Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2020
There is anger on the streets in Minneapolis. And Los Angeles. And Columbus and Phoenix and Denver. It is deserved anger fed by the death of George Floyd, yet another unarmed black man killed as police arrested him.
Another. That’s the key word.
The mature and reasoned response is, of course, to explore what went wrong Monday on that Minneapolis street. Why did the police officers responsible for this unnecessary use of force still have badges, given their history of previous complaints? Why did it take so long for authorities to arrest the officer filmed pinning Floyd to the ground with a knee on his neck? What can Minneapolis — or Los Angeles, or Ferguson, or New York City — do to improve relations between police and the communities they serve? Cue up the commission, bring in the experts, hold some hearings, let people vent for a bit and then, by golly, we’ll have change.
That’s the lie we tell ourselves with depressing regularity. The solutions we keep trotting out fail to address the real fault lines here. Police now often carry body cameras, undergo implicit bias training and embrace community policing strategies aimed at bridging the divide. We keep looking for the technology or training that can be bought and implemented to end police brutality, and there have been some improvements, particularly in cities where police departments have restricted use of force in making arrests. But progress is not victory.
And this is not a technology problem, or something that can be ended with some policy tinkering. It is a function of deep structural racism that we as a nation have proved to be incapable of exorcising.
And no, police violence does not justify the rampages that erupted in Minneapolis. But as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out more than a half-century ago, “a riot is the language of the unheard.” To focus on the damage and looting misses the point. Were it not for the killing of Floyd, and the history of police behavior, there would have been no protests.