According to a Washington Post Database, 102 black men have been shot and killed by the police in 2018, 11 of whom were unarmed. In order to reduce these shootings and create a fair atmosphere in courtrooms, tests for racial bias should be included when hiring police officers and reviewing judges and juries for cases.
On June 21 in Kingsland, Georgia, police officer Zechariah Presley shot and killed Anthony Marcel Green. Presley was fired and jailed on charges of voluntary manslaughter. This event comes around the same time where prosecutors charged East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania officer, Michael Rosfeld, with criminal homicide after shooting 17-year-old Antwon Rose.
This year, there have been a total of 27 police shootings that resulted in death in Georgia. Of those 27, 10 were black men, and one of those 10 men was unarmed. This man was Anthony Marcel Green.
The shooting in Kingsland shows that Georgia is not immune to the national trend of police shooting unarmed black men. However, the actions taken by Kingsland Police Department does showcase a level of commitment to serving justice, which should be a model for other law enforcement agencies across the country.
These two decisions make up a small number of officers who have been arrested on charges of manslaughter or murder for on-duty shootings. There were 80 arrests of officers on these charges between the years 2005 and 2017.
In 2017 alone, the Washington Post collected records of 987 people who were fatally shot by the police, which shows how small 80 arrests is in a 12-year span. Only 35 percent of these officers were convicted, while the others were acquitted or had pending charges.
Charging and convicting officers of killing people, whether the actions were voluntary or involuntary, is important to show the public that everyone should be held accountable for their actions, including law enforcement.
Lorie Fridell, an associate professor of criminology at the University of South Florida and director of research at the Police Executive Forum, discussed with the BBC how there are tests for implicit bias such as the “Shoot, Don’t Shoot” study.
This study shows how people react when shown pictures of white or black men who would either have a gun or an inanimate object in their hand. The test reveals one’s implicit bias, which is a person’s unconscious ideas or views which may affect their actions, beliefs and decisions.
There are also tests developed by universities, such as Harvard’s implicit bias test, which is available online for anyone’s use. The test looks at how people associate good things in terms of groups of people.
These tests can be used to the advantage of police departments and courts to screen out individuals who are biased against groups of people. Officers are meant to keep people safe, regardless of their prejudices. However, if those prejudices affect their duty, then it is in the public’s best interest that these officers are removed from duty.
Similarly, with courts, lawyers would be able to screen out jurors with implicit biases, which may affect how they vote in various cases. The tests could be part of the voir dire process, a questioning process where lawyers determine whether a juror is or is not biased towards that particular case.
Everyone has implicit biases. However, the existence of these biases can be life threatening for different groups of people, such as black men. Law enforcement is supposed to protect the people and they cannot do this if members are biased against any group of people. These biases will affect how they work, and as shown in Georgia’s case, it could lead to another man’s death.
Courts are meant to serve justice, and this justice may not be blind in all cases if judges and jurors hold implicit biases against certain groups of people. Both courts and law enforcement need to include implicit bias tests for the good of the public and the modernization of the justice system.