: 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.
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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