Recent incidents in Ferguson and New York City resulted in the deaths of two black men, but they are also responsible for other collateral damage. When grand juries refuse to indict police officers for excessive use of force, they are encouraging law enforcement officers throughout the nation to act similarly. Every city in the United States has been criticized for incidents of police brutality. Gone are the days when the public trusted those we once believed were present to protect and serve the people; now the first reaction towards law enforcement is fear.
On Martin Luther King Day, there was a rally in Seattle, Washington. The subject was ‘Black Lives Matter,’ a national movement aimed at eliminating the use of excessive force by law enforcement against black men and women across the nation. After a black high school teacher spoke to the crowd, he was walking away from the group. He was pepper sprayed in the face by a police officer. Video of the incident offered proof that there was no provocation. He is suing the city for $500,000 in damages.
Not all incidents regarding the use of excessive force achieve prominence allowing the general public to have knowledge of such actions by law enforcement.
In 2004, a teenager was thrown to the ground, handcuffed, kicked, and beaten by police in Rye, New York. The victim suffered a broken bone under his left eye, damage to his collarbone, and several loosened teeth.
The teenager was charged with assault, obstructing justice, and resisting arrest. All were dismissed.
He is suing to city of Rye for $10 million for physical and mental damage from the incident. The judge has delayed the trial. Recently a file pertaining to one of the officers involved revealed a history of violence. Several of his arrests included the use of brutal force and earned him a nickname within the community; the ‘terminator.’
Cleveland, Ohio, has been singled out as having one of the most vicious and corrupt police departments in the nation. They’re not above harming one of their own.
In 2009, a uniformed correctional officer was ordered to stand guard when a hole in the exterior fence of a prison was discovered around one o’clock in the morning. He was approached by two men in dark clothing. The corrections officer told them to ‘stop.’ When they didn’t, he reached for his holstered weapon. Immediately a gun was placed against his head, he was thrown to the ground, beaten and handcuffed. The two men were undercover vice officers.
A female corrections officer witnessed the incident and said that the vice officers never identified themselves. The injured officer is suing the city of Cleveland.
These are situations which reached the media; thousands more do not.
The rage against law enforcement is not exclusive to the black community. When the nation’s people watch not one, but a group of police officers, physically attack a man on the streets of New York City, and a single officers applies a lethal and unnecessary choke hold, we were disturbed. When we learned that the man died as a result of the officer’s action, as we heard the man on the ground saying ‘I can’t breather,’ we were outraged. When the grand jury failed to indict that same officer, we became furious. Justice is blind when a police officer is involved.
Every law enforcement officer in the nation should be re-trained. Wearing a badge does not allow the use of force in all situations. The standard was once ‘to protect and serve.’ Our uniformed law enforcement officers must understand what their first responsibility is to the people of their community.
By James Turnage