Another Police Killing of a Black Unarmed Civilian – By Yvonne Sam

Another Police Killing of a Black Unarmed Civilian— The Hidden Facts behind the  Visible Acts

By Yvonne Sam

Is the police fostering racial inequality? Or is it how society is structured?

Another police shooting! Another Black harmed, once again unarmed!. Each year in America there are more than 1,000 fatal shootings by police, and the victims are inordinately black.  In 2014, the shooting death by police of unarmed teenager Michael Brown ignited country- wide protests and produced the Black Lives Matter movement.

Now the recent killing of Stephon Clark in his own backyard in Sacramento, California,  has once again given rise to the question– how much change has there been?   

Will a true change ever be seen? His death follows on the heels of high profile police shootings of black men in recent years, —-Tamir Rice, Philandro Castile, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Terrence Crutcher. According to the Washington’s Post Fatal Force Database of the 230 people shot and killed by police in 2018, 38 were identified as Black in news report

On Sunday March 18, Stephon Clark, a 22 year old father of two was gunned down in the backyard of his grandparents’ home. Police officers as well as a helicopter from the Sacramento County Sheriff Department were allegedly responding to reports of a man breaking car windows. The deputies in the helicopter recorded seeing a man in a nearby backyard, armed with a toolbar, and began to point the ground officers to that location. The officers approach the location, see him around a corner and begin firing within three seconds. According to the Police Department, Clark turned and began to advance toward them with extended arms and holding an object in his hands.  The two police officers within seconds of encountering the victim, reportedly discharged a total of 20 rounds, but the only object discovered near his lifeless body was a cellphone belonging to the mother of his two children. The implicated officers in the fatal shooting, both allegedly wearing body cameras have been employed by the Sacramento Police Department for less than five years, and are currently on paid leave while the investigation continues.

According to independent experts footage from both the police body cameras and the helicopter have raised more questions than answers. A professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina, as well as an expert on police use of force, has posited that the two officers responsible may experience a tough time in reasoning away why they jumped to the conclusion that Stephon Clark was the possessor of a firearm. He further questioned the rationale behind why did an arriving back –up officer have the two already involved officers deactivate the microphones on their body cameras, thereby erasing what he termed “important evidence”

According to Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, first aid should have been rendered immediately by the two officers instead of waiting five minutes for back up.

Research has shown that there still exist significant disparities in the police use of force, and the longer these flaws and injustices remain unaddressed, the longer they fester away.

America has failed to curb law enforcement practices and the use of deadly force, and this recent senseless killing bears an air of inevitably. The aftermath of police fatality incidents  involving unarmed civilians have common outcomes The police are not indicted, and to add insult to injury are rarely convicted, which simply means that the victims’ families receive at best a lump sum settlement rather than justice.

Across America communities continue to display their outrage for the lack of accountability for officers behaving badly, and the number of black males who die at their hands. We know a lot about the deceased, but by similar token we do not know much about the two officers who fired the shots. We have no information as to their past record, whether there is a history of excessive use of force, or how many times either have pulled a gun or shot a civilian. Do not hold your collective breaths, as nothing here will change.

Thanks to the California law enforcement lobby, personnel records of peace officers remain completely confidential only to be discussed in closed door hearings. Information on issues such as promotions, discipline, annual appraisals or any further information of disclosure, which would in any way form a groundless invasion of privacy, is not privy to the public.

This jurisdictive embargo called the California Peace Officers Bill of Rights came into law, in part, during the final months of the first term of Governor Jerry Brown. What began as an exercise to protect police officers and the integrity of their work, mushroomed over time into more and more coverage to officer impropriety. California’s highly organized police unions have opposed all efforts to phase out those laws arguing that it could affect police safety.

According to Jim Chanin, a former American Civil Liberties Union, on the issue of police secrecy, California is the most restrictive state in the nation. “It’s California’s dirty little secret Yet another hedge of protection is the California Penal Codes  section 832.7 and 832.8  passed in 1978, which bans the public release of police disciplinary files without the consent of the court.

It is blatantly obvious that the cards are not evenly stacked, and the senseless of killing of unarmed Blacks will continue once the element of change within the police forces remains an elusive factor. In fact, the existing legal framework surrounding state-sanctioned police secrecy has converted California into a safe haven for cops. It is beyond time that this must stop. Granted being a police is by no means an easy job, but the public needs to know that the force has invested in representatives who  are interested in the communities they serve—- that the officer that we encounter does not have a proclivity for brutality,  and that being black does not mean  there is a lack.  The writing is already written on the wall – the killing of Stephon Clark, yet another black male, will not bring about a change as California’s laws have kept it totally out of range.  While we can all benefit from transparency, sadly it is not meant to be.

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