To examine the injustice and inequality that prompted some NFL players to protest during the national anthem, each week, for the remainder of the NFL season, The Root will explore the data behind racial disparities in the two cities represented in the National Football League’s premiere matchup—Monday Night Football.
Tonight, the Kansas City Chiefs travel to Los Angeles to face the L.A. Rams
Nearly everyone thinks Clifford Proctor should be in jail.
Los Angeles Police Department chief Charlie Beck recommended charges be filed against Proctor, a former LAPD officer, after Proctor shot and killed 29-year-old Brendon Glenn. Proctor insists that Glenn grabbed Officer Jonathan Kawahara’s gun during a struggle outside an L.A. bar in May 2015.
DNA tests, video evidence and fingerprint analysis could not confirm Proctor’s allegations. Witnesses to the incident also said that they didn’t see Glenn reach for Kawahara’s gun. DNA tests of Kawahara’s service belt were inconclusive. Even Kawahara said he had no idea why Proctor shot Glenn. A police commission investigating the incident concluded that a “reasonable” officer would not have viewed Glenn as a threat. The city of Los Angeles eventually paid Glenn’s family $4 million to settle a wrongful death suit.
But despite the fact that eyewitnesses, an independent commission, the chief and fellow police officers thought that Clifford Proctor should have been prosecuted, Proctor had one person on his side. Fortunately, for Proctor, that person’s opinion was the only one that counted.
The reason Clifford Proctor never faced criminal charges for the death of Brendon Glenn is because of Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey.
Maybe Ryan Stokes is dead because of a $100 cell phone with a cracked screen or maybe there was no cell phone at all. Perhaps Stokes is dead because it is reasonable for cops to shoot an armed criminal running toward them with a gun. After this villain Stokes was killed, the officers on the scene—Kansas City, Mo., police officers William Thompson and Tamara Jones—received a police commendation for killing the armed criminal.
In 2013, the two brave KCPD officers arrived at the scene of a reported robbery and broke up a fight between the victim and three men, one of whom had stolen the victim’s cell phone. When two of the men fled, the courageous cops gave chase, even though the two men were armed. When the cops finally caught up with 24-year-old Ryan Stokes, Thompson was forced to fire three shots, killing Stokes.
When the department awarded the brave officers, Thompson and Jones’ commendation read: “One of the suspects refused to drop his weapon and Officer Thompson was forced to fire his weapon at the suspect, fatally injuring him and ending the threat to all officers involved.”
It was all a lie.
In fact, the alleged theft victim said Stokes was not the one who robbed him. According to an extensive investigative report by KCUR, the man who reported the cell phone stolen later swore in a deposition that he dropped the phone outside of a bar and that it was picked up by certain “individuals.” He admitted he had “quite a bit to drink” and that he blacked out “maybe a little bit.” He acknowledged that he had never actually seen any of the men he accused pick up the phone.
Five years later, in September 2018, a Kansas City Board of Police Commissioned rescinded Thompson and Jones’s commendation.
And remember the stuff about the gun? Police did find two guns that night. One was found in a car owned by another man allegedly involved in the robbery who said it was his. The other firearm that police recovered did belong to Stokes. However, it was difficult to say that Stokes’ legally-owned weapon posed a threat to the police at the scene ...
Because they found the gun in the waistband of the other so-called accomplice.
In addition, multiple witnesses say Stokes was unarmed. Officer Tamara Jones later testified that she didn’t hear her partner say “drop the gun,” or even announce himself as a cop. She said Stokes was not aggressive and obeyed orders, insisting that he was not in a police standoff.
“A standoff would be where he is refusing to do what you say but he isn’t surrendering,” she said.
Officer Thompson was never charged with a crime for the death of Ryan Stokes.
You’ve heard it before.
Perhaps you first heard Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson use the infamous phrase as the world waited to see if a Ferguson, Mo., jury would indict police officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown, Jr. Maybe you heard a pundit say it in regards to special counsel Robert Mueller’s FBI investigation into Russian collusion. Maybe you actually read the phrase when it first popped into the national zeitgeist in the Thomas Wolfe novel The Bonfire of the Vanities.
In 1985, New York state chief judge Sol Wachtler told reporters from the New York Daily News that prosecutors and district attorneys have so much control over the criminal justice process that they could get a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.”
