The homicide of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has precipitated the greatest American unrest in decades, probably because this is merely one more on a long list of killings of black citizens who posed no physical threat to anyone.
Evidence mounts that law enforcement gangs are riddled with racists.
There is confirmation of unconstitutional interference with news reporting by police. Nieman Lab at Harvard University reports that U.S. police have attacked journalists more than 100 times in the past four days.
While policing is largely governed by local authorities, the U.S. President is more interested in oppression than in moving toward a more just society.
Donald Trump’s horrid response to expressions of sympathy for crimes suffered by persons of colour was described by television commentator Stephen Colbert:
At times like these, we need empathetic and moral leadership. Unfortunately, we have Donald Trump.
…People are upset about systemic racism and a society that over-polices and imprisons black people and Trump’s solution is to do more of that?
The murder of George Floyd outraged people outside the USA to a surprising extent.
Vancouver witnessed a large but peaceful protest against the Floyd killing.
It is easier though to be critical of racist behaviour elsewhere than in our homeland.
A week ago, BC Supreme Court Justice B.J. Brown delivered reasons for judgement in a lawsuit that followed the 2014 unlawful arrest and assault of Irene Joseph by RCMP Constable Darrin Meier.
Not a homicide, but this was a violent crime by a policeman against a physically handicapped indigenous elder.
Young first nations people are in danger as well.
After Jamie Haller said she was assaulted by a police officer, current Attorney General David Eby—then Executive Director of BC Civil Liberties—said:
We keep getting called about the Williams Lake RCMP. I don’t know what’s going on there but, I do know that there’s a long history of conflict between Aboriginal communities there and the RCMP.
Irene Joseph was not only physically abused by the Smithers police officer but she was further victimized by the RCMP and the Attorney General of Canada.
Instead of reviewing the circumstances and apologizing to Ms. Joseph and making suitable payment for her injuries, Canada and its national police force dragged this out for more than five years, offering a defence that was almost entirely rejected by Justice Brown.
Using subtle language that is common in such cases, the judge found Cst. Meier’s evidence was unreliable. She stated there were no reasonable grounds to arrest Ms. Joseph and faulted the officer for his behaviour:
 Ms. Joseph was 61 years old at the time of the incident. She walked with a walker. …it would have been obvious to all that she had limited mobility and hence used a walker. Things rapidly escalated when Cst. Meier decided to handcuff her. It is at that point that he decided to take Ms. Joseph to the ground, resulting in her injuries.
 There were other options available to Cst. Meier. He did not need to attempt to handcuff her. He did not need to struggle with her. He did not need to take her to the ground and continue to wrestle with her.
Sometimes official actions rooted in racism result in fatalities; sometimes the victims are injured physically. Other times, harm is less obvious, but with consequences that shape lives.
New York Times podcast The Daily provided an example in final moments of its June 1 episode. Correspondent John Eligon asked Minneapolis protester Maya Haynes why it was important to be on the street risking arrest. She answered:
My younger brothers. They’ve been profiled since they were eight years old. A white woman got her bike stolen, and they took my brothers while they were riding their bikes on the way to get a haircut and put them in the back of a police car. And taunted my baby brothers, asking — and pulled this white woman up to let her be the judge if they were guilty or not. That’s why I’m out here.
We’ve seen numerous examples of racist and antisemitic behaviour in and around Vancouver. If these dreadful acts are to be eliminated, all of us must oppose them vigorously.
When racism is apparent in the way public servants perform duties, the consequences, including prosecution of those individuals, should be harsh and justice quick. Governments should not hide behind legalisms and use delaying tactics that signal official tolerance of wrongful acts.
An old legal maxim should be observed:
Justice delayed is justice denied.
Never should it have taken five years to settle the complaint of a senior who had done no wrong. The assault of Ms. Joseph was obviously not as serious as the suffocation of George Floyd but the similarity between the two incidents is excessive use of force.
One solution has been offered.
…female officers interviewed believed they were more communicative, more skillful at de-escalating potentially violent situations and less confrontational…
These photos show opposite extremes:
Maslow’s hammer applies:
If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
POLICE USE OF FORCE POLICIES CURRENTLY LACK BASIC PROTECTIONS AGAINST POLICE VIOLENCE
These policies often fail to include common-sense limits on police use of force, including:
- Failing to require officers to de-escalate situations, where possible, by communicating with subjects, maintaining distance, and otherwise eliminating the need to use force
- Allowing officers to choke or strangle civilians, in many cases where less lethal force could be used instead, resulting in the unnecessary death or serious injury of civilians
- Failing to require officers to intervene and stop excessive force used by other officers and report these incidents immediately to a supervisor
- Failing to restrict officers from shooting at moving vehicles, which is regarded as a particularly dangerous and ineffective tactic
- Failing to develop a Force Continuum that limits the types of force and/or weapons that can be used to respond to specific types of resistance
- Failing to require officers to exhaust all other reasonable means before resorting to deadly force
- Failing to require officers to give a verbal warning, when possible, before shooting at a civilian
- Failing to require officers to report each time they use force or threaten to use force against civilians
It may be comforting to deny that racism is real, here or throughout the nation to the south. Humans have an ability to analyze complex information but they also have the capacity to ignore facts directly before them.
The New York Times headlined an AP article, titled ‘Death By Racism’: Part of America’s DNA From the Start?.
Imagine, for a moment, that you are a black man or woman living in America in 2020. How could you not believe that racism kills?
If you are black, you need not imagine anything. You know it very well.
You don’t need to see the video of George Floyd, a police officer’s knee on his neck as he struggled for his dying breaths, to know that black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than are white people.
You don’t need to hear the racial statistics on COVID-19 to know that black people have been affected disproportionately — the same is true of eight of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States. Even before the pandemic, black life expectancy was 3½ years shorter than white…
“It’s not just how could you not believe that racism is killing you if you are black,” said Brittany Packnett Cunningham, founder of Campaign Zero, which fights police brutality. “How could ANYBODY not realize the lethal nature of racism?”
…If whites are surprised, Cunningham said, it is only because they view the world through rose-colored, Caucasian glasses.
Indigenous people in Canada suffer similarly, with life expectancy 15 years shorter than other Canadians and the incidence of disease and infant mortality far higher.
More than 30% of inmates in Canadian prisons are Indigenous – even though aboriginal people make up just 5% of the country’s population.
An article by Natasha Simpson at The Tyee provides from conclusive statistics:
…The CBC set out to compile a database of every person who died or was killed during a police intervention from 2000 to the end of 2017. Researchers gathered information on race and ethnicity from a variety of sources and found Black and Indigenous people were severely overrepresented.
In Winnipeg, for example, Indigenous people made up about 10.6 per cent of the city’s population in that period. But more than 60 per cent of the people who died in police encounters were Indigenous. (In April, Winnipeg police officers shot and killed three Indigenous people in10 days.)
In Toronto, Black people accounted for 37 per cent of victims. They make up slightly more than eight per cent of the population.
Other reports have shown similar patterns. In November 2019, the Globe and Mail reported that between 2007 and 2017 more than one-third of people shot to death by the RCMP were Indigenous. Indigenous people make up less than five per cent of the population…