We have all been well-acquainted with the popular hashtag, #BlackLivesMatters, the new slogan for racial injustice that has been the result of countless deadly incidents predominantly between black males and specifically local police officers within the U.S. law enforcement.
This #BlackLivesMatter movement was not the result of a mandate by Congress or laws set forth by State governments. It is merely a fierce grassroots movement that has created enormous awareness to a series of incidents that have involved police shootings and unarmed black males.
In the early 1990s, black people in America were conscious of police brutality as was exposed March 3, 1991 when California citizen, George Holiday, used his digital camera to film the beating of a black male motorist by a group of white Los Angeles Police Officers (Myers). At the time grassroots organizations were created with goals to reform police behavior by creating community "watchdog system" to hold them accountable. Now, nearly 25 years later, views on policing has transitioned from "The Rodney King Beating," to "The Walter Scott Video," widely known as the cellphone footage captured by concerned citizen Feidin Santana. What may be best described as one of the most provocative armature police videos, Feidin used his voice of freedom to hold a South Carolina officer accountable for the April 4, 2015 shooting of unarmed black male, Walter Scott.
These two incidents just represent a small segment of events that minorities in urban settings have declared as the culmination of racial profiling. For years racial profiling was like an urban police legend and partly because there was often no video footage documenting any incident.
However, in 2015, with rapidly developing social networks and sophisticated smart phone technology, the ability to capture police interactions is almost guaranteed. As a result, law enforcement officers nationwide have begun to have a new conversation about how to do their police work in making arrest while avoiding getting arrested themselves.Six Controversial Shootings in 12 Months:
- (6) July 19, 2015
- Ray Tensing became the first police officer in the history of Cincinnati to have been charged with murder for killing someone while in the course of police duty. On July 19, 2015, University of Cincinnati Police Officer Tensing fatally shot motorist Samuel DuBose during a daytime traffic stop for driving without a front license plate near campus and Officer Tensing followed him for about a half mile before finally pulling him over. The incident was captured in full detail on Officer Tensing's department issued police body camera.
- (5) April 4, 2015
- The shooting of unarmed man, Walter Scott occurred on April 4, 2015, in North Charleston, South Carolina, following a daytime traffic stop for a non-functioning brake light. Scott, a black man, was fatally shot eight times in the back by Michael Slager, a white North Charleston police officer. The shooting of Walter Scott may go down as being one of the most provocative incidents that threatens the stability of American law enforcement and its ability to effectively police black Americans.
- (4) April 2, 2015
- The police shooting of unarmed Eric Harris on April 2, 2015 in Tulsa, Oklahoma features the error of a 73-year-old White reserve deputy who had mistaken his gun for a Taser following a botched undercover operation. The incident created a new perspective that has allowed court prosecutors to critique the actions of police officers prior, during and after they have exercised their discretion to use force.
- (3) November 22, 2014
- The police shooting of unarmed 12 year-old, Tamir Rice occurred on November 22, 2014 when a city police officer drew his weapon, shot, and killed Rice, who reportedly had a pellet gun. A citizen had called the 911 center to report a "guy with a pistol" outside a city recreation center, but the responding officers weren't told the caller said the gun might be "fake" and the guy might be a juvenile.
- (2) September 4th, 2014
- Unarmed Levar Jones was shot by Trooper Sean Groubert at a Circle K gas station on Broad River Road in Columbia, SC. The in-dash cam video was released and showed Jones getting out of his car when Groubert pulled up and asked for his license. Jones then reached into his car to get the credential, and as he did, Groubert began yelling at Jones to "get out of the car" and fired several shots. Jones later received $285,000 as part of a settlement with the state of South Carolina.
- (1) August 9, 2014
- The controversial shooting of unarmed 18 year-old Michael Brown on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri set the stage for a national debate on race and ethnicity and a blue print for modern-day urban rioting. Brown was fatally shot by Officer Daren Wilson after a verbal dispute that was said to have escalated into a physical confrontation. Following the shooting. Brown's body laid for over four hours uncovered in the middle of the street of the apartment complex where his family lived.
From bad to really bad
Other major deadly police related events like the choking death of Eric Garner On July 17, 2014, and the post-custody death of Freddie Gray on April 19, 2015, have driven the already fragile relationship between the police and black Americans to an all-time low. No one is giving police officers the "benefit of the doubt" any longer, and the masses have demonstrated that they are fully prepared to physically make a public display of their discontent and disapproval of illicit police authority. Public opinion about police officers, police tactics and even police statements are now heavily scrutinized by every news agency hungry to compete for viewers, followers and Facebooks "likes."
The seemingly new priority for police officers and police professionals is not to only Be on the Look Out -- BOLO for a "black male with a handgun." In this evolving new world of policing, officers are likely to Be on the Look Out for a "black male with a cellphone." Now police must begin and end their shifts hoping that they have convinced the public and black stakeholders that #BlackLivesMatter.
Many police professionals and their agencies have responded to this ripple in law enforcement by modifying their strategy when conducting routine investigative pedestrian stops and routine traffic stops. The sentiment from Washington suggests that American law enforcement must be prepared to dodge the politically focused pressure for constant calls of restorative justice from black mouths.
Moreover, police professionals and their agencies continue scrambling to quickly rebuild urban trust with black stakeholders by trying to be more aware of the police related events that sparked #BlackLivesMatter, and the consciousness that has now resulted in #BlackMouthsMatter.