Since the killing of George Floyd, people in every state have taken a closer look at law enforcement. Some Americans have puzzled over how police officers could have done it. For many people, Floyd’s killing was a shock. For other people, it was not. Suddenly minority victims of police violence were on the news, often. Mostly peaceful protests were carried out in every state. Protesters were calling for a stop to police violence and racial profiling, changed law enforcement policies, defunding police, and most of all, police reform. The protests of 2020 indicated the public was more engaged with fighting racial injustice and more aware of police violence than ever before.
What is police reform?
Police reform is the notion that law enforcement and policing paradigms need to change. In a reformed paradigm, police officers would treat everyone equally, regardless of race. They would focus more on community connections and eliminate violence to the extent possible. They would be screened for racism before being accepted as a cadet and would receive cultural diversity, inclusiveness, and de-escalation training.
Reckoning in Ohio
Twenty-twenty was a year of reckoning. Ohio, like every other state, was forced to examine its law enforcement behavior and procedures at both the local and state level. The public was demanding accountability. Police officers who used unnecessary force or excessive violence were in the news.
Ohio’s history of police violence was spotlighted in 2014, when a twelve-year-old boy was shot by a police officer in Cleveland. The boy, Tamir Rice, was playing with a BB gun. A bystander called 9-1-1 and reported someone, maybe a juvenile, with a gun, which might be fake. The 9-1-1 responder asked the caller twice, “is he black or white?”. The police officer was not indicted for the killing, but he was fired for not disclosing he had been fired from his previous job at a police force for being unfit.
In Columbus, a police officer’s body camera footage showed him killing Andre Maurice Hill seconds after encountering him in a garage. Hill was holding a cell phone. The veteran officer who shot Hill was eventually fired, and a state criminal investigation is underway. Earlier that month in Columbus, Casey Goodson was killed by a police officer while entering his own home. The officer was searching for someone else when he encountered Goodson, who was not a suspect. Goodson was using his keys to open the door when he was shot. The officer did not wear a body camera so there is no video footage of the killing.
In these police killings, the police officers did not administer first aid to the shooting victims.
As the United States grapples with social issues, some police officers will continue to use violence against suspects. Hopefully, the awareness generated in 2020 will result in a change to policing across the nation.