One Member’s Perspective on Breonna Taylor Case (09/24/2020)

Dear Colleagues,

You may not think about this travesty of justice in this way, but the refusal to press any charges in the Breonna Taylor case is yet another example of why elections matter and why it is so hard to root out the systemic racism we find in our society.  Would the police have responded in the same way if Breonna Taylor was white? Would the grand jury have indicted a black police officer if Breonna Taylor were white?  One can only speculate on the answers to these questions.

The Republican Attorney General of Kentucky, a black man, was elected by the people of Kentucky to serve them.  He decided what witnesses and evidence the grand jury was presented with.  Grand jury proceedings are private and not open to the public. The grand jury then made a decision purely based the limited information the AG chose to present.  He could have chosen to prosecute despite the Grand Jury’s recommendation.  He chose not to.  This is why elections matter.

I wanted to share with you a message that AFT Guild member and Grossmont College Administration of Justice Professor Michael Stewart sent to his students regarding this incident.  The bottom line: always make your vote count.

In Solidarity,
Jim

Begin forwarded message:

From: Michael Stewart <Michael.Stewart2@gcccd.edu>

Subject: FYI sent to my students re Breonna Taylor

Date: September 24, 2020 at 7:56:00 AM PDT

To: Jim Mahler <aftjim@mac.com>

Good morning,

Yesterday, a grand jury brought no homicide charges against Louisville police for the killing of Breonna Taylor during a drug raid gone wrong. This news is confusing and, to many, upsetting.

I am not going to go over the circumstances of this incident. There are numerous news reports you can read over to learn more.  What I want to address is the no indictment piece (no criminal charges being filed) and what you must do if this makes you mad.

The loss of any human life is a great tragedy. The loss of human life as the result of police action makes it harder to cope with.  In the USA Today article “’Vigorous’ self-defense laws likely prevented homicide charges in Breonna Taylor’s death, experts say” (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/09/23/kentucky-self-defense-laws-homicide-charges-breonna-taylor-decision/3510392001/) respondents – mainly attorneys – address why filing criminal charges against a police officer involved in a shooting is near impossible: It’s the existing law.

At the federal level and in each state there are laws written and approved by your elected politicians that give police officers the legal authority to shoot someone. Sometimes, these shootings result in death. Police officers involved in a shooting are not making up the law on the fly. They are also not making the decision to shoot haphazardly. There are insurmountable repercussions that will impact everyone involved forever. Very few police shootings are made “illegally.” Rather, in an overwhelming high amount of instances, police officers shoot someone in a manner authorized by law to protect their own lives, the lives of members of the community and in protection of property.

How do you these laws change? How do police practices change?  It starts with you and who you allow to make our laws.  It starts with you making an informed decision about who you elect.  Really think about who you are allowing to make our laws and also to enforce these same laws.

The representatives you elect to the federal and state legislature along with your town’s city council are all responsible for making the laws your police enforce and how police are trained in our community. The executive branch, to include the President of the United States and your city’s mayor, direct law enforcement on how to enforce these same laws.

Are you okay with how things are going? If not, remember it is election season.  Take time to be a change-maker.

Register to vote in California: https://registertovote.ca.gov/

Please let me know what questions you might have.

~Michael Stewart