Caron Nazario just before he is pepper sprayed by police in Virginia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
By Wayne Dawkins
Special to the AFRO
As we anxiously and skeptically awaited the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, if there ever were alarms for a generational change in American policing, consider a handful of flashpoints this week:
Item: At the Chauvin trial, a former Maryland chief medical examiner served as an expert witness in Chauvin’s defense. David Fowler said Floyd’s death was an unfortunate “accident” at the hands – or to be specific, knee – of that police officer.
The M.E. has now come under scrutiny because he handled a case in which Anton Black, a Maryland youth who is Black, died under related circumstances of police misconduct on the Eastern Shore. The youth’s family has sued.
Item: In Fairfax County, Northern Virginia, reported the Washington Post on April 18, a police officer resigned because of multiple cases in which African Americans and other people of color appeared to be targeted and profiled for traffic offenses. In one extreme case, a firefighter and expectant father went to prison on dubious charges.
Jonathan Freitag, 25, the departed police officer, resurfaced to protect and serve in South Florida. When that police jurisdiction was notified by Post reporters, who requested documents about that officer’s past, the officials at the Brevard County Sheriff Department sent a scathing letter to the Virginia officials arguing they were misled.
Or maybe the cop knew how to game the system. Freitag quit Virginia last May before the FBI joined Fairfax’s investigation that the cop allegedly stole drugs from the police property room and planted the narcotics on innocent people.
Freitag three months later resurfaced, working in Florida law enforcement.
Meanwhile in Fairfax, possibly 400 previous convictions could be tossed because that officer performed sloppy and probably malicious policing.
Item: Ah yes, Caron Nazario, the young Army Reserve 2nd lieutenant who was driving in Southern Virginia, stopped by police who had guns drawn, then pepper sprayed.
Turned out Lt. Nazario, Black and Latinx, committed no misdemeanor moving violations; he had legal temporary tags on his brand-new SUV. Furthermore, the person who was trying to de-escalate the encounter was the commissioned officer, who was temporarily blinded and kicked by cops while on the ground.
On April 18, the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk dug deeper into travel along that Route 460 corridor, frequently traveled by people to have ties to HBCU Virginia State University in Petersburg. Eight people came forward and said they recognized Route 460 speed trap more accurately is a “race trap” because Black people are targeted by police, the sources allege.
One out of five Virginians is African American, yet in the three “Ws,” Windsor, Waverley and Wakefield, twice as many Blacks are stopped and cited for traffic violations. Generations of VSU families either take extreme caution and preparation in traveling that perilous route, or drive many extra miles on Interstate 64 to avoid Route 460, they said.
As heads shake over the above three incidents, America is repeatedly shocked by what President Joe Biden called a “national embarrassment,” 40-plus lethal mass shooting episodes that have occurred in the past 30-day cycle.
We need the police. Without these guardian-first responders there would be mayhem and anarchy. Yet that said, a minority of police are sadistic brutalizers, or worse, state executioners. Those deplorables may represent one out of every 20 cops. Police on the street came up with that ratio. The majority of righteous police know who the malodorous ones are; hell, they are scared because they work closely with these treacherous brothers in blue.
After you learn the ropes, transfer as fast as you can, a police veteran counseled a new recruit to the Baltimore gun squad, the presumptive good guys turned treacherous criminals.
Wayne Dawkins is a writer, and a professor of professional practice at Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication.
Policing for the various strata of Black America, whether working poor, working class, bourgeois or desperately poor, has been broken. Solutions include abolishing qualified immunity for police, ending police traffic stops for minor offenses, and reallocating police resources to social workers and mental health professionals to solve citizen problems.
No, not the inflammatory “defund the police,” but demilitarize, heck yeah.
The writer is a professor of professional practice at Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication.