This past weekend, a sickening incident occurred in which a black man died during an encounter with police. It was another in a long line of sickening — and puzzling — incidents involving police and the black community.

Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired after a viral video showed one of them kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed George Floyd who cried that he could not breathe and later died.

For years, we have heard too many cases in which black citizens were treated with suspicion for no reason, injured and killed by police throughout the country. It must stop.

We are very familiar with our local police and law enforcement in general, and we understand each case is unique. As journalists who report the news and as individuals who read it, we realize many of the cases we read about don’t provide enough information for us to come to a fair conclusion.

But some do.

We believe the case of George Floyd does. We see no reason why he should have died or why an officer should have been kneeling on his throat. Of course, there are times police officers must use force to subdue suspects — but not excessive force.

Among all the things we are grateful for in our country, safety and law enforcement rate high. That doesn’t mean there aren’t serious issues that must be addressed.

The website mappingpoliceviolence.org reports police killed 1,009 last year. Of those, 24% were black, even though only 13% of the population is black.

It certainly seems as though many police departments in the United States have a racism problem. Is that the only cause of the tragic deaths of so many black citizens in this country by police? Are police, especially those in larger cities, working in fear as a result of widespread crime not directly related to race, therefore causing more use of excessive force?

These and other questions must be investigated, and a probe by local Internal Affairs isn’t enough. A federal investigation of such cases, as well as the systemic problems in law enforcement, is called for, followed by action based on results of the investigation.

The treatment of blacks and other minorities in this country is, at times, disgraceful and unacceptable. The George Floyd case is a terribly unfortunate example. Our government must address this case and the larger problem.

As for individuals, we also have the responsibility to let our officials and those who would do harm know racism — and anything else contributing to the unnecessary loss of life caused by police action — will not be tolerated.

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