Police abuse redux

4/15/2021, 6 p.m.
When will the police abuse and killing of Black people stop?

When will the police abuse and killing of Black people stop?

What will it take for these continued tragedies to end?

The latest reports from rural Windsor, Va., and Brooklyn Center, Minn., demonstrate that the horrific death of George Floyd at the hands of police wasn’t enough to change the malevolent actions of some law enforcement officers.

Video of the disturbing traffic stop of Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario on U.S. 460 in Isle of Wight County show the wretched abuse that Black men are met with, regardless of whether they are in military uniform.

Lt. Nazario was never told by police why he was being stopped, even as he complied with their commands to show his hands as police threatened him with guns drawn and peppersprayed him directly in his face.

He was pulled from his car and knocked to the ground and handcuffed. No charges were filed against him.

One of the officers involved has been fired. The State Police, FBI and Attorney General’s Office of Civil Rights are investigating.

In suburban Minneapolis, 20-year-old Daunte Wright was shot and killed Sunday afternoon when he was pulled over allegedly for having air fresheners dangling from his rearview mirror.

The officer, who resigned on Tuesday along with the Brooklyn Center police chief, claimed she accidentally pulled out and shot her gun instead of her Taser. She has been charged with second degree manslaughter.

Richmond, and cities across the nation, continue to talk about training and reforms to prevent these acts from happening. But we believe the issue goes much deeper — the ingrained racism that enables white police officers to view Black people, and particularly Black men, as threats.

It is that deep-seated racism that prompts officers to pull their weapons from the start and then blame the dead person or the abused. Too many Black people and their families have had to suffer the trauma and consequences of such deeply embedded racial animus.

How do you eradicate such thinking that leads to the aberrant behavior by police in Windsor and Brooklyn Center? How can we stop police from becoming criminals?

Local efforts are not enough. It will take a national stand-down to deal with police reform.

It goes without saying that rogue officers who threaten, intimidate, abuse, hurt and kill must be held accountable for their actions, whether it is through firing, a loss of pension, loss of ability to ever again wear a badge or criminal prosecution, or any combination of the four.

We also must be able to hold the officer and his or her jurisdiction civilly responsible for such actions. And we urge Virginia lawmakers to end qualified immunity that shields law enforcement and their localities from civil liability.

The record $27 million civil settlement by the city of Minneapolis in the death of George Floyd will not bring him back. But it will help educate his youngest children and may help provide therapy for the others who still are suffering from his loss. Even more, it may put pressure on law enforcement officials to make changes and act more quickly when they suspect an officer of racial bias.

These atrocities must stop. The lives of our community members should not be abandoned to abusive police.