JACKSON, Miss.- In the aftermath of the police officers shot in Dallas last week and other officer-involved shootings, Mississippi officials are speaking out on the social climate in the country.
In recent weeks, there has been a rise in protests and rallies across the United States. From the Black Lives Matter movement to those standing behind law enforcement officers, each group has brought the same message: fairness, equality, respect, and no discrimination.
However, a social climate is continuing to evolve, highlighting certain events that have ended in death.
Most recently were the police-involved shootings of two black men, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and Philando Castile in Minnesota. Each died at the hands of police officers. With social media dictating what outsiders are seeing in the aftermath of each incident, the whole story is hard to find. This has sparked outrage amongst not only the African-American community, but the nation as a whole.
Only days after their deaths, protesters in Dallas rallied in the city to bring awareness to what they say is unfair treatment of black people by police officers. The irony of their protest was the protection provided to them by Dallas cops. As they continued their somewhat peaceful rally, one man, hidden away, opened fire on the officers wounding 12 while killing five.
Even just a day later, protesters gathered at Jackson’s capitol to continue bringing the message that black lives matter and police brutality must end.
While Mississippi has seen no violent acts directly related to these situations, state officials and religious leaders are providing insight into what is a growing problem in the nation.
Mississippi Reverend CJ Rhodes expressed his concern for officers “taking the law into their own hands.” Rhodes says that if police officers do not see a justifiable outcome coming down on criminals through the judicial process they could betaking action into their own hands.
“The issue is not just white officers on black men and women, but the assumption that there are a few officers in a broader fraternity, that is doing a great job, that are not being punished for a particular crime,” said Rhodes.
Rhodes then used the example of his own profession. As a pastor, if one pastor does something wrong everyone looks at all pastors questioning what they’re going to do about it, even if they were not a part of the wrongdoing.
The Washington Post released data that reports twice as many whites were killed by officers in 2015 than blacks. 50 percent of fatal shooting victims were white, while only 26 percent were black. One may argue that while those numbers seem high; blacks only make up 15 percent of the population and whites make up closer to 62 percent. However, due to a higher rate of crime in minority areas, police officers are more likely to be disproportionate when approaching an armed or non-compliant individual in these places.
Although unarmed black men are more likely to be shot at, black men are also three times more likely to fire a gun at a cop than to be killed by them.
Major Thomas Tuggle with the Mississippi Highway Patrol says his men and women are trained to ignore racial, social, or gender differences when on the job.
“A lot of people come to us with their own perceptions of race. It’s our job to be neutral and unbiased in everything we do. We don’t interject color, or religion, sexual orientation, all of those things are addressed in academy,” said Tuggle.
Neddie Winters with Mission Mississippi said building the relationship could change the outcome.
“White folks killing black folks is nothing new, black folks killing white folks is nothing new. If you look back from Cane and Able throughout history, this has been a problem,” said Winters. “As an ongoing lifestyle, develop loving relationships, things like this are going to happen, so as a Christian what is your reaction or response to them.”
Opinions on whether the officers involved in the recent shootings of Castile and Sterling still vary, one conclusion can be made. Not all cops are bad cops, and not all criminal activities are justification enough to end a life.
Mississippi officials are working together to address potential threats that they expect to continue until changes are made.