By Michael G. Stogner
I say Thank You Maurice Goodman for mentioning Chinedu Valentine Okobi who I say is San Mateo County’s George Floyd. He also mention SMC’s most recent Homicide by 4 Unidentified Daly City Police Officers of Roger Allen who was killed on April 7, 2021. He did not mention the May 5, 2020 Homicide of Sandra Lee Harmon in Half Moon Bay by Sheriff Deputies but I understand his Opinion Piece is about Black and Brown modern day lynchings Sandra Harmon was white.
Daly City Manager Shawnna Maltbie is OK with her Police Chief Patrick Hensley NOT Identifying the 4 Police Officers Involved in the Roger Allen Homicide.
It’s great to see a San Mateo County Elected Official speaking up about the obvious.
Enough is Enough
The community’s relationship with police departments across the country is largely fractured because of a lack of trust and the lack of accountability enforced.
Like many Black and brown Americans, anxiety and anticipation surrounded the Derek Chauvin trial that has now resulted in a guilty verdict. A verdict where a former police officer was found guilty of the killing George Floyd, a modern-day lynching reminiscent of that of Emmett Till and so many other black men and women in America.
Our nation and most specifically the Black community have rarely seen white male officers held accountable for killing Black people. Apprehension, fear and anger remain as, no matter how indisputable the charges and the evidence, our fractured criminal justice system will falter.
More than 100 unarmed people having been killed or brutalized by police since George Floyd was murdered last summer, the trial of Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd serves as a reminder of the urgent need to pass legislation to hold police accountable, change the culture of law enforcement and build trust between law enforcement and our communities by preventing police brutality and allowing survivors and families of victim’s access to accountability and justice. Congress must act as a first step to addressing the ongoing issue of police brutality at the federal level by ending qualified immunity and enacting a federal database, so we have transparency with the law enforcement that serves our community. Locally, there must be a continued focus on training with an emphasis on proven best practices to provide more restrictive use-of-force standards.
Coupled with training, departments, city, county and state leaders must also address the need for more accountability; officers who kill or brutalize people should be prosecuted and convicted. The standards that must be met to prosecute officers for unconstitutional acts are significant. Current law requires evidence that an officer intended to kill someone. The standard should call for prosecution when an officer is reckless, kills or brutalizes someone. The standard in the courtroom shouldn’t be whether Derek Chauvin meant to kill George Floyd or not. George Floyd is dead at the hands of an officer sworn to serve the public and enforce the law. Those responsible must be held accountable to send the message that we as a society will not tolerate police recklessness and abuse of authority.
Another area for reform is transparency; the public deserves to know if officers are corrupt, dangerous and/or abusive. Dangerous officers should be prevented from moving from one department to another to avoid accountability. We should not have to wait for such federal legislation to do so, local and state authorities should lead in this area if we are to truly protect and serve our communities in any meaningful way. Any officer under investigation for any form of misconduct or potentially criminal act against a person should be identified in a timely and transparent manner to prevent such officer the luxury to voluntarily leave a position only to be hired as an officer elsewhere. Departments and cities should inform the public about an officer’s history of disciplinary action by recording it in an accessible database.
Lastly, and arguably the most important reform of all is a recommitment to decency and humanity. From racial and religious profiling to inherit bias during simple stops or police interactions, there is a multitude of starting points for evaluating the lens officers use while policing, and just as officers and their loved ones want them to make it home at the end of their shift in a chosen career with known risks, it is that same expectation that people of color and their loved ones have, yet there shouldn’t be any anticipated risks with simply being Black or brown. The call for justice comes at a monumental cost, that this nation will need to start paying back immediately through legislation that enforces accountability on our law enforcement and justice system.
Countless victims like George Floyd, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, Derrick Gaines, Chinedu Okobi, and now Daunte Wright and Roger Allen, have had their obituaries reopened, edited, rewritten, day after day. Our country has been relegated to no longer allowing the victim to rest in peace, but forcing their lives to be marred by public perception, criticism and opinions as a method of rationalizing death as if our lives are expendable. What we’ve all witnessed during this trial has confirmed what we saw in the video. Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd. Enough is enough.
Maurice Goodman is a trustee on the San Mateo County Community College District Board of Trustees; assistant treasurer, NAACP, San Mateo branch; and executive director of a community-based nonprofit that focuses on community and police relations. He lives in South San Francisco.