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Prosecute the Murderers

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There are no good cops. But at least we are moving toward prosecuting the very worst of the racist murderers.

Three police officers in Tacoma, Wash., were charged on Thursday in the killing of a Black man who had pleaded “I can’t breathe,” after they punched him, squeezed his neck, pressed on his back and placed a spit hood over his head, prosecutors said.

Two of the officers, Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins, were charged with second-degree murder, and the third, Timothy Rankine, was charged with first-degree manslaughter in the death of Manuel Ellis on March 3, 2020, Washington State’s attorney general said.

The attorney general’s office said it was the second time that homicide charges had been filed in the state against law enforcement officers since the passage of Initiative 940 in 2018. The voter-approved initiative redefined when deadly force is justified, making it clear that there should be an increased role for juries in determining whether such force constitutes a crime.

The charges were also the latest to be brought as police violence has come under more intense scrutiny since George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, less than three months after Mr. Ellis was killed. Mr. Floyd, who was Black, had also pleaded, “I can’t breathe,” as a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes.

This is why it’s important to continue keeping police violence at the center of our politics. If enough voters are outraged–and at least in Washington they were–you can enact real changes that might fall short of solving the problem, but at least provide some sort of mechanism to deal with it.

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