On March 18, 2018, in Sacramento, California, police officers shot and killed Stephon Clark. Clark, who was a 22-year-old African-American man, was unarmed.
On the night of March 1, 2018, police officers Officers Terrance Mercadal and Jared Robinet were dispatched to a Sacramento neighbourhood around 9:13 p.m. after residents called 9-1-1 to report that someone was breaking into cars. Residents described the perpetrator to be a male wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and dark pants.
Police officers began canvassing the area when they came across Stephon Clark. He was confronted by police officers and was asked to stop and raise his arms in the air; however, he fled and jumped the fence into another property. Eventually, Clark made it to his grandmother’s backyard where he was shot 20 times.
The police officers who shot Clark gave varying accounts of the incident. Mercadal and Robinet said that Clark was moving towards them and that they thought that he was holding a gun; however, the video evidence did not support those claims. The video did show Clark with an object in his hand; however, after Clark died, it was revealed that the object was a cellphone, not a weapon.
After the shooting, the Sacramento Police Department launched a use-of-force investigation and placed both officers on administrative paid leave. Nearly a year later, it was announced that Mercadal and Robinet would not be charged for the shooting.
This case is reminiscent of many instances where Black men have died at the hands of police officers.
Mike Brown. Trayvon Martin. Tamir Rice.
These names are the names of other innocent Black men and youth who died at the hands of police violence and brutality. These are the names of victims who did not receive complete retribution for their deaths because their assailants were not justly apprehended. The narrative of police officers shooting and killing Black men in America is becoming frighteningly familiar. This pattern suggests that the lives of Black men do not matter, when in fact, the reality is the opposite. The lives of Black men and women are just as important as the lives of men and women of other races.
American policing practices that reflect the value for Black, human lives are long overdue
We can trace patterns in policing and find similarities in them with Jim Crow laws and slavery. Social control is the foundation for anti-Black, modern-day policing practices. Policing is used to regulate and control Black communities because of the fear associated with blackness.
Sometimes the way that officers execute policing and control tactics can be poor. Like the Clark case, sometimes an officer can get out control and somebody loses their life. It is in these moments when the community asks officers to hold their own accountable. This is not something that should even have to be asked; however, Black people have been marginalized for so long, that the idea of actually serving and protecting them is foreign.
The call for justice that many Black people in America make is not intended to be anti-police. This call is intended is to be anti-injustice.
Since Clark’s death, protests and other Black Lives Matter rallies have occurred to honour Clark and call for the punishment of the officers responsible for his death. These rallies aim to acknowledge the need for change within the American criminal justice system. Many of these protests have resulted in many people getting arrested rather than listened to.
It is cases like Stephon Clark’s that challenge the idea that change is occurring in the American criminal justice system. We are far from change.
Change can only occur in this system if the people in charge are open to the idea of change. The people in charge or not talking about the police chief’s or lieutenants. The criminal justice system is an extension of the American government. The purpose of the justice system is to reflect and protect the ideologies and values of the legislation. For positive change to flourish throughout the courts, prisons, and policing systems for Black people (and all minorities), the philosophies at the legislative level must be non-discriminatory.
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