Disturbing Trend: Blood Money for Black Lives – It’s time to put an end to this new nationwide trend

ABOVE: Valerie Castile, the mother of Philando Castile

City officials all across the United States are paying “Blood Money” to Black families in a disturbing new trend that has started sweeping the nation.

Has paying off Black families for the murders of their loved ones become the new way for Black families to achieve the “so-called” American dream and prove that Black Lives Matter?

At the rate at which city officials are swiftly making financial settlements to Black families who lost a loved one due to being murdered by a member of law enforcement, it seems as if city officials have come to a universal conclusion that this is the best and most expedient way to avoid dealing with pending lawsuits, versus ensuring Black families receive the level of justice their loved ones truly deserve. Interestingly, these financial payoffs also appear to be the best way for city officials to quiet the conversation surrounding these deadly encounters, while refusing to proactively address the lack of law enforcement accountability in their respective cities and across this country.

“Blood Money” is being offered in exchange for Black Lives.

Let’s just look at two recent examples that can be added to the ever-growing list of Black people who have been killed by members of law enforcement over the past several years, and the Black families who have received large financial settlements from local officials in the cities where their loved one was killed – a list that is already entirely too long.

After St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted on June 16, of one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm, by a mostly White jury for the shooting death of 32-year-old school employee Philando Castile that was caught on camera, the City of St. Anthony was unceremoniously added to the list of cities who have agreed to pay out financial settlements to the Black families of countless other men and women of color who have been killed by members of law enforcement. Under the terms of the settlement, the city of St. Anthony agreed to pay Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, as trustee, a payment in the amount of $2.995 million. The settlement agreement was reached with Ms. Castile, her lawyers – Robert Bennett and Glenda Hatchett – and the City of St. Anthony. By settling with Ms. Castile, the city avoided a federal civil rights lawsuit that would have taken years to resolve, according to city officials, and the financial settlement will be paid through the city of St. Anthony’s coverage with the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust.

“No amount of money could replace Philando,” said city officials. “The death of Philando Castile is a tragedy for his family and for our community. With resolution of the claims the family will continue to deal with their loss through the important work of the Philando Castile Relief Fund.”

Castile, who was a registered gun owner, was shot and killed by Yanez during a routine traffic stop as his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, recorded the incident on Facebook Live from the front passenger seat. The couple’s 4-year-old daughter, who was sitting in the backseat, also witnessed her father’s murder. It is clear in the video that Castile was complying with Yanez’s orders. He also informed Yanez that he was a registered gun owner, who was licensed to carry the gun he had in his possession. Yanez was subsequently fired from his job on the police force by the City of St. Anthony, but was acquitted of any wrongdoing or crimes.

Another high-profile case involving a Black family becoming the default recipient of a major financial settlement after their loved one was killed occurred mere days prior to the Castile financial settlement.

Days after the Castile settlement was announced, the parents of Michael Brown, the young 18-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by officer Darren Wilson on August, 9, 2014, was paid $1.5 million by the insurance company for the City of Ferguson, Missouri, in order to settle the wrongful death lawsuit that was filed by his parents, according to Ferguson city attorney Apollo Carey, who refused to comment any further about the details of the financial settlement.

As has been reported, a St. Louis County grand jury decided not to indict Wilson, who abruptly resigned from the Ferguson Police Department in November 2014. The U.S. Department of Justice also decided not to prosecute Wilson. However, as a result of Brown’s death at the hands of Wilson, an investigation was opened up by the Justice Department, which not-so-surprisingly, revealed significant issues and resulted in an agreement requiring the City of Ferguson to make significant changes to address racial bias in its police department and in its municipal court.

There are many other recent incidents that have been reported, highlighting this disturbing “Blood Money” for Black Lives trend as well.

Remember Freddie Gray? He was the 25-year old Black man who died in police custody after a violent encounter with members of law enforcement that led to him suffering a severe spinal injury. Well, in September of 2015, the City of Baltimore settled a lawsuit with Gray’s family for a staggering $6.4 million. While this staggering financial settlement was given to this Black family, none of the officers were ever held accountable for Gray’s death and all of the charges against the six officers were dropped.

