The shooting of Harris County, Texas, Sheriff's Deputy Darren Goforth was a tragedy. Police officers put their lives on the line for the people of this country every day. Many are underpaid and are not in policing for the money, but for the opportunity to make their communities and cities better. I am proud of the fact that my son is a police officer, and I pray for his safety constantly.
So far, no one really knows the motive of Goforth's killer. Ron Hickman, sheriff of Harris County, wondered if the "national rhetoric" of "Black Lives Matter" was a contributing factor. Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson acknowledged that every profession has its "bad apples" and issued a plea to the public not to declare war on the police.
As a civil rights lawyer, I have tried many excessive force cases against the police. My cases typically involve police beatings and shootings against African-American citizens by white police officers. I, too, agree that every profession has its "bad apples." Certainly, we have seen examples of bad actors within America's law enforcement involving questionable shootings of unarmed African Americans. Unlike their white counterparts, African Americans have been killed by police who have allegedly mistaken a cell phone or a wallet for a gun. These types of shootings have caused outrage within the African-American community. We have seen examples of white police officers shooting unarmed black men in the back while running away. We have also seen police officers shooting unarmed black men in the back while they were in custody. We have even seen examples of black children who have been killed by the police while holding toy guns. These horrendous police shootings have pushed this issue to the national forefront and provide fuel to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Washington Post reported that 668 people have been killed by police this year, as of Tuesday. Most of the people who were killed by the police were armed. The Post also reported that of these killings, there were 64 shootings by the police involving citizens who were unarmed. Of those involving unarmed citizens, African Americans and Latinos accounted for 64 percent of these police shootings. Of the total number of police shootings, African Americans account for 25 percent, nearly double the 14 percent that African Americans represent in the U.S. population.
Again, we do not know the motive behind the killing of Goforth, but let's just assume that the killer committed this terrible act out of frustration over the killings of African Americans by the police. There are those who question why the black community shows more outrage over a black person being killed by the police rather than from black-on-black crime. One reason is that we pay the police to protect and serve us, not to kill us based on our race. When police kill AfricanAmericans, under circumstances that cause one to believe that race could have been a factor, then we are all at risk. When those in the black community see that police officers are not held criminally responsible for killing unarmed black men, women and children, this causes anger and disrespect for the police. When the majority remains silent over these questionable police shootings of unarmed black citizens, the message is that it is all right for the police to kill black citizens. We have seen examples, even in this city, where police officers have shot and killed unarmed black citizens, and juries have given their seal of approval for such killings by refusing to vote guilty in criminal cases and by refusing to hold the police officer legally liable in civil cases.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." When the majority remains silent in the face of injustice this places us all in danger — even the police.
Certainly, I recognize that the majority of our police officers are good people, trying to do the right thing. We all should be committed to see that "judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream," because where there is "no justice," there can be "no peace."