We Need Political Solutions to End Police Violence

Daunte Wright’s death is yet another infuriating case of police brutality — and Biden’s response feels like politics as usual

Photo: Kerem Yucel/Getty Images

On Monday, mere minutes into my second pandemic birthday, we were all painfully reminded that turning a year older in America is a luxury that no Black man is guaranteed.

As former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s trial moved through its third week, another Black man’s life was stolen by law enforcement just 10 miles north of the city. His name was Daunte Wright. He was shot on Sunday night by Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter — a reported 26-year veteran of the department — during a traffic stop. He was only 20 years old.

In a news conference held on Monday, Brooklyn Center police chief Tim Gannon said Potter mistakenly grabbed her firearm instead of her Taser, characterizing the shooting as an “accidental discharge.”

That turn of phrase is dehumanizing in a way that incites nothing short of pure rage — salt poured onto an open wound. These types of state-sanctioned oppressors have a noted knack for torturing us in every way imaginable. But if that phrasing isn’t enough to anger you, certainly Gannon’s rationale for Potter’s actions was.

I cannot bear to purposely watch another Black man be executed by the state, but I do know what happened in the video clip circulating the internet.

One of the officers aims a weapon at Wright and shouts, “Taser! Taser! Taser!”

After that, she fires one round and Wright can be heard groaning in pain soon after.

“Holy shit, I just shot him,” Potter can be heard shouting.

It is extremely difficult for me and others to believe that someone who’s been on the police force since the year O.J. was acquitted could struggle to differentiate a gun from a Taser.

Aubrey Wright, Wright’s father, doesn’t accept this defense either. “A mistake — that doesn’t even sound right,” he told Good Morning America on Tuesday. “This officer has been on the force for 26 years. I can’t accept that.”

Even if Potter does apparently sound surprised at what she’s done in the clip, her shock doesn’t convince me of her being “one of the good ones” who made a mistake. Maybe she’s merely shocked that her biases might now finally get the best of her. Based on what we’ve learned of Potter thus far, there’s plenty of reason to be skeptical of whatever other excuses are soon to be presented on her behalf.

The Washington Post notes that in 2019, “Potter was among the first to arrive at a home in the Minneapolis suburb after two officers fatally shot a mentally ill man six times due to him allegedly lunging at them with a knife. Once paramedics arrived, Potter ordered both of the officers to leave the house, sit in separate squad cars and deactivate their body cameras.”

Potter happened to serve as police union president at the time and “escorted one of the officers from the scene back to the police station and was later present when BCA investigators interviewed both officers, the report states.”

Those officers were not charged, so to the aforementioned point, Potter sounds quite familiar with how policing works. Yet on Sunday, she couldn’t figure out where her Taser was?

She’s since resigned in a letter released on Tuesday. “I have loved every minute of being a police officer and serving this community to the best of my ability, but I believe it is in the best interest of the community, the department, and my fellow officers if I resign immediately,” Potter wrote, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

I hate that this woman has been able to be a police officer for longer than Wright had been alive.

As for the alleged reason Wright was pulled over, he was driving an SUV with expired plates and violated a Minnesota law that prohibits motorists from hanging air fresheners. After that, Gannon claims the officers discovered that a “gross misdemeanor warrant” for Wright’s arrest had been issued.

I’ve been losing count of all the different reasons they make up for Black men, women, and children to die, but I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked that a car air freshener can be added to the list.

However, Arthur Martinez, a public defender who represented Wright, told the Daily Beast that he believed his client had never received notice of the scheduled appearance and that the court had not informed him either.

“He obviously didn’t get it, and no one notified me, and a date came up for April 2 for 2:30 in the afternoon, and him not knowing about it, didn’t show up, and there was a warrant issued for his arrest,” said Martinez, who shared an image of the warrant with the digital outlet that shows that the judge set bail at a $3,000 bond or $500 in cash.

“This wasn’t a $50,000 bail. This isn’t something where he allegedly did something violent to someone. It’s not even a felony. It’s a gross misdemeanor. To tase or shoot somebody is insane.”

It is indeed senseless, but a testament to how much free will police officers have with Black lives.

I already think about George Floyd in real time whenever I have to drive near my family and see the Screwed Up Records shop on West Fuqua in Houston. I’m still trying to wrestle with the fact that a man can be murdered over a counterfeit $20.

I’ve been losing count of all the different reasons they make up for Black men, women, and children to die, but I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked that a car air freshener can be added to the list.

On Monday, Biden said he was briefed on the situation and waiting on investigation. But he did, however, have this to add: “I’m calling for peace and calm… We should listen to Daunte’s mom, who is calling for peace and calm.”

Daunte’s mom shouldn’t be burdened with that responsibility, and while it is better to have an administration that at least acknowledges Black life has value, the only thing that matters moving forward is what they do to protect it.

The administration just announced that it wouldn’t be forming a police oversight commission after consulting with civil rights groups and police unions. Still, just a month ago, Biden signaled that his attitude about law enforcement is the same one that’s given way to the ongoing problem — say, suggesting more rather than less funding for police during a town hall.

The police don’t need more money to buy robotic dogs, military tanks, and a bunch of other equipment better suited for war than protecting and serving a local community. Furthermore, considering some of Wright’s legal issues dealt with petty charges related to marijuana, instead of Biden pushing people out of his administration for smoking weed, maybe he should do something about removing these dated stigmas and the unjust laws behind them.

I’m fully vaccinated as of the day of this text’s writing, and I give credit to the Biden Harris administration for being competent and professional unlike the bumbling racist nightmare that was the reign of Trump. It’s been so difficult to get through everything happening in America within the last year, but even before the pandemic began, Black people have had to worry about facing a demise like that of Daunte Wright. Leaving a mother behind to cry. Leaving a baby behind without a father. A sibling, friend, and human being who deserved a lot more on this Earth than 20 years.

Joe Biden is said to be deeply concerned about his legacy and making a lasting impact. If the oldest person to ever be sworn in as president can do something about the number of Black people like Daunte Wright who don’t get to grow old because of some cop, that’s one way. But that won’t happen with calls to listen to the mother of a son she spoke to only minutes before he was unjustly killed, or requests for those who are justly angry to stay calm while our lives remain endangered by police.

It certainly won’t happen if the Biden administration continues to balloon the budgets of law enforcement rather than fundamentally changing their license to terrorize us. That’s a guarantee.

Author of “I Can’t Date Jesus” and “I Don’t Want To Die Poor.” Houstonian.

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