Are the nation’s cops out of control?
Herb Boyd | 6/11/2015, midnight
Call it “Bluemania.” That is, the excessive use of force by cops across the nation. And there’s no better evidence of these pervasive attacks on unarmed African-Americans than Tuesday’s New York Times in which a full page is devoted to four major recent cases.
The most recent incident stems from an altercation in McKinney, Texas, where a video was made depicting a police officer forcibly throwing a young Black girl, clad only in a bathing suit, to the ground, immobilizing her with a knee to her back, and then placing her in handcuffs. This occurred after he had drawn his gun and waved it at bystanders.
Fortunately, no one was shot in the confrontation that began at a community swimming pool when police were summoned to stop what appeared to be a fight between two teenagers. The officer was placed on administrative leave and has resigned.
When Usaamah Rahim was shot and killed last week in a Boston neighborhood, the police said he had been under surveillance as a possible terrorist and was wielding a knife when he was approached by officers. However, a video from a nearby Burger King raises questions about the incident and is much too blurry to support the police account that Rahim was threatening them with the knife.
On a more extensive take of the scene, a police officer is seen investigating Rahim’s body, turning it over and pulling away his coat. Not only has Rahim’s family voiced concerns that he was brandishing a weapon, they want to know if deadly force was justified.
In a case that goes back to April in North Charleston, S.C., former officer Michael Slager, who shot and killed Walter Scott, has been indicted by a grand jury on a murder charge. This fatal encounter occurred after Scott was stopped for driving a car with a broken taillight. A bystander’s video shows Scott running from Slager before the officer fired his handgun after his Taser failed to subdue Scott.
Slager, it was later disclosed, had been involved in 19 use of force episodes, and while the indictment is a meaningful step toward justice, it’s only an indictment, not a conviction.
Possible indictments in the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland last year have not been issued. Community leaders, distrustful of the criminal justice system, decided to invoke a rarely used Ohio law and take the case directly to a judge, requesting murder charges against the officers.
Prompting this move has been a history of police officers being acquitted, as Michael Brelo was last week. He had climbed onto the hood of a car and unleashed a volley of bullets, killing the two unarmed passengers. Community leaders have raised questions about whether the officers followed procedures when approaching Rice, who reportedly possessed a pellet gun.
From Michael Brown in Ferguson to Freddie Gray in Baltimore, elements of “Bluemania” is unabated. Not since the early 1990s and the assault of Rodney King has there been such intense outrage over police tactics. Among the issues being raised is the method of policing, the prosecutorial deficiencies and the failure of grand juries to bring indictments and convictions of officers.
Citizens and activist groups nationwide are grappling with antidotes for this rampant outbreak of police brutality.