Yesterday, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow published an op-ed in response to the shooting of Stephon Clark and the epidemic of police shootings of unarmed black men across the country. Blow points out that tragically, these shootings have become commonplace in America because we have a racially biased criminal justice system in which “[c]ertain people, in certain communities, are viewed as more of a threat more quickly.”
Two weeks ago, 22-year-old Clark was fatally shot eight times by two Sacramento police officers in his grandmother’s backyard. Police were responding to a call about someone breaking into vehicles when they came across Clark, firing 20 shots at him. No weapon was found on Clark, only his cellphone.
Clark’s death sparked outrage across the country, where anti-police violence protests have become commonplace. While policy reforms, such as better training and requiring officers to wear body cameras, can have an impact, these shootings continue to occur. In his op-ed, Blow reasons that “these shootings keep happening and officers are rarely charged with crimes – and even more rarely convicted – because what they are doing is legal.”
Blow cites the 1989 case of Graham v. Connor, which ruled that the Fourth Amendment’s “objective” reasonableness standard overruled the amendments protections “against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Blow recognizes that what is “objectively reasonable” is “clearly a subjective determination.” He further explains, “When the assessment interacts with race, class, gender and the stereotypical perception of criminality and propensity for violence classifications, the ‘objectively reasonable’ standard can easily become corrupted and used more as a badge of permission and a shield against liability.”
Until police officers apply their broad discretion in an equitable manner, these shootings will continue to occur. Blow further opines that these shootings keep happening because, “on some level, America finds them acceptable, finds them unfortunate but unavoidable.”
“Stephon Clark is not only a casualty of this particular shooting, but he is also a casualty of American moral paucity, race-hostile policies and corrosive jurisprudence,” says Blow.
Read the full op-ed here.