Why is it necessary in a free society for all Americans, including black people, to be treated fairly by law enforcement?
An officer-involved shooting that led to the death of a black man in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Tuesday night has once again ignited protest over the treatment of black Americans by police.
The U.S. Justice Department announced it will open a civil rights investigation into the incident after a video widely circulated on social media showed police officers restraining 37-year-old Alton Sterling on the ground before opening fire.
The Baton Rouge Police Department said Sterling had a gun on him at the time of the shooting, but many people have questioned the officers’ justification for using deadly force when Sterling appeared to be restrained. Both officers involved have been placed on administrative leave.
Sterling was a registered sex offender who had been living in transitional housing since his release from prison six months ago, according to Kevin Litten, a reporter for The New Orleans Times-Picayune.
“He was working a part-time job as a cook. He was selling these C.D.s sort of as a little side entrepreneurial gig. And in the other time that he had, he was trying to see his kids,” Litten said.
Sterling’s family held an emotional press conference Wednesday. Quinyetta Mcmillon, the mother of one of his children, promised to pursue justice.
“It will not go unnoticed, especially for the future,” she said. “I, for one, will not rest or not allow him to be swept in the dirt.”
deadly force — generally defined as physical force which, under the circumstances in which it is used, is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury
body camera — a video recording system worn on the body, especially by law enforcement officers
civil rights — the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality regardless of sex, race or religion
Warm up questions (before watching the video)
- Why do you think topics surrounding police have been in the news so much lately?
- Do you think police should be required to wear body cameras?
- What are some recent examples of interactions between police and black men that ended violently?
Critical thinking questions (after watching the video)
- Why are police shootings of young black men considered by many members of the public to be a violation of civil rights?
- How has cell phone video changed the way people understand some of the interactions between the police and the public?
- It is understandable for young people to want to discuss the issue of police shootings like that of Alton Sterling’s. Who are some adults that you would feel comfortable talking with?