The Fort Lupton police department has released a video showing the moment a police vehicle was broadsided with 20-year-old Yareni Rios-Gonzales handcuffed inside. For no discernable reason, the police car was left parked on a set of train tracks during the woman’s arrest for a suspected road-rage incident. Ms. Rios-Gonzales lived, despite numerous injuries that included a broken arm, a fractured sternum, nine broken ribs, wounds to her back, head and legs.

The number of levels on which this incident is wrong is staggering. She saw the train coming. She tried to warn the police, screaming at them in an attempt to get their attention. But they ignored her. In a gross lack of situational awareness, they missed multiple loud warning hunks that proceeded the trains arrival. When they did realize the train was approaching, the policeman swiveled towards and away from the car several times, trying to decide if he should attempt to save her or not. Then, sworn to protect and serve, he turned and ran.

Ms. Rios-Gonzales has hired a lawyer. There will be a lawsuit. And she will likely win it. But that misses many of the main points of concern for me as a person of color. I watch this video, like so many other videos before it, and I wonder what police were thinking. Was this pure malice or blatant negligence? Was it in the back of their heads that, “Hey, this will be a new one to tell around the bar with my buddies?”  Or was there simply nothing in their heads at all?  It is hard to tell, given the number of chances they had to avoid the situation.

I wonder, as I have wondered hundreds of times prior to this incident, at the fact that 91% of police officers in America have an associates degree or less, 35% holding only a high-school diploma. When it comes to how they treat people of color or other marginalized citizens, is it a coincidence that this is almost the exact demographic pollsters note form a substantial portion of Trump’s base?

Do marginalized lives really matter to them when they display ever more egregious lapses in judgement on any given calendar day? Are we supposed to believe our lives matter to them when, without even a moment’s pause, I can recall the officers who chuckled and chatted while a man drowned while begging for help; the police woman who shot her black neighbor for relaxing in “her” apartment; or Derek Chauvin and his eight-minute, forty-six second kneel?  

Each one of these stories is like its own separate piece of a slowly unfolding 9/11. If you had told me two planes would purposely fly into New York City’s highest towers, in broad daylight, killing thousands, I couldn’t have imagined it before it happened. Even while it was happening, it was hard to grasp. Initially, most people I know thought it was an accident, certainly not purposeful. I feel the same way about an ever-increasing number of police incidents: If you tried to make these events up before they actually happened, who would believe such malice or incompetence? Yet, here we are.

All of America morns, yearly, over the horrific loss of life on 9/11. Yet when it comes to the increasingly creative and tragic ways police are finding to endanger everyday citizens, half of America is in complete denial, a small percentage probably even cheering. It is terrifying.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

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