I am extremely disappointed in the Knoxville Police Department’s response to the Police Advisory Review Committee recommendations regarding my complaint. To state that my case had ‘no indication of bias’ is an insult to common sense and shows that KPD isn’t serious about addressing unconscious bias within its department.
I am disheartened that KPD would rather dismiss concerns about racial bias in my case because it wasn’t listed on my initial complaint rather than take steps to remedy a serious problem.
As I’ve stated before, the moment I stepped out of the taxi onto Officer Janish’s mother-in-law’s property, Officer Janish treated me like a suspect. Officer Janish told investigators that he thought I was a Black teenage boy, which apparently made me a criminal in his mind.
I stand by my initial complaint that Officer Janish used excessive force and escalated the encounter into a life-threatening situation for me. Reading KPD’s Internal Affairs report, highlighted how unconscious bias caused Officer Janish to hold me at gunpoint despite the fact that I never acted aggressively or threateningly.
I appreciate the diligence and hard work put forth by the members of PARC. I also appreciate their willingness to speak up at last month’s hearing. Unfortunately, it seems that KPD is more interested in protecting its officers than protecting innocent civilians. The recommendation that PARC become more involved in Mass Roll Calls and that PARC members participate in ride-alongs will not prevent an incident like this from happening again, and possibly ending with tragic results. Civilians don’t need to understand what officers encounter on the streets. Police need to understand what its like to be a civilian in their crosshairs.
Mayor Madeline Rogero has said Knoxville is a welcoming place, but it seems that Knoxville welcomes African Americans only in East Knoxville, where Officer Janish reportedly has a stellar record.
KPD’s insistence on justifying Officer Janish’s actions and denying the influence of unconscious bias sends a clear message to African Americans that their lives are valued less than police lives or even a used car. It also sends a message to other officers that this type of behavior is not only condoned but will be vehemently defended.