Written By Samantha Gibbons, Age 16 Arizona, USA
It is no surprise that people from all across America have joined together for one common cause: to fulfill justice for those who experienced police brutality. Historically, racial inequality has been present; moreover, depending on a multitude of circumstances, it can be more evident for some than others. During the summer of 2020, there have been major cases that triggered protests around the country to occur. Because this current issue involves law enforcement, politics play a significant role in achieving moral justice. Political figures and their stances on this dilemma gives the United States different perspectives to see who separates status versus egalitarianism.
One of the most infamous scenarios of police reform is the case of George Floyd. The incident occurred in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25th, 2020. George Floyd worked as a bouncer but was laid off because of the coronavirus pandemic. He was going to Cup Foods—a local grocery store—to purchase a pack of cigarettes. He paid with a twenty-dollar bill, but the teenage employee believed it to be counterfeit. When Floyd refused to give the cigarettes back, the employee called the police. At 8:01 PM, the police arrived at the scene as Floyd was sitting with two other people in a car. After approaching the vehicle, one officer pulled out his weapon and ordered Floyd out of the car. The officer put his hands on Floyd and pulled him out of the car while actively resisting being handcuffed. Once handcuffed, Floyd became compliant while the officer explained why he was being arrested. When the officers tried to put Floyd in the squad car, a struggle emerged. At 8:14 PM, Floyd supposedly “stiffened up, fell to the ground, and told the officers he was claustrophobic.” Officer Chauvin arrived at the scene five minutes later and pulled Floyd away from the passenger side of the squad car, causing him to fall to the pavement. While face down on the ground, witnesses claimed that Floyd appeared to be within a troubled state.
Officer Chauvin placed his knee between Floyd’s neck and head as his fellow officers restrained him. Floyd was heard repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe, please.” For 8 minutes and 46 seconds, Officer Chauvin kept his knee in the same position on Floyd’s neck. As a result, Floyd became unresponsive six minutes into that period. Bystanders admonished the offices to check his pulse. JA Keung, one of the leading officers, complied and touched Floyd’s neck, stating that “he couldn’t find one.” Eventually, Chauvin removed his knee from Floyd’s neck at 8:27 PM. An ambulance was called, and Floyd was placed on a gurney. He was then taken to Hennepin County Hospital, in which he was pronounced dead an hour later. Officer Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. The other three primary ex-officers—Tou Thao, Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane—were charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. Currently, the trial is set for March 2021.
Another significant case that caused the uprising for modern-day police reform is the infamous death of Breonna Taylor. This case happened in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 13th, 2020. Taylor was a certified EMT who was simultaneously working two jobs at hospitals in Louisville. She had further aspirations of becoming a nurse. Louisville Metro police officers entered her apartment early in the morning as a part of a narcotics investigation on the night of March 13th. The officers did have a search warrant for her home, referred to as a “no-knock” warrant—allowing the police to enter her housing without identifying themselves as part of the law enforcement facility. However, Taylor was not the prime target. Records reveal that authorities believed the subject, Jamarcus Glover, used Taylor’s apartment to store funds earned from drug sales. Police had identified Glover at a housing facility more than ten miles away, a lawsuit claims. Yet, there is no body camera footage. Taylor and her boyfriend at the time, Kenneth Walker, woke up to the unforeseen entry. Rightfully so, they thought that their home was being broken into.
Walker acted in self-defense and fired one shot from his weapon. It hit Sergeant Jonathon Mattingly in the leg. As a result, the officers fired at least twenty shots into multiple homes. Forensic ballistic evidence concluded that there were bullet holes in other apartments. During the shoot-off, Taylor was shot at least seven times. Brett Hankinson, one of the officers involved in the case, “has a prior history of unnecessary force and corruption within his employment.” Myles Cosgrove, another officer involved, was previously sued for the usage of excessive force. In the trial, the judge sided with Cosgrove.
Because of this catastrophic event, the Taylor Case did go to the grand jury. In this trial, the grand jury stipulated Hankinson on three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree in connection with Taylor’s death. He is not charged with causing Taylor’s passing, but rather for “wantonly and blindly” firing at her apartment. Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, is pleading with the Kentucky Prosecutors Advisory Council to appoint an independent prosecutor to case her daughter’s death before a new grand jury. The state attorney general’s handling of the case “undermines the trust and integrity of the entire process.” FBI investigators continue to look into whether any federal civil rights violations occurred in the events that brought the LMPD officers to Taylor’s apartment and the events that followed her deaths as protests calling #JusticeForBreonna continues to be exemplified across America. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and Vice President Kamala Harris are one of many calling for a federal investigation into Taylor’s unrelinquished perishment.
In early 2020, two men by the names of Ahmaud Arbery and Daniel Prude experienced police brutality in which they both faced their last days on Earth. The case of Ahmaud Arbery consisted of two male citizens taking the law into their own hands. As Arbery was jogging in his neighborhood, he was shot by a father-son duo. Daniel Prude was facing mental health issues, not to mention he was reportedly seen as being compliant with the authoritative figures. Aimlessly wandering the streets around 3:00 AM, Prude was brutally killed despite supposedly acting respectful towards the local police. Knowing this, it can be concluded that their deaths were driven by racial discrimination by law enforcement on the specific case.
These nationally recognized events lead citizens of the United States to ponder a question that will determine the fate of social justice: where do foremost politicians stand on this issue? Both the Democrat and Republican reform plans are similar, but there are slight differences in phrasing that affects potential outcomes. For instance, Democrats want to prohibit the use of chokeholds, whereas Republicans want to encourage agencies to do away with chokeholds or risk federal funding. This meticulous phrasing can be applied to other recent dilemmas, such as wearing masks. Stemming from the Breonna Taylor case, Democrats would aim to ban “no-knock” warrants in drug-related cases. On the contrary, Republicans would track “no-knock” warrants. During former President Trump’s term, his executive order on police reform consisted of the following: providing incentives for police departments to further improve by tying federal grants to “best practices,” creating a federal database of complaints against police officers, encouraging the deployment of social workers to deal with non-violent cases, and allowing federal grants to departments that obtain certification of high standards regarding de-escalation training and use of force.
No matter what political affiliations one might have, it is a matter of human rights. The George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Daniel Prude cases are one of many that involve systemic racism and discrimination corresponding with law enforcement. With this in mind, it is necessary to call for social change within America to fulfill the justice for those who were victims of violent crimes.