Letter to the Next President of the United States
Dear Next President,
“We went two hours overtime because we had a child there who had lost her father, and we had to literally put our arms around this little girl, and embrace her, and let her know that this is why we’re coming together. We know that you’re hurting, and along with other issues inside, we can help you. Nobody else knows this path that we’re on, unless you have been affected by it.”
In an interview published in Geoff Gilbert’s article titled “Meet the Families Affected by Police Violence Who are Organizing to Stop the Killing” from Waging Nonviolence, a news organization founded on the principles of uncovering injustices within society, Cynthia Howell, a friend of a police brutality victim, explained the horrors she witnessed in her efforts to assist the families of African-Americans killed by law enforcement. Cynthia’s friend, named Freddie Gray, was “killed by police officers upon his arrest. Twenty-five year old Gray was not carrying any illegal weapons, but he was beaten and dragged by law enforcement, and the resulting injuries led to his death.” While Cynthia Howell grieves over her loss every single day, the offenders experience freedom. Punishment for police cruelty is virtually non-existent, creating a scenario in which officers who should be protecting the public can do the exact opposite and be free from retribution. Serious change needs to be made. This means that the men and women of law enforcement who choose to harm or kill suspects when no threat is present should consistently face strict consequences.
The issue of death caused by police is one of immense sadness. While the public’s knowledge of this matter has increased dramatically in recent years, the government’s proactivity has completely vanished. In fact, recent statistics prove that the issue is becoming worse. According to a 2015 Guardian article titled “US Police Killings Headed for 1100 This Year, With Black Americans Twice as Likely to Die” by Oliver Laughland, Jon Swaine, and Jamiles Lartey, “The number of people killed by police increased at an estimated 240% from 2014 to 2015, with African Americans being the victims once in every three cases.” Along with the thousands of victims who are directly killed by police officers, there are parents, siblings, children, and friends, who face anguish and pain indirectly. But while the suffering continues, the obvious solution is ignored.
Even though it is clear that unreasonable police violence has become a prominent problem facing this country, it appears as though no solutions are put forth. In analogical terms, when someone receives a cut or wound, bandages are applied to temporarily assist the stoppage of bleeding, but bleeding won’t stop permanently until the blood clots. Likewise, the issue of police brutality can be slowed by surface level measures, such as the implementation of body cameras, but can only be stopped when the true source is halted. The origin of police brutality is rooted in human psychology. In an interview conducted by the New York Times, and published in the article “Police Violence Seems to Result in No Punishment,” Columbia University professor Jeffrey A. Fagan argues that “people will refrain from wrongdoing if they believe punishment is real. But the legal system is incapable of creating the same kind of deterrent effects for police officers.” Fagan’s claim suggests that without consequences, humans will continue a specific behavior because they are not negatively affected by it. For police officers, this means that unnecessary violence will occur until real punishment is given. The lack of punishment is exemplified all across the country, but is most prominent in Chicago, a city with a high African-American population. In their article “In 702 shootings by Chicago police, Zero Federal Civil Rights Charges Filed,” Steve Mills, Todd Lighty, and Jason Grotto of the Chicago Tribune report that “Of the 215 killings by police in the Chicago area last year, not a single criminal conviction or civil lawsuit was settled in favor of police cruelty victims.” This shows that little to no consequences have been given to police as a result of brutality. And as Jeffrey A. Fagan insists, the issue will not go away until those consequences become a reality.
So I ask you, the next President of the United States of America, what will you implement to stop the irrational violence? People such as Cynthia Howell have not received justice in a country that should provide it. Repercussions need to be in place for the officers that commit cruel acts, and once they have, the disorder will come to an end. The problem is rooted in human nature, but if the framework for how police officers act is shaped properly, peace will be established.