Ashton Lunger, the daughter of a fallen officer, experienced first hand the tragedy of her fathers death after he was shot and killed by a civilian during a traffic stop.
“My dad was the best dad that I could have ever asked for, a devoted and trusting law enforcement officer, and the best hero anyone could ever look up to,” Lunger said. “I love you and miss you more than this world could ever know Dad. Rest easy.”
Ashton’s father, Sgt. Scott Lunger, was 48-years-old and died on July 22, 2015. He pulled over 21-year-old Mark Anthony Estrada who murdered Sgt. Lunger before he could speak.
“After he was killed, I realized how much people actually cared and respected that title from him,” Lunger said. “I also heard and read the negative comments that people had about my fathers death and how it was one less murder on the streets.”
The controversy continues between the law enforcement and the community. California recently passed three new laws for the year of 2016 regarding crime and punishment. Listed below are the laws:
- Law enforcement departments whose officers wear cameras will now have to follow rules on using video in order for the footage to be properly stored.
- Law enforcement agencies must develop a system by 2018 that records a persons ethnicity and race, along with the outcome following the encounter.
- Police agencies must give a detailed annual report when officers use force. Serious injury or death must be recorded.
“There are many situations where having that camera could have changed the issues we now face,” Lunger said. “I think that having that camera, and having a second set of eyes on my dad to see the situation unfold, could have brought some closure to my family because we would know every detail up until that point.”
It is not required for law enforcement to wear cameras, but the ones that do must handle the footage properly. The Bureau of Justice Statistics stated that in 2013, 32 percent of local police departments used body worn cameras.
“This is a great investment by the agency, and I hope others will continue to do the same,” Lunger said.
Dr. Deshonna Collier-Goubil, Department Chair for Criminal Justice at Azusa Pacific University, has her own academic beliefs to this issue. To fix the smaller problem, Collier believes police departments need to focus on building relationships within the community they are regulating to create a broader perspective for the individuals. In order to fix the bigger issue, Collier believes the way these officers were raised, trained, and hired is the starting point.
“When were talking about the massive system, that is going to take much more then community policing,” Collier said. “That’s going to take some drastic change in training, hiring policy, and identifying implicit bias.”
Collier strongly believes that even with cameras, implicit bias is inevitable. Each individual grows up in a different neighborhood and are raised differently. If a cop is raised in a suburban area with only white males, then this cop has no multi-ethnic background. When this cop for the first time sees an African-American commit a crime, the officer will automatically think that all African-Americans are criminals.
“If my camera is strapped to my chest and is pointing forward, but I turn my head and see a subject who has a gun pointed at another, the camera isn’t going to see this,” Sgt. Nate Deveny, from the Tempe Police Department said. “If I immediately turn to engage the subject with a gun, it may look like I was the aggressor.”
According to a study done on Rialto, CA police officers. When wearing a camera, complaints fell by 88 percent and the use of force fell by 60 percent.
“The cameras can be broken down into clips and if a news agency, or other media outlets, gets just a clip of the video, then it may not portray the entire situation,” Sgt. Deveny said. “I will always choose to wear one, simply due to the fact that it has gotten me out of more trouble then it has put me in.”
Law enforcement in California now has two years to figure out a system that allows them to report and collect data on every person they stop, including their race and ethnicity.
“Police brutality is a real issue in society especially in many southern states, and I think it stems from the lack of knowledge regarding diversity, race relations, and alternative mindsets that deem certain race over others,” Black Student Association leader and activist for Black Lives Matter, Maurice Johnson said. “I think requiring law enforcement to collect and report date on the people they stop will definitely assist on this issue.”
Earlier last year, data.gov released an article discussing the actions President Barack Obama was going to make to improve the police force. The White House created the Police Data Initiative. The two purposes of this date collection is to build community trust and use technology to identify problems early on to stop unnecessary force from officers. Over 21 police departments have adopted this plan into their system.
“Increased regulation of data regarding race and ethnicity will allow an in depth look at the systems encounters,” Communications Director for the King County Republican Party, Jazmine Hand said. “Detailed data will allow for expansive case studies and provide a clearer evidence of why America is facing greater brutality between police and people of color.”
The Bureau of Justice released a statement back in 2011 with statistics on police behavior and the public. Less than five percent of the public believed officers did not behave properly when being pulled over. However, there was a minor racial difference in the drivers being pulled over. Seven percent of drivers were African-American, six percent were Hispanics, and five percent were Caucasian.
“In Arizona if you work for the City of Scottsdale their officers are going to stop a majority of Caucasian people, but if you work in Tempe the majority is going to be Hispanic,” Sgt. Deveny said. “I think if you look at it in those terms, it’s going to give the public a false sense of what is actually occurring.”
According to the Federal Bureau Investigation, cases revealed that there were 72 indictments for the color of law violations in the year of 2014. This is where law enforcement abused their power in excessive force, false arrest, failure to keep from harm, etc. In contrast, 51 law enforcement officers died from injuries during felonious incidents. Within these 51 officers, 47 were white, two were black, and two were Asian.
“There has been history of violence aimed towards African-Americans in this country from law enforcement,” Lunger said. “This does not label all law enforcement as racist or harmful people against this group or any other racial or cultural group.”
With the increasing number of fatal deaths by police officers, an organization was created called Black Lives Matter. This movement was formed in 2013 by founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi to create awareness of individuals who have been marginalized by the states and law enforcement. This movement has grown world wide to stop law enforcement from being racist and violent against African Americans in our country.
“I think that the issue Black Lives Matter is trying to say is that when African-Americans encounter law enforcement there is an automatic sense that they are going to be a criminal or going to be aggressive,” Collier said. “So, they are automatically treated differently.”
All of these incidents have made headlines across the world causing people to interpret law enforcement and their communities differently. In 2010, the CATO Institute did a annual report on excessive force. Of the 1,575 officers studied 56.9 percent used physical force. Within this same year 71 percent of the 127 fatalities had used firearms.
“I believe 99 percent of police are in this profession for the right reasons, while the other one percent are the ones who paint police in a negative light,” Sgt. Deveny said. “I understand the controversy, and the people in the community we serve want police to not make mistakes, but that simply is never going to be the case.”
According to a study done by Dr. Richard Johnson, a professor at the University of Toledo, showed that out of 1,491 persons killed by a police related incident 61.4 percent were white males and 32.2 percent were black males. This study analyzed the years between 2009-2012.
Considering the studies, statistics, and expert opinions that have been made, hopefully these laws will be effective for California.
“I think these laws will truly change a large amount of situations that arise for law enforcement officers,” Lunger said. “In the end all lives matter.”