BALTIMORE – Out of Hattiesburg, Miss., has come disturbing and tragic news of two police officers killed in what was described as a traffic stop. One of the slain officers was 25-year-old rookie Officer Liquori Tate.
There are four people, all are Black, charged in the death of Officer Tate, a Black man, and Officer Benjamin Deen, who is Caucasian. Details of what happened are still emerging, but it has been reported that the shooting followed a stop for speeding.
Unwarranted death and the killing of someone with a commitment to honestly protect others is more than tragic, it is an affront to society and violation of divine law. The Bible says greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends. The Holy Qur’an, the book of scripture of the Muslims, says one who has saved a single life is regarded as if he has saved all lives and one who unjustly takes a life is regarded as if he killed all people.
In these verses, we have the principle that all lives matter and that those who seek to sincerely protect life are engaged in a divine work.
We pray for the healing of the family of Officer Tate, who we are told was living out a lifelong dream. His family is hurt and grieving. They need our support and our prayers.
But to have White media connect his death with the prosecution of officers in Baltimore who were connected with the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray is despicable. Six officers were accused in the death of Mr. Gray, and charges range from illegal arrest to additional accusations of failing to give medical aid and not securing the Baltimore resident in a police vehicle.
There is no connection between the call to hold police officers accountable for their actions and the wrongful killing of an officer.
Yet CNN and the White media seek to use this death, and other deaths of officers, to justify no accountability when it comes to Black lives and law enforcement.
The death of Officer Tate cannot be sacrificed on the altar of police entitlement and police oppression and justify brutal, negligent and deadly police behavior. His father described “Coco,” as the young officer was known to his family, as a “humane officer,” who treated people with care and respect.
Talk of a chilling effect among officers not so subtly hints officers won’t do their jobs for fear of facing charges. Three years ago the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland sharply criticized the Baltimore City Police Department “for failing to comply, in multiple critical respects, with a 2010 settlement in the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging a pattern of improper arrests by the department.”
An initial report from an independent auditor revealed “officers did not or could not justify arrests for quality of life offenses in at least 35 percent of the cases examined; that the BPD is almost one and half years late in creating a database to allow it to effectively monitor officer and supervisor behavior; and that the BPD is improperly refusing to give the auditor records of arrests that resulted in persons being released without charge, the very arrests most likely to be improper, and the ones that led to the lawsuit in the first place.
“The ACLU insisted on an independent auditor because we worried that the Baltimore Police Department would not live up to its settlement obligations in the absence of oversight,” said David Rocah, staff attorney for the ACLU of Maryland.
“The comprehensive settlement provides for significant reforms of the BPD’s arrest and monitoring practices. The suit, which was filed in 2006, and amended in 2007, was brought on behalf of 13 individual plaintiffs as well as the Maryland State Conference and Baltimore City Branch of the NAACP.
As part of the settlement, the BPD committed to new policies and training to ensure officers knew the limits of their authority, and would address low level offenses with actions short of arrest whenever possible. The agreement also required the BPD to implement a new system of comprehensive data collection and monitoring, which would be overseen by an independent auditor,” said the ACLU.
So there is a long history of officers failing to properly arrest people and that concern came up in the Gray case as officers could provide no real answers for why he was approached by police in the first place. Racial profiling is illegal.
Twisting of truth, insipid fear mongering and tacit threats do a disservice to good officers who do a difficult job in difficult circumstances. Many of these same officers are targeted and ostracized by law enforcement comrades for trying to make unjust institutions a little more just.
For a CNN host to ask if officers around the country will not do their jobs to the best of their ability and for “expert” Steve Rogers, a retired detective from New Jersey, to say it is happening already shows the depth of racial depravity in this nation.
Oppression is justified for any reason and any excuse can be used to demand that literally hundreds of loved ones of Black folk who die at the hands of officers each year shut up and suffer. Many of those whose loved ones were killed by police grieve for Officer Tate and his family. I do.
State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby was clear when she charged officers in connection with the Gray death based in a kind of depraved indifference and gross negligence. On at least five occasions officers ignored the young man’s pleas for medical help as he was shackled and helpless.
“To the rank and file officers of the Baltimore Police Department, please know that these accusations of these six officers are not an indictment on the entire force,” she said. “I come from five generations of law enforcement. My father was an officer, my mother was an officer, several of my aunts and uncles, my recently departed and beloved grandfather was one of the founding members of the first Black police organization in Massachusetts. I can tell you that the actions of these officers will not and should not, in any way, damage the important working relationships between police and prosecutors as we continue to fight together to reduce crime in Baltimore. Thank you for your courage, commitment and sacrifice for the betterment of the community.”
Using the death of Officer Tate to score points and pressure prosecutors not to pursue justice isn’t just a shame but heralds that death of a nation. Only justice and mercy can help a nation gain perpetuity and anything other than that fractures an already decaying and dysfunctional society.
Richard B. Muhammad is editor in chief of The Final Call newspaper. He can be reached through www.finalcall.com and at [email protected]. Find him on Facebook at Richard B. Muhammad and on Twitter: @RMfinalcall. His website is www.richardmuhammad.com. Catch his weekly segment Sundays at 8 a.m. CST on TouchFM.org.