FIVE THOUSAND DEATHS

I have been trying to wrap my head around a recent report that declared that United States police departments have cumulatively killed 5,000 unarmed American civilians since 9/11. Though this number includes victims of all races, male and female, a disproportionate number have been black and brown. Some were drunk, some were mentally deranged, some were involved in traffic stops, some were pissed off and called the cops names, some were running away at the time they were shot, others were walking away, some were butt naked, some were in their homes, others were on their way home, some died in front of their families, others as strangers looked on. All were UNARMED. And there were FIVE THOUSAND of them. That's more people than were killed in the Pentagon, on Flight 93 and in the World Trade Center, COMBINED. We are a country that incarcerates more people than any other country in the world; we are among the world's leaders in the executions of prisoners, even though the number of men and women exonerated or found innocent of the crimes for which they were imprisoned, seems to increase every year. We are also the only developed Western nation that has privatized its prisons. Crime and punishment, life and death, as a matter of profit. Maybe I am reaching combining police killings, privatizing prisons and capital punishment, but I feel that there is a connection. Look at those stats again and convince yourself that an atmosphere of complete belief and trust in our criminal justice system on the part of any civilian population can exist, much less be maintained. Cleveland, Chicago, Ferguson, Charlotte, Staten Island -- grand juries can exonerate as many of these police officers as they want. We can all hide our heads in the sand and pretend that each of these questionable police killings has a logical explanation that basically lies at the feet of those who died, but unless and until we get involved and ask questions, demand changes, particularly not only in how our police officers are trained, but also who we hire in law enforcement (because that is a HUGE question in all of this), all of these matters will not go away. Black Lives Matter will stay in the street and their cause will grow; the Innocence Project will only find more cases of prisoners wrongly convicted, and the cycle of mourning, anger and rage will continue to grow, and it will move beyond being a "minority issue," the same way de-criminalizing drug addiction has moved beyond "minority communities" now that so many of its latest victims are being found in the affluent suburbs. Our politicians love to talk about working to forge "a more perfect union." Well, maybe getting to the bottom of this law enforcement crisis is a good place to start.

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