Sadly, by the time you finish reading this editorial, another unarmed Black man will be fatally shot by a white police officer. According to a recent report by the Washington Post, police officers have shot and killed 585 people so far this year. Of these fatalities, 60 were unarmed and 24 of them were unarmed and Black. “On average, an unarmed Black man was fatally shot by police every nine days in the first seven months of 2015,” the report from the Post disclosed.
This statistic is terrible and alarming, and as the clock ticks and the calendar turns, we can expect another unarmed Black man to be gunned down by the police in little over a week.
There is no way to determine where it will occur. A cursory glance at the 24 fatalities show a wide range of age, from 18-year-old Brandon Jones, who was killed after burglarizing a Cleveland grocery store in March, to 50-year-old Walter Scott, whose encounter with the police in April in North Charleston, S.C., after a traffic stop gained national attention when he was shot in the back while fleeing.
From California to Florida, from Ohio to Texas, Black lives don’t seem to matter when they are caught in the crosshairs of a police officer’s gun.
In too many instances, the young men could have used better judgment when confronting the police, or would-be cops, as in the case of Eric Harris, who was killed by a volunteer reserve sheriff’s deputy in Tulsa, Okla., during an altercation after being apprehended.
But even when these young men surrender, as we’ve learned with sorrowing results, there’s no guarantee they will be spared the wrath of the officers. We are still baffled by what happened to Freddie Gray in Baltimore.
It’s difficult to remember when deadly force by the nation’s police was so disturbingly high. Even more distressing, what’s to be done?
The first order of business, it would appear, is to keep our young men and women out of harm’s way because it’s almost impossible to keep harm’s way out of the minds of too many white police officers.
Nothing was more telling about the mental stability and an officer’s qualification than the words of the prosecutor in Cincinnati, when he stated that campus cop Ray Tensing, who shot and killed Samuel Dubose in July, should have never been allowed to carry a gun, that he was not qualified to be a police officer.
The same may be true of many cops, but we need a better process of weeding out the bad apples before they are assigned to duty in our streets. Some sort of test to determine a candidate’s racist quotient needs to be applied, particularly in those so-called high-crime areas, or impact zones, where new cops from the academy are not ready to deal with the neighborhood or its residents.
We believe that putting more cops on the beat for extended periods, giving them an opportunity to learn who the young men are who congregate on the corners, or the one or two who from time to time act erratically and only need a bit of counseling rather than harsh treatment. And this raises again the question of residency, which seems like beating a dead horse.
The mounting fatalities are very troubling, and it is even more troubling to know that the deaths don’t seem to bother the powers that be. To date, no commission or task force has given this problem any serious consideration. Why do we have to wait for the newspapers to report such a tragic situation? The police departments and the Justice Department need to conduct their own studies and tease out at least a semblance of remedies.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking, the guns are poised, and in nine days …