Another Unarmed Black Teen Shot by Militarized Police
Where have all the good cops gone? On Saturday, 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer. Brown’s death has sparked considerable outrage in Ferguson, with protests and riots breaking out all weekend long, and continuing today.
While a lot is still unknown about the circumstances of the shooting, we do know that Brown was initially stopped by police for walking in the middle of a road. And, in an interview with KTVI, Dorin Johnson, who was with Brown at the time of the shooting, said that, “A police officer squad car pulled up. And when he pulled up, these was his exact words, he said, ‘Get the f*ck on the sidewalk.’ And we told the officer we was not but a minute away from our destination, and we would surely be out of the street.”
Another eyewitness, Piaget Crenshaw, said that Brown had put his hands in the air to let police know he was unarmed and did not pose a threat. While the investigation to determine what exactly happened between the time Brown was first confronted by the officers and the shooting continues, it looks like this tragedy could be another instance of police brutality in America, and part of a trend that is growing like wildfire.
On July 17th, 43-year-old Eric Garner lost his life after being confronted by NYPD officers in Staten Island, New York for allegedly selling cigarettes illegally. When initially confronted by the officers, Garner told them not to touch him. Then, just moments later, video shows a NYPD officer grabbing Garner, putting him in a chokehold, throwing him to the ground, and rolling him on his stomach.
It’s important to point out that chokeholds are banned as police tactics under NYPD rules. In the video, you can hear Garner’s muffled voiced screaming “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” Moments later, Garner was dead.
The New York City medical examiner’s office ruled that Garner’s death was directly caused by the police chokehold, saying the exact cause was, “compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.”
And, in a video posted to YouTube just three days before Eric Garner’s death, NYPD officers can again be seen using a chokehold on a man who allegedly skipped paying his subway fare, a completely non-violent crime. The officers can also be seen punching 22-year-old Ronald Johns in the face, and spraying him with pepper spray.
Meanwhile, earlier in July, video surfaced of a California highway patrol officer brutally punching a homeless woman on the side of a busy Los Angeles freeway. According to the officer, the woman was walking barefoot on the freeway, and refused to stop walking on the freeway.
In the video, the police officer can be seen tackling the woman, pinning her down, and repeatedly punching her in the face as she tried to protect herself. California Highway Patrol is continuing to investigate the incident, and has claimed that despite the video evidence, the woman suffered no injuries.
In 2011, the California Highway Patrol almost beat a truck driver to death just for asking about a traffic ticket, and last year, it had to pay out $250,000 in a lawsuit settlement for hogtying and kneeing a pregnant woman who was on her cell phone while driving.
It seems like every week, a new video is being posted to the Internet of police officers across the country actively engaging in police brutality.
That brutality needs to stop, and it needs to stop now.
Fortunately, we can accomplish that in a number of ways. First, we need to pay our police officers better, and then raise hiring standards. They put their lives on the line each and every day, yet all across the country, they’re drastically underpaid and poorly trained or supervised.
Second, we need to work on stopping police departments from stocking up on military-style weaponry, and relying heavily on hyper-militarized SWAT teams. Local police forces aren’t supposed to be mini-armies. We have the National Guard for that.
And finally, we need to bring back and increase funding to community policing programs, like those that were introduced by the Clinton administration back in 1994 and put 100,000 cops on the streets - on foot.
The federal Community Oriented Policing Services program provides resources for local police forces across America, and is intended to help those forces get out of their cars and then become more involved in their communities.
Unfortunately, funding for community policing in America has seen a steady decline since the COPS program was first introduced. In 2010, $792 million was allotted in the form of federal grants under the COPS program for local police forces across the country; By 2012, that number had shrunken to just $199 million.
From New York to Los Angeles to Ferguson, Missouri, America’s police forces are being increasingly viewed as violent occupying armies, and it’s time to change that.
It’s time to bring the good cops back.