Editorial: Laws that unjustly protect police officers must change

Daily Editorial Board

In July of last year, Philando Castile’s death sparked massive protest and public demands to address the systemic injustices facing African Americans and the use of undue deadly force by police officers. The police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was acquitted earlier on Friday by a jury of all counts, including second degree manslaughter and public endangerments.

Though this was a highly divisive decision, prosecutors and the defense ensured the public that the decision was made in full accordance to the laws and the criminal justice system. Many people still believed that Yanez was wrongly acquitted. On Friday, thousands of people met at the state Capitol building to stand against the verdict of the case and later marched onto Interstate 94. 

Moving forward, we are likely to see even more demonstrations of people demanding justice for Castile and his family all around the country. This may happen via social media, physical protesting and people demanding to hear from their local and national representatives.

During this time, It’s imperative that all demands for justice are nonviolent and educated. Protests rooted in violence and misinformation have led, and will continue to lead to irrelevant opposition and inaction — something that we cannot afford. While the actions of a few who seek to be violent should not undermine peaceful action, the obligation to stay vigilant and vehemently opposed to violence remains with everyone.

The battle cannot end on the streets. Legislators and the civil justice system must take action. The police officer was tried in an apparently just process. However, that doesn’t mean that the laws and legal codes that upheld this case were just. It’s imperative that a strong civil case is made to protect people from undue violence and harm from the police. This will require an immense effort to organize a legal attack against the very fabric that allow the injustices to be sown into the fabric of communities.

Police departments have the unique responsibility to protect the citizens of a community. No other organization can fulfill nor replace this responsibility. That is why it is vital for all police departments to be well representative of the populations they serve, to be held to the highest standard of ethics and codes of conduct, and to be held accountable when they fail their principle function. 

The failure of the Yanez trial to do that doesn’t mean the fight has been lost, it means that it must continue at a deeper and more systematic level. Action must be swift, it must be coordinated and it must be peaceful.