By now, it’s likely that many of you have come across this story, reported by CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, about a 14 year-old boy from Toledo, Ohio, who was beat to a pulp by the police. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out for yourself, below:
It got me thinking about how fortunate we are to be living in a virtual world in where You Tube and other social networks empower people from all over the globe to not only bear witness to police brutality and other social injustices, but to fight back by show-and-telling the world about these crimes against humanity. In March 1991, it was shocking to sit through the pummeling of Rodney King by a half-dozen cops. It was a relatively rare occurrence back then to catch these acts on video. But today, technology has become so accessible that it only takes a mobile phone to expose a shooting of an unarmed man in the back by an Oakland policeman, and a camcorder to show a cop tearing into a 5 year-old girl in India. I searched “police brutality” on You Tube a few minutes ago and found 24, 200 entries. Police brutality is no longer a local incident easily shrugged off or swept under the proverbial rug: accountability is, now more than ever, being served with a coke and a frown.
There’s something about police brutality that transcends race. There’s something about slipping on that uniform that sometimes transforms way too many of these people, the world over, into self-loathing bullies with serious anger management issues: “cops” seem to be a species unto themselves.
One January eve in 1997, I was harassed by cops while in labor, after my taxi was stopped and ordered to pull over when en route to the hospital. One officer opened the back door and reached in to unzip my jacket. My daughter’s father placed his hands over my stomach and asked the cop, in a very even-tone (all things considered) not to touch me. And, he added, “Why are we being pulled over in the first place?” The cop answered, “routine stop-check, wiseguy”; he then started to scream rather unintelligibly at my daughter’s father, ordering him out of the car. Two other cops–who were holding their batons as if it were extension of their penises–stood beside their buddy. They, too, started yelling at my daughter’s father. I forced myself out of the car, and pleaded, ” Please, I have to get to the hospital.” A contraction sent me to my knees and I slipped onto the ground. The good old NYPD boys watched and smiled as I struggled to get back on my feet. I noticed, panting on the ground, that their license plate was turned over. To add insult to humiliation, one officer took my overnight bag and went through it using his baton. I noticed that their badges were tucked in their V-neck sweaters. After another several long minutes, they let us go. “Have a nice night,” one bully said, as he threw the bag right at us.
This is the world we live in. Thankfully, people today are using technology as a tool for activism. I’m praying for the day that the dirtiest of cops learn how to curb their enthusiasm for clubin’—and I’m not talking about kickin’ it on the dance floor. In the meantime, for your perusal, I’ve compiled five compelling instances of police brutality caught on camera, from around the globe. These days if you see it, you can inspire change.