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  • Kamsi Obiorah

We Let Breonna Taylor Down

Updated: Mar 29, 2021

On March 13, Breonna Taylor was asleep in her apartment when police officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove barged into her home with a “no-knock warrant.” Breonna Taylor was shot several times in response to a shot fired by her boyfriend Kenneth Walker.

One would assume that Breonna Taylor and her family would be given justice due to the unlawful circumstances of her death. However, given the current state of the criminal justice system, such an assumption cannot be made.

Following the death of Breonna Taylor, the nation called for racial justice. Protests and demonstrations took place on both national and global levels. For six months, people took to the streets and demanded that the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor be brought to justice. On September 15, Louisville announced a $12 million dollar settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor. Breonna Taylor was not worth $12 million dollars. She was worth the world.

Following the announcement of the settlement, news of the final outcomes of Breonna Taylor’s case were announced this Wednesday. The Kentucky grand jury indicted Hankison for recklessly shooting into the neighboring apartments. None of the officers were charged in the role that they played in the murder of Breonna Taylor.

As the nation responds to the handling of Breonna Taylor’s case, it is important that we remember other victims of police brutality that our criminal justice system has let down as well, such as Michael Brown and David McAttee.

On August 9, 2014, after being confronted for stealing a pack of cigarillos, Michael Brown was confronted by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot him six times after an alleged altercation occurred between them. Officer Wilson was cleared by a grand jury and a federal investigation in 2014.

In late July, a new prosecutor Wesley Bell officially closed the case and announced that Wilson will not be charged. The results of Breonna Taylor’s case after six months of protests and demonstrations draws a direct parallel to the unjust outcomes of Michael Brown’s case after six years of demanding justice for him and his family.

Unfortunately, Breonna Taylor is not the only victim of the incompetent Louisville Metro Police Department. David McAtee, a black businessman, was killed on June 1, when Louisville Metro Police and Kentucky National Guard were sent to a parking lot after having received reports that a crowd was there after curfew.

Earlier this week, the family of David McAtee rightfully filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Louisville Metro Police Department and members of the Kentucky National Guard. However, it goes without saying that no amount of money can make up for the beloved life of David Mcatee, similarily to how $12 million dollars does not compensate for the murder of Breonna Taylor.

The Louisville Metro Police Department receives roughly $190.6 million in funding. Based on the cases of Breonna Taylor and David McAtee alone, it is safe to assume that such funding is not being allocated properly. Why should innocent black lives pay the price for the incompetence of law enforcement? Why do states prioritize protecting police officers over protecting their actual civilians?

Breonna Taylor did not receive the justice that she deserved. The loss of her life was the consequence of a hyper-funded militarized police system that constantly mistreats African Americans.

As a nation, we let Breonna Taylor down. We let Micheal Brown, David McAtee, and countless others down as well. As we continue into the election year, it is paramount that we do everything in our power to ensure the safety of African Americans in this country.

The prioritization of police reform is an absolute necessity if we want to see any change in the future. It is our duty to set aside the false ideals of American exceptionalism and check our nation when it falls short of protecting its citizens.

At what point did the injustice of Breonna Taylor’s murder completely lose meaning and fade into another trend on social media? “Justice for Breonna Taylor” is another failed hashtag. I failed her. You failed her. We failed her. We need to recognize the collective responsibility that we share when another African American falls victim to systematic racism and police brutality.

Breonna Taylor did not die in vain. For years, members of the Black Lives Matter movement have called attention to the disproportionate rate that African Americans are killed at the hands of the police. For years, the media portrayed and continues to portray African Americans as dirty criminals who deserved to die.

However, Breonna Taylor was an EMT working for the University of Louisville Health as a full-time ER technician. Since the media and select conservative groups were unable to paint Breonna Taylor as a criminal, they turned to her boyfriend and blamed her death on him. Breonna Taylor showed the general public that no matter how pure an African American victim of police brutality can be, the system will never be on their side.

As we continue to mourn the death of Breonna Taylor, we must look for solutions to the problem at hand. An important one being the defunding of the police: the reallocation of funds that are initially directed towards the militaristic aspects of law enforcement and are shifted over to the funding of police reform.

We cannot keep running the risk of innocent African Americans falling prey to a system that was initially implemented to abuse and victimize them. We owe it to Breonna Taylor and the several other victims of police brutality to call for institutionalized change in regards to the current police system.

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