Could baseball offer an analogy for how to solve the police killings of unarmed Black people? The cheating in baseball by the World Series Champion Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox was done by the players. But the management of the teams were held accountable, not the individual players who indulged in the behavior. It was deemed that the management was complicit, and that since management could ultimately stop it, those at the top were to blame. I would argue that the same is true in the police killings of unarmed Black people. The attention should be focused on the "management" — the police unions. If we approached the shameful problem this way, those killings would end.
In nearly all the wrongful deaths of Black people, regardless of the criminal verdict, families have often been able to recover millions of dollars in civil lawsuits. Rodney King received almost $4 million in damages. The estate of Breonna Taylor was just awarded $12 million. Who pays? The taxpayers, despite having nothing to do with the incident other than being the employer of the police officer.
The victims deserved to be compensated for their tragedy — but taxpayers should not be paying. The police union should have to pay, as they are the true backers and supporters of police officers in this country. If that happened, the problem would go away.
So, how do you establish such a change, logistically speaking? The police union is one of the strongest unions in America. Neither Democrats nor Republicans seem to want to challenge them. I have been told in the past that it would be easier to hit a snowball out of Yankee Stadium in August than to have them accept such a change.
But local government officials have jurisdiction over their local police departments. It could be negotiated into their contract that all lawsuits settled by the local government in civil rights cases involving the serious injury or death of a Black person would be passed onto the state and national police union affiliated with the police officers involved. The union would then have to reimburse the city within 90 days. Problem solved.
The state government could also address the issue by requiring reimbursement for the aforementioned cases as well. In my opinion, this would solve the issue faster than any other method.
At one time during the mid-1990s, sick and hateful white youths were burning down Black churches. I was the chair of the Republican Party Civil Rights Task Force at the time. Very quickly, we addressed the matter by increasing the sentencing of the convicted — and the problem went away.
Unfortunately, Congress has proven that they do not have the appetite to deal with the killing of unarmed Black people by police officers, much like Congress has never adopted an anti-lynching bill despite more than 4,000 Black people having been lynched over the decades.
Fortunately, we have two other branches of government — local and state — at our disposal, and they must step up to the plate to put this terrible trend behind us as a nation.
Hopefully love for America, adherence to the Golden Rule, and fairness will prevail over hatred and violence. If it does not, America loses.
Gary Franks served as the US Representative for Connecticut's 5th District from 1991 to 1997. He was the first Black Republican elected to the House in nearly 60 years, and is New England's first Black Member of the House. He is host of the podcast We Speak Frankly. Follow him @GaryFranks