6 Police Officers Across the US Were Charged with Murder This Week, Proving Strength of Protests|
This was a really bad week for (alleged) killer cops as cities respond following a year of nationwide protests
After months of sustained #BlackLivesMatter protests, there have been a seemingly unprecedented six indictments of police in the last four days. This signals a stunning departure from the long trend of non-indictments, most notably in the cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Tony Robinson.
The uptick in police indictments is not unique to this week, either. In fact, the rate of indictments has increased by 5 times over the course of the last 5 months, according to data compiled by criminal justice professor Philip Stinson.
The sharp rise in indictments isn’t the only change following the anti-police violence protests sweeping across the country. Americans’ confidence in police is at a 22-year low, according to a Gallup poll conducted last month.
The six indictments that took place since Monday include two former East Point, Atlanta officers charged with murdering an already handcuffed black man. Two Albuquerque police were indicted for killing a homeless man who had surrendered. A former Fairfax, Virginia officer was charged with murder for shooting a man who’d had his hands up—in his own home. Just today, a Maryland officer was charged with attempted murder for shooting an unarmed suspect who had already surrendered. Following his surrender, the police officer called him a “piece of shit” and shot him in the groin.
This week’s indictments follow a number of other high-profile police indictments: that of South Carolina officer Michael T. Slager for shooting a 50-year-old black man, Walter Scott, in the back; and University of Cincinnati officer Ray Tensing for shooting an unarmed black man, Sam DuBose, during a traffic stop.
More subtle changes are also taking place, regarding public attitudes toward the protests calling for police accountability.
“I would for sure say there are more people paying attention to the demonstrations,” said Cassandra Fairbanks, a journalist with years of experience covering anti-police violence protests.
Fairbanks also believes that the media has spent “way more” time covering police brutality and the resulting demonstrations over the years.
“At a lot of the protests I’ve been to lately I’ve seen more press than protestors—which is night and day from two years ago,” Fairbanks said.
Policy Analyst Adam Bates of the Cato Institute, a criminal justice expert, seemed to agree with Fairbanks.
“There is a growing awareness and concern for police misconduct regardless of political affiliation and a drive for reform,” Bates said.
In addition to the indictments and the dramatic shift in public attitudes and media coverage, Chicago recently became the first city in American history to pass legislation providing $5.5 million in reparations for police torture victims. And last month, Columbia University divested from private prisons, an issue commonly addressed by #BlackLivesMatter protesters.
The protests don’t seem to by dying down, either. Carl Dix, who co-founded StopMassIncarceration.net with prominent civil rights activist Dr. Cornel West, is planning an ambitious set of demonstrations to hit the streets in October, called Riseup October. Dix said these actions aim “to change the way millions of people see” the issue of police violence.
“The resistance of the last year has ripped things open, but the problems continue,” Dix said. “We feel the resistance needs to be taken to a higher level.”
“[The actions are] challenging people with that question of, which side are you on?” Dix added. “Are you on the side of acting to stop these horrors, or are you on the side of being OK with you that they continue to come down?
Ken Klippenstein is a Madison-based journalist who can be reached on Twitter @kenklippenstein
Paul Gottinger is a Chicago-based journalist who can be reached on Twitter @paulgottinger