The police stop black people often filled with fear, anxiety

The video seems ready: Patrick Lyoya obeyed an officer during a traffic stop, tried to run and then fought with the officer over his Taser before the officer shot him deadly in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

For a number of black men and women, resistance to arrest during meetings with police for minor traffic jams has been deadly. Experts say that the anxiety level of people has stopped and even the officers involved can be high, which increases the tension.

George Floyds Murder in 2020 of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, the suffocating death of Eric Garner in 2014 of a New York City officer and Michael Brown killed the same year of an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, is among high-profile encounters that proved fatal to black men.

A store employee called police and said Floyd was allegedly trying to send a fake $ 20 note. Police stopped Garner on suspicion of selling unpaid cigarettes. An officer confronted Brown and a buddy as they walked to Brown’s home from a grocery store. Brown was shot after colliding with the officer. All three men were unarmed.

“Because of the way police are often portrayed, there can be anxiety for young colored men when they are pulled over,” said Jason Johnson, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund. “Should I get a ticket? Should I be arrested?” “They may think they are going to be a victim of abuse. Many times they go into these interactions and think they are going to be a victim of brutality.”

In 2015, a white Columbia, South Carolina police officer stopped Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man, for a broken brake light. A spectator video captured the two toppled to the ground after the officer hit Scott with a Taser. The officer then shot Scott as he tried to run.

In Lyoya’s case, some – including his family and their high-profile lawyer, Ben Crump – has said that the 26-year-old Congolese refugee was killed for having a number plate that did not belong to the vehicle. While it is therefore the officer stopped Lyoya, Johnson said, that was not why Lyoya was killed.

“It’s one of the interruptions or misunderstandings between the police and the public,” Johnson said. “If you look a little deeper, that’s not what happened. (Lyoya) had a number of options to comply with the officer’s instructions. This use of lethal force had nothing to do with a traffic offense and everything to do with (Lyoya). active resistance to arrest. “

Lyoya’s actions led “down the road that ultimately ended in deadly force,” Johnson added.

Grand Rapids police released a video of the stop on April 4, including from the officer’s vehicle and body camera, from a spectator’s mobile phone and from a doorbell camera. The videos show the short foot hunt and a fight as the white officer repeatedly asks Lyoya to stop. At one point, Lyoya has his hand on the officer’s stun gun, and the officer yells at him to let go.

The fight ended when the officer shot Lyoya in the head as Lyoya lay face down, with the officer straddling him.

Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal justice and democracy campaigns at Color of Change, a national racial justice organization, said officers are often scared given the dangers associated with stopping. But that does not rule out black motorists suffering from showing or expressing their justified fears of traffic jams, he said.

“When you look at police culture, there is precisely this decline in the notion that policing is rooted in white supremacy and has been a tool for white supremacy,” Roberts said. “And so there is a kind of denial of why black people would have that fear. You have already criminalized the person when you make a pre-textual stop. Your assumption will be that this is only a confirmation of their guilt, that fear. . “

Roberts added that this dynamic has increasingly led cities, prosecutors and police to adopt policies that suppress or stop minor offenses.

Skin color and experiences can skew how all parties interpret interactions and confrontations between black Americans and white officers, said Paul Bergman, professor emeritus of law at UCLA.

“Cultural narratives can make white cops as well as black cops predict problems when the person they stop is black,” he said.

In Lyoya’s case, “was he more likely to be pulled over because he was black?” Bergman asked. “If he was not black, would it be more of a minor offense, and would the police officer think he had better things to do?”

The situation escalated when Lyoya did not show a driver’s license and tried to run. That probably raised the officer’s suspicion, Bergman said.

But Lyoya might also have thought his best option was to flee, he said.

“Maybe he’s just thinking of escaping a situation that’s threatening,” Bergman added. “Legally you are expected to comply with legal requirements. The place to argue if you think it is illegal is later. We are expected to fight these arguments in the courts and not on the streets.”

Amara Enyia, head of policy and research for the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 150 black-led organizations, said the fear that black drivers feel is rooted in generations of conflicting relationships with the police.

When stops for license plates, broken taillights or incorrect lane changes turn into violent arrests or fatal encounters, departments turn to old solutions, such as anti-bias training that have not made a difference, Enyia said.

“You just have to wonder how many billions and billions of dollars it takes to train that kind of bias out of someone,” she said. “Instead of making structural changes to the entire system, you have to rely on the goodwill, benevolence or altruism of a police officer to stay alive in what is otherwise a routine traffic stop.”


Williams and Morrison are members of the AP’s Race and Ethnicity Team. Williams reported from West Bloomfield, Michigan. Morrison reported from New York.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.