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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Opinion

Staff editorial: No justice. No peace.


For the past year, we have seen our country divided over minority deaths at the hands of negligent police officers.

Police have gunned down young boys like Tamir Rice, and men like Philando Castile have died in front of children. More recently, Terence Crutcher was fatally shot after his vehicle stalled in the middle of the road and police, who were in pursuit of someone else, came upon him.

We must place the value of human life above all else. This isn’t about black versus white or a “race war.” This is about holding the bad seeds of law enforcement accountable.

UH Police Department and the Houston Police Department need to set a precedent to serve and protect all citizens despite the color of their skin. Together with the UH community, we can set an example for the rest of the country and make this change.

An alleged thief, murderer and drug dealer all deserve their day in court. Police officers who take the law into their own hands or treat innocent men like criminals need to be stopped. Officer Betty Shelby has been charged with first-degree manslaughter for killing Crutcher in what authorities are calling a “heat-of-passion” shooting.

Shelby was on paid leave before the charges were filed.

On Wednesday, a Louisiana judge released a video from September 2015 showing two officers firing 18 rounds into a car and killing a 6-year-old boy. The officers involved in the shooting have been charged with second-degree attempted murder and second-degree murder.

Officers constantly act in situations in which they have to make split-second decisions. It’s important for an officer to know that fatally shooting someone without cause will lead to a conviction and not a slap on the wrist.

The military have their own escalation-of-force policies that must be strictly followed or the soldier is reprimanded to the fullest extent. It doesn’t matter if the soldier shoots a civilian by mistake or with malice — if the death was not warranted then they are stripped of their duties and are punished if found guilty of negligence. These punishments often include the loss of rank and the forfeiture of pay.

Our police have started to look more and more like the military from the weapons they carry to the vehicles they ride in. The old blue uniform has been traded in for body armor and the 9mm is swapped for an M4 or shotgun. We must raise the standard of our escalation-of-force policies along with everything else. This is the only way to help everyone and save lives.

The police are a valued and necessary part of our society, and we respect and give thanks for their service. But we must all become accountable and discipline those officers who shoot innocent people. Let’s punish those who commit murder and praise those who protect and serve.

Lethal force should only be used if a suspect poses a serious threat to the officer or another individual. Men like Crutcher deserve better and they will only get it when there’s change.

It’s time we work together as a community to recognize these issues. It’s time for a difference in our society and no more senseless violence and death.

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