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America does not value the lives of black people

5/28/2020, 6 p.m.
There is no stronger proof of the truth of that statement than the 10-minute cell phone video showing the ghastly ...

There is no stronger proof of the truth of that statement than the 10-minute cell phone video showing the ghastly death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Mr. Floyd’s very humanity was denied Monday evening when he was put face down in the street, hands cuffed behind his back, and pinned down by an officer who kept his knee on his neck even as Mr. Floyd pleaded for help, saying that he couldn’t breathe.

Mr. Floyd’s very existence was discounted by three other police officers who ignored the yelling of by- standers to release Mr. Floyd as the 46-year-old father and security guard stopped begging, stopped moving and slipped out of consciousness.

The four officers’ firing on Tuesday is but a small price to pay for the death sentence they imposed on Mr. Floyd, who was taken into custody for questioning about suspected forgery at a nearby convenience store.

What price does America put on Mr. Floyd’s life? What justice will be served by his fatal encounter with men of the badge who swore an oath to protect and serve that community and the people in it?

These ongoing, unjustified killings of black people by white police officers only heighten black people’s fears and deepen their mistrust of authorities with guns and badges, even as the encounters tarnish the honor of decent officers and police departments everywhere.

Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Botham Jean, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson and Sandra Bland are just a few of their names.

“George Floyd’s murder is a painful and tragic indication that we have, in fact, entered into an era where some law enforcement officers, white supremacists and other radical extremists are feeling empowered to target, brutalize and kill unarmed African-Americans with impunity,” Congresswoman Maxine Waters wrote in a statement Wednesday.

So what do we do?

We believe we can uplift Mr. Floyd and make his life count — as well as the lives of so many other black people killed by police — by taking swift, determined and sustained action.

First, people of conscience must call on Minnesota and federal officials to investigate and prosecute the four officers to the fullest extent of the law. The FBI investigation and that of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension would be just a start. In addition to state murder charges, federal hate crime violations also may be warranted.

Secondly, we must call on Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo — as well as the top brass in police departments across the country, including Metro Richmond — to root out and remove the dangerous and poisonous people employed by their departments and to address the hiring, training, policies and practices that allow people like the four in Minneapolis to become police officers and subject others to their brutal behavior.

Thirdly, we believe the national NAACP should create and maintain a national database of police officers who resign, are disciplined, fired or sued for excessive use of force and aberrant behavior. Such a database would put police agencies and the public on notice so that bad cops cannot leave their jobs, move elsewhere and wreak the same havoc on another unsuspecting community. The four officers in Minneapolis should never be allowed to work as police — or even security guards — ever again.

Fourth, we demand that law enforcement agencies in Richmond and throughout the country establish independent citizen review panels to help ensure transparency and accountability from those who are sworn to protect and serve us.

Creation of an independent citizen board to review and address citizens’ complaints about police misconduct is neither an indictment locally of Chief Will Smith or of the 700-plus officers in the Richmond Police Department.

Instead, it is another way for law enforcement to build community trust, which is critically important during this harrowing time of national concern about police brutality and murder, racial profiling, unfair and disparate police practices and corruption.

Lastly, it is clear we cannot rely on the U.S. Justice Department, the U.S. attorney general or the current president to provide leadership in this tragic situa- tion. However, it gives us another stark reminder of the importance of voting in November so that the federal government can and will respond to the needs of people of color — and all Americans.

We don’t want calamities such as what happened in Minneapolis to become the norm.