Is NYPD Officer Peter Liang a “scapegoat” cop?
On Feb. 11, 2016, 28-year-old Chinese-American New York City Police Officer Peter Liang was convicted of second-degree manslaughter, facing a sentence of up to 15 years in prison after accidentally shooting and killing Akai Gurley, an African-American father of two. This is actually the first time a police officer was been convicted of a crime in New York City in 10 years.
However, there are some, especially in the New York Chinese-American community, who are calling Liang a scapegoat after so many white police officers who shot and killed African American men have remained unconvicted for their crimes.
Just several months before Akai Gurley’s unfortunate death, Eric Garner, also an African American man, was approached by NYPD officers on suspicion of selling cigarettes. White police officer Daniel Pantaleo placed Garner in a chokehold, which he died from. Officer Pantaleo was not convicted of a crime. This was just one of several incidents where a white police officer killed an African-American man and did not receive any prison sentence.
On Nov. 20, 2014, rookie officers Liang and Shaun Landau were performing what is called a vertical patrol within the Louis H. Pink Houses in an East New York neighborhood. Liang accidentally fired his gun in an unlit stairwell, hitting Gurley and killing him. Liang did not provide medical assistance for Gurley, because, according to Liang, he was not confident in his ability to perform CPR due to the insufficient training he had received, instead choosing to wait for medical professionals. However, Liang also did not call for an ambulance, possibly out of shock.
This was an unquestionably tragic accident; however, the question remains, is Peter Liang’s conviction just? On one hand, it seems that victims of police brutality, particularly African American citizens unjustly killed by police officers, are finally receiving justice for their inhumane treatment. On the other hand, many in the Chinese American community claim that Liang is being treated as a scapegoat and believe that both Gurley and Liang are victims of a broken system. Liang will be sentenced April 14.
Jodi Tai ‘16 believes that “Liang should be given a punishment that fits his actions. But at the same time, it is disquieting that officers who have killed with intent have not even been charged; this poses a threat to the safety of African-American people, and grants privilege to certain civil servants over others on the basis of race.”
Overall, this incident is an obvious sign that there is something wrong with the American justice system. Something must be done to better train police officers so that innocent men and women — of any color — do not fall victim to any additional cases of police brutality.
If nothing changes — if we remain complicit with the system and this tragic incident is ignored — then more and more of these senseless tragedies will become part of our everyday lives.