Dear Editor: Here’s why communities protest police killings more than murders

“[…] Police officers represent the state and are entrusted with the responsibility to protect and serve the community. When a citizen is killed by the police, it can be perceived as an abuse of power, eroding trust between the authorities and the public.

“Protests can serve as a way for people to express their dissatisfaction with the misuse of power by those in positions of authority…”

In the following Letter to the Editor, Orson Rogers of Belmont Valley Road, Belmont suggests why police killings of citizens often spark bigger protests than ‘citizens-versus-citizens’:

Morvant/Laventille residents remonstrate with TTPS Inspector Alexander, after the police killing of Morvant residents Joel Jacob, Israel Clinton and Noel Diamond on 27 June 2020.
(via Stabroeknews)

The response from a Police representative on a recent local TV crime show on the Carenage protests followed the usual refrain: “Why don’t they protest when their neighbours are killed by other citizens?”

The occurrence and response to protests can vary depending on the specific circumstances and dynamics of each situation. However, there are a few reasons why protests may be more prevalent in cases of police killings of citizens, compared to citizen-versus-citizen killings:

State authority and accountability: When a citizen is killed by the police, it raises concerns about the excessive use of force and the responsibility of law enforcement agencies. Protests often seek to hold the state accountable for the actions of its representatives—demanding justice, transparency, and reforms within the police or justice system.

Police officers square off with Morvant/Laventille residents after protests against the police killings of Joel Jacobs, Israel Clinton and Noel Diamond on 27 June 2020.
(Copyright Trinidad Express)

Power dynamics and trust: Police officers represent the state and are entrusted with the responsibility to protect and serve the community. When a citizen is killed by the police, it can be perceived as an abuse of power, eroding trust between the authorities and the public. Protests can serve as a way for people to express their dissatisfaction with the misuse of power by those in positions of authority.

Structural issues and systemic bias: Protests against police killings are often linked to larger issues such as systemic socioeconomic discrimination, and unequal treatment by law enforcement. These protests highlight underlying structural problems and call for systemic changes to address the root causes of such incidents.

Media attention and visibility: Cases of police killings tend to receive significant media coverage, amplifying the visibility of these incidents and sparking public outrage. The attention drawn by the media can contribute to the mobilization and organization of protests.

A young man confronts police officers during protests in Minnesota over the killing of George Floyd on 25 May 2020.

It is important to note that citizen-versus-citizen killings are also a cause for concern, and communities often rally together or advocate for measures to address violence within their neighborhoods (eg Andrea Bharat).

However, the factors mentioned above may contribute to the differences in the scale and frequency of protests related to police killings compared to citizen-versus-citizen killings.

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4 comments

  1. With the rate of murders and crime on a small island like Trinidad and Tobago, there should be more criminals being shot by police! Why ? Because some get bail, and go back to the streets to carry on with their life of crime !! Which country beside a banana republic have you heard files were lost so criminals were rewarded with millions?!

    • I can think of one very high profiled case where a young woman was murdered after sexual assault. People took to the streets to protest.
      However, one of the suspects was alleged to have been part of a wider ring of sex traffickers which had protection from crooked elements of the police.
      That suspect never got to court. He was shot dead by the police.
      Don’t you think it would have been far more beneficial to the country, if that person made it to a courtroom? Isn’t it likely that the head of that sex trafficking ring and the crooked police (if the allegations were true) were probably happier than anyone else when that criminal was shot dead?

      • Whatever the answer to that question, we cannot lose sight of the fact that it is NOT the responsibility of the police to dispense justice. Their responsibility is limited to law enforcement, in other words, determining when someone MAY HAVE broken the law and bringing any and all such miscreants to justice. In a non-dysfunctional system, that is dispensed by the various arms of the Judiciary.
        We’re in trouble the moment law enforcement is perceived as giving the police the right to be judge and executioner as well.

    • what small-minded and short-sighted thinking!!

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