Akeelah “Kee Kee” Jackson, a smart, beautiful, 12-year-old child, lost her life after being struck by a St. Louis County Police officer on October 14. The officer failed to turn on his lights and siren for 32 seconds as he pursued a car for a traffic violation. It takes one second to turn on the lights of a police car, an additional second to turn on the siren. That officer also drove 59 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour zone before killing Akeelah.
I doubt the officer that killed Akeelah with his reckless actions wanted to hurt a child; however, a child has lost her life, with her family left to pick up the pieces from his actions. The officer must be charged and held responsible.
After Akeelah was struck, St. Louis County Police Department public information officer Sergeant Benjamin Granda stated, “I think reasonable people understand that a police officer has a duration of time or space they need to catch up with a car to initiate a traffic stop.” What is “reasonable” is expecting an officer to take two of those 32 seconds to turn on his lights and siren.
Furthermore, we are taught in the Police Academy to turn on our lights and siren to be recognized as an emergency vehicle. We, as officers, are not given a grace period to speed. Just once, I’d like to see a police department immediately hold us accountable when our actions cost someone their life.
Please note that in 2018 two men, Mikel Neil and Townsal Woolfolk, lost their lives during an unauthorized St. Louis County vehicle pursuit. At the time, St. Louis County Police released a statement stating their officers were not pursuing the car. Activists later found video that showed they had pursued the vehicle.
It’s time for those 32 seconds to catch up to the officer that killed Akeelah “Kee Kee” Jackson.
Heather Taylor is president of the Ethical Society of Police.