History vs. Hope

History vs. Hope

Criminal and Social Justice Maricopa County Branch NAACP Princess Lucas-Wilson, MSW, CPM 3rd Vice President

Criminal Justice & Law Enforcement Chair

In addition to the devastating effects of the COVID-19 virus on our communities across the county, within the last 30 days, we have become aware of three incidences in which African Americans have needlessly lost their lives. Ahmed Aubrey while jogging, Breonna Taylor while sleeping in her own home and George Floyd for being suspected of counterfeiting a $20 bill! While these three people lost their lives, it is important to also acknowledge that the systemic criminalization of African Americans contributed to their demise. The recent video of Amy Cooper (a white woman), calling the police on Christian Cooper (an African American Man) in which she fabricated a story of feeling threatened because she was asked to leash her dog, points to the long history in this country of the criminalization of African Americans.

A video of the encounter of four officers with Mr. Floyd shows indifference to his repeated statements of not being able to breath while one officer continued to press his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for over 8 minutes resulting in his death. It is important to realize that due to the history of police violence against African Americans that this act is perceived as a “knee on our collective necks”. An additional video appears to show more officers kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s body while he lay face down on the pavement in handcuffs!

We stand with the three Police Chiefs throughout the country who see the incident where Mr. Floyd needlessly lost his life as conduct that is not conducive with standard training or protocol. One former FBI agent who viewed the video perceived the incident as being a “homicide in progress”.

Generally, as the result of the Supreme Court’s 1989 ruling of Graham v. Conner, it is difficult to criminally prosecute police officers for acts of conduct in which lives are lost without cause.

While we are keenly aware of the history of incidences that resulted in unnecessary loss of life (such as George Floyd, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Philando Castille, Freddie Gray, Jordon Davis, Amadou Dialloh and many others) due to reckless police practices or citizens who feel that they have an innate right to stalk, judge, make false claims and even kill African Americans, we must have hope.

In the spirit of this hope, it remains prudent to remember when considering the pattern and practices of law enforcement that not all police officers use excessive force! It is also important to recognize that some recent developments provide such hope, as some police officers and citizens have received consequences for their actions. As the actions taken regarding these recent incidences are developing daily, we can hope that all four officers involved in Mr. Floyd losing his life are arrested and charged.

While the branch understands the grief, frustration and anger expressed, we all need to remain cognizant of the fact that property damage in response to these types of historical and painful injustices have dire consequences in the daily lives of our fellow citizens within our respective communities.