Commentary: Thabo Sefolosha’s Arrest Shows Cops Gone Wrong

Commentary: Thabo Sefolosha’s Arrest Shows Cops Gone Wrong

Published April 13, 2015

Cops in America have a publicity problem, not that they were without one before the recent rash of killings of Black males. Cops have long had bad reputations in the inner city, but whenever Black folks screamed police brutality, they were met with derision and disbelief.

No way, folks would say. Cops aren’t the problem; criminals are.

That’s been the tall tale that has hung around Black communities for the better part of a century. It might still be the tale told if not for the video cameras that record every move cops make. The cameras have exposed a side of police work that cover-ups and codes of silence had kept closeted.

| SEE WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE WALTER SCOTT CASE |

One of the latest videos caught cops seeming to step over the line in their arrest in New York City of a couple of NBA players: Pero Antic and Thabo Sefolosha of the Atlanta Hawks.

The cops told one version; the athletes told another.

Which version should the public believe?

"There's a video out that speaks for itself," said Antic, a foreign-born player.

Yeah, the video … it might put truth to the lies that too often come from cover-ups that involve cops – men and women paid to protect everybody. When they do wrong, they hide behind their shields.

Absent a video, would officer Michael Slager, a white man, be unemployed and facing a murder rap in South Carolina for gunning down 50-year-old Walter Scott, Wild West-style? Without a video, would the public outrage in Cleveland be what it is after a cop shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice?

Cops would have explained away these killings, as they have done too often in urban policing, and faced nothing stiffer than desk duty. No one would have made a fuss about the senselessness of the killings because Scott and Rice were Black males whose lives didn’t matter. They had no public profile, so why should others care?

The answer to that is simple: Scott stood for any of our friends, our cousins, our brothers. So did Michael Brown. And so does Sefolosha.

But in their stories, Black people get to hear how rogue cops, the killers behind the badge, work. For men of means – and Sefolosha is a man of means – tend to get justice.

Unless they are Black.

Sefolosha lives to tell his story and has a video to back his side of it. He could, however, have become another urban statistic: a Black man like Scott or Brown who crossed paths with cops and came away the worse for it.

One minister at Scott’s funeral said Saturday: “We will not indict the entire law enforcement community for the act of one racist.”

Perhaps we should, though. We should stop defending or revering a profession that exacts punishment on Black men before they have been found guilty of a crime.

If a high-profile Black man like Sefolosha isn’t safe from cops with a hurt-first mentality, what chance for fair treatment do the rest of us have when we deal with them?

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

Written by Justice B. Hill

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