Commentary: Police Who Kill Must Be Held Accountable

Aug 25, 2015

Posted in CommentaryEqual Rights/EquityFerguson/Black Lives MatterPolice-Public Safety

By Cat Brooks

In the early morning hours of June 6, Demouria Hogg, a Black man and father of three, was sleeping in his vehicle on the Lakeshore exit off the 580 Freeway.

Concerned that he might be injured, a community member called paramedics.

Upon arrival, paramedics saw a gun on the passenger seat and summoned police to the scene. Police spent over an hour attempting to wake Mr. Hogg. They shot beanbags at the car, deployed a loudspeaker, shone bright lights into the windows; he never so much as flinched.

Under these circumstances, a reasonable presumption would have been that Mr. Hogg was seriously injured and needed help. Instead, police broke the car window, and when Mr. Hogg woke with a start, they shot him.

He was awake less than a minute before being killed.

Two weeks ago, unarmed Richard Linyard was fleeing from police. He, too, wound up dead. OPD’s story is that he wedged himself between two “structures” and asphyxiated.

The family of Mr. Linyard is challenging OPD’s version of events and is demanding an independent autopsy.

Cat Brooks

Recently, at national conferences that were reported on local news, the Oakland Police Department and Mayor Libby Schaaf lauded OPD’s officer training, claiming improvements in officers interactions with community members.

Prior to Demouria’s murder, they publicly celebrated the fact that OPD hadn’t killed anyone in two years. But they failed to mention that in the first six months of 2015, over 100 complaints of police harassment, misconduct and abuse were reported by Oakland residents to the Community Police Review Board.

In addition, community members had been killed by other law enforcement agencies in Oakland while OPD officers stood by, such as in the cases of Jacorey Calhoun and Guadalupe Ochoa.

And the city leaders failed to mention their recent assault on Black women and children who were peacefully marching to demand an end to the war on the lives of Black women.

We were pushed, screamed at and snatched off the street. I personally had a police officers’ forearm on my throat until the third time I told him, “I can’t breathe”.

Following the murder of Demouria Hogg, the community demanded an independent investigation and release of the surveillance tapes to the family.

These demands continue to be ignored.

If OPD wants to inspire trust in the community, a good first step would be to respond to community demands. If OPD officers are positive they “followed procedure,” why are they afraid of an independent investigation?

Training is not enough.

The only way police officers will stop utilizing brute force and executions as a means to “enforce the law” with Black people is when they are held accountable through fair and transparent investigations by outside investigators.

Officers who profile, beat or murder citizens must be punished with terminations, suspensions without pay and imprisonment.

As it stands now, the officers of the Oakland Police Department, like officers in every police department across the country, know with certainty that as long as their victim is Black or Brown, their bosses, elected officials and the courts still believe that those lives don’t matter very much at all.

Cat Brooks is an actress, activist and founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project. She is co-chair of ONYX and a member of Black Lives Matter-Bay Area. She lives in West Oakland with her family. You can follower her on Twitter @CatsCommentary.