We are understandably disappointed with the decision of the St. Louis County, Missouri grand jury not indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown. However, we are hopeful the United States’ Department of Justice continues its civil rights investigation and that Michael Brown’s family and the citizens of Ferguson, Missouri will find justice.
However, we are also reminded that what has happened in Ferguson, sadly, has also happened here in Miami-Dade County. We are reminded of the July 2010 shooting death of DeCarlos Moore during an early morning traffic stop which kicked off a string of police related shootings in the City of Miami. We are reminded of the 2011 Memorial Day weekend shooting of Raymond Herisse, who was shot sixteen times while sitting in his stopped car. We are reminded of 18 year old graffiti artist Israel Hernandez, who was killed by the shock of a police officer’s Taser for writing on a wall. In short, we are reminded of all of the instances where unarmed citizens have been killed after an interaction with the police.
The loud voices of protest which have risen up after the shooting death of Michael Brown are an expression of the anger of citizens when the trust that they have in their justice system is betrayed. We are a society built on laws and we rightly expect that those who we empower to enforce our laws will do so fairly and justly. The use of force by police is a privilege not to be abused. The use of deadly force on unarmed suspects—regardless of color—is unacceptable in any civilized society. That deadly force appears to be used disproportionately on young men of color—particularly black men—in Miami-Dade County, is indicative of severe problems that exist not only all the way in Missouri, but rather, right here at home.
The Miami-Dade County Black Affairs Advisory Board recognizes that there is no “quick-fix” or easy solution, to the often discordant relationship between law enforcement and the black community. We believe that positive steps must be taken—by both sides—to bridge this divide. To this end, we support the placement of body cameras on all county and municipal officers. We applaud newly-installed Miami Beach Chief of Police Daniel Oates’s enactment of a rule—consistent with modern police tactics—prohibiting his officers from firing their weapons at moving vehicles. We also urge the Miami-Dade Office of the State Attorney to complete its ongoing investigation of the Raymond Herisse shooting, and to give his family and this community the one thing that the St. Louis County, Missouri grand jury delivered to Michael Brown’s family—an answer. Not the answer we wanted, but an answer nonetheless. Finally, we urge that the conversations, the reflection and the peaceful protests continue, until justice is shared by all.
Stephen Hunter Johnson, Esq.