Racially-biased standards in the justice system might seem like an oxymoron, however, the conviction of an ex-cop in Florida for the 2015 shooting of a black man, Corey Jones, has raised some eyebrows.
Nouman Raja, a former police officer, was found guilty and convicted of manslaughter and attempted murder. For his crimes, he will be facing a minimum sentence of 25 years behind bars. This also happens to be the first time in 30 years that an officer in Florida has been convicted of an on-duty shooting.
A conviction entirely justified, the sense of peace felt by the family of Corey Jones — a house inspector and part-time musician — is the least that can suffice after having their loved one cruelly taken away from them because of yet another trigger-happy police officer.
The reality is, these racially-based shootings are costing society so much more than the justice system is taking accountability for. According to research, there are about 1,000 police shootings each year in the United States, and to no one’s surprise, black men are three times more likely to be the victims of excessive use of force courtesy of the police force.
Between 2005 and April 2017, an astounding 80 officers had been arrested on murder or manslaughter charges for on-duty shootings. During that 12-year span, a paltry 35% were convicted of the crimes they committed, whilst the rest were pending judgments, or found not guilty. This means that since 2005, there have only been 13 officers convicted of murder or manslaughter in fatal on-duty shootings, according to data provided to The Huffington Post by Philip Stinson, an associate professor of criminology at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University.
What’s even more interesting is, according to research, it seems that if an officer on trial happens to be a person of color, he/she is more likely to be convicted and found guilty, while their white counterparts — who make up the majority of the convicted officers of racially biased shootings — get away with fewer repercussions.
Controversial police shootings are not new and have been happening for decades, and so have protests for justice. In this day and age, however, the rise of social media has allowed ordinary civilians to attain a wider reach in their uproar and demands for social justice, forcing prosecutors and judges to take a harder and more careful look at cases and officers involved in dubious interactions that leave a trail of fatalities.
Out of so many white officers who have been accused of fatal shootings, it took a brown officer from Florida to see true justice in the brutal, fatal shooting of a black man.
Most white officers are given an opportunity to resign (Raja was fired), or the opportunity to be suspended with pay, or end up having their cases dropped. Sometimes, these officers are protected via self defense laws, or other forms of “special” laws. Eventually, these very cops can be offered protection via a witness protection program, and be re-hired by a lower ranking and discreet county office where they are still “protecting” us civilians. Now, no one is defending what Raja did. He committed a crime against humanity, and his punishment is wholly justified. But we cannot permit the conviction of this one officer distract from the thousands of others who get away with murder. Police shootings must end in convictions irrespective of the ethnicity of the cop in question.
Injustice is a threat to justice everywhere. American police officers are using much deadlier force than their counterparts in other countries. And yet, in the United States — a place where access to police incident reports shouldn’t be scarce — there’s actually no legitimate data on how many people police kill each year per state. Somehow, there is no information about the officers involved in these shootings either. Does this actually sound acceptable in a country where officer-involved shootings are sky high?