Johannes Mehserle, the former Bay Area Rapid Transit cop who shot and killed Oscar Grant, a man who was being detained for a fight on a train on New Year’s Day 2009, has been sentenced to two years for involuntary manslaughter, according to the New York Daily News. The sentencing came down from Judge Robert Perry.
After the sentencing, riots and protests broke out all over California, with stores being broken in to and looted and areas around the state were also being vandalized. The family’s reaction to the two-year prison term was one of disgust, as they were hoping for the maximum term of 14 years for Mehserle, according to Yahoo News. The judge came up with the limited sentence because he threw out a gun enhancement charge that would have guaranteed a much higher sentence. Mehserle claimed that he accidentally shot Grant when he meant to use a Taser instead. Grant was allegedly resisting arrest, and so a Taser would have been necessary.
This police brutality case has been compared to the Rodney King beatings in 1991, according to BBC News, because it has so polarized the state of California and the city of Oakland. The protesters and rioters out there right now should instead focus their energy on getting laws changed for the weapons that transit cops carry. A cop may need to carry a gun, but a transit cop should only be carrying a weapon such as a Taser. If Mehserle didn’t have his gun, then there would be no case right now. There were also other factors in the Mehserle case.
The kick that one of the men received by another police officer should be punishable by probation. The racial slurs that were also yelled by one of the police officers were not called for as well. Those police officers should be put on probation for their actions. The resistance of the group of men to the police officers also was not called for. No one is guilt-free in this case. While the shooting of Grant was a terrible tragedy, the riots and the protests are not going to bring Grant back. The family should get together and channel their grief to try to have stricter laws for police who are found to be guilty of any form of police brutality or the usage of racial slurs or any kind of derogatory language.
The effect that this case will have on police brutality will be none if the rioters don’t organize and do something about it. Police should be held to the same standards as criminals are. So that means that, yes, there are cases out there of police brutality where the officers have gotten off to easy, but this truly looks like a case of involuntary manslaughter and the Judge made the right decision.
However, this is not to say that there won’t be a case in the future where unruly police officers need to face the same punishment as any civilian would be facing. The best thing that the Grants could do is organize and make sure that no police officer ever gets away with a case of police brutality.
Sean Alfano, “Johannes Mehserle, white cop who shot unarmed black man Oscar Grant gets two years in
prison” New York Daily News
John Rogers, “White ex-transit officer given 2 – year prison term” Yahoo News
Americas, “Flashback: Rodney King and LA riots” BBC News