Posted: Sunday, April 17, 2022. 7:32 pm CST.
By Benjamin Flowers: A fatal encounter between a black man and a white police officer during a routine traffic stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan has brought the issue of lethal force used by police back into the spotlight yet again; however, the Mayor of Michigan’s capital City Lansing, says that he has already begun making changes to traffic stops to minimize such incidents.
On April 4, 26-year-old Patrick Lyoya, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was fatally shot in the back of the head by an officer of the Grand Rapids Police Department. The department recently released bodycam footage of the incident but, to date, has not released the identity of the officer.
During the incident, the officer told Lyoya that the license plate on the car he was driving did not belong to the car and asked for his driver’s license. Lyoya opened the driver’s door of the vehicle to show the officer his license and tries to walk off but the officer gets physical with him.
He then tried to run but is apprehended and the officer pulls out a stun gun which he tries to fend off. The police department said that the bodycam deactivated around the time the officer shot Lyoya, and reactivated later when medical first responders were giving him emergency aid.
The BBC reports that Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said that reevaluation of policies associated with traffic stops began two years ago following the murder of George Floyd in the city of Minneapolis by police officer Derek Chauvin.
Schor explained that after the Floyd incident, restraining techniques such as chokeholds were outlawed as a starting point, but that police stops on a whole were reviewed.
“We put in place a policy that said we’re not going to have our officers pull people over just for non-public safety reasons,” Schor said. “You never want a traffic stop to end up in a death of the person being pulled over or of the police officer.”
The topic of unnecessary force used by police is not a new conversation in the US nor is it a new topic in Belize. In 2019, officers at a water taxi terminal trying to contain a brawl placed one of their own, Police Constable Ralph Gillett, in a rear-naked choke to neutralize the situation. The Belize Police Department would later say on record that officers are not authorized to use such a technique. In February 2022, police shot Joshua Smith with a barrage of rubber bullets, causing severe injuries and hospitalizing him. It was reported that his injuries were so severe it caused lasting damage to his vision.
While PC Gillett and Smith managed to escape their encounters with police with their lives, the same could not be said for 36-year-old Allyson Major who was shot dead by pursuing police in downtown Belize City in 2019; or 14-year-old Laddie Gillett, who was shot dead by PC Kareem Martinez in Placencia back in July 2021.
Their deaths and the encounters of many others injured by encounters with police leave the question locally about the need for a review of the policies in place with regard to police interactions with the public.
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