Georgia Cop Tells White Woman That “We Only Kill Black People”
by Anastasia Lacina
Staff Also Fuck the Police
This cultural moment in America is a disturbing and discriminatory one, filled with racial tension (especially after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville) and peppered with racist anecdotes that would not seem out of place in an episode of “What Would You Do?”
Last month, a local news channel in Atlanta, Georgia obtained police dash-cam footage from a traffic stop that happened on July 10th, 2016. In the video, a white police officer—later identified as Lt. Greg Abbott—pulls over a car at 3 o’clock in the morning. The male driver is arrested for driving under the influence, but the female passenger does not want to move her hands or open her car door, saying that she is afraid because she had seen “way too many videos” about how police treat people at traffic stops. The cop goes on to reply, “But you’re not black. Remember, we only kill black people. Yeah. We only kill black people, right? All the videos you’ve seen, have you seen white people get killed? No.”
WSB-TV Atlanta published the video on August 31st, and that afternoon, the police chief of Cobb County Police Department held a press conference in which he denounced the comments as “inexcusable and inappropriate,” and claimed that they had begun firing proceedings for Lt. Abbott (however, a few days later, it was announced that he retired before the firing proceedings could go through). The lawyer for Lt. Abbott, when asked for a statement, said that his client was “attempting to de-escalate a situation involving an uncooperative passenger. In context, his comments were clearly aimed at attempting to gain compliance by using the passenger’s own statements and reasoning to avoid making an arrest.”
Despite this, many people are understandably angry about the incident. Media pundits noted that although firing proceedings had begun fairly quickly after the video was aired, the Cobb police department had had the video in their possession for more than a year and had taken no action against Lt. Abbott. It was only after WSB-TV Atlanta put them into the spotlight by releasing the video that they felt like they needed to take action. The implication is that the Cobb police department was perfectly fine with keeping Lt. Abbott as an officer even though he had said these racist remarks, up until the point when the rest of the country knew about it.
Additionally, black Americans took to Twitter to expose the tragic irony of the whole situation. Within a few days of Lt. Abbott’s words coming to light, he was forced to leave the police force. And yet, in June, Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty in the shooting of Philando Castile, an innocent black man in Minnesota. Daniel Pantaleo—the cop who choked Eric Garner to death in 2014—wasn’t even indicted by a grand jury, and was only given a slap on the wrist by the NYPD. And Darren Wilson—who infamously shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri—was also not indicted, and later, voluntarily left the Ferguson police force.
No one doubts that Lt. Greg Abbott’s words were inappropriate and horribly racist, and no one doubts that he deserved to be removed from his position. But when viewed in light of the dozens of innocent black people who have been shot by cops in the past few years, it does raise the question: does saying that cops kill black people result in a harsher punishment than if you actually kill black people?