The Killing of Sylville Smith: Why We Can’t Believe Milwaukee Police

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Milwaukee Police Chief Edward A. Flynn--where's the video?

[Speaking Truth To Power]

The urban uprising of African-Americans in Milwaukee, after the latest questionable shooting of a Black man by police, is but the latest chapter in the ongoing crisis between Black America and the lawless unaccountable police forces in America. Just like other shootings, officials in Milwaukee tell us the officer was justified in his actions to use deadly force.

Why is deadly force used so disproportionately against Black people by police?

The eruption of Black anger in Milwaukee at the police killing of Sylville Smith is another example of the fermenting frustrations many have toward the oppressive conditions Black people face from police. The concealing of information by police in the death of Mr. Smith again illustrates the lack of transparency the Black community faces when police kill Black people under suspicious circumstances.

Milwaukee Police claim the killing of Mr. Smith, by Officer Dominique Heaggan was justified—because they say he tried to shoot Officer Heaggan with a loaded gun. However, what they failed to point out was: Smith had a concealed carry license. If Mr. Smith was legally registered to carry a weapon, how can they use his Second Amendment “right to bear arms” against him? Is this because the Second Amendment was ratified to be used against Blacks—not used by Blacks?

Is this why the NRA said nothing after the deaths of Philando Castile whose legal firearm was used as the justification for his killing? We must seriously question the veracity of claims that Smith tried to shoot police. Given the repeated lies we’ve seen from police officers over the last few years, why should we take their word at face value? What would Smith’s motive be in trying to shoot this officer? Since then, the killing of Mr. Smith much has been made about him having a “lengthy arrest record.” This is the kind of irrelevant character assassination police often use to slander those Black people they have killed unjustly—and to silence any questions or criticisms of their actions.

Unfortunately, when police do this no one—especially, politicians and establishment media —bother to investigate these cases any further. Sadly, even some Black people devalue the lives of Blacks who have run afoul of “the law.” Does that mean every Black people who has a record deserves to executed by police? It has been claimed Smith beat a gun rap because he, allegedly, intimidated a witness. There is also talk of him being involved in a burglary—and of course police had to mention that he was once cited for marijuana possession.

The reality is: none of this should be germane to whether this shooting was justified. Once again, it looks as if the rush to castigate this now dead Black man is a smokescreen to shift the focus from the murderous actions of the police. There are things that have been done here that makes it appear the Milwaukee Police are hiding something. Why have they not released the body-cam video of this shooting? One reason police said they have not released the body-cam video is because there are audio problems.

This rationale is more than a little suspect. Is the audio going to, somehow, alter the quality of the video? There is also talk that the video will be released after the investigation. What are they really hiding here? Could it be they are doing damage control by sitting on the video and hoping anger will have subsided sufficiently when they release the video months down the line? None of this fosters trust in police. If police want Black America to trust them, why do they repeatedly conceal videos—and have officers who kill Black people wait days and months before they step to the microphones and cameras and tell us what happened?

Over and over again, we’ve witnessed cases where officers refuse to testify to the public about why they killed someone. Worst of all, police engineer concealment protocols like the “48 hour rule” where they have time to concoct and fix their story to cover any inconsistency—or lie they tell. For example, in Louisiana killer cops Officer Howie Lake and Officer Blane Salmoni who murdered Alton Sterling can’t even be questioned, by state law, for 30 days.

These are the kind of crooked practices that are put in place to protest police who engage in criminal actions. Why should someone who took an oath to “enforce the law” need to hide behind rules like this—unless, they are guilty of committing atrocities and breaking the law? How do these kind of double-standard rules nurture true transparency? Is there any wonder why the police have little credibility with Blacks? No officer who refuses to tell their story, immediately, after they have killed a Black person should be viewed with anything but suspicion.

Whenever a cop is interrogating someone, if the person is reticent in answering questions, police often ask them what they have to hide. Imagine if a suspect being interviewed demanded to first have 30 days to think about it. Why should it be any different for so-called “law-enforcement officers?” In fact, shouldn’t they be held to a higher standard—especially since society has seen it fit to give them a “license to kill?” Another trick that was used quickly in this case is the he-was-killed-by-a-Black-cop-so-racism couldn’t-be-a-factor defense.

This excuse is another baseless red herring argument since the folk who like to tell us this are often the same ones lamenting about “Black-on-Black crime.” So, why would it be so hard to believe that a Black cop can also hate Black people to the point of killing them—in an institutionally racist environment where brutalizing Black people is the number one priority? But, as is often the case, these people trip themselves in their own shallow logic.

The clownish Black Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is a case in point. This disgrace to the Black race, called the recent police protests in Milwaukee “Black cultural dysfunction” as he talked about “tribal behavior” and “the law of the jungle.”

This weirdo in Black face is loved by racist right-wingers for self-hating callous comments like this and his attacks on the Black Lives Matter Movement activists. Sheriff Clarke is the epitome of a self-hating Black man; and given the horrific Black experience in this country one should not be surprised there are many such individuals. For many Whites he’s the perfect kind of Negro buffoon—one who has no problem attacking Black people for his personal advancement.

Therefore, the notion that the killing of Mr. Smith had nothing to do with race is simplistic nonsense. Institutional racism does use Black people of dubious character to do their dirty work as well. There are other Blacks, like Sheriff Clarke, who serve as cover for racist Whites. The lack of transparency in the killing of Sylville Smith is but another indicator of how bad the problem of racist policing is.

The authorities in Milwaukee by refusing to release the body-cam video are telling us we can expect no transparency from them. Since this is the case, why should we believe anything they say? Don't be surprised if the next thing we hear is that the video was damaged while trying to repair the audio.

For over two years, we’ve seen repeated instances of police covering up for the so-called “bad apples” among them. Besides the lack of transparency, police are not being held accountable by anyone in the political establishment when they kill and murder Black people.

Because of this, Black Americans must continue to resist the lies and deception of police apologists and the politicians who enable them. Although it will require more struggle, that’s the only way to bring about concrete change.


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