Staff Editorial | Peter Liang’s trial, Akai Gurley and the police today
Over the past two weeks, New York Police Department officer Peter Liang has stood trial for the death of Akai Gurley in 2014. According to the New York Times, in 2015 Liang was indicted for manslaughter, assault and other criminal charges, and turned himself in. On Feb. 11, Liang was found guilty by a jury, giving a shocking twist of events in cases similar to this
What did The Campanil think about this?
We feel that the trial and its verdict shows the many faults in police training, particularly in New York. For instance, Liang’s lawyers argued that his actions were a result of poor training from the Police Academy; he was “unqualified” to perform CPR. We feel that basic requirements like CPR should be stressed in training, especially in cases like Akai Gurley’s. The fact that Liang did not feel confident in performing resuscitation for someone that he had shot, is a symptom of a larger problem in cases like Liang’s: lack of accountability of police officers in communities.
Liang has been one of many policemen that have stood trial for the death of a person of color in the past two years. Since the deaths of Mike Brown, Freddie Gray, Aiyana Jones, and the many people of color that have been killed for the past two years, we have continued to question the United States’ training of police, especially for its use of excessive force.
Although this type of training has occurred in the United States since the 1900s, it has only worsened in the past few years. According to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), policing in the United States has become “excessively militarized through the use of weapons and tactics designed for the battlefield.” At the same time, this militarization has heavily and terribly impacted people of color. Because of this, we cannot help but wonder about the future for POCs in the U.S. due to militarization by police.
At the same time, The Campanil questions the word “justice” for this trial. During the trial, there were many questions about whether justice would be obtained for Gurley, especially in regards to race. Cases regarding the killings of POC by police officers have resulted in the acquittal of police or a mistrial. This time, justice was served when the jury declared the verdict as guilty.
Liang’s Chinese background posed a bigger question in the trial, especially with his role as a police officer in the New York Police Department. Over the last several years, the NYPD has been scrutinized for its misconduct involving deaths of people of color, such as Eric Garner, Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo. We could not help but wonder whether Liang’s actions were the result of a faulty department. Importantly, we wonder what issues will be raised now that Liang was found guilty.
We recognize all that was wrong with the case during the two-week trial. Although we recognize that justice was reached for the death of Akai Gurley, we still feel that police departments — especially New York’s department — must work to become demilitarized and build a relationship with the community that they are supposed to protect.