It is important to say the names of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Caleb Blake, and other victims of police brutality. It’s also important to talk about substantive changes and the damage caused by rioting across the country. These are topics talked about widely these days, but oftentimes it seems without nuance. It is possible to discuss police reform without desiring to completely defund the police. It is possible to support the right of people to protest a corrupt government but believe that those who damage other people’s property in doing so ought to be prosecuted.
This nation certainly has an issue with unjustified police aggression and we have definitely seen that this year.
Here is the basic story of Breonna Taylor as laid out in the Courier Journal: Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were watching a movie in bed when police showed up at the door. They were serving a no-knock search warrant, but they did knock. Walker said he heard the knocks, but never heard them announce that they were the police. When the officers burst in they were wearing plainclothes so Walker, believing they were intruders, shot at them. In the crossfire between Walker and the officers, Taylor was hit by five bullets and died.
George Floyd, an unarmed black man was killed by police in Minneapolis while being arrested for allegedly attempting to pay with a counterfeit bill. Video of officer Derrick Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck and Floyd saying “I can’t breath” spread across social media causing widespread calls for an end to police-brutality. The most recent prominent incident was Jacob Blake. Video shared on social media showed Blake who was pinned down by officers and shot in the back seven times.
Many reforms can be made to curb incidents like this. Two of these reforms which were introduced by members of congress are ending no-knock raids and ending qualified immunity.
Members of a crowd of protestors surrounded Senator Rand Paul and his wife as they left the Republican National Convention. They shouted at him, “Her Name is Breonna Taylor” and pushed against his security guards. Ironically, Senator Paul introduced the justice for Breonna Taylor act in June.
“After talking with Breonna Taylor’s family, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s long past time to get rid of no-knock warrants. This bill will effectively end no-knock raids in the United States,” said Sen. Paul.
According to professor Kraska from Eastern Kentucky University, the use of no-knock warrants hit 60,000 a year in 2010, up from 1,000 a year in the early 1980’s. Kraska has found 330 examples of botched raids from no-knock warrants in the last 15 years. A New York Times investigation found 81 civilian deaths and 13 police deaths resulted from no-knock raids between 2010 and 2016. Ending no-knock raids is a sensible way to eliminate many incidents of police and civilian killings.
Another sensible reform to reduce police violence is to end qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that gives officers immunity from lawsuits while performing sensitive functions of their position. By ending qualified immunity, officers are held more accountable for their actions and thus less likely to initiate unjustified acts of aggression.
“As part of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, Congress allowed individuals to sue state and local officials, including police officers, who violate their rights. Starting in 1967, the Supreme Court began gutting that law by inventing the doctrine of qualified immunity,” Libertarian Congressman Justin Amash tweeted, explaining the bill he introduced in May.
While it is important to recognize and try to stop police violence, it is also important to recognize and attempt to stop mob violence. In rioting and looting following highly publicized incidents of police violence, there has been extensive destruction of both life and property.
The Daily Caller reported at least 15 people killed as a result of protests and riots following the death of George Floyd. This includes peaceful protestors, a former police captain, a DHS officer, and business owners attempting to stop people from looting.
In a 24 hour stretch dozens of businesses within just a half-mile of West Philadelphia were damaged. King’s Fashion was left with a broken roof, overturned shelves and clothes spread in piles across the floor. Destroying businesses certainly does not help solve racism or police brutality. Many of the businesses were minority owned. Brad Polumbo highlighted 10 of the minority-owned businesses destroyed as a result of the riots in an article for the Foundation for Economic Education.
One of these minority owned businesses was Bole Ethiopan Cuisine in Saint Paul Minnesota. They had just finished building a second location, Bole Express, when both locations were burned down in protests following the unjust killing of George Floyd. They outraised their $100,000 dollar goal on GoFundMe to rebuild both locations. Crowdfunding has been instrumental in helping many destroyed businesses get back on their feet. However, I am sure not every business harmed was able to completely recover their losses.
Most recently, car dealerships, a furniture store and the probation office were set on fire in Kenosha Wisconsin following the shooting of Jacob Blake. Linda Carpenter, owner of a furniture store practically burned to the ground, cried at the site of the irreparable damage to her business.
“It’s not justifiable,” Linda’s son Scott said. “We have insurance, yeah, but the insurance isn’t there so somebody can destroy your things…we pay for it. It causes insurance rates to go up.”
While attempting to end police brutality, we should not allow people like Linda Carpenter to continue to suffer in the crossfires. We should advocate for both justice and peace.