By Uzodinma Ukagwu
In the wake of George Floyd’s death, it appears there is almost a universal consensus that Derek Chauvin, the police officer who suffocated Floyd by placing his knee on his neck, had used excessive force and needlessly ended his life. Even the usual “always-back-the-Blue” folks condemned Chauvin’s actions as an affront to proper policing.
In the case of Rayshard Brooks’ death, however, we are now firmly back in our respective camps again.
Brooks died on June 12 after being shot in the back by officer Garrett Rolfe as he ran from Rolfe and his colleague following a violent struggle as they tried to place him in handcuffs.
The police were called to a Wendy’s drive-through in Atlanta after reports that Brooks allegedly passed out in his car and was blocking other vehicles. Officers Devin Brosnan and Rolfe responded to the call and interacted peacefully with Brooks for 40 minutes. They questioned and searched him, as well as conducted a sobriety test.
Brooks, however, began to resist arrest and fought the two officers when they tried to handcuff him. Brooks disarmed one of the officer’s tasers and attempted to fire it as he fled from the cops. Rolfe then shot him in the back as he fled.
“Extrajudicial killings by the police should not be excused in our society.”
Brooks later died at the hospital.
The alleged actions of Brooks on that night may not have been right, but he still did not deserve to die in that way. Drunk driving is wrong but it’s not a capital offence. Neither is resisting arrest nor assaulting a police officer punishable by the death sentence.
Even if those crimes were punishable by death, Brooks did not get his day in court. If we claim to be a civilised society, we must dedicate our utmost efforts to prevent this kind of outcome in situations like these.
We all know the police have a difficult job, but we cannot turn a blind eye to this sort of tragic outcome. Extrajudicial killings by the police should not be excused in our society because a suspect resisted arrest.
The standard should be that deadly force is only used in situations where the officer’s life is in danger. Brooks’ death did not meet that standard. The police have a duty—or at least they should—to find the least harmful way possible to resolve a situation, and Rolfe failed to do that.
This sort of behaviour has been normalised and justified for far too long in our society, and protesters are right to point this out. The conversations going on right now around policing are vital ones, as this disproportionate use of force revealed in the deaths of many, including Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, cannot be allowed to go on.
The police’s tendencies towards deadly force, even in situations as difficult as the one involving Brooks, must change if we are to truly be a just society. The police failed Brooks and even he, whatever his alleged crimes, deserved justice.
Copyright© 2020 by Uzodinma Ukagwu