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Police violence: 'Officers must be accountable for each other'

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A police officer arrests a woman as protests over the death of George Floyd continue Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Los Angeles
A police officer arrests a woman as protests over the death of George Floyd continue Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Los Angeles   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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A wave of unrest over alleged police brutality and racism is rocking the United States, and curfews and national guard deployments have done little so far to quell the protests.

Public outrage over the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died in Minneapolis after a police officer was filmed with his knee on the 46-year-old's neck for more than eight minutes, has now spread well beyond the United States.

President Trump's national security adviser, however, has dismissed claims of systemic racism within the police force, blaming instead "a few bad apples" tainting the image of US law enforcement.

"I think 99.9 per cent of our law enforcement officers are great Americans," Robert O’Brien told CNN’s "State of the Union" on Sunday (May 31).

"There are some bad cops that are racist cops, and there are cops that maybe don't have the right training, and some that are just bad cops and they need to be rooted out," he said.

Captain Sonia Pruitt of the Montgomery County Police Department, a representative of the National Black Police Association, says much more needs to be done to increase police accountability.

"If there are a few bad apples, then I'm waiting for someone to take them out of the barrel," she told Euronews in a live TV interview.

"Systemic racism has been a part of policing since its inception in slave patrols several hundred years ago," she added, referring to the police forces that chased down and terrorised runaway slaves in the 18th century.

"We need use-of-force laws, we need to make sure that we have a registry of officers who are those bad apples that people are talking about."

After more than a week of nationwide and international protests, police officer Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck, saw his charge raised to second-degree murder on Wednesday (June 4). The three other officers at the scene have now been charged with aiding and abetting him.

"We need to reimagine policing," said Yale University Law Professor Tracey Meares, who was part of a special task force on 21st century policing set up by former President Barack Obama in the wake of the 2014 Ferguson protests.

The fact that the three officers who witnessed Floyd's death did not immediately face charges has sent out an "incredibly negative message" to police and the wider public, Meares said.

"Police officers need to be accountable for each other," she told Euronews Tonight.

"There are things we can do quickly, such as making sure that police officers who are fired for acts of excessive force are unable to get a job in another police force," she added.

'Stop making excuses'

Dr. Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, a lawyer and political activist, says the problem of racial bias is much more widespread than authorities would like to admit.

"The thing with systemic racism is that it's so entrenched in society, it is geared up to the detriment of black people, to the dehumanisation of black people, to the criminalisation of the black identity," she told Euronews.

"It's utter nonsense for them to refer to it as a few bad eggs and that there's no systemic racism."

Mos-Shogbamimu, a dual-qualified New York attorney and solicitor of England, says systemic racism is also a problem in the UK: "Be it overt or covert, it exists on both sides of the pond."

"When you have political parties that run on the fields of far-right rhetoric, then you know we're in trouble," she argued.

"In the United Kingdom we have a prime minister that refers to black people are piccaninnies with watermelon smiles, that's the problem. If we excuse such behaviour, excuse such language, (…) then we are saying that it's okay."

Before he became prime minister last year, Johnson defended his infamous description of black people in Africa – made in a column published in the Daily Telegraph in 2002 – as satire "wrenched out of context".

Mos-Shogbamimu argues, however, that public figures too often get away with comments that should be labelled as racist and not be tolerated, and that white people ought to systematically speak out when they feel a boundary has been crossed.

"The only way it can change is for institutions, for governments, for white folks to take responsibility," she said.

"We have to help to bring about this change, we have to start speaking out. When we see overt and covert racism, we have to use our white privilege and call it out when we see we need to stop being oblivious. We need to stop making excuses."

You can watch excerpts from the interview with Dr. Mos-Shogbamimu in the video player above.