While it shouldn’t surprise anybody who is paying attention that these officers are not being convicted of crimes after killing poor citizens, it may surprise many to hear that these killings have often been profitable for the police officer.
The United States has a long and troubling history of police violence, largely targeting people of color and poor Americans. Police officers have been militarized to the point where many take extreme and violent action against Americans they are sworn to protect, resulting in the avoidable death of innocent citizens.
The list of names in this procession of lost lives is endless and includes famous names like Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner, as well as hundreds of less well-known victims.
Unfortunately, when police officers kill innocent citizens, particularly if they are poor people of color, justice is extremely unlikely to be served. Police often obstruct the investigation and hide evidence (e.g. dashcam/bodycam videos) while prosecutors drag their feet and sometimes sabotage the case. Even if a police officer is charged with killing a citizen, they are extremely unlikely to be convicted—just to put this into perspective, we have a full video account of Officer Yanez panicking and killing Philando Castile after he notified the officer that he had a legal firearm in his car during a traffic stop, and even then the officer was not convicted.
After being acquitted of his slaying of Philando Castile, Officer Yanez has accepted a buyout from his department that will net him a settlement of $48,500 and full payment for his 600 hours of stored paid time off. While this is understandable from a city perspective—retaining Yanez as an officer given his killing of Castile would be incendiary and lead to massive protest—the end result of this buyout is that Yanez will be given the equivalent to an entire year’s wages for the average American household ($52,000) and will have the ability to seek employment at another police department after his case dies down.
The Yanez buyout is by no means unique.
Officer Pantaleo, who choked Eric Garner to death on tape after arresting him for selling loose cigarettes, was given $20,000 in bonus pay after being put on modified duty while his case was brought before a grand jury. He was not charged with a crime and avoided all consequences for his actions, other than making an enormous bonus.
Similarly, Officer Haste, who killed a New York teen for reaching towards a non-existent gun in his waistband in 2014, made approximately $25,000 in bonus pay while on modified duty after his shooting.
In addition to the money that police departments have given to killer cops, police unions and affinity groups have put on fundraisers to raise money to support police accused of crime. For example, Officer Barry of the NYPD shot and killed a mentally disturbed senior woman brandishing a bat in October 2016, and a subsequent fundraiser on GoFundMe raised him $127,018 in donations in a single month. Officer Barry is currently on trial for murder and an internal police review found that he completely failed to follow procedure in his shooting.
While some of these fundraisers for killer cops are shut down by fundraising sites—for example, the Officer Van Dyke fundraiser was shut down hours after its creation (refunding the $10,200 raised) due to outrage over his killing of a 17-year old during a traffic stop—there is no consistent policy on this.
The unfortunate reality today is that not only are there endemic forces which protect police officers who shoot and kill certain types of people, but there is also a great number of people who will pay to support these officers even in light of the evidence. Letting police officers who kill citizens not only escape responsibility but also make money from their malfeasance sets up a toxic situation that eliminates disincentives for unstable police officers to shoot first and ask questions later.
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