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Loretta Lynch Plays It Safe in Charleston

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Reprinted from Reader Supported News


Cudell Rec Center, Cleveland: A makeshift memorial marks the place where Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice on November 22, 2014.
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Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Wednesday that federal hate-crimes charges have been filed against accused mass-murderer Dylann Storm Roof in the June killing of nine parishioners, including the church's pastor, State Senator Clementa Pinckney, at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. It was a politically safe decision.

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While anyone who would perpetrate the kind of crimes that were committed at the Emanuel AME Church would certainly, without a doubt, qualify for and deserve such charges, the fact remains that Lynch and the Justice Department are acting in conjunction with South Carolina justice officials. It's good press, but it has little material effect.

Roof, already facing capitol murder charges and a seemingly airtight case, makes a natural target for public outrage. As well anyone charged with such crimes should be.

The problem is that Attorney General Lynch, like her predecessor Eric Holder, is not moving to challenge state law enforcement officers or their supporting justice systems in a wave of police killings that appear unjustified, sparking outrage across the country. While the killing of nine African Americans at a hallowed and historic place of religious worship is horrifying, American law enforcement officers nationwide kill, on average, a black American every day. When you include suspects of all races killed by police, the numbers are staggering.

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The online organization "Killed by Police" attempts to monitor and catalog all "Corporate news reports of people killed by U.S. law enforcement officers, whether in the line of duty or not, and regardless of reason or method." Killed by Police currently puts the count of suspects killed by American police nationwide at 648 for 2,015 -- so far, often citing as many as half a dozen police killings in a single day. On two dates this year, March 19th and March 27th, there are nine separate incidents listed in which people were killed by cops in America. The same number killed by Dylann Storm Roof at the Emanuel AME Church on June 17th.

But it's the police killings captured on video that have sparked the greatest public outrage. What video images allow the public to see in many of the cases are graphic glimpses of killings that often appear unprofessional, unwarranted, and unlawful. Glimpses of a carnage underway across the nation.

There are many ancillary reasons why American police are currently killing so many people, but three main reasons.

Foremost is the post-September 11th militarization of all American law enforcement institutions. A sense of full empowerment to kill -- no questions asked.

In fact real questions are rarely asked. Most police shootings are investigated with a presumption that the officer involved is telling the truth. Without video evidence to the contrary, regardless of eyewitness accounts, such lethal incidents almost never result in state prosecution, and convictions are even rarer. It is one of the main reasons that police agencies oppose officers wearing body cameras, and they consistently do.

Bystander Feidin Santana's video of North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager gunning down the unarmed and fleeing Walter Scott is a perfect example of the difference video makes. Slager's version of events was well on its way to being the accepted account of Scott's death. Both the North Charleston police department and the local press were moving ahead with Slager's version of events before the Feidin Santana video went public. Then and only then did the public learn what really happened.

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In addition, a general culture of gun violence is a major contributing factor. A recurring theme in many of the police killing videos is a rather detached, almost nonchalant, deliberate killing of a suspect by police officers using a gun as though they were using a pen to fill out a form. As long as certain basic criteria are met, they are free and clear to use their firearm to kill. All too often they do. Regardless of whether an actual threat to their safety even existed.

The Obama presidential era has been marked by a number of very significant, high-profile police killings. Most, but not all, killings of African Americans. In many of the cases, there has been no lack of evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the police officers involved. What has been lacking is a will to prosecute by the Department of Justice.

First under Attorney General Eric Holder and now under his successor Loretta Lynch, the emphasis has been on cooperation with state police agencies rather than on bringing Federal charges when local justice officials will not.

Sure, Attorney General Lynch is in South Carolina, and that's good. But Dylann Roof has already been charged, and state officials there are already committed to his prosecution.

What about Baltimore? Or Ferguson, or the killing of Eric Garner, or Tamir Rice, or Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo? The evidence is there, but the Justice Department will not act.

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Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, now the founder, editor and publisher of Reader Supported News: http://www.readersupportednews.org

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