Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) blasted the police department of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, this week for suggesting that the police-perpetrated killing of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was merely an “accident.”
At a press briefing on Tuesday, the police department released the body camera footage of Wright being shot in his car. In the video, Kim Potter, the officer who shot Wright (and has since resigned), is shown pointing her gun at close range at Wright while shouting “taser,” before shooting him.
Police Chief Tim Gannon, who also resigned from the department on Tuesday, described Potter’s action as an “accident.” Ocasio-Cortez disparaged that assertion on Tuesday night, explaining that Wright’s death was emblematic of deeper problems with policing in the U.S. altogether.
“Daunte Wright’s killing was not a random, disconnected ‘accident’ — it was the repeated outcome of an indefensible system that grants impunity for state violence, rewards it w/ endlessly growing budgets at the cost of community investment, & targets those who question that order,” the congresswoman wrote on Twitter.
In a second tweet immediately following her first one, Ocasio-Cortez continued to explain her view, pointing out that no reforms could change the system of policing enough to prevent killings like these in the future.
“Cameras, chokehold bans, ‘retraining’ funds, and similar reform measures do not ultimately solve what is a systemic problem,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “That system will find a way — killings happen on camera, people are killed in other ways, retraining grows $ while often substituting for deeper measures.”
Indeed, the so-called reforms that Ocasio-Cortez described in her tweet do not address the underlying problems that exist in policing. For example, increased police training won’t teach officers to be more sympathetic to cries of help from their victims when they’re struggling to breathe, which is what happened to Eric Garner and George Floyd.
Instead, many have advocated for defunding or divesting from police departments, and using the money usually allocated to policing to improve conditions for communities typically targeted by police.
“We must consider what it would mean to remove policing from all areas of life,” Lacino Hamilton, a formerly incarcerated individual and activist, wrote last year. “That it is an opportunity to build a more caring, more inclusive, and a more economic and politically just society.”
“Funneling so many resources into law enforcement instead of education, affordable housing, and accessible health care has caused significant harm to communities,” the American Civil Liberties Union wrote last summer.
A growing number of voters support at least partial defunding of the police. A Data for Progress poll published this month found that 65 percent of voters in the U.S. support “reallocating some of law enforcement budgets to support such non-police first responder programs.”
Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t the only one critical of the claim that Wright’s death was a mere accident. Upon hearing that rationale from the Brooklyn Center chief of police — who also has since resigned under pressure — Wright’s family members expressed outright skepticism on Tuesday.
“An accident is knocking over a glass of milk. It’s not an accident to take your gun out of the holster,” Jeff Storms, an attorney representing Daunte Wright’s family, said. “It’s not an accident to point your gun. It’s not an accident to ignore the fact that what you’re holding doesn’t weigh the same amount as the Taser you’ve used in training hundreds of times. So don’t tell us it’s an accident, because it undermines the tragic loss of life that this family has experienced.”
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