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An honest view of recent police shootings

By From page A8 | August 23, 2014

The recent violence in Ferguson, Missouri, exposes the ongoing issues of racial tension and the use of deadly force by police.

As the civil unrest settles around yet another controversial officer shooting death of an unarmed young black male, the country seems to be further divided over the past five years than during the civil rights era in the 1960s. As I watch in distress at the recent scenes in Ferguson, the images look a lot like Selma, Alabama, in 1963. I am ashamed to have to explain this drama to my 9-year-old son.

In 2014, with an African-American president, we seem to have overcome much of the racial discrimination that was so blatant 50 years ago. At the same time, we face the ugly reality that screams that some things have not changed. In the highly tense debates on the air, in print and online, some have compared the recent violence against black males to the southern lynchings that were so frequent during the 1940 and 1950s.

There are some alarming statistics compiled by the Department of Justice that analyze racial bias in police shootings. They reveal that there is a disproportionately high number of minorities who have died from the actions of police. Within the past month, there have been four unarmed black men killed by police.

  • Eric Garner of Staten Island, New York, died July 17 after being restrained by an apparent choke hold – a tactic that has been banned by the NYPD since 1993.
  • John Crawford of Beavercreek, Ohio, was shot and killed by the police Aug. 5 while carrying a BB rifle that he obtained from the same store where he was shot.
  • Ezell Ford of Los Angeles was shot and killed Aug. 11 after a brief scuffle with the police.
  • Dante Parke of Victorville died Aug. 12 after being shot with a stub gun repeatedly after being detained for allegedly stealing a bike.

Whether these incidents were within police operational procedure or not, there is still reason for concern and these incidents are worthy of an investigation.

With family members and several close friends who are police officers, I am torn between the perceived injustice toward young black men and the unfair representation of law enforcement agencies. As a youth advocate, mentor for young men and father of three sons of my own, I am personally affected by these recent events. It is so challenging for me to not react emotionally when anyone, particularly a young black male, is killed for any reason.

The desire to maintain a balanced perspective led me to a much-needed conversation with Fairfield Police Chief Walt Tibbet. He provided an insight and viewpoint that often gets lost in the propaganda and sensationalism that is regularly broadcast by the mainstream media. He talked about officer training techniques and escalating use of force. In our talk, I learned about the process of disciplinary action taken when an officer acts outside of department policies, procedures and training.

There is so much at risk from a police officer’s perspective that most civilians don’t appreciate. There are many more responsible and positive officers than not and they do a great service to the community that they serve. Unfortunately, the high-profile mistakes that some officers make unfairly taints the nobility of the entire law-enforcement profession.

With much respect to all the honest police officers, there must be more accountability for the bad seeds that exist in the field. As in most environments, the staff performance is a reflection of the leadership. If these incidents are not dealt with to the limit of the law, then the leadership is guilty of facilitating these deadly crimes against citizens that they have sworn to protect.

Deon D. Price is a youth life skills coach and author. He can be reached at www.thisyouthgeneration.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/youthgeneration.

Deon Price


Discussion | 5 comments

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  • The SugarJarAugust 23, 2014 - 5:30 am

    I appreciate the nuance and balance in your columns. I feel as if I've learned something each time I read your column.

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  • Deon PAugust 24, 2014 - 4:20 am

    The Sugar Jar, I appreciate your response. Enlightening readers is the reason I write. Thanks for reading.

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  • John AndersonAugust 23, 2014 - 11:11 am

    Fact is: the overwhelming violence against black males- and that's practically EVERY single bit of it- is committed by OTHER black males!

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  • mdsAugust 23, 2014 - 8:39 pm

    Mr. Price, the biggest problem in all of this is people jump to conclusions without all the facts. And the media fuels this. From day one it has been reported as "police killed an unarmed teen." Just those very words seem to imply that the police were in the wrong. Immediately, without any other information, people jumped to that conclusion. People are under the wrong impression that a person has to be armed to be a threat to police. That is not true. But once people jumped to these conclusions they won't back off, no matter what other evidence comes out. Even when people found out Michael Brown had just committed a strong armed robbery that didn't matter. Even when evidence came out to suggest Michael Brown attacked the officers and tried to take his gun, people didn't want to hear that. Even when evidence came out that Brown may have been charging toward the officer at the time he was shot, nobody wanted to hear that. All they wanted to believe was the police shot an unarmed teen who was an angel and on his way to college and nothing else matters to them.

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  • Deon PAugust 24, 2014 - 4:17 am

    Mds, Interesting perspective. As you and others have criticized the media for using the words "Cop killed..." Lets clarify that the word "kill" doesn't imply a criminal act. A heart attack kills, cars accidents kills. It is defined as - to cause the death of a person. The word "Murder" which is what some are saying about these recent police incidents mentioned in this column, is a much more accusatory term. Regardless of whether it was justified or not, the fact is true, the cop did kill an unarmed citizen. Also, you mentioned the speculated evidence of what Michael Brown did or didn't do, its interesting that you failed to mention the most relevant peace of evidence which is, several eye witnesses that claim to see the officer shoot Brown while he was down with his hands up. How did that critical piece not get your attention? Oh, and FYI, the biggest problem is not people jumping to conclusions, it's when some police officers who violate their authority and cross the line into using excessive force. The reality is that there are officers who actually do the wrong thing. When it happens we have to make sure they are prosecuted just like any other perpetrator of a crime.

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