A Virginia sheriff on the hunt for a House seat says he doesn’t think police violence against the African-American community is a real concern in the United States.
Why? Because most of the people shot by cops are destined for trouble with the law, anyway, he says.
The comments come from a transcript of a recent debate between the Republican candidate for Virginia’s fourth Congressional district, Henrico County Sheriff Michael Wade, and Democratic state Sen. Donald McEachin. Virginia’s fourth district covers the southeast corner of the state below Richmond.
In a question pertaining to what he would do to help strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color, Wade suggested that racially biased violence was a myth sensationalized by the media.
“We always talk about the police officer as being the one that’s wrong in these situations and the media does a poor job, as soon as something happens, blaming it on a police officer,” Wade said. “Some of ’em are wrong, no doubt, but some of ’em are right.”
“I think the greater problem in this area is the problem we have in this country of mental health and substance abuse,” he continued. “If you look at most of these incidents, the majority of those people in these situations that are shot are on the way to jail—85 percent of the people that are in jail have substance abuse problems and 30 percent have mental-illness problems.”
Senator McEachin, an African American, responded to Wade’s statement, saying that he was “absolutely stunned” by the sheriff’s thought process. Pointing out a case involving a man from Minnesota who was shot by police after they pulled him over for a busted taillight, McEachin asserts that he “was not on his way to jail.” The senator even dug into his own personal experiences with police harassment, saying that he “didn’t have a mental health problem” and was not headed for jail when an officer shook him down along the side of the road for checking his campaign signs too late at night.
“It’s a scary thing when you get pulled over,” McEachin said, “and I would imagine it’s even a scarier thing when all you’re trying to do is obey a police officer’s order and you get shot.”
In 2017, the Justice Department will begin tracking incidents involving police violence against average citizens with a national database. Some of the latest research shows that police officers spend the majority of their days busting people for drug possession—making an arrest every 25 seconds. In some cases, these situations lead to civilian injury or even death because law enforcement officers are not properly trained for addict encounters. Other cases, especially those involving marijuana, which makes up the majority of the petty drug possession charges in this broken nation, police are sometimes using the offense as an excuse to take the old firearm out for a little exercise.
There have been 776 people killed by police officers, so far, in 2016, according to the Washington Post.