Americans fear the people who serve to protect them

Written by Abenether Yonas

Imagine you’re a mental health care worker. It’s a normal day on the job, and you’re helping and supporting a group of mentally ill people. While working, one of your autistic patients, runs outside with his toys. Calmly, you go to coax him back into the facility, as this is basically routine for you. When you find him, you see him in the middle of the street, playing with a toy truck. As you approach to bring him back inside, police officers appear with firearms aimed in your direction and tell you and your patient to get down on the ground. You lie down to avoid any unnecessary confrontations with the officers but your patient doesn’t seem to understand what to do. As you are pleading for him to get on the ground, you explain your situation to the officers, begging them not to shoot. One officer, however, seems to not have heard a single word. As time slows down, you suddenly feel an excruciating and sharp pain in your leg. You realize that you have been shot, but for what reason? Unable to comprehend any reason for the action, you ask the officer why he shot you and he simply responds, “I don’t know.”

This was the case for Charles Kinsey, a 47-year-old married father of five, who works as a behavioral therapist at the MacTown Center for the Developmentally Disabled in Miami, Florida.

Kinsey is a lucky man though, as his injuries were not fatal. However, he has become another example of questionable police shootings in the United States.

In 2014, Michael Brown, an 18 year old African-American teenager from Ferguson, Missouri, was fatally shot and killed by officer Darren Wilson, a white policeman, after stealing cigarillos from a convenience store. Police reports confirmed that he was unarmed, and the news circulated throughout Ferguson causing an uproar. The St. Louis County grand jury were called upon this case and given extensive evidence from Robert McCulloch, the St. Louis County Prosecutor. On November 24, 2014, McCulloch ruled that the St. Louis County grand jury had decided not to indict Wilson.

Although this had not been the first case of police brutality in the United States, it led to an exponential rise in fatal and non-fatal police shootings towards individuals residing in the United States.

Eventually rising from the heat of police shootings, specifically of Africans Americans who seem to be unfairly or unjustly shot by police officers, was the #blacklivesmatter movement. Although statistics from PolitiFact show that more whites than blacks had been killed by police officers between the period of 1999-2011, whites make up 63% of the population whilst blacks only make up 12.3%. By breaking down racial populations, PolitiFact concluded that blacks are 3.5 times more likely to be shot by a law enforcement officer than whites. Statistics also show that 97% of police shootings in 2015 didn’t result in the police officer being charged for the crime.

People in the United States and across the world are becoming more aware of the ongoing police shootings in America. Even though a considerable amount of them are in self-defense, they are still unnecessary and unjustifiable according to other countries by statistics. According to The Guardian, 55 people were shot and killed by police officers in England and Wales in the last 24 years, compared to 59 fatal police shootings in the United States in the first 24 days of 2015. To go even deeper, Iceland, a country with a population of only 323,764, has only had one fatal police shooting in the nation’s 71-year existence, compared to Stockton, a county within the city of San Jose, California, with a population of 298,118, which had three fatal police shootings in the first five months of 2015.

Police officers, the very people we look up to for protection and safety, the law enforcers, are the ones that the American people are beginning to fear. Every seven hours, a person in the United States is fatally shot and killed by a police officer. Why is it that the people with authority, the justice system, are the ones that seem to be defying and breaking their own standards of justice? Police officers have to learn how to use their authority, a.k.a. their guns, wisely. The people of the United States won’t rest and lay low forever. If this abuse of power by the authorities keeps up, soon, there will be no authority, only war, between “justice” and people.

As one of the many black teenagers living in the United States, I fear for my life around the presence of police officers. My stomach jumps and I begin to sweat at the sight of those red, white and blue lights while driving. What if I become another statistic or example of police brutality in the United States, specifically regarding the African-American minority? What if one day, I get a dreadful and gut-wrenching call saying my brother, father, or mother have been shot and killed by the police?

We are paying the price for the lack of training police officers are receiving to protect us. On average, American police officers receive around 19 weeks of training, according to the Huffington Post, compared to police in Germany who receive 130 weeks of training.

It’s much more than a coincidence that police officers in the United States receive little training and have the highest fatal shooting rates by police in the world, it’s a fact. If we as American people want to feel safe around police officers, we have to enforce the fact that they need more training. If we do this, police will feel safer and less driven to shoot and kill a person based on their skin color or appearance, and the American people and police can finally have a safe and trusting relationship.