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A Man Killed a Year Ago by Police is Still Awaiting Justice: Why We Need Police Reform

Addressing the urgent need for police reform and gun safety laws in America.

Protest against police brutality. Black lives matter Toronto. Protester confronting a police officer.
Credit: Shutterstock / NixZ

It’s been over a year since a Texas deputy killed Roderick Brooks for supposedly stealing detergent. His family, like so many others, is still waiting for justice.

What Happened to Roderick Brooks

On July 8, 2022, deputies in Harris County responded to a call stating that a male was attempting to shoplift from a Dollar General. The male, later identified as Brooks, reportedly pushed a manager while exiting the store with some items.

The caller stated she didn’t believe Brooks was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, nor appeared to have a weapon. She claimed she “just want[ed] him to get arrested.”

Once on the scene, Sergeant Garret Hardin spotted Brooks, who began to flee on foot. Body cam footage shows Hardin chasing Brooks through a gas station parking lot while yelling at him to stop. He warns Brooks, “Stop, dude. I’m gonna tase you. Stop! Get on the ground!”

When Brooks still attempts to run, Hardin tases him and gets him on the ground. Brooks can be heard asking, “Why are you tasing me? Please get off me, man?” as he attempts to stand.

The two men then began to fight over Sgt. Hardin’s taser, until Hardin shot Brooks in the back of the head. Hardin called for backup and an ambulance, and medics pronounced Brooks dead on the scene.

“There’s no words for this. Killing? This killing is unjust and it’s gonna get proven.”

Demetria Brooks-Glaze, Brooks’s younger sister

What’s Happening a Year Later

Two months after Brooks’s death, his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Sgt. Hardin and the sheriff’s office. The suit alleges that Brooks may still be alive if Hardin had been properly disciplined after critically injuring another man the week before the shooting.

Additionally, it’s important to note that Hardin has faced eight separate suspensions without pay between 2004 and last July. The reasons behind these suspensions include crashing his patrol car into another vehicle, giving false statements to his supervisors, and making sexual remarks to officers working under him.

Still on disciplinary probation when the shooting occurred, supervisors then placed Hardin on paid administrative leave. Though, according to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, Hardin has started actively working as a deputy again.

“It shows that there is a different approach to how justice is received depending on who the suspect is. [When] the suspect is a civilian, you can expect things to move a lot more swiftly as opposed to someone else. We need to hold everyone to the same standard, especially when it comes to our criminal justice system.”

Justin Moore, an attorney representing the Brooks family

Soon, the case will be given to a grand jury which will determine if charges will be filed against Sgt. Hardin. Another attorney representing the Brooks family, Sadiyah Karriem, commented, “We’re glad that finally, the case will be going to the grand jury. We know that it’s been over a year, but there’s been some hiccups.”

“At a certain point in time, we have to understand if we want justice if we want order, then there has to be justice no matter who was involved in it. We want peace officers who do justice.”

Dr. Abdul Haleem Muhammad, expert witness on the use of force

On the first anniversary of Brooks’ death, his family held a candlelight vigil. There, Brooks’ younger sister shared her dismay with the investigation, saying, “One year, no answers. No answers. We want the truth. We got the ending, we just want to know how did it come to this.”

Beyond Brooks

Unfortunately, Brooks is far from the first to be killed by police while unarmed, and still not the last. Wikipedia offers a comprehensive list of unarmed African Americans killed by law enforcement officers from 1870-2023. The list includes the names, dates, and circumstances involved in each killing, and it is harrowingly long.

According to research conducted by Statista, police have shot 432 civilians already this year, as of June 1, with 53 of those people being Black. On a grander scale, Giffords Law Center found that more than one in four fatal police shootings involve a Black victim. This statistic is especially alarming when considering that African Americans only make up 14% of the US population.

Further, Every Town research shows that Black Americans experience 12 times the gun homicides, 18 times the gun assault injuries, and almost 3 times the fatal police shootings of White Americans.

Every Town, an anti-gun violence group, also reports that a Black person is shot and killed by police at least every other day. And, 71 percent of Black adults or someone they know and care about have experienced gun violence in their lifetime.

“The system wasn’t built to protect Black people. And until we get to the root cause of policing and police brutality and the differences in the way police treat Black folks versus white folks, we’re not going to get to change.”

Karundi Williams, the CEO of re:power, a national organization that trains Black people to become political leaders

Can Police be Reformed?

Brady United takes an evidence-based approach to police reform that is rooted in public health and safety. They suggest that the process requires four elements: reallocation and reassessment, reform in police practices, mandated transparency, and accountability.

Currently, the U.S. spends $115 billion annually on policing. However, many situations could be more effectively handled by public safety officials other than the police. In such a way, narrowing the scope of police duties so as to increase funding for social workers and mental health professionals could help prevent deaths by police.

Reforming police practices requires the improvement of hiring and training techniques for officers to establish clear boundaries in policing. These guidelines should help to decrease police brutality by limiting their power.

Mandated transparency addresses the loopholes in reporting that police are currently granted. By requiring officers to wear body cameras and publicly reporting transgressions by police officers, precincts can help increase the level of trust between the community and themselves.

Accountability coincides with mandated transparency, as being able to hold officers accountable is the goal of being transparent. Though, further, something like an external review board to preside over police misdeeds could help ensure officers are properly punished.

Resources for Preventing Gun Violence

Every Town also provides a list of ways to help decrease gun violence in America:

  • Violence Intervention Programs – These programs provide comprehensive community support to individuals who face a great risk of gun victimization. Reportedly, the programs help reduce gunshot wounds and deaths in neighbourhoods highly impacted by gun violence.
  • Removal of Shoot First Laws – Shoot First laws allow civilians to shoot to kill in public even if they could get away from the danger. They seem to encourage violence, even when avoidable, and threaten public safety. Moreover, these laws cause increases in homicides and injuries while disproportionately affecting people of color.
  • Prevention of Gun Trafficking – Currently, the U.S. needs to crack down on illegal gun trafficking networks. Thus, voting for gun trafficking and straw purchasing laws could help keep guns off the streets. Also, states can help prevent gun trafficking by requiring gun owners to report lost and stolen guns, as they account for a large part of illegally trafficked firearms.
Written By

hi! i'm nic (she/they) and i am a third year english lit major at the university of san francisco! i enjoy writing about queer topics and social issues and really appreciate you reading my articles :)

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