No accountability: How the civil justice system fails black Americans killed by police

Friday, April 12, 2019

By Ebony Slaughter-Johnson / Independent Media Institute

On June 19, 2018, Antwon Rose at just 17 years old joined the long line of Black Americans shot and killed by police officers. Rose, denied justice in life, was…

On June 19, 2018, Antwon Rose at just 17 years old joined the long line of Black Americans shot and killed by police officers. Rose, denied justice in life, was similarly denied justice in death: On March 22, 2019, he joined the long line of Black Americans shot and killed by police officers who were subsequently acquitted by the criminal justice system.

Officer Michael Rosfeld pulled Rose and another teen over in a traffic stop. Rose and the other teen fled. Rosfeld opened fire, shooting Rose in the face, back, and arm. Rosfeld gave inconsistent testimony as to whether Rose was armed. In fact, he was not. Furthermore, video evidence confirmed that Rose was running away from Rosfeld, thereby affirming that he was not a threat to Rosfeld at the time of the shooting.

Nevertheless, as has been shown time and time again, even compelling video evidence to the contrary is not enough to overcome a jury’s inclination to side with police officers. The trial for Rosfeld began on March 19, 2019. The jury delivered its not-guilty verdict three days later after only four hours of deliberation.

Like the criminal justice system, the civil law system is meant to hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions. That cities have offered the families of the victims of police-involved shootings monetary payments, whether through settlement or judgment, is at least a practical acknowledgment that some level of police misconduct occurred. Presumably, then, these payments are meant to represent an attempt at accountability.

But to what extent is accountability achieved through these payments?

Some evidence gathered by the Center for Justice and Democracy at New York Law School shows that the spotlight that civil lawsuits shine on incidents of police misconduct push police departments toward reforming their practices. After Jeremy McDole was shot and killed by police while sitting in his wheelchair, his family pursued civil recourse against the city of Wilmington, Delaware, and its police department. The city settled with the family for $1.5 million. It also promised to reformulate its de-escalation tactics, officer training, and policies on the use of force. The police chief expanded upon the agreement months after the December 2016 settlement, further committing the department to the reform of its training methods on mental health issues. The shooting death of Darius Pinex in 2011 led to a $2.34 million settlement for his family in civil court and proposals for a number of reforms within Chicago’s

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