On Dec. 30, Sgt. Dale Nix of the Greensboro Police Department was shot and killed after he approached three suspects who were robbing a Sheetz in Greensboro. He was 50 years old.

Let me be clear: No one deserves to die doing their job, much less whilst just acting as a citizen. And that’s what happened to Dale Nix.

And the outpouring of support for his family, for the police, in the aftermath of Nix’s death is understandable. But it’s also important to note that it’s part of a larger conversation around policing, crime and what is considered a tragedy in our society.

One death in a violent act is one too many. But if we are to mourn Nix’s death and service, which we should, we have to also consider the hundreds — nay thousands — of other deaths that occur in the US at the hands of the police… also people who were often, just citizens.

According to the FBI, 118 officers were killed in line-of-duty in 2022. By comparison, 1,201 people were killed by police the same year. That’s a 1:10 ratio.

Marcus Deon Smith was 38 years old when he was hogtied by police after experiencing a mental health crisis. 

Fred Cox was 18 years old when he was shot and killed by an undercover sheriff’s deputy after trying to escort people into a church during a drive-by shooting. Was he not also a hero in the way that Nix was?

Where is the outpouring of support for him?

And then there’s the issue of justice.

In the aftermath of Nix being shot, a Blue alert went out to every phone in the area, alerting people to be on the lookout for the suspects. Less than 24 hours later, three young Black kids had been arrested and are now facing serious charges for their crimes.

But we all know how the story goes when it’s the reverse.

In the instance of Marcus Deon Smith, no officers involved were ever charged with a crime. Neither in the case of Fred Cox or Nasanto Crenshaw or any of the ones who killed people last year.

Did you know that the city of Greensboro has spent more than $4 million in the last five years to defend police officers who use force?

And yet public officials like the mayor and governor were quick to speak out over the weekend for Nix’s killing but their silence when hundreds of Black and brown people are killed at the hands of police speak volumes.

So what are we talking about here?

Is it support for an officer who tried to do the right thing even when he wasn’t in uniform or is it blind support for a system that treats Black and Brown people as disposable while failing to acknowledge the perpetual harm it doles out to the most marginalized among us? Because doing one without the other is an injustice in and of itself.

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