Recent cases of police brutality call for systemic reform
May 11, 2021
Daunte Wright was shot and killed during a traffic stop a month ago in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Many attribute the air fresheners hanging from Wright’s rearview mirror to the reason why he was pulled over, but according to police, officers were attempting arrest due to an outstanding warrant for expired registration tags on his vehicle.
The officer that killed Wright, Kimberly Potter, claimed that she had confused her gun for a taser. Body camera footage released a day after showed her shouting “I’ll tase you! Taser!” before firing a single bullet from her gun. Law enforcement veterans say it is difficult to confuse the two weapons, considering they are different colors, weights, and usually worn on opposite sides of the belt.
“A 26-year veteran of the force knows the difference between a taser and a firearm,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump representing Wright’s family said. “Kim Potter executed Daunte for what amounts to no more than a minor traffic infraction and a misdemeanor warrant. Daunte’s life, like George Floyd’s life, like Eric Garner’s, like Breonna Taylor’s, like David Smith’s meant something. But Kim Potter saw him as expendable. It’s past time for meaningful change in our country.”
The shooting of Wright sparked waves of protests across the nation once again, and reminded many of the death of George Floyd, which also occured in Minnesota. CBS reported that Daunte Wright’s aunt revealed that Floyd’s girlfriend was Wright’s former teacher.
“This is a heartbreaking and chilling connection. It goes to show the pain the black community has dealt with and the systemic racism in our policing. The implicit bias and the discrimination against African Americans is an ongoing problem. When will it stop?” an anonymous RM student said.
Former officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter for pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck until he could not breathe. Chauvin’s guilty verdict evoked positive reactions, relief, and some hope in communities, but was far from enough for many.
“True justice is about much more than a single verdict in a single trial,” former First Lady Michelle Obama said. The Obamas’ full statement can be viewed here.
“Finally someone is being held accountable for killing a black man. The importance of this cannot be understated. But the problem is, think about how much it took to get here,” freshman Zaida Bowsher said. “Derek Chauvin’s trial sends a message that even police officers will be held accountable. We need to make sure we don’t let this movement die out. America still has a long way to go when it comes to fixing racism. Keep signing petitions.”
Potter was also charged with second-degree manslaughter and has already resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department along with the chief of police. Her next court appearance is scheduled for May 17.
Recently, Mayor Mike Elliot presented a resolution on police reform to the Brooklyn Center City Council proposing new public safety and crime prevention departments, including a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention as well as two new unarmed departments: one to enforce non-moving traffic violations, and one response department made up of trained mental health specialists.
Maryland has also passed police reform bills in light of multiple demonstrations and events. The legislation includes requiring body cameras statewide, tightens the use of no-knock warrants, and opens police personnel records to the public to make policing more transparent, among other measures.
While sophomore Diya Britto and many other students are glad for the reform, they wish that the government had acted sooner. “At the end of the day, it is not right to wait until something has happened and then find a ‘solution’ for it. We must find a solution, so that nothing like it happens again,” Britto said.