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Protesting ignorance

OPINION

BY LEN CABRERA

In Gainesville and cities across the country, protestors are using George Floyd’s death to claim they care about black lives, but really they are just demonstrating ignorance about policing and providing cover for evil people who are destroying lives and property. This is what happens when government officials, news outlets, and advocacy groups treat us as groups rather than individuals.

Even City Commissioner Gigi Simmons felt the need to give a 15-minute rant at the June 4 meeting. What exactly are people protesting in Gainesville? Is there really systemic racism when over half the city commissioners are people of color, the chief of police is black, and nearly one third of GPD’s sworn officers are minorities?

The Floyd case got lots of media attention even before the protests started. The day the video went public, all four officers were fired. Three days later, the kneeling officer (Derek Chauvin) was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He was jailed, with bail set at $500K. The system was working to punish the culprits, but protests and politics don’t ensure justice.

Chauvin’s charge has now been upgraded to second-degree murder, and the other three officers were charged with aiding and abetting. Whether that was in response to evidence or public pressure is unknown. However, the other officers had bail set at $750K, a ridiculous sum given Chauvin’s bail and the fact that their pictures are all over national news. They are not flight risks and are likely in more danger out in public than behind bars. (In fact, Chauvin’s house had to be protected from an angry mob. Where were the accusations of vigilantism?)

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Justice will not be served by over-charging Chauvin in response to public pressure. Changing from third-degree murder (max 25-year sentence) to second-degree murder (max 40-year sentence) requires the prosecutor to prove intent. Upgrading the charge to appease protestors makes the prosecutor’s job more difficult. Also, the protests and media hype could taint the jury pool. A failure to convict, via over-charging or a mistrial, would be a miscarriage of justice and would likely lead to even more protests in the future.

While protesters claim to care about Floyd’s life, they’re silent on the many people killed by violent protestors and rioters. Unlike Floyd, these victims rarely get follow-up stories. Most don’t even get identified by name in news stories that instead continue to repeat details about the Floyd killing to justify the protests.

Here’s a short list of identified people who were killed in violent protests in the past few days:

And here’s a partial list of officers who were injured during protests:

  • Shay Mikalonis (29) in Las Vegas, NV, a police officer shot by a protester
  • Ronald Ensminger, Jr, in Buffalo, NY, a State Police officer hit by a protestor in an SUV
  • Randall Shenfefiel in Buffalo, NY, a State Police officer hit by a protestor in an SUV
  • 4 unnamed police officers shot in St Louis, MO (where protestors were obviously complaining about racist policing despite having a black chief of police)
  • 2 unnamed police officers injured in Knoxville, TN
  • 2 unnamed police officers shot and 1 stabbed in Brooklyn, NY, and a dozen more injured

Several of those killed (Underwood, Kelly, Dorn, Beaty, and Brown) were black. What happened to Black Lives Matter? Where is the justice for these victims? Many of the perpetrators will get away with their crimes, thanks to government-mandated masks, complicit protestors who provided cover, and a misguided belief that cops “deserve payback.”

These protestors claiming that blacks are systematically targeted are ignorant of actual data on police-involved shootings and arrest-related deaths. It’s easy to find if they cared enough to look. Here’s a short sample:

According to FBI data for 2018, blacks made up 37% of arrests for violent crimes, but the Washington Post’s database of fatal police shootings shows that only 23% of the 2018 victims were black. (The average for 2015-2020 was also 23%.)

A Bureau of Justice Statistics report using 2003-2011 data estimates that the victims of arrest-related death incidents are 28% black and 48% white.

A 2015 study of the Philadelphia Police Department found that black officers are 67% more likely than white officers to shoot an unarmed black suspect (see Table 8). Rather than blame racial biases for police shootings, the report concluded, “PPD officers do not receive regular, consistent training on the department’s deadly force policy” and “officers do not regularly receive in-service training on threat perception, decision making, and de-escalation.”

A 2019 study of fatal officer-involved shootings found “no evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities across shootings, and White officers are not more likely to shoot minority civilians than non-White officers.” The paper concluded, “officers are less likely to fatally shoot Black civilians for fear of public and legal reprisals.”

A forthcoming paper by Harvard economist Roland Fryer used data from Houston, combining officer-involved shootings and interactions “where lethal force may have been justified but was not used,” and concluded, “blacks are 27.4 percent less likely to be shot at by police relative to non-black, non-Hispanics.”

The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that there were 53 million contacts between police and the public in 2015 (latest version available). The FBI reported over 10 million arrests in 2018. Compare those numbers to the nine unarmed black people fatally shot by police in 2019, according to the Washington Post’s database. (This Twitter thread documents the cases.)

Cops are normal people, with the same flaws, weaknesses, and imperfections as the rest of us. The fact that there are not more tragic incidents like Floyd’s disproves claims of systemic racism.

According to the LA Times, only “1.6% of all deaths of black men between the ages of 20 and 24” in 2015 involved police use of force. The people protesting about violence against blacks should turn their attention to the 89% of black murders that were committed by other blacks (according to FBI data). Unfortunately, people who are busy shouting are rarely listening. Justice never comes from a mob.

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