To be fair, it should be noted that Graham did not have a clean record. He had been arrested eight times with charges ranging from robbery on down to assaulting a police officer. Still, it is hard to justify the warrantless killing of an unarmed young man in front of his grandmother and six year old brother. Especially when the only wrongdoing police can point to is the fact that Graham was flushing marijuana down the toilet. I recognize the fact that police work can be extremely dangerous and that Graham was certainly no angel but the conflicts in the story just do not sit well with me. The idea that Graham lost his life over a flushable amount of marijuana when just last month a New York City photographer who got busted with ten pounds of marijuana in her apartment was set free without jail time or probation.
Unfortunately police killings are not all that rare. NYPD officers shot and killed two other young men the same week of the Graham incident. The NYPD seems to have a history of killing unarmed civilians. The most recent high profile case was that of Sean Bell. Bell and his friends were leaving a club after a bachelor party celebration for Bell. NYPD fired upon Bell’s vehicle 50 times. The common thread in these cases seems to be that police thought that the victims were armed but the reality is that in many cases they are not. Most of these incidences do not make the national news and if we use history as an indicator the officers involved in Graham’s killing will be acquitted.
I chose this topic because I anticipate that a riot or an uprising as a result of one of these killings. These incidences are not exclusive to New York. The video below shows Oscar Grant being killed by a law enforcement officer in Oakland. A year or so prior to this a seven year old girl in Detroit was killed by an officer when police raided the wrong house. Just last year in London riots did happen in protest of the police killing of Mark Duggan. Our criminal justice classes teach us that community policing is an effective model but only if the community believes in the system. One of the criticisms of community policing is that in some areas citizens will not cooperate. How can you blame them when they see police get off with slaps on the wrist for taking a life of innocent civilians?