Just this year, the country has seen a rampant plague of violent and excessive force used by law enforcement. The most recent of which is the incident when a police officer in Charlotte, North Carolina shot and killed an unarmed 24-year old former Florida A&M football player.
Early on Saturday morning, Jonathan Ferrell, the victim, was reported to have been in a serious car accident and was out seeking help. It is believed that the severity of the wreck was so intense, Terrell had to “pull himself” from the car. Terrell then struggled to the nearest home to get help, but the woman thought he was a burglar and dialed 911.
Police responded to the call and shot and killed Terrell, who they said acted “aggressively.” Officer Randall Kerrick fired many shots at Terrell, eventually shooting him to death. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Officials said the shooting was “excessive” and that “Kerrick’s use of excess force was unwarranted.”
This incident is but one more in a long string of events involving excessive police force.
In June, police in Hawthorne, CA fatally shot a man’s dog, after the police handcuffed the owner, Leon Rosby, because they felt it justified to detain a man that was merely videorecording a police response to an alleged robbery. The police charged Rosby with “Interference with Officer[s],” despite the fact he was in no way impeding upon the officers’ investigation of the robbery.
Last month, a Tallahassee woman suffered a broken orbital bone after officers of the Tallahassee Police Department smashed her face into the back of a police cruiser and then threw her to the ground. The 5-foot-6, 130-pound victim sustained extreme injuries from the officers’ abuse, and has filed suit against the department.
While the federal government has the Uniform Crime Report, a national database logging all of the country’s crime statistics, there is nothing like that in place for those on the “right” side of the law. The only way to compile that information would be by Congressional request. So, for instance, if one wants to conduct a study about excessive police force, the necessary information would be hard to obtain.
There is no doubt that being a police officer is a tough job, with thousands putting themselves in harms way to serve the public. However, incidents like these illustrate the rampant lack of discretion exercised by certain officers. That’s what this influx of excessive violence seems to come from, poor discretion. There are two ways to combat this: better training and harsher penalties for officer misconduct.
“Mr. Ferrell was a college student, and he was on a successful path. But he lost his life because a man with a gun thought he was “up to something” and dangerous,” said Aaron Watson, civil rights attorney with Levin, Papantonio, P.A. “He was likely racially profiled. We have seen this story line all too many times before. It is a deadly problem that must be addressed.”
Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.