(Todd A. Smith)

Police have a credibility issue.

And until police departments across the country take that reality seriously, many people from Black and Brown communities will continue to distrust them, especially in the wake of Jayland Walker getting shot approximately 60 times after a chase, while police in Illinois peacefully arrested Robert “Bobby” Crimo III after he killed seven people at a July 4 parade in Highland Park, Ill.

After an investigation into the killing of Breonna Taylor resulted in no indictments related to her death by Louisville, Ky. police officers, a former White high school classmate asked me an honest question.

He asked me why so many African-Americans still seemed upset after an investigation showed that Louisville police did nothing wrong in the death of Taylor?

My response to him was because many African-Americans had grown accustomed to police misconduct and cover-ups, it is hard for them to believe anything that some police say.

I wish I could go back and tell him the initial cover-up that followed the mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas is the reason why many people do not believe police officers regardless of if they were in the right or not.

After the mass killing in Uvalde, Texas, police (with the help of some unwitting politicians) made the police officers of the town look like superheroes, when in truth they responded like cowards.

Initially, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the police showed “amazing courage” by running toward the gunfire to eliminate the killer and save countless lives.

Abbott later said he was “misled” after investigations showed that Uvalde Independent School District police chief Pete Arredondo put the lives of officers ahead of the lives of helpless children with his slow response to the active shooter.

The Associated Press reported, “Police had enough officers and firepower on the scene of the Uvalde school massacre to have stopped the gunman three minutes after he entered the building, and they would have found the door to the classroom where he was holed up unlocked if they had bothered to check it…

“Officers with rifles instead stood in a hallway for over an hour, waiting in part for weapons and gear, before they finally stormed the classroom and killed the gunman, putting an end to the May 24 attack that left 19 children and two teachers dead.”  

Instances like the mass killing Uvalde, Texas, combined with the historical realities of modern-day policing, make it difficult for some people of color to trust the people paid to protect and serve them.

Although it is not taught in many schools, modern-day policing in America began to re-enslave Black people in the South.

America did not have a crime problem like it does today, so police were only needed to handle minor problems amongst its citizenries.

However, when the convict leasing system became a way for the people of the South and White-owned companies to re-enslave Black people, and make 100 percent profit from forced labor, the prison industrial complex began.

Well into the 20th century, Black people who came across a law enforcement official were in danger of being arrested for made-up offenses like not having a job without the White man’s permission.

Once arrested, the Black “criminal” would be given a fine for their offense.

When they could not pay their fine, a White plantation owner or White-owned coal-mining company, etc., would pay the fine.

The Black “criminal” would then have to work for free to pay off their debt.

Mysteriously, more debt would be added to their fines and the Black “criminal” would never pay off that fine, resulting in a lifetime of bondage.

Fast forward to the 1960s when the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement began to dominate the headlines.

Police departments often partnered with the FBI to assassinate leaders like Fred Hampton of Black Panther Party in Illinois.

Therefore, when Black people hear about the struggles that their ancestors endured at the hands of some corrupt police officers, coupled with some of the harassment that they endured throughout their life for no reason, it is hard to have the same trust for law enforcement that some White Americans enjoy.

It is like a man dating two women.

One woman he treats like gold.

The other woman he beats unmercifully for no reason.

How could the assault victim have the same respect for him as the woman he treats like a queen?

For centuries, many police departments have treated the Black community like that abused woman, while treating the White community like its queen.

When the Black community questions the treatment, many police officers respond like a cheating man by deflecting blame and making excuses for their behavior.

While the situation and jurisdiction are different, the different fate that awaited Walker, who was Black, and Crimo, who is White, makes it almost impossible for some Black people to think that their lives are as valued as that of our White counterparts.

For no reason, Crimo killed seven innocent people who simply wanted to celebrate America’s birthday.

Police knew he was a suspected mass murderer.

However, they still chose to arrest him peacefully.

I guess those cops involved in Crimo’s arrest did not fear for their lives, even when apprehending an alleged (at the time) mass killer.

On the contrary, police shot Walker 60 times because they feared he had a weapon on him as they pursued him by foot in Akron, Ohio.

However, Walker’s weapon was still in the car he had abandoned.

Reports say that Walker shot at cops while in the car.

While that may be so, and cops might have truly feared for their lives, what one man needs 60 shots to subdue him?

Furthermore, shouldn’t law enforcement officials have assumed Crimo had a weapon on him, even if he did not?

After all, he was a person of interest in a mass shooting.

Regardless, many suspected killers of the same hue as Crimo seem to get arrested without incident, while their unarmed Black counterparts end up in the morgue, on a t-shirt and as a hash tag.

When that seems to happen on a regular basis, it is extremely difficult to have credibility in certain communities who often end up on the short end of the police stick/baton.

Todd A. Smith
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