Hey Mr. Policeman, Stop Killing Our Kids

Protestor holding a sign for Adam Toledo. Photo: AFP

No thank you. I don’t need to watch the newly released snuff film of 13-year-old Adam Toledo being gunned down by yet another trigger-happy Chicago cop after compiling with the officer’s command to raise his hands.

Nor do I want to experience an Ohio police officer’s body cam footage as he fatally guns down 16-year-old Ma’Khai Bryant. This happened 30 minutes before Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd.

Also, along the same tragic fault line, I will pass on another viewing of a Cleveland cop gunning down 12-year-old Tamir Rice in a city park. Tamir made the fatal mistake of being a Black male and holding a toy gun. Turned out the cop neglected to put on his job application that he was about to be fired from his previous post because he was deemed mentally unstable for police work. But, apparently in the eyes of the Cleveland Police Department he was fit to carry a gun and act as executor.

Oh, and “outside experts” deemed that the same Cleveland cop was justified in shooting Tamir. Colorado prosecutor Lamar Sims said that the cop’s “belief that Rice posed a threat of serious physical harm or death was objectively reasonable, as was his response to that perceived threat.”

The threat? A toy gun in the hands of a kid. 

No, I don’t need to see any more vivid proof of what I already know to be true: people of color have a bull’s eye tattooed across their backs. When pulled over for a minor traffic violation they can do everything right and still end up in a casket. And the men or women who kill them will almost always get away with it. 

I will not dignify the name of the Cleveland or Chicago cop, or any of those twitchy officers who cannot seem to stop from dispatching people of color either with guns or their knees. They are unfit to wear a badge. Nor will I hoist the Blue Lives Matter flag because until Black (and Brown) Lives Matter — really matter — I cannot in good conscience support law enforcement.

A Black Lives Matter mural in New York City. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP

So, forgive me today if I choose to ignore the reality that cops have an incredibly difficult job and have to make split second life-and-death decisions. For now, I don’t want to hear how there are only a few bad apples and that overall cops are upstanding citizens. 

And, please, don’t treat me like an utter fool by saying, as FOX NewsDan Bongino did, that the Chicago police officer’s elevated heart rate justified the killing of Adam Toledo. On the same “news” station Sean Hannity referred to Adam as a “13-year-old man.” Honestly, how does this count for intelligent commentary?

Predictably, in the wake of Adam’s death came this statement by Timothy Grace, the lawyer for the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago: “The police officer was put in this split-second situation where he has to make a decision.”

How about a decision not to kill a kid? Especially when the last frame of the video clearly shows Adam with his hands raised?

For the moment, in the wake of these tragic but preventable deaths, I really don’t give a damn about how hard it is to serve and protect. What I do want to hear is a real plan by really smart and dedicated people on how to weed out the mentally unstable cops, and purge the intrinsic racism that continues to poison American police departments. 

Seventh-grader Adam was the 265th American killed in three-and-half months so far in 2021 at the hands of police, according to the Washington Post database that keeps track of these sickening death-by-cops statistics. “Adam is the first person younger than 14 shot and killed by police since 2017,” states the outlet.

Folks, that’s only four years that the police haven’t ended the life of a kid 14 or younger. My, what restraint! Tamir was fatally shot in 2014.

My grandson is 13. Although he is white, he shares the same universal boyish smile and promise that can be seen in the photos that Tamir and Adam’s families shared, and in the photos of too many other children of color whose lives were tragically cut short. But there is an excellent chance that my grandson will live out his life without being put down by a police officer. 

Once I was a scruffy kid running the alleys of Chicago’s Southside and, like most boys, getting away with all kinds of minor mischief without the paranoia of being pursued and shot by Chicago’s “finest.” We often played “War” in Jackson Park fashioning sticks to serve as weapons and, if we had gathered together enough dimes and nickels, bought toy cap guns from the neighborhood drugstore to point and shoot at each other. Although we were aware of the horrible reputation of the Chicago Police Department — really just another gang with better weapons, safeguarded by Mayor Richard M. Daley and a powerful police union — I cannot remember any instance of police harassment. 

Then again, I was, and will be forever, protected by the color of my skin. Adam and Tamir, and too many others, deserved the same protection.

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