Why The NYPD Shooting Reminds Us That Violence Isn't The Answer
Two New York City police officers were murdered in cold blood on December 20. Their names were Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
Officer Wenjian Liu, 32, and Officer Rafael Ramos, 40. Photos released of the two NYPD officers murdered in Brooklyn: pic.twitter.com/PM358Gh5OP — Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) December 21, 2014
The perpetrator, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, shot and killed them as they sat in a marked police vehicle in Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon. According to reports, the gunman then fled to a nearby subway station and killed himself as officers closed in.
On Saturday morning, Brinsley allegedly shot his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore before traveling to Brooklyn. He'd also expressed anti-police sentiment on social media in relation to Ferguson and Eric Garner. Some of the statements he made suggested that he planned to target and kill police officers.
Brinsley had a violent past and a criminal record. Accordingly, authorities in Baltimore sent out a warning about the threats that Mr. Brinsley had made. Tragically, this warning arrived right around the time that he shot the two NYPD officers.
These officers were brutally executed. There is no justification for Brinsley's abhorrent actions. Two individuals who dedicated their lives to protect others were savagely taken from this world far before their time.
People are understandably upset in the wake of this tragedy. It comes in the midst of a national debate concerning police brutality and racism. Tensions between the public and police are already at historically high levels, as protests have occurred throughout the country in recent weeks.
The last thing America needs right now is violence. Violence solves nothing, it only exacerbates the many problems that this country faces. As we move forward from this tragedy, let's hope that both police and the public remain cognizant of this.
This is the opposite of what protestors have called for.
This heinous incident will undoubtedly further the divide between common citizens and law enforcement. Many impassioned and controversial statements have already been made in this regard.
The former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, has attacked President Obama for inciting what he referred to as "anti-police propaganda." This argument is quite ludicrous, particularly given that the president immediately condemned the shooting.
"I unconditionally condemn today's murder of two police officers in New York City." —President Obama: pic.twitter.com/NAeTxpV70U — The White House (@WhiteHouse) December 21, 2014
President Obama has also urged peace and restraint throughout the protests surrounding Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and has been habitually critical of violence in any form.
"Burning buildings, torching cars, destroying property…that’s destructive and there’s no excuse for it.” —President Obama #Ferguson — The White House (@WhiteHouse) November 25, 2014
"To those who think that what happened in #Ferguson is an excuse for violence, I do not have any sympathy for that." —President Obama — The White House (@WhiteHouse) November 25, 2014
"The bottom line is, nothing of significance, nothing of benefit results from destructive acts." —President Obama #Ferguson — The White House (@WhiteHouse) November 25, 2014
Patrick Lynch, the president of the NYPD union Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, also made incendiary remarks following Saturday's shooting. Lynch argued that there was "blood on the hands" of NYC Mayor de Blasio and protesters.
What Giuliani and Lynch fail to understand here is that the people who have expressed concerns over police brutality and racism completely reject violence.
This is precisely why people have taken the streets to protest in the first place. They are sick of the violence that plagues American communities, whether it comes from citizens or police.
Ismaaiyl Brinsley does not represent thousands upon thousands of peaceful protestors. He was a deranged and violent criminal with a deeply troubled past. He'd been arrested a number of times. His isolated and disgusting actions should not be viewed as a representation of the peaceful individuals who have called for this country to address its many shortcomings.
Accordingly, the family of Michael Brown has condemned this incident, stating, "We reject any kind of violence directed toward members of law enforcement. It cannot be tolerated. We must work together to bring peace to our communities."
Leaders of the Ferguson protests have also expressed disgust over the shooting:
I do not condone the killing of the two NYPD officers today. I do not condone the killing of unarmed black people. I do not condone killing. — deray mckesson (@deray) December 20, 2014
Violence will not end crime nor heal our communities, nor will it eradicate racism and police brutality. Brinsley is proof of that. He has fostered a situation in which police will be more distrusting of the public. Consequently, this could lead to further unnecessary violence.
With that said, those who attempt to depict police as the primary cause of racism and violence in America are just as misguided as Lynch and Giuliani.
American society is the root of the problem, not police.
Many Americans are understandably disconcerted over the inadequacies of this country's criminal justice system.
"We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for #Ferguson. This is an issue for America." —President Obama — The White House (@WhiteHouse) November 25, 2014
The United States is an inherently violent country, and racism is still a deeply pervasive aspect of American society. These truths cannot be denied.
At the same time, it would be an immense mistake to argue that law enforcement is the source of these problems.
Police officers are a not trained to be racist, they are drawn from a society that is racist. We all have inherent prejudices, and some of us are worse than others. Police officers are the same way. They are people too, and, like many of us, they are deeply flawed.
Police are derived from a historically violent and often racist society. Hence, it's not surprising that law enforcement reflects the very same trends.
They should certainly be held to a higher standard, as they are meant to serve and protect the public. Yet, we will never fix our unjust and discriminatory criminal justice system until we address the violence and racism in our own communities.
In other words, police don't dictate the direction of our society, they are simply a reflection of it.
No one deserves what happened to Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. They were ambushed and killed without provocation.
At the same time, unarmed citizens should not have to live in fear of police, particularly minorities.
We can feel outrage over what happened to Liu and Ramos while still striving to build a better and more equal America.
As Jon Stewart recently stated:
You can truly grieve for every officer who's been lost in the line of duty in this country and still be troubled by cases of police overreach. Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive. You can have great regard for law enforcement and still want them to be held to high standards.
If we are to create a more just society, police and citizens alike must work together to end the senseless violence that occurs across America every single day.