Though our nation seems to bear daily witness to an epidemic of police brutality, state-sanctioned violence has plagued Black communities for decades, with officers rarely facing consequences. Today, despite unprecedented video evidence, accountability remains rare.
On May 18, 2017, a jury acquitted the Tulsa police officer who shot and killed Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old unarmed Black man, as he was complying with officer commands. Less than one month later, on June 16, a St. Paul, Minnesota, jury acquitted the officer who shot and killed Philando Castile, a Black elementary school employee, during a routine traffic stop.
In June 2017, federal prosecutors announced that they would not prosecute officers in the shooting death of Alton Sterling, a Black man shot and killed while pinned to the ground in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in July 2016. And in Cincinnati, after two trials resulted in deadlocked juries, prosecutors announced in July 2017 that they would not retry the white University of Cincinnati officer who shot and killed Samuel DuBose, an unarmed Black man, after pulling him over for not having a front license plate in July 2015.
The failure to hold police officers accountable perpetuates the national tolerance for violence against people of color and legitimizes the presumption of dangerousness that leaves Black people at risk of violence and death at the hands of law enforcement.
“My son loved this city, and this city killed my son,” said Philando Castile’s mother, Valerie, outside the courthouse following the officer’s acquittal. “The system in this country continues to fail Black people and will continue to fail us.”