Not Charging the Officers Who Killed Alton Sterling Is a Travesty

Update: On March 30, the Baton Rouge Police Department released disturbing body camera video of the police killing of Alton Sterling, and announced that Officer Blane Salamoni, who shot Sterling six times, would be fired.

On March 27, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced that his office would not bring criminal charges against the two police officers who shot and killed Alton Sterling as he lay pinned by them to the ground in front of a convenience store in Baton Rouge.

Attorney General Landry’s decision is two contradictory things: It is shocking, and it is unsurprising. The decision sends a clear message about policing in America today, and highlights the continuing crisis of accountability when it comes to unlawful use of excessive and deadly force by police.

The failure to hold police accountable for the killings of Black men and boys is standard practice at both the local and federal level. Last year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the nation’s so-called “top cop,” and his Department of Justice concluded there was insufficient evidence to bring federal civil rights charges against the officers involved in Sterling’s death. And, while the Baton Rouge Police Chief said disciplinary hearings would be held for the officers this week, the officers who killed Sterling, and whose killing of Sterling was caught on video, both remain employed by the Baton Rouge Police Department.

Sterling was one of 233 Black people shot and killed by the police in 2016. And while the national media spotlight on police violence has faded, the death toll has remained steady. The Washington Post Police Shooting Database records show 2934 people shot and killed by police between 2015 and 2017. That’s nearly 1000 deaths per year. Earlier this month, police officers in Sacramento fired 20 rounds at Stephon Clark, who was unarmed and standing in his own backyard. He died of the wounds inflicted on him by law enforcement. As did Danny Ray Thomas, another unarmed Black man, a man in mental distress, who was killed by police in Harris County, Texas, just days ago.

Sterling’s death is a glaring reminder that police officers too often use aggressive tactics and excessive force, informed by implicit bias rather than community protection. Upon first arriving at the scene, one of the officers reportedly put a gun to Sterling’s head and said “I’ll kill you, bitch.” The AG’s report describes the officer as giving Sterling a “stern” warning: “Don’t fucking move or I’ll shoot you in your fucking head.”

A death threat is not an acceptable warning. And, coming from police and directed at Black and brown people, death is too often the result. The ACLU of Louisiana and partner organizations are working to reform police practices to combat these killings.

Some reforms are already under way. In November 2016, the Baton Rouge Police Department, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Louisiana State Police, and the City of Baton Rouge committed to use only the level of force objectively reasonable to bring an incident under control, and use deescalation techniques when dealing with protesters. Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, who took office in January 2017, has successfully pushed for implicit bias training, a stronger use-of-force policy, and expanded the use of body cameras to the entire police force.

That the officers who killed Sterling have not been charged is by no means the end of this fight. There are questions that must be answered about Sterling’s death, and we demand that all body camera and surveillance footage of the incident be released. We demand accountability, equal justice, and an end to racialized policing.

Alton Sterling didn’t have to die on the pavement that night. The Baton Rouge police officers chose aggression. They chose to shoot Sterling six times. We must address and dismantle the conditions that led the officers to use deadly force when it was not needed or legal. We must end the epidemic of police violence once and for all — and bring accountability to this broken system.

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Anonymous

Except it's not a game and now he's dead.

Anonymous

Wrong.

Bill Wild

Sterling should have folloowed the officers instructions, if he had he would be alive today. Perhaps it was his guilty knowledge of the hand gun in his possession motivated his resistance to arrest.

Anonymous

How the F do you know? All the documents and video footage haven't been released yet, if ever. Keep you your racial bias out of it until you get ALL of the facts not just the ones the cops give you.

Anonymous

People like this can't possibly be real...

The amount of denial here would overflow the banks of the Nile.

Anonymous

How the fuck do you know he was armed at the time? Did you see a gun? No you didn't you just assume that the police are telling the truth about him having a fucking gun because you are obviously weak minded and can't think for yourself. We usually call that a fucking idiot and honestly people like you don't even deserve the right to have an opinion.

Anonymous

1,000 a year get shot & killed by police more than any other country witch hardly have any killed by police. The cover up, government controlled corruption getting away with murder. With nothing they can't do to screw you and along the way themselves. 3 wives justice 1, 3 assaults 3 different hospitals, city's & states, justice NONE. No one charged but person assaulted charged twice without lifting a finger, gets to now in solute to pukes.

Anonymous

HE was shot 6 times. Disgusting and unnecessary.

Anonymous

Those officers are murdering racist criminal that probably have a criminal history but nothing happens to them because of the badge and the color of their skin. And anyone that says Alton sterling was reaching for a gun is delusional because that clearly didn't happen. Anyone that try and justify those cops actions are doing so because they're racist, evil, filled with hate and condone the murdering of innocent blacks.

Anonymous

Amen

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