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The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: Bully Cops and the Blue Wall of Silence

Steffanie Rivers
Steffanie Rivers

*It’s been more than two weeks since that video went viral showing the modern-day lynching of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Were it not for protests around the United States and the world demanding arrests of the four policemen involved in his murder there’s no doubt they still would be on duty intimidating and killing somebody else.

There are countless videos that show police – in the line of duty – killing unarmed black men without provocation. Most police walk away without punishment or criminal charges: Remember Darren Wilson who shot and killed Michael Brown? He received paid leave from the police department for more than a year while his case passed through the court system. Those who are charged rarely get convicted: Remember Daniel Pantaleo who choked Eric Garner to death? Remember Jeronimo Yanez who shot and killed Philando Castile? The rare few who get convicted are sentenced to little time behind bars: Remember Amber Guyger got just ten years for walking into Botham Jean’s Dallas apartment and murdering him for reasons nobody still has been able to explain. And former officer Jason Van Dyke should have been sentenced to at least 96 years in prison. That’s six years for each of the 16 counts of aggravated assault and second-degree murder charges he was convicted of for shooting Laquan McDonald in Chicago. But the judge ignored state sentencing laws and imposed a measly six-year sentence for Van Dyke instead. So excuse me if I don’t exhale because of the murder and assault charges against Derek Chauvin and the three other police officers charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin when he killed Floyd on a busy street on Memorial Day with total disregard for Floyd’s life or the people who begged them to stop.

If anything video of protests these past few weeks have shown the world there are three types of law enforcement officers:There are good cops. Some are bullies, liars and killers. Then there are those who make up the blue wall of silence, because they’re too afraid to stand up to crooked cops.

The good cops show restraint and some even knelt with protestors. The bullies, liars and killers tear-gassed, tased and beat peaceful protestors. Then they lied on police reports, even as videos showed what really happened. No doubt they feel so emboldened because they have the protection of their colleagues who look the other way. And the criminal justice system is run by people who rarely – if ever – hold each other accountable. It’s Black and Brown people who suffer the most because of it. When I hear White men like Attorney General William Barr and Department of Homeland Security Director Chad Wolf claim there is no systemic racism in the criminal justice system, one must consider their skewed vantage point.

This is one of the few times in modern history that White people are showing concern for what it’s like to be Black in America. We have the viral video of Floyd’s death to thank for that, although I’m not sure why it’s taken so long for race relations to become such a hot topic. Still, as we move past the emotional pain of the way Floyd died, let’s be ready to state our collective demands for what we expect to gain from this tragic event and countless ones before it.

If anybody asks me what America owes us in exchange for slave labor, mistreatment, brutality and killings of Black people in this country for nearly 500 years I would start with these four things: (1) Reparations for ADOS – African Descendants of Slaves. The amount is negotiable, but $12 trillion is the starting point; (2) Education and Healthcare programs run FUBU – For Us By Us. We don’t want funded programs in lieu of the cash. Write the check and fund the programs. We don’t want revised versions of Affirmative Action where other protected groups claim money and benefits set aside for ADOS. Instead, we want to choose who runs the programs and who gets the benefits; (3) We want federal or state laws that punish people who knowingly make erroneous 9-1-1 calls. It’s been proven that law enforcement is biased against Black people. Recent events prove White people, such as Amy Cooper – who made a false 9-1-1 call about Christian Cooper, a Black man – are aware of the bias and are willing to wield that power to their advantage. There are laws against filing false police reports. Cooper should have been charged already. White privilege has protected her. (4) The criminal justice system should be overhauled, starting with requiring police to live in the communities they patrol. If law enforcement agencies refuse to address personnel issues inside their departments, let’s see if those bad cops will continue to bully, lie and kill people in their own neighborhoods.

We can stay in the state of outrage and sorrow but for so long. We must be ready to move forward and get all we can get from this event, this tragedy and this opportunity. Let’s make it count.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. Email her at [email protected] with your comments, questions and speaking inquiries. Follow her on Twitter @tcbstef.

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