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Myles Cosgrove's new job devalues the lives of Black women

That one of Breonna Taylor's shooters gets to stay a police officer is a second chance few Black women are ever provided.
Breonna Taylor
Breonna Taylor.Family photo

Twenty-seven months after he was fired, former Louisville police officer Myles Cosgrove is back on the job like he never shot Breonna Taylor. Cosgrove recently started a law enforcement job in Carroll County, about an hour northeast of the Kentucky city where he was once employed.

In defending the controversial hire, Carroll County Chief Deputy Rob Miller told the Courier Journal of Louisville that state and federal investigations had cleared Cosgrove of any criminal charges. But at no point did Miller mention any training or rehabilitation, any attempts by Cosgrove to reckon with his snuffing out an innocent life or the corrupt behavior of his colleagues who lied about evidence and their actions.

It’s giving no harm, no foul, justifying a delusional, dangerous gamble made not at his or Cosgrove’s expense but against Black women’s lives, in which they both clearly see no worth.

At no point did Miller mention any training or rehabilitation, any attempts by Cosgrove to reckon with his snuffing out an innocent life

The Louisville Metro Police Department fired Cosgrove for failing to properly “identify a target” while shooting 16 rounds into Taylor’s apartment the previous year during a botched narcotics raid, violating the department’s use-of-force procedures, and failing to use a body camera. But he remained eligible to police in Kentucky, as the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council voted in 2022 not to revoke his police certification.

“We think he will help reduce the flow of drugs in our area and reduce property crimes,” Miller said of Cosgrove on Sunday. He also commended Cosgrove’s “technical skills” and nearly 20-year-long career. “We felt like he was a good candidate to help us in our county.” In short, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office wanted to “give him a chance,” the chief deputy explained to WLKY-TV of Louisville.

I understand the potentially transformative power of a second chance, especially as part of a community that only rarely gets them. But in the case of fatal police shootings, the cost is too steep. Even if Cosgrove were to become the upstanding law enforcement official on whom Miller has wagered his community’s lives, a damning message has already been sent nationwide.

Most immediately, the hiring of Cosgrove is a critical issue of safety and trust. Dee Dee Taylor, Breonna’s sister, fears that another deadly incident could easily happen to another family. “It’s like instead of them getting a consequence, their reward … their consequence is a new job or being able to move on to a new community, still holding a gun, still interacting with the community, without any consequence,” she told NBC affiliate WOOD of Grand Rapids, Michigan. “And that in itself is a liability to our community in my opinion.”

This hiring also foregrounds that Taylor’s killing does not exist in isolation. Charleena Lyles, 30, a pregnant woman with a documented mental illness, was shot after she called the cops to her Seattle home. A jury determined that the officers were justified. Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, was also shot by police at her Columbus, Ohio, home after she called officers for help, only to die at the hospital. A grand jury declined to charge the involved officer.

Geraldine Townsend, 72, was asleep in her son’s home in Oklahoma when officers who’d burst inside mistook her BB gun for a real firearm and killed her. The district attorney refused to charge the officer. Aiyana Jones, 7, was sleeping beside her grandmother when a SWAT team stormed into their Detroit home, mistakenly shooting the young girl through the neck. The officer who shot her ultimately walked free after three mistrials.

Louisville activist Antonio Brown told the Courier Journal that Cosgrove’s hiring was like a “spit in the face of Americans, not just people in Kentucky.” Yes, though I’d argue it’s specifically a sucker punch to the face of Black girls and women in America. If there’s no justice for the fatal shooting of Taylor, a tragedy that helped spark one of the world’s largest racial justice movements, then what chance do we have?

Only about 13% of American women are Black. But an extensive 2020 Washington Post report revealed that while Black women represent a small subset (less than 1%) of overall fatal police shootings in which race is known, we account for 20% of the women shot and killed by police and 28% of the unarmed deaths at police hands. We’re also fatally shot by police at roughly 1.5 times the rate of white women and more than twice the rate of Hispanic women. This increase correlates with the likelihood police will use force on a woman if the officer perceives that she is a woman of color not conforming to stereotypical gender roles, Andrea Ritchie, a police misconduct attorney, organizer and author, told the Post.

In a 2021 email informing his colleagues of his termination, Cosgrove vented about the difficulty he’d face seeking work with a “dismantled” reputation. He showed then that he believes public perception can directly threaten a person’s life and livelihood. But he has not shown that he understands how that belief affected the actions that led to his firing. He, Miller and so many other Americans fail to admit that Black girls’ and women’s reputations — or lack thereof — among law enforcement are factors in their disproportionate deaths at the hands of police officers.

These officers’ skewed perceptions that fail to recognize the humanity of Black women and girls are a deadly threat that Cosgrove’s hiring has done nothing to correct. Until this fact is properly considered and addressed through police reform or abolition, the only responsible move is to err on the side of caution. Second chances are not something that can be afforded to be handed out lightly to even those who have done the work, never mind people like Cosgrove, who most certainly have not.