There are numerous examples of the need to effectively police, or perhaps monitor diligently, the activities and actions of the police. Perhaps the most eminent example of this emerging trend is evinced in the so-called Black Lives Matter movement, which is predicated on issuing social justice to African Americans who are routinely abused and even wantonly murdered by police officers allegedly doing their duties. In numerous instances, unarmed African American men were murdered by police. In fact, the names Michael Brown, who was killed by members of the police in Ferguson, Missouri, and Freddie Gray, who was murdered by the police near Baltimore, Maryland, have become synonymous with the need to cease these senseless and inexplicable murders conducted by authors in the pretext of doing their duty. A thorough examination of the each of these respective cases reveals that in both instances, the police were remiss in their actions, if not outright inhumane and criminal.
The death of Michael Brown appears to corroborate this fact. Brown was a young African American man who had recently graduated high school and was slated to attend college in the fall. The summer before he was to begin his post secondary education, he was caught on video camera pilfering some items from a gas station. Allegedly, the employee working at the time was intimidated by Brown—possibly due to his size or, perhaps, his race. Regardless, the employee was justified in calling the police about what amounted to petty theft (McLaughlin, 2014). Police officers pursued Brown and were supposedly unable to apprehend him immediately. Therefore, despite the fact that Brown was unarmed and grappling against a police officer with a bullet proof vest, firearm and, most importantly immediate access to virtually unlimited backup, the author felt justified in discharging his firearm and shooting down the fledgling college student’s life.
An analysis of the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of police officers near the Maryland area was perhaps even more dubious—if less clear. Gray was arrested by officers in this region. The facts clearly indicate that when he was taken in police custody, he was relatively unharmed, alive, and for the most part well. There is also documented information which indicates Brown was also handcuffed as part of his arrest. What followed next is unclear. What is indisputable, however, is Gray was taken into police custody. Somehow, by the time he was found in the police station, he was dead—apparently from wounds sustained near his back (Graham, 2015). Therefore, many have inferred that despite the fact that Gray was already apprehended, handcuffed, and in police custody, there was still some unfathomable reason to inflict acts of violence upon him until he was killed. Again, it is important to realize the fact that Gray was a solitary individual and unarmed. Still, despite the fact that he was subdued by police officers who were armed, vested, and in immediate communication with copious amounts of backup if needed, officers felt the need to inflict harm on this young African American until he was killed.
The justification for these deaths is equivocal, but generally revolves around the fact that police officers were concerned for their own safety—despite all of the foregoing advantages related to personnel, weaponry, and armor. In the case of Brown, these factors spurred the officer to shoot him. Furthermore, police are frequently taught to shoot to kill, since injured victims can still allegedly harm the officer, which is another issue that may need to be addressed by the criminal justice system. Any justification in the Gray murder would be based on the same defense, that Gray was somehow a threat that required force to subdue. When one considers all of the advantages police officers had in both of these instances, the threat posed by these unarmed men seems minimal.
Graham, D.A. (2015). The mysterious death of Freddie Gray. www.theatlantic.com Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/the-mysterious-death-of-freddie-gray/391119/
McLaughlin, E.C. (2014). What we know about Michael Brown’s shooting. www.cnn.com Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/11/us/missouri-ferguson-michael-brown-what-we-know/index.html