It’s true. While we often cite politicians, judges and police unions for protecting police officers who disproportionately kill innocent black civilians, prosecutors and district attorneys have so much latitude in determining who will face justice for their alleged crimes, they could even send cured pork products to the pokey if they wanted to do so.
But it absolutely positively never happens in Los Angeles and Kansas City, Mo.
Jean Peters Baker has served as Jackson County, Missouri’s prosecutor since May 2011. Since then, 34 people have been killed by Kansas City police officers, according to data from the Washington Post and the Kansas City Star. When the Kansas City Star analyzed every police shooting in the city between 2001 and 2014, they found that 60 percent of the victims were black in a city that is less than 30 percent black. And most victims were killed by white officers.
Before Peters Baker’s tenure, Kansas City prosecutors sent every fatal police shooting to a grand jury but Peters Baker changed that policy. And even though she boasts that she is “unafraid of tackling difficult cases” (including the indictment and conviction of a Catholic bishop who failed to report child sexual abuse) here’s how many police officers have been indicted under Jean Peters Baker’s watch:
Zero. Zilch. Nada.
Since Jackie Lacey took office as Los Angeles County District Attorney on Dec. 3, 2012, on-duty police officers in her jurisdiction have shot and killed more civilians than anywhere else in America. According to Mapping Police Violence, the Los Angeles County Sherrif’s Office ranks second in the nation for the number of citizens killed by police officers.
The LAPD ranks number one.
And while Los Angeles County is 8.3 percent black, police shoot black men in Los Angeles at triple the rate of whites and Latinos according to KPCC’s analysis of data. Of the more than 400 police killings in L.A. County since she took office, here’s how many officers Jackie Lacey has criminally charged.
In fact, the Los Angeles Times reports that police officers in Los Angeles County have not only evaded prosecution for on-duty killings, but no Los Angeles police officer has even faced criminal charges for excessive use of force since 2000.
The list of people killed by officers includes:
- Ezell Ford, who was unarmed and walking home when officers shot him in 2014. In 2015, a police commission faulted one of the officers for the shooting. Lacey decided not to file charges.
- Charly “Africa” Keunang a homeless man who police killed in 2015. Police hid the video of Keunang’s death for three years, asserting that the unarmed man had grabbed an officer’s weapon after the cops confronted the victim in his tent on the sidewalk. In this case, a police commission sided with the officer who shot Keunang after hearing another officer yell “he’s got my gun!”After police shot and killed Keunang, the video showed the gun was still in the officer’s holster. No one faced charges.
- Melyda Corado who was killed when a police officer’s stray bullet hit her while she was working at Trader Joes. No charges.
Nor did Lacey file charges against Daniel Andrew, the officer who was caught on video repeatedly punching a great-grandmother on the side of the freeway.
Similarly, when KCPD officers Dakota Merrill and Shane Mellot opened fire on Phillippe Lora, shooting him 20 times, Jean Peters Baker did not file charges and allowed the cops to go back on duty.
On Oct. 8, 2016, cops killed Brandon Finch after saying that his car was lurching toward them. It wasn’t. Dashcam footage showed the car moving slowly in reverse. Authorities didn’t interview the cops until three days after Finch was killed. A civil case is pending, but the officers were cleared of any wrongdoing—even the one who fired nine times into a slowly moving car.
That officer’s name is Dakota Merrill.
But of course, the prosecutors pick and choose whom they want to prosecute. In 2015, Missouri’s Sentencing Advisory Commission found that people incarcerated in Jackson County had the second-longest average prison sentences in the state, proving that Peters Baker is tough on crime.
In Jackie Lacey’s dominion, between 2013 and 2015, 1.6 white people were incarcerated for every 1,000 white people in Los Angeles County. Hispanic citizens were incarcerated at a rate of 4.3 per 1,000. L.A. County’s black residents were incarcerated at a rate of 20.8 per 1,000, according to Race Counts.
In 2018, 33 people in Los Angeles County have been killed by police, five of whom are black. Cops in Kansas City have killed four people so far this year, all of whom were black.
Jackie Lacey and Jean Peters Baker still haven’t charged a police officer for an on-duty killing. Maybe if a ham sandwich killed an unarmed citizen, they might consider it.
But until then ...
This is why they kneel.