It was August 9, 2014 when Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri.
This year, on March 13, EMT Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by Louisville police while sleeping in her own home. The police were at the wrong house – looking for two suspects who were already in custody.
Then on May 25, George Floyd was choked to death with a police knee on his neck in Minneapolis for 8 minutes and 46 seconds over a counterfeit $20 bill. He was not armed. He had already been restrained. And still he was treated by law enforcement as if his life did not matter. Or worse, as if his life—like the lives of countless other persons of color—was there for the taking.
Back in 2014, I wrote that “there must be zero tolerance for police shooting and killing unarmed black civilians.” Many people began to call for transformative change to policing with retooling (adding body cameras) and retraining.
But today law enforcement continues to operate on black communities, not for black communities.
The public outcry in 2020 is unlike 2014 and unlike any before, from big cities to small towns and around the world. With the proliferation of cell phone cameras and social media, a diverse coalition of more and more Americans are becoming involved and embracing the Black Lives Matter movement.
We must get to work on real transformative change that involve accountability and transparency. That is why I’m introducing a resolution at the Board of Estimate and Apportionment to advance, in part, the following Accountability Actions for Police in the city of St. Louis:
- elimination of the use of excessive force, including deadly force, against persons who are unarmed, subdued, or otherwise possess inferior force;
- development of an Officer Conduct Accountability Registry; identifying police officers who have engaged in misconduct that calls into question their ability to serve as impartial enforcers of the law;
- promote a Zero Tolerance Accountability Action Plan for police brutality towards unarmed members of the community equivalent to ending qualified immunity for police so as to provide equal justice under the law.
Not all of our decisions will be easy, and some changes will not happen overnight; but we must not let what is difficult paralyze us.
Asking for zero tolerance in excessive deadly force in police brutality is a big step, but it is a necessary action on our path to achieve equal justice under the law.
Darlene Green is comptroller for the City of St. Louis.