Consider impact of Clark case

Daily Editorial Board

On March 30, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that the two white police officers responsible for the shooting of Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old black man, will not face criminal charges. An investigation by the United States Department of Justice is still ongoing.
 
 
It is perhaps impossible to know what exactly happened on the night when Clark was shot. Based on officer testimony and DNA evidence, Freeman recounted a story in which police officers had to restrain a violent man who, after beating his girlfriend, grabbed a police officer’s gun and stated, “I’m ready to die.” 
 
 
Other testimony paints a different story. But Freeman did not give due weight to the statements of 12 eyewitnesses who reported that Clark was handcuffed before being
shot. 
 
 
Nor did Freeman mention the statement of RayAnn Hayes, the woman assumed to be Clark’s girlfriend, who was present at the scene of the shooting. In a February interview with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Hayes stated that Clark was not her boyfriend and that he did not beat her. 
 
 
When considering the investigation, it is certainly commendable that Freeman did not utilize a grand jury process, which is a flawed system of prosecution that lacks transparency and accountability. Freeman has also released for public benefit an unprecedented amount of evidence, including videos, reports and photos. 
 
 
But it’s not enough to praise transparency in the face of broad and consistent patterns of violence against communities of color by police officers. The measures Freeman took during this investigation should not be something to celebrate but rather our bare minimum expectation when a human being is killed. As a community, we have to do better at holding our elected officials accountable. 
 
 
We can be sure of a few facts. Clark is dead, and he died at the hands of two police officers. We also know Clark is one of 143 people in Minnesota who have died at the hands of law enforcement since 2000. Finally, we know that not a single officer has been charged in those deaths. 
 
 
Across the country, we know that police are disproportionately more likely to kill black people than they are to kill people of other demographics. 
 
 
But as an editorial board with no African-American members, we cannot know the pain and fear that Minnesota’s black community is experiencing in the face of Clark’s death, the denial of charges and repeated instances of police brutality across the country. We stand in solidarity with our friends and neighbors who are grieving this loss.
 
 
Minnesota’s racial disparities, among the worst in the nation, are discussed so often that they scarcely raise an eyebrow. Extreme income and educational disparities, along with a lack of representation, build a world in which white police officers feel justified using deadly force against a black man 61 seconds after confrontation. Our broken economic, education and criminal justice systems are not just failing communities of color. They are literally killing people. 
 
 
We cannot — as a university, a city or a state — remain apathetic to the violence and injustice that communities of color experience. Even as the hashtag “#Justice4Jamar” circulated widely on social media, our county attorney ruled that no one will answer for Clark’s death. 
 
 
But it is not too late to continue to seek justice for communities of color, for whom years of segregation, disenfranchisement and inequality continue to go unanswered.