31 Dec “What’s Going on in America?”
That is what many Dutch people asked me as I visited the Netherlands this month, including my taxi driver to the Schniphol Airport.
Although I didn’t know exactly what the “goings on” he was referring to were, I said a lot is going on in America.
When I think about what is going on in America, I think of my cases and my clients facing wrongful prosecution of murder and rape, persecution, over-sensationalization, misuse of the media, overzealous cops, and people with mental illness without a path to health.
But, my Dutch taxi driver was referencing Michael Brown, Marlon Brown, and Keyarika Diggles – three unarmed and non-threatening African-Americans who were abused, beaten, or killed by American police. He also meant those abused and killed in Denver, Marvin Booker and the Rodriquez family, and all the others who have suffered wrongful abuse.
The people in the Netherlands are soft, kind, quiet and sometimes stoic. They may also be edgy, have steel filled ears, noses, and faces, have colorful hair and style. But, they are not violent and not accustomed to Dutch law enforcement officers killing Dutch citizens.
The profound question left me stunned, because Americans are accustomed to it. This middle-aged, hard-working taxi driver, didn’t understand why and how Americans can continue to live with these outcomes. The taxi driver said, in Netherlands, they would put a cop like that in the Special Forces where he could use his weapon on the enemy. On the enemy.
I told him that poverty, racism, and misuse of power have created this perfect storm of police violence.
In American homes, people are dissecting the law enforcement officers’ subjective opinion, the evidence, and histories of those beaten by police officers. They are rationalizing why the alleged threats deserved fatal responses. But there is one too many (hundreds too many) cases of police abuse so it isn’t possible to rationalize why this violence against American citizens repeatedly occurs.
Instead of the academic or fact splitting discussions, any police officer that kills their own citizens must face trial, face consequences in their jobs, and prosecutors must be accountable for the decisions they make. That’s the response. Straighten up what we know is corrupt.
What the hell is going on in America?
Iris Eytan is a Partner at Reilly Pozner LLP. She practices Criminal Defense with an emphasis in mental health defenses.