­i­cal evi­dence to sub­stan­ti­ate this.

It is also evi­denced in the man­ner in which police offi­cers approach Caucasians as opposed to the way they do blacks. When one looks at the dis­par­i­ty and inequity in the dis­pen­sa­tion of jus­tice, blacks are giv­en a heavy hand in com­par­i­son to their Caucasian coun­ter­parts.
Indeed, the very mis­use of the law intend­ed for a par­tic­u­lar pur­pose, for exam­ple, the stop-and-frisk pro­grams, seemed to have focused on one eth­nic group than any oth­er.
But what could be the cause of this dis­turb­ing aggres­sive approach towards blacks at the hands of the police? Is it racism?
Yes, of course, this is a fac­tor, but I am not con­vinced that all police offi­cers are racist and not all offi­cers who have had an encounter with black sus­pects are Caucasian, there have been black offi­cers who have engaged blacks just as aggres­sive­ly, although those encoun­ters may not end in the demise of the sub­ject in ques­tion.

I believe their approach is fueled by a pre­sumed pro­grammed mind-set. To be clear, I am not by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion imply­ing delib­er­ate tam­per­ing with the minds of offi­cers, by author­i­ties, but rather a sit­u­a­tion in which police offi­cers, due to their con­stant expo­sure to sta­tis­tics in their brief­in­gs that blacks are more like­ly to be more vio­lent and have the pro­cliv­i­ty to com­mit crime, has influ­enced their actions. Authorities are to be blamed too, by imple­ment­ing laws that affects blacks more than oth­er eth­nic groups.
Additionally, media hous­es report­ing of inci­dents of crime has helped frame this mind-set and pro­ject­ed it to the wider pub­lic. Christian Cooper, the black man at the cen­ter of an encounter with a Caucasian woman, Amy Cooper, in Central Park, con­tex­tu­al­ized this, when he said: “We are liv­ing in an age where black men…. are gun down because of the pre­sump­tion peo­ple have of us.”
This is the real­i­ty of black America. This could also have been a con­trib­u­to­ry fac­tor to the death of an unarmed Amadou Diallo, who the police shot at 41 times hit­ting him 19 times in 1999.
Situations like the for­gone and the recent ones such as the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis Police Officer Derrick Chauvin will con­tin­ue unless this mind-set by police offi­cers is changed.

For that to hap­pen police offi­cers will need to be held respon­si­ble for their glar­ing­ly reck­less actions and excess­es, that have been demon­strat­ed par­tic­u­lar against blacks.
It is a humon­gous task, con­sid­er­ing obsta­cles like police unions which have tremen­dous pow­er and reach, and legal stan­dards that pro­tect police such as the qual­i­fied immu­ni­ty, which was estab­lished to pre­vent gov­ern­ment employ­ees from being sued.
Perhaps the video­tap­ing of these atro­cious crimes and their dis­sem­i­na­tion to the wider pub­lic and the world, will be the cat­a­lyst that will help change pub­lic opin­ion and rules of engage­ment of offi­cers.
Policing is not an easy task. Being an ex-detec­tive myself, who worked the streets in Jamaica, I can relate to the chal­lenges that offi­cers face on a dai­ly basis. The lines between who is dan­ger­ous and who is not, is not always clear.

Oftentimes, police offi­cers have to make judg­ment calls that are not nec­es­sar­i­ly the right ones at the time, that might end in death. However, with much cer­tain­ty, in many cas­es, men­tioned in the US, this is often not the case. It has not been as a result of mild mis­steps and mis­judg­ments by the police, but rather insen­si­tive and inten­tion­al actions to kill. The upshot, until this pre­sump­tive mind-set, is changed towards blacks and the police’s rules of engage­ments are read­just­ed, and a con­stant eval­u­a­tion of police actions and excess­es are engaged to reflect equi­ty, there will be many oth­er inci­dents like George Floyd’s. If there is no pos­i­tive response to this call, black lives will nev­er mat­ter.



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