"I am sad to say I was not surprised at all by the decision to not charge the Minneapolis police officers who ended Jamar Clark’s life last November. Absent clear video footage of what happened, police officers who kill someone in the line of duty simply do not get indicted anywhere in this country.
"Hell, sometimes even clear video footage, such as in the cases of Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, is not enough for an indictment.
"We have a problem in this country that no other democratic nation faces. Various tracking websites have placed the number of police killings in America at somewhere between 990 and 1,207 in 2015 alone. There were 59 fatal police shootings in the first 24 days of 2015.
"In the past 24 years, there have been 55 fatal police shootings in England and Wales.
"No country makes for a perfect comparison. England has strict gun laws and provides free access to mental health care to its citizens. But taken as a whole, comparison to the rest of the world offers some truth. The fact is, we outpace the next closest country by a multiple of 100. This can not simply be explained by weapons laws and differences in health care availability alone.
"The main reason is because our criminal justice system places very little value on certain lives, black lives and the lives of people with mental illness. The American justice system has said, over and over, that an appropriate response to any threat is ending someone’s life.
"A police officer only need say they were worried for their safety or the safety of others. They have thousands of examples in recent history that they will not face consequences for their actions. Why would they worry? Fill up the body bag, fill out some paperwork, and move on.
"To most of us, Jamar Clark, Dustin Schwarze, and Mark Ringgenberg are just the latest in a long series of names that will run through our until the next time this happens. This is not just about them.
"Two weeks ago, police were called to a McDonald’s in Burnsville on a report of a man acting erratically. Witnesses said he was holding a knife. The police absolutely should have been called. But they chose was to open fire on him. The man, 39-year-old Map Kong – a father of two and native of Cambodia – died on the spot. Kong is not a household name like Clark, but it’s the exact same story.
"I can sympathize with police officers. Their jobs are very demanding, stressful, and thankless. Though it is a result of their own actions, every little thing they do is scrutinized closely. That can’t be easy.
"That said, it is completely unacceptable that a lethal option is many times the first option. Law enforcement in many other nations has figured out ways to do their jobs without an obscene amount of deadly force. We should be able to do the same, whether that change be realized through requiring increased use of non-lethal weapons as opposed to guns, or changing the way police killings are prosecuted, or something else entirely. I do not have the answers, but clearly there is something that we could be doing differently.
"The solution to this problem must be accepted by all parties. The people cannot be at odds with the justice system. Law enforcement and the rest of the justice system will need to make the first move. They are the side with all the power. They are the side that has said over and over again that ending someone’s life is an appropriate response to nearly any threatening situation.
"I for one am not willing to accept that notion. If you feel the same way, I encourage you to put the pressure on the government to make those changes, any way you can. The whole damn system is guilty as hell, and the only way we are going to change that is by getting out there and demanding the change.
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