Are Police Officers Held Accountable?

In January 2016 Daniel Shaver was in Mesa, Arizona for work. His pest control job required a pellet gun. A hotel patron, thinking he had a rifle, called the police.

Mesa police arrived at the hotel and called Shaver into the hallway. He was not armed. Officers on the scene yelled conflicting orders at Shaver and made no attempt to de-escalate the situation. Shaver, clearly terrified, said “please don’t shoot me” right before he was shot and killed.

Last week, ex-police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for murdering George Floyd in Minneapolis just 13 months ago. No one has forgotten the public outcry that was launched immediately after this act of violence. Millions marched, movements rose up in every state and many countries, and a public conversation has continued to this day. For some this is a conversation about race and race only; others want to focus on the reactionary violence and property damage that accompanied some protests.

It is safe to say that those in power are happy to hide behind either of these narratives. As long as American citizens, and the nighttime TV pundits they listen to, are fighting over if violence is ever justified or if discrimination is running rampant, what we aren’t doing is holding the state accountable when they abuse the authority they have assumed.

Officer Charles Langley, who was shouting orders in the moments before Daniel Shaver was killed, retired and moved out of the country shortly after the incident. The shooter, Philip Brailsford, was tried and acquitted of second degree murder in 2017. The full body cam footage was not released until after his trial was over.

In 2018, the Mesa Police Department rehired Brailsford long enough for him to apply for a disability pension due to the PTSD he was experiencing from killing Shaver. He now receives $30,000 per year from city taxes.

Meanwhile, the city of Mesa still hasn’t settled with Shaver’s wife, Laney Sweet, and their two daughters who were left without a dad.

While we appreciate that Derek Chauvin will be serving time for ending George Floyd’s life, we do not forget what it took for this accountability to happen, and we will not now be silent about the many times that justice has failed to be served. Nearly 1,000 people are shot and killed by police officers every year. While these are certainly not all cases like Daniel Shaver, we know far too well by now that every year officers are killing people who do not need to die. We must make the justice being served to Derek Chauvin the norm and not the exception. 

When you support the Libertarian Party, you support the end of the War on Drugs, the end of Qualified Immunity, and the end of covering up the bad and deadly actions of those with power. More than those things though, you support the start of what can be a future of peace when the powerful are held to account and justice is served.