In the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center, protests have taken place every day since the April 11, 2021 murder of Daunte Wright. As calls continued to grow for officer Kim Potter to be charged with Wright’s death, prosecutors have since charged Potter with second-degree manslaughter. If convicted, Potter faces up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of $20,000.
While some may suspect other charges will be brought up, it’s worth noting that in Minnesota, second-degree manslaughter applies in cases of “culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another.” In this case, a charge applies only if you believe the investigation should be based on the narrative put out there by police. That it was an accident.
A narrative that has already lost steam.
In addition, we are witnessing what always happens when Black people and/or people of color are killed by police. The demonization of Wright is in full effect just like it was for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Botham Jean, Tamir Rice, and every other non-white person murdered by cops. It’s all part of framing the ‘accident’ narrative — right out of the Amber Guyger playbook. To protect cops from facing justice, police unions have many contractual and legal tools with the cities in which they operate at their disposal to win the narrative war. They move fast to impact the public’s perception of victims which inevitably impacts the views of potential jurors.
These tactics are older than the Ku Klux Klan. When The Daily Mail posted misleading information stating that Daunte Wright had a warrant for his arrest over an attempted robbery, it didn’t take long for far-right outlets such as Breitbart to begin propagandizing the information further. Racists and conservatives alike began flooding social media trying to justify Wright’s murder based on the Daily Mail and Breitbart stories and expanding it into several other narratives.
All over social media, users are trying to justify his murder by posting negative content to paint Wright as a thug in a seemingly unending flood of hate. They are passing judgment on a dead man who was unjustly murdered by police. I’ll spare you the details of what I found on other far-right outlets because they aren’t the problem as much as media responsibility is.
But, because these narratives against Black victims of police brutality are so common, when we see articles with a title that reads, “Daunte Wright: Doting dad, ballplayer, slain by police” from the Associated Press, it feels like an unfathomable shift in media reporting may be occurring.
As other outlets work to demonize Wright with false narratives, Denise LaVoie did a great job of humanizing him. A rarity in these modern times. While I question the relevance of his past when discussing his murder, I appreciate LaVoie mentioning it without the hyperbole, “A search of court records shows Wright had a minor criminal record, with petty misdemeanor convictions for possession/sale of a small amount of marijuana and disorderly conduct.”
But The Video…
There’s something to be said about the police chief resigning right after trying to frame Wright’s death as an unfortunate accident. He and former officer Kim Potter resigned the same day. The city manager, Curt Boganey, was fired the next day and the mayor’s office took control of the police department. All actions that signal something more sinister is happening in Minneapolis as the racist culture of policing is being exposed nationwide.
The video of former officer Potter drawing her handgun instead of her taser is contradictory to what Potter claims on several points. Many on social media took exception to her claims of confusion based on the size and weight differences between a taser and a handgun. Also part of the discussion is the fact that each weapon is holstered on opposite sides of an officer’s body along with the fact that a taser is a bright yellow. While Daunte’s murder may not have been premeditated, many are expressing feelings as if her “way out” was orchestrated because her actions look and feel scripted. It’s not something anyone can ever prove, but it’s worth mentioning because to me, those feelings are valid.
The video of Wright’s murder reveals nothing to anyone who actually studies the data behind police misconduct and the state-sanctioned murder of unarmed civilians. It does provide us with proof of how it occurs from the initial stop until the murder. It shows us just how fast and how far police officers go with escalating routine traffic stops with Black people. In contrast, many of us argue that officers show much more restraint when drivers are white because it’s an evident distinction not lost on any of us.
When we argue that police don’t need de-escalation training we have insurmountable video evidence of officers using that training with white drivers who are often armed. In fact, in searching for some video clips for this article, it was easy to find recent incidents where police showed a level of restraint not afforded to Black and other non-white drivers. The difference in how citizens are treated based on their race is the result of discriminatory fear-based training.
The videos also remind us of previous traffic stops based on probable cause, or what’s referred to as a “pretext traffic stop,” which are disproportionately used against Black people and people of color. Names such as Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Samuel Dubose, and Walter Scott come to mind along with countless others. Unnecessary deaths without consequence.
Pretext traffic stops lead to the over-policing of Black and Latino communities despite traffic offenses occurring at similar rates in white communities, Black drivers are disproportionately pulled over more often than white drivers. Discretionary pretext stops lead to Black drivers being searched twice as often as white drivers — pointing to negative experiences that too often result in death.
Despite the manslaughter charges against Potter, the conviction of Amber Guyger, and the trial of Derek Chauvin, the lack of accountability when Black, Latino, and Indigenous people are killed by police is still as pervasive as ever. However, when white people are killed, there’s no shortage of justice to go around. I’ve recently written about the glaring disparities in accountability and punishment for murdering white people as opposed to Black people and people of color. They are incongruities that demand more attention in the racial justice conversation.
Slowly but surely, the devious nature of how police, their union representatives, and prosecutors operate in concert is becoming more apparent. The murder of Botham Jean showed us just how far union bosses are willing to go to protect cops. Guyger’s union boss not only had access to the crime scene but also helped frame a narrative that she yelled commands at Jean before shooting him in yet another supposed accident. He went so far as to isolate her and several of her fellow officers and turn off recording equipment to create an account that would protect Guyger from conviction — or a more severe punishment if/when convicted.
At the end of the day, there are two systems of justice in the United States. If it’s so easy to convict a Black cop for murdering a white woman, then why is it so complicated to convict a white officer for killing a Black person? The answer may not be so simple, but much of it relies on police departments and police unions that jump out in front of a story to demonize Black victims of police brutality. A tactic that occurs all too frequently.
Police in America are reactionary when it comes to protecting crooked cops yet they thwart any talk of trying to fix the problems within America’s law enforcement apparatus. Like white supremacy, it requires cops to look at themselves and address the problems within them before trying to accept changes to the current system. And just like white supremacists who know they’re wrong in their beliefs, most cops refuse to make that transition.
Therein lies the problem. We can’t reform that.
I leave you with racist Grandpa turned woke Grandpa, Pat Robertson.
*originally published on Medium