It has taken some time for me to come to grips with what happened to Tony Robinson on March 6, 2015. My immediate response was to wait until the reports came out and decisions were made. And that happened exactly as we expected. The officer was not charged, he remains employed with the police department, and a young black man is still dead.
So I have read the reports. At first glance they are quite tidy. They explain well why the officer did what he did. But a slow, thoughtful reading in context with the ills of our society leave much to be desired. It does not pass the sniff test and I don’t have enough information to say why.
We have a flawed system of law enforcement. It is flawed to the point where even good men and women who are police officers cannot help but fall into and mimicking the flaws. If you work in a flawed system and swim with the current, you cannot help but begin to embody these flaws.
Some may say it is a stretch to assume this about the system in which the police operate. But there is one glaring piece of evidence that points to this as more fact than speculation. We have seen over and over again how unarmed black men have been killed at the hands of police, under varying circumstances, but those who should still be discussing it, the police, are not. The system has absorbed the anomaly and moved on. Sure they had some meetings and appointed someone to review policy and procedure while paying them a handsome salary for the effort. It will be sometime before we know the outcome but I think we can guess what the recommendations will be. They will say the policies are sound, should maybe be a little more transparent, that officers should get an hour or two a year of training on working with diverse groups and that positive police presence should be increased. I am almost willing to bet money on it. What the report will not say is what needs to be said. There is a problem with racism in our society and in our systems and it’s costing lives.
This leads to police policing police. The investigations into these shootings are handled by law enforcement, outside the controls of the justice system that we are supposed to respect and by which we are supposed to abide. There is a higher, more hidden law that does not apply to all of us. It is not transparent. It is not even visible on the horizon. And that’s what many families, including the family of Tony Robinson, asked for. A transparent process where peers are presented evidence and asked to make a determination of appropriate action. Does this mean a full blown jury trial? I don’t know, but it should at least be something the people can see and hear.
In the context of the flaws and ills, the only thing we can say for sure is that Tony Robinson died of homicide. I know what the official DCI reports say in general and what the DA decided from that information. But the process by which it is gathered, evaluated, ruled upon, and disseminated is too one sided to expect silence on the issue.
This isn’t over. It cannot be over.
I wish I were more brave. I wish I could commit to a decision on this and stand firm and say this was murder. I am not that brave. But there are those out there who are. There are those close to these deaths who are speaking up and speaking out. And who will continue to do so with conviction.
I am however brave enough to say his name: #TonyRobinson
And if we do not prove that #blacklivesmatter
Then we will continue to find #nojusticenopeace