Enough is enough! Time for policing and criminal justice reform.

darrien hunt

Darrien Hunt, age 22,  is yet another young Black man mysteriously killed four days ago by police in Saratoga Springs, Utah. This makes two deaths of Black males at the hands of those “sworn to serve and protect” in Utah within less than about a month.

Police have given sketchy to few details, other than that Hunt was allegedly “waving” a so-called Samurai sword near a strip mall. The “sword” is reportedly no more than a decorative wall souvenir with a blunt end and no sharp edges.  Hunt was shot, according to several sources, as many as four times by two police officers. One bullet lodged in his back. He has no criminal record and has been described by friends and family as mild mannered and sensitive.

On August 11, another young Black male, Dillon Delbert Taylor, age 20, was killed by police in Salt Lake City, Utah. What seems most disturbing, at least for me, is that Utah is an “Open Carry” State. So, does not Open Carry apply to so-called Samurai swords or only to firearms? The national pattern of young Black males dying disproportionately at the hands of municipal police officers is far too familiar.

The pattern seems almost predictable. First, a local 911 call is made to police headquarters after a complainant describes a “suspicious-looking Black man” who is then accosted by police officers, and next some alleged threatening event ensues, followed by a prolonged period of  “investigation.”

In this case, as in  similar  cases documented in the past, the victim, Darrien Hunt, is reported to have been wielding a weapon – a sword. In most instances it’s some other less obvious, often undetectable object, perhaps something described by officers as “shiny” or perceived as something bulky or bulging in the pockets or waist band. Typically the suspect supposedly makes a menacing move by waving or pointing an object in a “threatening” manner. Then “Bam!” – lethal shots ring out.

Seldom does it seem that efforts are made to subdue suspects by temporarily impairing or immobilizing them. This does not seem to be considered an option, despite the availability of new technologies designed to apprehend an assailant without lethal outcomes.

There are usually multiple shots fired. Once again a hard-to-explain death of yet another Black male in his 20s or 30s is recorded, followed by a lengthy investigation purported to establish probable cause, liability, culpability, and due process. I’m weary of this failed process that occurs with far greater frequency when Black males are accosted by police and the encounter ends in death – a situation far more common for Black males than for any other racial or ethnic group in America.

I abhor violence. Vengeance is not the answer. And our brave policemen and women, who have an extremely tough job, by and large perform their duties in an exceptional manner. But America needs to come to terms with a well-documented racial imbalance in policing practices all over the country.

Policing practices that have evolved in different states and municipalities threaten to polarize our cities and towns, alienating youth and heightening police and community antagonism. The well documented disparate treatment, from stop-and-frisk patterns to arrest and sentencing rates, is disproportionately weighted toward Black males within the U.S. criminal justice system.

Racial profiling produces horrific, lethal results when placed in the hands of under-trained, culturally biased, sometimes callous, often frightened civil servants who are sworn to serve and protect but instead resort to shooting as the first recourse because “the book” says it’s okay and self-preservation bespeaks natural law.

“Shoot to kill and ask questions later” is not suited to today’s civilized society. These outmoded attitudes have prevailed in an age of high-tech security devices, advanced training, and new surveillance and law enforcement techniques. And when those being killed are overwhelmingly Black or Brown, we must stop and ask why?

We must avow, corporately as a nation based upon democratic ideals, that indeed enough is enough!  All citizens in all municipalities deserve equal treatment under the law.

Nearly 40 years ago the great American comic Richard Pryor said it simply but poignantly: “You go down there lookin’ for justice, and that’s what you find, Just-Us.”  Pryor also said, “See white folks get a ticket, they pull over…’Hey officer, yes, glad to be of help…Cheerio!’ We got to be talkin’ ‘bout, ‘I am reaching into my pocket for my license, ‘cause I don’t want to be no m—–f—in’ statistic!’” (From the “Is It Something I Said?” album, 1975.)

The bitter comic irony of his words ring true to this day, but it has never been a laughing matter if one is a Black male in America.  D.Day 2014