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Another Voice: Court complicity risks turning Buffalo into a police state

By Heron Simmonds and Victoria Ross

As reported by The Buffalo News and others, three people independently brought civil cases asserting that Buffalo Police Officer Corey Krug brutalized them. It’s uncommon, but he was then criminally charged for these violations.

For some reason the jury, incredibly, acquitted Krug of three of the four charges. No decision was reached in the fourth charge. Was it because of the stellar legal help Krug received courtesy of the Police Benevolent Association? Or, sympathetic instructions to the jury? Or, could jurors harbor some fear in finding him guilty?

A mere two days later, the man that was the victim of Krug’s alleged brutality in the remaining charge was arrested in Lackawanna on a low-level marijuana charge.

So … if we try to hold the police accountable, will we be targeted and arrested?

When people are given uniforms, weapons and the unique permission to use violence, the utmost restraint, ethics and moral integrity are required. After all, what could be worse than people using violence with impunity? Well, perhaps using violence that always gets excused despite a lack of restraint, ethics or moral integrity.

When police and community work together we all benefit. We’ve seen it happen here. However, when police misuse power – such as under the Nazis, Stalin and Mao Zedong – we call it a police state, police targeting citizens and wielding violence with impunity.

Some American police officers’ use of power to harass, brutalize and even kill without being held accountable makes many black, brown and marginalized people view the United States as a police state. How can this perception be dismissed when officers are so very rarely held accountable despite documented abuse?

There is an exaggerated sense of authority that requires immediate abject deference from especially the most disempowered members of society. This false exaggerated sense sustains police brutality. It is tragically reinforced by court decisions that side with and appear to endorse bullies.

The Fourth Amendment asserts people’s right to be secure in their person from search or seizure without probable cause. But what good does this right do us if a person questioning whether there is probable cause in their case can be met with escalating violence, a blue wall of silence and a court that is blind to excessive police power?

Even running, arising from our fight-flight-freeze reflex, has proved lethal. Very recently in Buffalo a police killing of a man shot in the back while running away in abject fear was excused.

The Supreme Court has eroded citizens’ protections from abuse by policing forces. And our lower courts have allowed officers’ unjustified fear, unsupported by the facts, be used to excuse brutality and even death.

Peace requires justice. We believe Buffalo can and must do better than this.

Heron Simmonds is a WNY Peace Center board member and chair of its Racial Justice Task Force; Victoria Ross is executive director of the WNY Peace Center.

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