For much of Black America, police brutality induces paralyzing fear because it often translates to public execution or assault on the streets with little-to-no chance of legal repercussion.
In NewsOne’s Investigative Series into Police Brutality, we compiled painful, though unsurprising statistics on the rate of murder and beatings in Black America at the hands of authority figures.
In data researched and compiled by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Black Left Unity Network, and U.S. Human Rights Network, the picture of how often — and fatally — Black people are victimized by police in this country becomes startling clear. Below are the details of the Black men and women who have been murdered at the hands of police so far this year:
Pattern of Murders By the Numbers Since January 1, 2012
Thirty cases of state sanctioned or justified murder of Black people in the first 3 months of 2012 alone have been found (due to under reporting and discriminatory methods of documentation, it is likely that there are more that our research has yet to uncover)
Of the 30 killed people, 20 were definitely unarmed. 2 probably had firearms, 8 were alleged to have non-lethal weapons.
Of the 30 killed people:
12 were innocent of any illegal behavior or behavior that involved a threat to anyone (although the killers claimed they looked “suspicious”);
8 were emotionally disturbed and/or displaying strange behavior.
The remaining 10 were either engaged in illegal or potentially illegal activity, or there was too little info to determine circumstances of their killing.
It appears that in all but two of these cases, illegal and/or harmful behavior could have been stopped without the use of lethal force.
In most cases, where planned, investigations of the deaths have not been completed.
Note: Only seven of the 30 killed people were over 30 years old and two of the six were 31 years old. Two were women.
As previously reported by NewsOne, in a study titled, “Race and Perceptions of Police Misconduct,” Ronald Weitzer joined with Steven A. Tuch, both of George Washington University, to examine the causation of negative perceptions of police in the Black community.
The study’s findings revealed that Black Americans face more police corruption, violence, and profiling than our White counterparts, leaving their perception of law enforcement — and Black Americans — colored by personal perspective and not collective reality:
Whites tend to hold a favorable opinion of the police, favor aggressive law enforcement, and are skeptical of criticisms of the police. There is a racial dimension to this orientation. Many Whites view Blacks as inclined to criminal or violent behavior (Swigert and Farrell 1976; Weitzer 2000; cf. Hurwitz and Peffley 1997).
In response to a question in the 2000 General Social Survey, 48 percent of Whites think that Blacks are “violence-prone.” For many Whites, controlling crime is roughly equivalent to intensifying law enforcement against minority individuals or in minority communities.
Click here to view the study’s findings.
Next in our series, NewsOne asked readers, “Is it fair to call police officers ‘killers behind the badge’?” Of the more than 200 responses, 191 readers agreed with that assessment.
Attorney Eric Welch Guster of Guster Law Firm in Birmingham, Ala., spoke exclusively to NewsOne about the culture of police brutality and he had some sharp words for the keepers of the law:
Many of these officers are thugs with badges and use the badge as a permission slip to whip someone’s tail: We have seen the countless officers indicted for everything from drug trafficking to prostitution to arson. This shows that some of the problems obviously stem from the officers selected, but also from the limited options police departments have to choose their personnel from.
There is also the matter of cronyism and denial that prevails in police stations around the nation — even among good officers who uphold the Blue Line. Interestingly enough, when speaking with Police Officer Nicalle Edwards, she claimed that her only experience with police brutality stemmed from violence directed toward her and her fellow officers:
I haven’t experienced police brutality in any community. I have, however, experienced brutality from the community. I have been kicked, hit, punched, scratched, bit, and spit on…by the community.
I have even been shot at, on several occasions, just because of the uniform that I wear. I can recall being asked to work an off-duty job at an apartment complex that had been taken over by the city because of its high-crime rate and the number of 911 calls.
When I arrived, I stepped out of my personal vehicle and stood beside two fellow Black officers. About 30 seconds later, we heard gunshots. The Black community that we’re there to serve and protect, was trying to kill us. Talk about police brutality. The Black community didn’t care that we were Black or that I was a woman.
This is what I think of when you speak of police brutality. My job is dangerous and most Black people couldn’t care less about me… until they need me.
That leaves Black America and our nation’s police departments at an impasse: While it is certainly true that many communities are fearful of police officers and step in to interactions with preconceived notions, it has been proven for decades that those fears are just as often justified. In light of these facts, NewsOne has created a petition on Change.org.
This petition has been created to give voice to our concerns and empower us with the knowledge that we can only change things as they are if we work to build them as they should be — and that begins with us. As Malcolm X said, “Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a [wo]man, you take it.”
Our petition reads as follows:
Police Brutality in the African-American community is a special and urgent concern and nothing short of domestic terrorism. Police officers should be held to a higher standard of proper conduct. Clearer benchmarks should be established so that law enforcement who exceed the parameters of this conduct will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. In addition, laws of police misconduct should be toughened to discourage this type of behavior within police ranks.
We demand honest, thorough, and transparent investigations in to racially motivated searches and seizures, murders, brutal beatings, and profiling by police officers toward citizens based on their skin color. Every year, the Black community is both murdered and brutalized by the hands of people sworn to protect and serve them. Action must be taken to protect and empower the people.
If not us, who? If not now, when?
Add your voice to our petition, “Police Brutality in Black America: A Special and Urgent Concern,” at Change.org.