Amber Guyger and the Thin Blue Line

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When the story of Botham Jean’s murder first made national headlines, the first reaction of many people was to feel angry. Many people worried, imagining the suffering of his family and believing that there was very little chance that the cop responsible for his death would ever see any sort of consequence.

There’s good reason to believe that. After all, the bastard who shot little Aiyana Jones while she slept on her couch could still get paid to “protect and serve” in Detroit. No amount of settlement money can bring that beautiful little girl back to her family.

The cop that killed Tamir Rice without even interacting with the 12-year-old boy never faced criminal charges. There are stories like these all over, and it’s almost always a male while cop who has shot a person of color. They can claim they were scared and that’s all it takes to avoid criminal charges.

However, this case was different. It was one of the rare situations in which the Thin Blue Line might actually break. After all, the person who shot Mr. Jean was actually a woman. If you look back over the last few years in the news, you will see that the only police officers who ever seem to get held accountable for the horrible things they do are either women or people of color.

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: Amber deserves to go to prison for decades, if not the rest of her life. She may not have had malicious intent when she opened fire, but she did enter someone else’s apartment wrongfully and fired before making sure she was actually in danger. It is a disturbing trend with police officers to shoot first and then ask questions in the aftermath of their crimes. All of this is to say that Amber Guyger absolutely deserves her sentence, whatever it may be.

What is disturbing, however, is that the only time that justice seems to be served to those who become victims of violent or emotionally unstable police officers is when women or minorities who work for law enforcement are responsible.

Look at Daniel Holtzclaw. Many people celebrated privately the day that his conviction came down. Activists and victims around the country were definitely even more excited when the judge actually assigned a penalty (263 years in prison) that reflected the severity of his offense. It’s possible that his mixed racial background played a role in that outcome, despite the obvious severity of his crimes.

White, male cops seem to be able to do just about anything they want with impunity as long as they can claim that they were afraid. A white cop accused of Holtzclaw’s crimes may have been able to just transfer away to another department to avoid issues. Women and people of color, who arguably have more of a reason to fear for their lives while on duty, are often thrown under the bus if anything goes wrong.

We have very sick culture in our law enforcement community in the United States, one that doesn’t just allow officers an excuse for all kinds of terrible crimes but also one that make it harder for people to seek justice if the cop who hurts their family member looks a certain way. Amber Guyger deserves to go to jail, but so do the countless white male cops who have gotten away with essentially murdering people because they wear a uniform.

For previous Ladybud coverage of police shootings, click here.