Posted: Sunday, April 17, 2022. 7:32 p.m. 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. however, the mayor of Michigan’s capital, City Lansing, says he has already begun making changes to traffic stops to minimize such incidents.
On April 4, Patrick Lyoya, 26, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was shot in the back of the neck by an officer from the Grand Rapids Police Department. The department recently released body camera 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 of 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 drive away but the officer gets physical with him.
He then tries to run but is apprehended and the officer pulls out a stun gun which he attempts to fend off. The police department said the body camera deactivated when the officer shot Lyoya, and reactivated later when medical first responders rendered emergency assistance to him.
The BBC reports that Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said the reassessment 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, restraint techniques such as chokeholds were banned as a starting point, but police stops as a whole were reviewed.
“We have a policy in place that we’re not going to let our officers arrest people just for non-public safety reasons,” Schor said. “You never want a traffic stop to end in the death of the arrested person or the police officer.”
The topic of unnecessary force used by police is not a new conversation in the United States or a new topic in Belize. In 2019, officers at a water taxi terminal trying to contain a fight placed one of their own, police officer Ralph Gillett, in a rear chokehold to neutralize the situation. The Belize Police Department would later officially state that officers were not authorized to use such a technique. In February 2022, police shot Joshua Smith with a barrage of rubber bullets, causing him serious injuries and hospitalizing him. It was reported that his injuries were so severe that they caused lasting damage to his vision.
While PC Gillett and Smith managed to escape their police encounters with their lives, the same couldn’t be said for Allyson Major, 36, who was shot while chasing police in downtown Belize City in 2019; or Laddie Gillett, 14, who was shot dead by PC Kareem Martinez in Placencia in July 2021.
Their deaths and the encounters of many others injured during encounters with the police raise questions locally about the need for a review of the policies in place regarding the police’s interactions with the public.
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