Today, I watched the Fulton County DA announce the charges against the two police officers involved in the killing of Rayshard Brooks. A large blow-up still photo was put on a rickety metal easel. It was of Officer Rolfe kicking the man whom he had just shot in the back. A friend, busy at the time of the press conference, gasped in a way I’ve never heard her do before when I told her about that. “He kicked him? Oh my God.” Tonight, nothing seems more fitting than to share the words of L. Chris Stewart, an attorney for Brooks’s family, spoken at the family’s press conference later this afternoon.
A piece of justice
by Chris Stewart, Atlanta, Georgia
This isn’t a celebration or a victory lap of watching these officers get charged. Nobody’s happy, nobody’s celebrating, because this never should have happened. We shouldn’t have to celebrate as African Americans when we get a piece of justice like today. We shouldn’t have to celebrate and praise when an officer is held accountable for actions that we saw and actions that we didn’t know about until today. Some people thought that we’d be happy and we’d be celebrating, have our fists in the air, but it’s more disappointment that this is the state of policing and this is where we’re at.
But I saw a lot of hope today. As the district attorney said, this is the first time that another officer has decided to be a government witness and testify against another officer. That’s what policing is. That’s the kind of officers that make these streets safe, that stop incidents like this from happening. When you’re willing to step up and say that was wrong, even if that’s going to risk my career, even if people won’t like me and other officers will be angry—that’s the reason that I always say, not every single officer is out there trying to kill somebody.
But we’re also not going to play that rhetoric game that you all saw today of all officers are great. No. We’ve seen what has happened. It’s the same assumption that we don’t want officers making about Black people: that all people are from the ghetto, that all people are hoods, that all of us are up to no good, that you need to search every young Black male that you see, which leads to situations like this. It’s both assumptions.
So we’re watching all these policies that directly affect families like this, all these arguments, Democrats vs. Republicans, all of this ridiculousness and they’re not starting from step one: How do we actually fix this, and not what’s best for your political party. Because the things I saw today, we’re going to be back here next year. What’s the point of national collection of data, if the data is flawed? We have handled cases where the internal affairs reports aren’t taken properly. So you’ll be collecting data that is nonsensical and doesn’t hold officers accountable unless you fix the department internal affairs first.
But they don’t want reality. They want policies and elections. And that’s fine but we’ll end up here again. So is this justice today? Not yet. We still don’t have a definition for it.
But more heartache that families have to go through this and fight the public to try and get justice for a man that was shot in the back twice. But we do thank everybody in this country for the outpouring of support, for people that are marching for change peacefully, keeping his name alive positively. And maybe one day this country will get it right with policing, and we’ll all come together.