In yet another tragic story of police brutality, 41-year-old African American Daniel Prude has died. Why is this case so important? Because it needs to be the final wake-up call for American citizens everywhere. A wake-up call to action for change in the police structure and to push for police reform.
Before analyzing this situation, let me explain how he died and the events leading up to and after his death. At the time of his death in Rochester New York, Daniel Prude was having a mental health episode. Moments earlier his worried brother Joe Prude took him to a facility, as he was having suicidal thoughts. After they were sent back home, Joe found that Daniel was missing. Worried about his brother’s health and safety, he decided to call the police. Upon arriving, the police insisted they would find Daniel. Many times Joe insisted that his brother wasn’t a threat, and was just having a mental health episode. He reiterated this point several times to the police officers.
The police officers had found Daniel, but instead of trying to de-escalate the situation, they resorted to using brute force. They placed a spit hood on his head and pinned him into the ground, including on top of his neck. Eventually, he stopped breathing. His death was confirmed several days later in the hospital. The cause: asphyxiation.
So what happened to the police officers? Rochester New York mayor Lovely Warren has dealt them “justice”. Each one of them was suspended with pay. But before talking about the punishment of the police officers, how the case was handled afterwards is just as important.
The police chief reportedly told the mayor that Daniel died of an overdose. This blatant lie brings up another important point. What the public understands from police cases is from police reports. But for their own interests, they wouldn’t say anything that demeans them. So the officers lie or twist the truth to not look like the bad guys. Eventually the truth is unveiled, but only in part to evidence from video footage. The video footage usually contradicts the police report. There have been many instances of this throughout the criminal justice system; one simply needs to type in a google search, and a slew of results will pop-up. This is also very worrying as police officers, the enforcers of justice, are breaking one of the most basic rules of justice that every kid in kindergarten knows. They are lying.
The mayor’s response is also disconcerting. No matter how you view the video evidence or the scientific autopsy, Daniel was murdered. Murder, except in self-defense, which this case is not, is a severe crime. Just because this death was due to police officers responding to a call doesn’t exonerate them. The law must be upheld no matter who it deals with. A suspension isn’t the right response from mayor Lovely Warren, it should be a trial in court; just like for every other murder case.
A Corrupt System
While this case is a racial issue, it is also, if not more, an exclamation of the corrupt policing system in this country. A study concluded that fatal police violence is the leading cause of death for men ages 25 to 29 in America, across all racial groups. On average, African Americas are at a higher percent of being stopped by police. There is a whole list of how African Americans suffer a higher percentage of inequality in the justice system such as how they account for 5% of illicit drug users but represent 33% of those incarcerated for drug offenses. African Americans represent 32% of the U.S. population, but 56% of those incarcerated. The list goes on.
Most recently a white mother called the cops to help with her 13-year-old white autistic son. He, like Daniel, was having a mental health episode. When police arrived they assured her that everything would be taken care of. Moments later, he was shot in the back while trying to run away from the police. This is a 13-year-old boy. A variety of other methods could have been used to stop him: stun gun, rubber bullets, using their body mass to hold him, etc… But they immediately resorted to the most lethal solution. Both mother and son were extremely lucky in this situation as the son survived, but imagine if it had gone wrong as it did with Daniel. The story would be different.
This is a systematic problem with how law enforcement handles problems. A police union head said that the officers in Daniel’s case followed training “step by step”. The training of police officers should be to prevent death, not cause it. These tactics are too harsh, and they can’t be trusted as seen with Daniel and George Floyd. But if the union official was right, then the issue becomes that these tactics aren’t being used properly. The standard police procedure is to subdue not put down.
This also highlights another element of this corrupt system. Police unions. Not only are they overlooked in such incidents, but they also play key roles in exacerbating this type of behavior by making sure the officers don’t suffer punishment and even supporting how the officers approached the issue. The current policing structure needs to be reformed if any progress is to be made. One of the solutions which are growing in support is the movement to defund the police.
Defunding the Police
Conservatives and right-wing supporters think that the defund the police movement seeks to do literally what the name entails, but because they don’t want to understand the issue from another point of view, they not only falsely interpret the intention but spread they misinterpret ideology amongst supporters. And the supports fervent beliefs in these ideologies lead to unnecessary conflict. So let me clarify what defunding the police means.
The budgets of the police forces of many major cities are equivalent to the military budgets of entire nations. For example, the six billion dollar NYPD police budget is equivalent to Ukraine’s military budget. Many of this money is being used for unnecessary tasks that the police don’t need to handle, such as homelessness. Homelessness isn’t something for the police to handle, rather humanitarian organizations or shelters. These are people who just need something to eat and someplace to sleep. How could the police help them? And this is the key point. Defunding the police only seeks to redirect the money allocated to police stations for uses they do not need to other government organizations that can provide better help than the police for which the funding was given.
Now, I’m not saying all police are bad. There a lot of good cops doing their duty who deserve a lot of respect. I’m saying specific sections of the system by which justice is enforced is bad. There will always be a few bad police officers or mishandled cases because humans aren’t perfect. But if it is to the extent to which an entire race feels the oppression. If it makes a lot of cops the criminals. If it makes a group of people fears the police instead of trusting them. If innocents are being hurt, and those hurting them aren’t punished. Then something needs to be done. And something will be done.