The nation experienced a surreal number of protests and demonstrations – reminiscent of civil unrest of the 60s over the last weekend of May. From Detroit to Atlanta, and from Los Angeles to Washington D.C., protestors took to the streets in record numbers to express their discontent over the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis who was the most recent – and most visible – victim of lethal force from a police officer. Minneapolis police officer Derrick Chauvin took a knee to Floyd’s neck and casually rocked back in forth until Floyd was dead.
That’s where it started. The latest wave of protests – some peaceful and some violent – sparked by the killing of the Minneapolis man, in which millions of Americans witnessed the horrific recorded images of Floyd begging for his life as a police officer casually snuffed out Floyd’s life, while three other officers looked on.
For citizens who naively thought there was a moratorium on police killing blacks during the COVID-19 pandemic, bigotry, narrow-mindedness and racism continue to flourish throughout the ranks of police departments around the nation.
Detroit attorney Leonard Mungo, an expert in the field of law enforcement community and race relations, explained that the present system of policing in cities around the nation would inevitably lead to the ignition of a powder keg of frustration and disenfranchisement. That would resonate around the country and result in the arrests of thousands of Americans – agent provocateurs included – and millions of dollars in property destruction.
“The response to the killing of George Floyd is symbolic of the kind of frustration and the kind of anger that has been fomenting in the black community for years. As part of the New Jim Crow, it has layers that our many times, but not always manifested in the form of police brutality. But it also manifests in the ability of African Americans to get a job, a home, a loan and the other privileges or rights to other Americans enjoy. It is a plethora of years of that built-up frustration and hopelessness,” said Mungo.
That outrage and sense of hopelessness that took place over the final few days of May in urban centers around the nation was compounded by the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY. The pain African Americans have been experiencing over the past decade of what civil rights attorney Ben Crump has declared as “open season” is exacerbated by the growing lists of African Americans killed in police exchanges over the past decade. Eric Garner in New York, Michael Brown in Ferguson, WI, Sandra Bland in Prairie View, TX and the scores of other black people who have fallen victim to taxpayer-supported atrocities are the apparent line in the sand of racial discord and the hallmark of racial disparities in America’s law enforcement practices.
Even though Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey took swift action, firing the officers involved and bringing criminal charges against the offender, it wasn’t enough. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ swifter firing of two police officers who accosted two Morehouse and Spelman students wasn’t enough as peaceful and potentially productive protests continued to spiral downward into violence and pandemonium.
“There are so many different factors that kick in. The offices who stood around and watched their brother in blue kill George Floyd may or may not have has the same racial animus as Derrick Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who executed the fatal arrest. But what happens is that even if they are not racially motivated, they are white privilege induced,” Mungo said.
The result of being a white officer with a badge and the authority to put down unrest creates a mindset that allows once basically decent individuals to standby and watch. Even if they don’t feel superior to blacks, they won’t risk the reprisals from fellow and commanding officers and they don’t want to jeopardize their standing and all that comes with it in their world of being white.
Mungo stresses that officer fitness standards also need to be addressed with annual testing to determine an officer’s mental capacity to perform to effectively perform. “Statistics clearly indicate that police officers are five times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome and depression than you find in the general population.” Officers also often experience [psychological] deterioration after serving three years to five years at their respective agencies.
“The problems underlying police-community relations in America are complex. But an essential component to fixing them is diversification of law enforcement agencies to reflect the communities that they serve,” concluded Mungo.
At the time of this writing as political demonstrations and community protests continue to erupt and escalate, the nation’s leaders have yet to issue a definitive address to promote social healing and racial remedies.