Unsigned: Commander United Against Police Brutality

   On average, 180 people are killed by police in just the first two months of a year, according to data from Mapping Police Violence (mappingpoliceviolence.com). While it is unfortunate that we keep having this same conversation, in wake of Tyre Nichols’ death, it’s evident that it remains necessary. Police officers are abusing our trust. They are abusing their power and positions. Small efforts are not enough. There needs to be a systematic change. People should be able to trust those in law enforcement and know that they will effectuate and uphold the law while still being bound by it themselves. The systems already in place should be amended so that police officers have improved training and specialized units are properly regulated. Finally, all officers must be held accountable for their actions.

   We haven’t come very far in the effort for change. “More people were killed by police in 2022 than any other year in the past decade,” according to the 2022 Police Violence Report. 1,192 human beings were killed. Of those people, 100 were unarmed. The website stated, “54 percent of killings by police in 2022 — 635 deaths — were traffic stops, police responses to mental health crises, or situations where the person was not reportedly threatening anyone with a gun. Creating alternative responses to these situations could substantially reduce this violence nationwide.” Out of the 1,192 killings in 2022, “Officers were charged with a crime in only 9 of these cases. One percent of all killings by police” (policeviolencereport.org).

   According to Amnesty International, in countries with this problem, “a combination of factors including inadequate laws, racial or other forms of discrimination, insecurity or conflict, and entrenched impunity” may allow this issue to prevail (amnesty.org). Bureaucracy prevents legislation from being implemented, society has yet to undo the damage of systemic racism on our institutions, and the justice system has not directly addressed and solved the long-standing belief that the system’s enforcers are above the law. This, of course, is a problem, and it has been for far too long.

   Even though more awareness has been raised about this problem over the past few years, the changes made have barely made a dent. According to CNN, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, legislation introduced after Floyd’s death in 2020 and then later in 2021, has not been cleared in the Senate. This act “…would set up a national registry of police misconduct to stop officers from evading consequences for their actions by moving to another jurisdiction, ban racial and religious profiling by law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels, overhaul qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that critics say shields law enforcement from accountability” and more. Since this measure has not been passed, some state governments have taken it upon themselves to enact laws regarding police reform.

   “In 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed into law a series of police reforms that created a system to decertify law enforcement officers found to have engaged in serious misconduct — joining the majority of states that have similar decertification authorities” (cnn.com). This change, while progressive, has not had much effect on police brutality. According to Mapping Police Violence, at least 168 people have been killed by police in California after Newsom put these laws in place, not much of a change from previous years (mappingpoliceviolence.org). UC High’s General Secretary Tasha Forbes said, “In my opinion, the quickest way to end police brutality is to end qualified immunity. Once police officers are held accountable for their actions, maybe they’ll think twice before abusing their position of power.” There needs to be a significant, fundamental change in order to see any meaningful effect of reform.

   Tyre Nichols died on January 10, 2023. He was a son. He was a father. How many people will die until we finally see change? According to CNN, recent assaults are clearly demonstrating that “after nearly 32 years [since 1991], the needle of police reform has barely moved, and seemingly minor traffic violations continue to lead to the deaths of Black and other minority men and women in police encounters” (cnn.com). “Police brutality is a daily occurrence. Not every case gets the coverage like Tyre Nichols’ did, but it’s something that people of color and Black people specifically have to fear. With Tyre’s case, it was genuinely disheartening the extent of the violence that was shown in the body cam footage,” said Senior Jabze Solomon. Solomon added, “This isn’t a problem that is going to be solved overnight, but when all the ‘solutions’ that our judicial systems are recommending or installing do nothing, people are given no choice but to protest and actively fight for change. It seems that every month someone loses a child, partner, parent to police brutality. When will it be enough?”

   Police officers are abusing their positions and power. The reforms made are not sufficient. There needs to be federal legislation tackling the many contributing factors to these assaults and the criminal justice system needs to hold these officers accountable. We can prevent these deaths. End police brutality.