Police murder of people of color is a national crisis
Edward Barnell hugs his granddaughter Tiffany, 8-year-old daughter of Loreal Tsingine, who was shot and killed, at Tsingine's funeral at Desert View Cemetery, in Winslow, Ariz. At least two officers who trained Shipley, who later shot and killed Tsingine, armed with scissors, had serious concerns that he was too quick to go for his service weapon, ignored directives from superiors and falsified reports, | Mark Henle/The Arizona Republic via AP

On April 24, a column I wrote, “Where is Justice for slain Navajo mother, Loreal Tsingine?“ went to print. The column concluded by posing the issue of how without exception “the racist police perpetrators of these hideous executions continue to have impunity from any consequences.” I also posed the question “How long are Native Americans and other people of color to be sitting ducks in a pond waiting to be the next victims of the vicious, racist, militarized police murderers?”

Both of the above points would be tragically raised again.  Just a mere five days later, on Saturday, April 29, a Black youngster, 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, was shot to death by a white police officer in a Dallas, Texas suburb. Edwards was sitting in the passenger seat of a car that was leaving the scene of a house party.

At first, the policeman stated that the car was backing toward him in an “aggressive manner, “but subsequently video from body cam footage proved that the vehicle was actually being driven away from the police officers at the scene. Taken to a hospital nearby Edwards was pronounced dead resulting from a gunshot to the head.

Police officer Roy Oliver who killed Edwards, in response to the video cam footage, told the media that he “misspoke” (a euphemism for lying) in reference to the specifics of the incident. Oliver has since been fired. He, of course, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

This incident also raises the question of why did the officer fire at the vehicle in the first place, since it was leaving the scene of the house party. It was later brought out that the officer shot Edwards with a rifle. A rifle! Why would the police take out rifles to shut down a teenage house party?   There was no  plausible reason for the use of any deadly force, much less a rifle. This shows the combat/war mentality of the racist, militarized police.

We don’t know who will be the next victim, but what we do know is that there will be more victims.

In regard to the issue of the seemingly infinite impunity of the police from any consequences for these hideous slayings of people of color, we have only to look at the announcement by the Department of Justice on Tuesday, May 2, (just three days after the murder of the Edwards youngster) that federal charges will not be filed  against the police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in the killing of African American Alton Sterling. In this instance video footage clearly shows Sterling pinned to ground by two white police officers. Sterling is shot several times while still pinned to the ground. The feds said there was not sufficient evidence to indicate that Sterling was not reaching for a gun.

This is absurd. This is outrageous.  This reinforces and strengthens the message of impunity of the police.

In North Charleston, South Carolina, April 4, 2015, phone footage shows another Black citizen,50 year-old Walter Scott, shot numerous times by white policeman, Michael Slager while running from the officer. The officer initially claimed that he was in fear of his life. This is preposterous- incredible that the officer has the temerity to even let those words issue from his mouth. The officer fired his service revolver eight times at the hapless Scott killing him. Slager has since pled guilty to Deprivation of Rights under Color of Law and awaits sentencing. Don’t be surprised if he gets just a slap on the wrist.

In Oklahoma the trial began on Monday, May 8, of white Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby for the killing of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed Black man. Crutcher reportedly had his hands in the air when he was shot. Shelby said she was in fear of her life- “the magic words”.

The police slaughter of Red and Black people rages unabated.  In October, 2016 there was a deadly increase in fatal police shootings of American Indians around the country. Eight police slayings of Native people took place in that bloody month. Up to that point, there had been an average of two a month.

There is long-standing belief among many citizens of color that racist, white-supremacist   elements, such as the Klan and home grown Nazis, have infiltrated the police departments. If that be the case then there needs to be a purging of the police departments in question along with more stringent background checks of new applicants.

What is also so frustrating is that although there is all this hand wringing and lamenting by a plethora of writers, journalists and reporters, there is a lack of direction  by anyone of the progressive or leftist slant to propose anything to halt these racist, state sanctioned  lynchings.  I would venture some proposals including everything from civilian review boards, peoples’ tribunals  to community patrols to monitor the activities of the police who in so many instances act like an occupying army rather than protectors of the communities they are supposed to serve. There has to be community control of the police. Keep in mind that the courts, so far, have been on the side of the police. The so-called justice system in this regard is broken.

As an aggrieved mother of a recent victim so poignantly said: “the police cannot police the police.”


Albert Bender
Albert Bender

Albert Bender is a Cherokee activist, historian, political columnist, and freelance reporter for Native and Non-Native publications. He was an organizer and delegate to the First and Second Intercontinental Indian Conferences held in Quito, Ecuador and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Recently, he has been an active participant and reporter in the Standing Rock struggle in North Dakota. He is an attorney and is currently writing a legal treatise on Native American sovereignty. He is also writing a book on the war crimes committed by the U.S. against the Maya people in the Guatemalan civil war of the late 20th century. He is also the recipient of several Eagle Awards by the Tennessee Native American Eagle Organization and a former Director of Native American Legal Departments and a Tribal Public Defender.