Last April, the family of Tamir Rice, who was 12-years old when cops rolled up on him and shot him to death in less than 2 seconds for having a toy gun in 2014, settled their lawsuit out of court with the City of Cleveland for a whopping $6 million. Once again, this Black family received a large financial settlement, yet in 2015, a grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against any of the officers involved in the shooting. The officer who shot Rice – Timothy Loehmann – was eventually fired, however, but only for “lying on his employment application in 2013,” which is a violation that was only unearthed after officials started investigating after Rice’s death. Officer Frank Garmback – the officer who was driving the patrol car – was only suspended for 10 days for “failing to report his arrival” on the scene of the shooting to a radio dispatcher.

What about Eric Garner?  He was the 43-year-old Black man who was choked to death on camera by an officer in July 2014. In July of 2015, New York City settled a lawsuit with this Black family to the tune of $5.9 million.  In typical fashion, however, Staten Island police officer Daniel Pantaleo was never indicted or held accountable for choking Garner to death. Shockingly, not only was Pantaleo able to keep his job, it was also reported that he received a significant pay raise after the murder of Garner.

Then you have 50-year-old Walter Scott.  This Black man was fatally shot down from the back in cold-blood by police officer Michael Slager in South Carolina. The city of North Charleston agreed to settle a lawsuit with this Black family for an astonishing $6.5 million in October 2015. Although Slager was charged and eventually terminated, the City of North Charleston has refused to  even acknowledge that the officer or the police department did anything wrong.

What about Oscar Grant III? This 22-year old Black man, and father, was fatally shot in the back by police officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale station in Oakland in 2009 on New Year’s Day. Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), who employed Mehserle, agreed to settle the lawsuit with this Black family, by giving $1.3 million to Grant’s mother and $1.5 million to his daughter. Mehserle resigned a week after the incident, and was eventually charged with second-degree murder, but was only convicted of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter. Mehserle only served about a year of his two-year sentence, and to date, BART has made no admission of wrongdoing.

After the fatal shooting on video and the controversy surrounding Laquan McDonald, the 17-year old Black man who was fatally shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer, it only took the members of the Chicago City Council only five seconds to vote to approve a $5 million settlement with this Black family.  The video of this incident was forced to be released, but prior to its release, there were no arrests made, no indictments and no accountability. The only thing that did happen, as has seemingly become the new norm, was that another financial settlement was solidified with another grieving Black family.

Are you beginning to see this disturbing new trend of “Blood Money” for Black Lives.

As we look at what is happening all across the United States, it appears as if Black families are being forced to accept financial settlements as a substitute for real police accountability. Black families are being strongly encouraged to accept a financial payoff as an alternative to true justice. The law enforcement officials who commit many of these irresponsible and fatal killings seemingly have nothing to worry about, as the majority of them continue to collect their pensions, and in some cases get to even keep their jobs, as if nothing ever happened.

This disturbing trend of “Blood Money” for Black Lives seems to subtly indicate that cities across America have come to a uniformed consensus that paying out large financial settlements is the best way to deal with people of color who have been senselessly murdered by a member of law enforcement. It also sends an alarming message that city officials across America believe the actions of these officers are both acceptable and justified.

City officials across the U.S. should strongly consider implementing a policy requiring every member of law enforcement to have something tied to their job performance as a mandatory requirement, so as to make sure their respective city, their insurance companies or their taxpayers, will never have to shoulder the burden for police incompetence or police misconduct, especially when it comes to high-profile incidents like police killings and police brutality. These incidents have saturated the news over the past several years and seem to be increasing every year.

Paying out financial settlements to the Black families of those killed by members of law enforcement sends a mixed message and presents an even more startling contradiction to the rest of the world, by declaring with these payoffs that killing Black people has a certain price tag on it. It also poses a very interesting question that needs an answer.

Why are these Black families being given a “Blood Money” for Black Lives financial payout as a result of their loved ones being murdered at the hands of law enforcement, but the juries, judges and prosecutors all across America are consistently choosing not to hold the officers who committed the murders accountable for their actions as if they did absolutely nothing wrong?

As much as these Black families are probably relieved to receive some form of financial justice as a result of the untimely and tragic loss of their loved ones, it does not bring their loved ones back from the grave and it does not give them complete closure.

It is time to put an end to this new nationwide trend of killing Black people, having Black families file a lawsuit, and then paying off these Black families with “Blood Money” as a result of the actions of an irresponsible and rogue member of law enforcement.

This new “Blood Money” for Black Lives trend can’t be allowed to continue and must not gain any more traction.