Judge, jury & executioner: Police carrying out ‘death by firing squad’
Two high-profile incidences of police brutality have sparked outrage across the US. The first involved a police officer who tasered and pepper-sprayed a motorist, David Washington, who had suffered a stroke at the wheel of his car in Virginia. The second incident took place in Ohio after a cop, mistaking a backfiring car for gunshots, fired at the driver and passenger, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, respectively, up to 49 times.
RT:In general, do you feel that authorities’ responses have been adequate?
Mandela Barnes: We look at the decisions that have been made, the most recent with the [Michael] Brelo verdict – that was one of the tougher ones because what you saw is so many officers who decided to take the law in totality into their own hands. They executed the law – it was death by firing squad. The reason why the officer wasn’t found guilty is because they didn’t know who fired the lethal shot. Which is so unfortunate because who will be held responsible for this murder?
RT:Is there ever a justification for firing 137 times at an unarmed couple, as we saw in Cleveland?
MB: There is certainly no justification. This is the type of things that you see in movies; these are the things that you don’t even believe are real. To be in America and to experience this type of thing taking place, where the officer jumped on top of the hood.
First of all, that is very reckless for an officer to jump on the hood of a car, and then fire as many shots into the window, stopping to reload. This leads me to believe that this was not an officer who was in fear of his life. This is an officer who is bloodthirsty, who wanted to kill someone. An officer who wanted to do whatever he could to live out some wild video game fantasy.
RT:Could Cleveland see similar scenes of unrest like in Ferguson last summer?
MB: What the mayor of Cleveland said is that the city would not tolerate violence. What the city did when the judge handed out his decision was to say, “We do tolerate the violence,” in fact, because that was a violent episode that was tolerated in totality by the judicial system, by the people of the city of Cleveland. People should be very upset that something like that can happen, and someone gets away with it. That is the most important fact to remember – that someone is getting away with these wanton killings of unarmed citizens in this country.
RT:What do you think will happen next? Is there a sense that the police do want to reform? Or are they perhaps not getting the sympathy they deserve for a dangerous job?
MB: It is a total epidemic when you see so many episodes. You have isolated incidents, and then you have repeated isolated incidents. This means that there is epidemic of police brutality taking place. These police departments have to want to reform themselves from the top down. It takes leadership among the ranks; it takes people who are willing to step up and say: “Hey, I see something wrong.”
The rank and file in the police departments across the country to go to their superiors and say “I think there may be an issue,” because these officers who are carrying out these heinous attacks; this isn’t something that they wake up one day and decide they are going to behave in this fashion; these officers are typically display this type of behavior in the past. And someone saw it, someone knew, and unfortunately, someone didn’t say anything.
So rank and file members need to step up: captains, police chiefs need to express stronger authority in dealing with these officers who feel the law is solely in their individual hands, which it is not. They are not only acting as police officers, they are also acting as judge and jury.
RT:Don’t you think that the police also do require certain amount of sympathy, because they do a very dangerous job? And many of them do the job very well, and are putting themselves in harm's way every single day.
MB: I completely agree – there are so many officers who do their job effectively and do their job appropriately. However, there are some officers that take advantage of the authority that they have been granted by the state government, by the local governments. The authority which they have as officers is often expressed inappropriately. And that is what we’re seeing when you see these officers.
These people aren’t just firing just one shot. These people are murdering people in cold blood, these officers who have gone off the handle and decided that they want to deliver justice in their own personal fashion. When this happens, regardless of the fact that there are so many officers that do their job properly, it overshadows that. Unfortunately, the bad always outweighs to do that because we entrust officers with our public safety. When we feel that that isn’t happening, when we feel that our public safety can be compromised by an officer, by someone who to uphold the law, that’s where we see a lot of mistrust in communities.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.