"Read the room, John"
Earlier this week, Spectrum News 13’s Asher Wildman asked Orange County Sheriff John Mina in an interview what message he had for the community when a Black man is stopped on the sidewalk by a sheriff’s deputy.
There’s a mechanism in place to handle that. We have a professional standards unit. many agencies just call it Internal Affairs. Just call and complain. If you’re not doing anything wrong, you do not have to stop for law enforcement. If they ask you, “Hey, do you mind if I ask you a question?” You ask the law enforcer, “Am I being detained? Am I being arrested?” And if the law enforcement officer says ‘No, you’re not being detained,” you’re free to walk away.
So what I tell people is “Please, follow the instructions of law enforcement.” Many of these interactions that you see nationally could have all been stopped if the person had followed the instructions of law enforcement. Now I’m not absolving law enforcement of their responsibility of de-escalating the situations, but the fact of the matter is, if people follow the instructions of law enforcement, many of these tragedies can stop.”
Later, Mina posted a tweet, repeating, “Please: Follow the instructions of law enforcement” six times.
The Twitterverse howled with rage and incredulity and slammed Mina for being “tone deaf.” In this cultural moment, America grapples with what Black people have known for a very long time: police killing of Black men is epidemic and culpable officer/s have traditionally faced no consequences. In Newsweek, David Brennan wrote that Derek Chauvin's murder verdict is a “statistical anomaly.” Of the 1,127 police killings in 2020, Brennan noted, only 16, or 1.4 percent, resulted in the police officer responsible being charged. (In fact, in 1999, while working an off-duty job at the Orlando Ale House, Mina, who was part of the Orlando Police Department at the time, shot and killed 17-year-old Joseph A. Dungee III. Mina faced no significant consequences other than being suspended with pay during an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, according to The Appeal.)
Mina later tried to clarify his first tweet by tweeting he'd "simply been attempting to reiterate" his interview response. But Twitter wasn't having it.
Black people are 20 percent more likely to be pulled over by police than white people, according to a 2019 study done by the Stanford Open Policing Project. Blacks and Latinos more likely to be searched and arrested with less cause than whites, the study found. That's problematic for a number of reasons, chief of which is that traffic stops have the propensity to escalate and turn deadly as evidenced by the fates of Daunte Wright and Philandro Castile. Castile was complying with the officer's directions and was reaching for his driver's license — after informing the officer he had a legal weapon in the car — when the officer shot him.
Police use-of-force is now the sixth leading cause of death for Black men, after cancer, according to a 2020 study done by the University of Michigan, Rutgers University and Washington University. Compared with white men, Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police.
Black people are killed by police even when officers’ lives aren’t in danger. They're killed by police when they are in bed. When eating ice cream in their living room. When talking on a cell phone in their grandmother's backyard. When delivering Christmas gifts. Even when complying, as Mina suggested in his interview. Seventh-grader Adam Toledo had his hands in the air, complying, when he was shot dead.
“For Black and Brown people, this is the terror of American policing,” Ibram X. Kendi, director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, writes in The Atlantic. “When we do not comply, we die like Daunte Wright did. When we do comply, we die like Adam Toledo did. Compliance will not save our lives.”
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