Dollars and Change

Why saying “fuck the police” doesn’t cut it anymore
Current mood: angry
Category: Life

I can’t recall the last time I shed a tear over too much of anything in the news, not 9/11, not Jena, Darfur. The Sean Bell verdict did what an act of terrorism and a genocide could not: move me to tears. My heart hurts for the Bell family, his wife, and the two daughters that will grow up without a father. But most of all, I hurt for everybody who’s ever been killed or maimed at the hands of overzealous, cowardly and crooked officers.

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To continue saying “fuck the police,” at this point in time is counterproductive, and gets us nowhere. Sure, it makes us feel good (go on and say it now, you know you want to), but at the end of the day, we’ve wasted emotions and black and brown men everywhere will still be getting shot across the country and we’ll be left feeling powerless to do anything about it.

My blogging brethren J. Burnett issued a call to action, and if that was the alley oop, I hope this post is the dunk that hits home with somebody out there in cyberspace.

Barack Obama commented on the verdict today, saying, “Well, look, obviously there was a tragedy in New York. I said at the time, without benefit of all the facts before me, that it looked like a possible case of excessive force. The judge has made his ruling, and we’re a nation of laws, so we respect the verdict that came down.”

I don’t expect Obama to take a real controversial stance on the issue, and while his statement was, to say the least, disappointing, there’s a gem in there that we need to heed.

In a nation of lawless police, we are a nation of laws, which means that we can’t be content to march in the streets and we can’t resort to random acts of violence against law enforcement. We need to lobby our elected officials to change our laws.

“Dollars and change,” in the words of the late Johnnie Cochran. There’s no amount of money that will bring Mr. Bell back, but if the people who fund the police are made to pay EVERY time some rogue cop acts a fool, the police may think twice before drawing a weapon.

And we need to lobby for changes to the court system. Expecting the police to police themselves is ridiculous; expecting the local district attorney—who’s success DEPENDS on a good working relationship with the police—is equally ridiculous. Cases involving police misconduct should be investigated, at worst, by an independent body and at best by the FBI or Justice Department.

The three officers in the Bell case were likely acquitted because they opted for a trial by judge instead of a jury. This needs to change as well. Trials involving police misconduct should be MANDATORY jury trials, in a venue close to the location of the incident in question.

Bullshit rolls down, real change is an uphill battle, who’s willing to push the wagon for justice and equality? I seldom agree with Al Sharpton, but justice was aborted today. Let’s not allow Mr. Bell’s death to be in vain.

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