Donald Trump went to Suffolk County on Long Island Friday and spoke to one of my greatest fears as the husband and father of black women. Unfortunately, like most other political issues, Trump left me with a greater fear than before he opened his mouth.
In a speech that was premised as a “tough on crime” rally against the MS-13 gang (but in reality was just a dog whistling bigoted play to his base following his failure to deliver on Obamacare) Trump encouraged officers to be rough with suspects, specifically as they’re loading them into the back of a paddy wagon.
While this immediately brought to mind the horrific case of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, the broader implications are far more terrifying. More than 700 people have been killed by police in 2017, making this year on pace to be the deadliest on record. Black people have been pulled over, killed without warning, provocation or posing a threat to officers and harassed by police at a per capita rate that is far higher than whites for years. Indeed, one of my childhood friends and I reconnected in recent years and he shared his story about his experiences with the police. He has been pulled over 23 times.
My wife has been pulled over a large number of times as well. I’ve taken the time to get to know the local police department and the chief as I’ve gotten more involved with municipal affairs in Hyattsville, Maryland. They do a good job of preaching community engagement, deescalation and turning the other cheek.
But it’s not like that everywhere, indeed the Prince George’s County, Maryland Police Department (the county side) saw more than 1,000 civilian complaints filed against it in 2014. Other police departments like the one in Ferguson, Missouri were found to be rotten to the core with racists and crooked cops.
With the Jeff Sessions Justice Department unwilling to act on behalf of targeted communities, it is up to us to speak up and demand police reform that ensures equal justice for police officers and civilians for assault, corruption and murder.