July 9th, 2016
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
And no matter what an officer has done to a black person, that officer can always cover himself in the running narrative of heroism, risk, and sacrifice that is available to a uniformed police officer by virtue of simply reporting for duty. Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo was acquitted of all charges against him in the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, both black and unarmed. Thirteen Cleveland police officers fired 137 shots at them. Brelo, having reloaded at some point during the shooting, fired 49 of the 137 shots. He took his final 15 shots at them after all the other officers stopped firing (122 shots at that point) and, “fearing for his life,” he jumped onto the hood of the car and shot 15 times through the windshield.
Not only was this excessive, it was tactically asinine if Brelo believed they were armed and firing. But they weren’t armed, and they weren’t firing. Judge John O’Donnell acquitted Brelo under the rationale that because he couldn’t determine which shots actually killed Russell and Williams, no one is guilty. Let’s be clear: this is part of what the Department of Justice means when it describes a “pattern of unconstitutional policing and excessive force.”
Nevertheless, many Americans believe that police officers are generally good, noble heroes. A Gallup poll from 2014 asked Americans to rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in various fields: police officers ranked in the top five, just above members of the clergy. The profession — the endeavor — is noble. But this myth about the general goodness of cops obscures the truth of what needs to be done to fix the system. It makes it look like all we need to do is hire good people, rather than fix the entire system. Institutional racism runs throughout our criminal justice system. Its presence in police culture, though often flatly denied by the many police apologists that appear in the media now, has been central to the breakdown in police-community relationships for decades in spite of good people doing police work.
…As a new officer with the St. Louis in the mid-1990s, I responded to a call for an “officer in need of aid.” I was partnered that day with a white female officer. When we got to the scene, it turned out that the officer was fine, and the aid call was canceled. He’d been in a foot pursuit chasing a suspect in an armed robbery and lost him.
The officer I was with asked him if he’d seen where the suspect went. The officer picked a house on the block we were on, and we went to it and knocked on the door. A young man about 18 years old answered the door, partially opening it and peering out at my partner and me. He was standing on crutches. My partner accused him of harboring a suspect. He denied it. He said that this was his family’s home and he was home alone.
My partner then forced the door the rest of the way open, grabbed him by his throat, and snatched him out of the house onto the front porch. She took him to the ledge of the porch and, still holding him by the throat, punched him hard in the face and then in the groin. My partner that day snatched an 18-year-old kid off crutches and assaulted him, simply for stating the fact that he was home alone.
I got the officer off of him. But because an aid call had gone out, several other officers had arrived on the scene. One of those officers, who was black, ascended the stairs and asked what was going on. My partner pointed to the young man, still lying on the porch, and said, “That son of a bitch just assaulted me.” The black officer then went up to the young man and told him to “get the fuck up, I’m taking you in for assaulting an officer.” The young man looked up at the officer and said, “Man … you see I can’t go.” His crutches lay not far from him.
The officer picked him up, cuffed him, and slammed him into the house, where he was able to prop himself up by leaning against it. The officer then told him again to get moving to the police car on the street because he was under arrest. The young man told him one last time, in a pleading tone that was somehow angry at the same time, “You see I can’t go!” The officer reached down and grabbed both the young man’s ankles and yanked up. This caused the young man to strike his head on the porch. The officer then dragged him to the police car. We then searched the house. No one was in it.