Other than California, Texas has the most killings of civilians by police officers (MappingPoliceViolence.org). Having lived in both states, this is disturbing to me. 

From 2013-2016, 303 unarmed African Americans were shot and killed by police in the USA. Women accounted for 25 of these deaths.

In all likelihood, in most instances these officers incorrectly thought “he has a gun.” Clearly, better law enforcement training and recruitment are needed. But if we had tighter gun laws, maybe police officers wouldn’t be so afraid of being shot and overreact.

Therefore, there are two interrelated but separate problems which need to be addressed: a) police violence against black citizens as described above and b) guns in the hands of people who should not have them, permitting them to commit crimes.

Law Enforcement

Between January 2013 and Dec. 2018, there were 133 African Americans killed by Texas law enforcement. That’s roughly double the rate for other races.

I am from a law enforcement family with relatives who have been with the FBI, New York Police Department and corrections departments. I fully support the appropriate use of force against criminals, regardless of race. And, I believe officers should be treated with respect.

But respect goes both ways. We cannot simply assume a police officer is in the right if all the evidence shows him to be wrong. And, that seems to be the case in both the Dallas and Fort Worth shootings.

Lancet is a British academic medical journal, one of the most respected in the world.  As reported in Lancet (June 21, 2018) researchers found: “… police killings of unarmed black Americans have a meaningful … impact on the mental health of black Americans;” “Mental health impacts were not observed among white respondents and resulted only [in the black community} from police killings of unarmed black Americans …” These statements were based on a survey of nearly 39,000 African Americans.

Based on their review of past studies, these researchers also found: “There is strong evidence of systematic targeting of black Americans by police in the identification of criminal suspects, as well as in their prosecution, conviction, and sentencing in the criminal justice system.” Further, they found that police were “rarely charged, indicted, or successfully prosecuted.”

For many decades black (and some white) ministers have been preaching about overt police violence against black men. Nothing has come of their good intentions. It’s past time for action, not talk or prayer.

There is a reason why only 35% of black respondents believe that police are doing a good job compared to 75% of whites (Pew poll, 2016). Targeting of black residents via profiling must be stopped.

Police must receive basic training to understand the history of minorities in the USA and their interactions with police. Bad apples must be weeded out at the Police Academy level.  Training for experienced law enforcement officers must occur on a recurring basis. Confidential reporting instances of police racial bias should be facilitated. Finally, when instances of police brutality are discovered, appropriate punishment must be netted out.

Gun Control

Regarding the broader issue of gun control, the Gifford State Gun Law rankings are out. The Gifford report shows conclusively that states with tougher firearm laws have fewer gun deaths. 

Texas scores an “F” due to very lenient gun laws. It also has the 12.4-gun deaths per 100,000 which is above the national average. My NRA buddies always reply: “what about New York?” Well, New York deaths are only 3.7 per 100,000 residents.Texas, with lots of guns, has a death rate three times New York.

When you read this newspaper and others, it seems that there is always a shooting in the city or nearby. Contrary to what the NRA states, every “good guy” having a gun is not the solution. Why then isn’t the state legislature pushing for greater gun control? The NRA (and its lobbyist’s money) is the answer.

Per the Gifford Report, Texas legislation is needed to: 

  • Strengthen background checks by preventing “gun show” type sales where no background check is currently done
  • Restrict carry permits
  • Permit cities and counties to further regulate firearms
  • Restrict the sales of semi-automatic assault weapons, large magazines and unsafe handguns
  • Limit how many guns can be purchased within a specific timeframe
  • Require gun owners to register their arms and report transfers of ownership

If Texas residents want to lessen unjustifiable police brutality and the use of guns by criminal elements, they will vote for elected officials who endorse the above actions. The alternative is to do nothing, permitting discrimination and violence to continue.

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Image Credit: the feature image of the black/white photo of Sandra Bland Memorial where Sandra Bland was arrested Prairie View, Texas taken by Patrick Feller via flickr Creative Commons; the photo of the police tape is a stock phone licensed by LikeTheDew.com at Dreamstime.com using the contributions of generous readers like you.

Jack Bernard

Jack Bernard

Jack A Bernard is a retired SVP with a national healthcare corporation. He was Chair of the Jasper County, Ga Board of Commissioners and Republican Party. He was also on the Board of Health for Jasper County and is currently on the Fayette County BOH. Bernard has over 100 columns published annually, primarily in the South.