Why are black men killed by police for doing nothing, while white kids with assault rifles are led away peacefully?

The Associated Press has a story up which addresses this enduring mystery:

When police confronted the white man suspected of killing 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket, he was the very poster boy for armed and dangerous, carrying an AR-15-style rifle and cloaked in body armor and hatred.

Yet officers talked to Payton Gendron, convinced him to put down his weapon and arrested him without firing a single shot. Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia that day cited their training and called it “a tremendous act of bravery.”

In a country where Black people have been killed in encounters with police over minor traffic infractions, or no infractions at all, though, it’s raised the question: Where is that training, that determined following of protocol, when it comes to them?

“It’s important to emphasize this is not about why aren’t police killing white supremacist terrorists. It’s why can’t that same restraint and control be applied to a situation involving an unarmed Black person?” Civil Rights lawyer Qasim Rashid.

The AP article continues:

Martìn Sabelli, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said historically there has been a racial divide in the U.S. that affects every aspect of the criminal legal process.

“The perception of racism is perpetuated because it’s rooted in a reality,” Sabelli said, noting the impact of implicit bias on policing has been studied extensively. “We are unfortunately in the process of trying to reverse decades or even longer of explicit racism in many police departments around the country and that is often aggravated by implicit bias that exists at a subconscious level. And unfortunately it taints these encounters by subconsciously making officers believe a person of color is more dangerous than a white person.”

Frank Straub, director of the National Policing Institute Center for Targeted Violence Prevention, said he hoped there’s a rethinking of how police respond to situations, in the wake of what the public has seen of disparate treatment in recent years.

“Maybe the fact that these videos are out there … hopefully that now is impacting how officers are being trained to respond to arrest situations,” he said.

That word “hopefully” is doing a lot of heavy lifting, when instead we should be toughening laws about the use of deadly force by police, and passing new laws regarding police officers who fail to report abuses.

Mural portrait of George Floyd by Eme Street Art in Mauerpark (Berlin, Germany) Wikimedia Commons.

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