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, unfortunately, sweeping the nation.

Have the financial payoffs for the murders of Black people sadly now become the new way for Black families to achieve the “so-called” American dream and prove that Black Lives Matter?

With the rate at which city officials are making these payoffs to Black families, it seems as if city officials have seemingly come to the universal conclusion that simply paying off these Black families in the form of financial settlements is the best way to not have to deal with pending lawsuits, versus ensuring that these Black families receive the level of justice in the form of a conviction, or in many cases not even an indictment, that their loved ones truly deserve. It also appears 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 we can add to an ever-growing list of Black people who have been killed by members of law enforcement, and whose families have received large settlements from local officials in the cities where they were killed – a list that is already entirely too long.

After St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm by a mostly White jury on June 16th, for the shooting death, caught on camera, of 32-year-old school employee Philando Castile, the City of St. Anthony was unceremoniously added to the list of cities who have agreed to pay out settlements to the families of the 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 settlement is going to 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, while with his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, who was sitting in the front passenger seat recording the incident on Facebook Live, and the couple’s 4-year-old daughter, who was sitting in the backseat. It is clear on the video that Castile was complying with Yanez’s orders, and he also informed Yanez that he was a registered gun owner who was licensed to carry the gun that 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 of an African American being killed, while their family became the default recipient of this disturbing new Blood Money for Black Lives benefit package, occurred mere days prior to the Castile settlement, when 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 has 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, and the U.S. Department of Justice 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 resulted in an agreement that required the City of Ferguson to make significant changes to address racial bias in its police department and in its municipal court.

There are so many other recent incidents that have been reported that highlight this disturbing Blood Money for Black Lives trend as well.

Remember Freddie Gray? He was the 25-year old Black man who was murdered in police custody after suffering a severe spinal injury after a violent encounter with members of law enforcement. 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 the family, none of the officers were ever held accountable for Gray’s death, and all 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 in 2014 and shot him to death in less than 2 seconds for having a toy gun, settled their lawsuit out of court with the City of Cleveland for $6 million. Once again, the 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, although the officer who shot Rice – Timothy Loehmann – was only fired for “lying on his employment application in 2013,” which is a violation that only was only unearthed after officials started investigating after Rice’s death, and 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, 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 Garner’s family to the tune of $5.9 million, and as usual, Staten Island police officer Daniel Pantaleo was never indicted or held accountable. Not only did Pantaleo get 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, who was 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 Scott’s family for $6.5 million in October 2015. Although Slager was charged and eventually terminated, the City has refused to acknowledge that the officer or the police department did anything wrong.

What about Oscar Grant III, the 22-year old Black man and father who 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 brought by Grant’s 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 controversy surrounding Laquan McDonald, the 17-year old Black man who was fatally shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer, it took Chicago City Council members only five seconds to vote to approve a $5 million settlement with the family. Until that video was forced to be released, there were no arrests and no accountability. The only thing that did happen, as it has seemingly become the new norm, is that another settlement was solidified with another grieving Black family.

Are you beginning to see this disturbing new trend? 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, and 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 even get to keep their jobs, as if nothing ever happened. This disturbing trend 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 murdered people of color. 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 incidents like police killings and police brutality that have saturated the news over the past several years.

Paying out financial settlements to the families of those killed by members of law enforcement sends a mixed message to these families, 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 because of the murder of their loved ones, but juries and judges and prosecutors all across America are consistently making decisions stating that the officers who committed the murders 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.

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

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