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Her life mattered

Leon McDougle
Her life mattered

The National Medical Association (NMA) shares in the anger and distress felt by communities of color over a grand jury’s decision not to indict police who killed Breonna Taylor. Once again, the grand jury system has failed to value the life of an African American. Local jurisdictions continue to show their inability to independently investigate and prosecute, when indicated, cases of law enforcement use of excessive and unnecessary force. The NMA calls for independent investigations in all instances of police shootings and calls for the Department of Justice to evaluate the Breonna Taylor case.

The NMA proudly stands with most Americans in affirming that Breonna Taylor’s life mattered. She was a cherished family member. As a technician in the emergency department, she spent her life caring for others in need, including members of the law enforcement community. Her life came to a premature end after an unnecessary and unprovoked encounter with police in her home.

The unfortunate reality is that Breonna Taylor is dead most likely because she lived in a community where the families of the judges who issue no-knock warrants and the police who execute them do not live. To disregard the set of discriminatory circumstances that make Breonna Taylor’s death a reality is to ignore the structural racism that results in the death of so many African Americans on a daily basis. It is this systemic racism, deeply embedded both in our legal and law enforcement systems, in which African Americans are too often excluded from well-established police protocols and judicial precedents while often being subjected to arbitrary and capricious behavior.

The NMA supports the Department of Justice’s clarification of the police execution of no-knock warrants, which says, “…such a warrant does not entitle officers to disregard reliable information clearly negating the existence of exigent circumstances when they actually receive such information before execution of the warrant.”

The NMA supports Breonna Taylor’s 4th Amendment rights to be secure in her home and supports the Supreme Court’s extensive history of legal regard for an individual’s domicile enshrined in the words, “the overriding respect for the sanctity of the home that has been embedded in our traditions since the origins of the Republic.”

Breonna Taylor not only died, but she did so without receiving immediate health care for her gunshot wounds. She was not given the care that she spent her life giving to others. The NMA rejects the formal notion that there is no accountability for the death of Breonna Taylor and asks the Department of Justice to evaluate the case. The NMA also supports the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and asks the members of United States Congress to pass the legislation.

Leon McDougle is president of the National Medical Association, the largest and oldest national organization representing African American physicians and their patients in the United States.