More than a mistake

People take part in a vigil following the fatal police shooting of 20-year-old Black man Daunte Wright in Minnesota , in Washington
A person lights a candle during a vigil following the fatal police shooting of 20-year-old Black man, Daunte Wright in Minnesota, in Washington, U.S., April 12, 2021.

How many more times must a Black person be shot and killed by a police officer in America before this country fully realizes that something has gone terribly wrong?

Daunte Wright, 20, joined the list of casualties Sunday night when a police officer shot and killed him in a “routine” traffic stop in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota. The officer who pulled the trigger on him claimed it was a tragic mistake; she allegedly thought she had pulled out her Taser, not her gun.

A Glock handgun, similar to that which the officer had, weighs 34 ounces of heavy metal; by comparison, a Taser, made largely of plastic, weighs just eight ounces. The weight difference alone makes the officer’s claim almost implausible.

Even if this incident was merely a tragic mistake, as the officer claims, it proves her incompetence as a police officer — and she should no longer be on the force. But the first instinct to draw her gun, rather than her Taser, seemed to subconsciously say it all.

Police unions and their supporters in government have bristled at any new governance of police. In New York, they’ve seethed at attempts to restrict the use of chokeholds and ending qualified immunity, which effectively protects cops from being sued for civil rights violations.

But this case — along with other high-profile police deaths such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor — further underscores the urgent need for police reform in America, and in New York.

There must be a culture change within law enforcement that ensures “equal justice under law” for every American. In this moment of time, we shouldn’t have to live in a society where families of color have to give “the talk” to their children as to how to behave in interacting with police, lest they risk being shot.

No person in this country should get behind the wheel thinking that if they get pulled over for an infraction, they may not live to drive away. It is this scenario that causes further anxiety among Black and Brown Americans, and further distrust in officers sworn to protect and serve them.

The answer is not to tell them not to be anxious or mistrustful.

The answer is to eliminate the anxiety and mistrust by reforming police departments to protect citizens and officers alike — and to get rid of any officer incapable or unwilling to equally protect and serve.

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