Police Brutality: The Greatest Hits

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.

Video Reveals Police Brutality of a Man in a Diabetic Coma, USA

Shocking Police Brutality on War Hero Mark Aspinall, U.K.

Three Cops Beat Girls’ Head in With Bats, China

Haryana: Girl Assaulted by Cops, India

Police Shoot a Football (Soccer) Fan in Sao Paolo, Brazil

Comments 7

  1. You’re a lot more optimistic than me with regard to police brutality… and I’ve never had a personal experience like you, what a horrifying story, as though labor isn’t horrifying enough…

    You remember what happened to L.A. after Rodney King. Compare that to the public reaction of what’s still going on in New Orleans… maybe one person a tragedy, millions a statistic comes into play? Or compare it to the public response to Sean Bell? It’s like nobody’s mad…

    I’ve given this a lot of thought; I see people losing their will/ability to fight and organize. I don’t understand why. I started thinking maybe music played a role, but maybe we’re being desensitized to these injustices via youtube?

  2. It’s truly amazing to read your post about police brutality. On Monday not 1 but 5-6 police officers at 4 pm by Marcus Garvey Park gave the harlemites a real live show. They beat this man to a pulp without a thought in the world. A female cop who came on the scene once the man was down walked up to him and kicked him square in the face. Of course they accused him of assulting an officer. Who would take the abuse without trying to defend yourself. Didn’t our parents say before we left the house everyday “don’t let nobody hit you”. It’s very sad when the people who are suppose to be there to potect and serve are the people we fear the most!

  3. First, I’m so sorry to hear about your experience with police brutality, but not surprised. The police are, and have always been – since the beginning of history, and all over the world – an extension of the ruling class/elite. Nearly all the injustice we see, all around us, everyday, is a direct result of powerful people, desperately, fearfully, holding onto power. Focusing on the police is a valid response, but somewhat misguided and a waste of time. We must direct our outrage and disappointment at their “keepers” – those who control pretty much most of our day-to-day lives (whether we know it, or like it, or not).

    Fear is the single most powerful emotion, sorry to say, even greater than love at times. And the fear of losing power and wealth for almost everyone can cause great evil and injustice. Pundits in the media, on both sides, rail against this and that, but never, ever, address this simple idea/theme… the days of the aristocracy ruling over us, constantly, and often brutally, has never left us, has always been there, from Dark Ages Europe, to pre-colonial Africa, the chiefs control the tribe. We accept it, often because we secretly want to be them one day, if we’re lucky, and, we accept this behavior because we’ve known nothing else, and we want to live in fear. It’s comforting because it’s familiar.

    Forgive my rambling, the central point I want to make is that our world won’t change for the better (elimination of global warming, crime, disease, war, injustice, etc., etc.) until the ruling classes decide to change and surrender to love, beauty and justice. We can vote, and recycle, and save, and protest all we want, but it won’t stop greed, hate and fear on the part of the ruling class, everywhere. We have to find a way to change them, specifically the corporate class and super wealthy. They are changing, albeit slightly and slowly, but they are changing. I don’t know the answer, but perhaps fear – which causes them to behave boorishly, may change them the other way, i.e., either convince them that they (not their offspring, they don’t care about anyone but themselves, sadly) are at direct risk by their behavior (unavoidable pollution, cancer, ironic injustice, etc. – or even from “popular correcting”).

    Perhaps due to the benefits of technological advancement – as you mentioned earlier – we will evolve in such a way that there will be nowhere to hide, for anyone. Hmmm, that seems rather compelling: that technology – ironically, accidently, harshly – will, in some unseen manner, change us all for the better. Change our world for the better, but it will come at a cost. Catastrophy (spell check?! where is it!) will be unavoidable, but survivable.

    Take a deep breath, find your center, then open your eyes, heart and mind, truth is coming. The lies and injustice can’t last forever. We will evolve, we are evolving, I see it every day! But sacrifices must be made, will be made in course… Be brave. Stand up. it only hurts for a little while, then it heals.

  4. One more point I forgot to make: we accept the brutality of the ruling class and their goons, because they promise us protection, and safety. Protection and safety from the elements, from the wildness around us as primordial, tribal beings made sense. but life is different now. We’ve “contained” and found ways to “control” nature, but those fear based instincts – forged over hundreds of thousands of years – are not so easily shaken off. And isn’t it ironic that the harshness we’ve visited on nature is now being turned on us? Let’s examine this paradigm a moment to see if the answer lies within. Perhaps to find compassion and justice with in species, we need to seek justice and compassion across species, or intra-species. Compassion, justice and love for everyone and everything on this planet. Perhaps then, for reasons we can’t see now (because we are not atoned to this level of intelligence, “compassion as intelligence”) much in our lives will be corrected. There’s only one way to find out.

  5. I was a teenager in Los Angeles during the time of the Rodney King beating, verdict, and resulting L.A. Riots. All three events were horrific in their own right. To see a man beaten to a bloody pulp and later, my city in flames, were both traumatic events for me.

    I have been harassed by cops before, but never to the extent of your horrific account. My parents are from NY and my father has shared a few NYPD harassment tales with me over the years.

    Have you heard of the LAPD’s code NIH? It stands for “No Humans Involved.” This is a code that officers used (and possibly still “use”) when referring to crimes involving Blacks and Latinos. I learned about the term as a graduate student and I wanted to uncover more info. I found old articles in newspapers referring to the term, but recently I stumbled upon an ex-officer’s account of his experience on the force that includes the use of this term and even more horrific tales of his time in the LAPD. Read about his story @ http://www.xispas.com/archives/lapd.htm . His account is raw and jarringly honest.

    Thanks for sharing this with us. I enjoy your blog and look forward to reading more of your posts.

  6. Whew! Raq ,
    Thank God your daughter came out fine. I’m straight up scared of cops and I don’t hate them (mind you, I have a few Po-Po friends). I’m always extra polite to them because I respect the “serve & protect ” motto; I think they have an extremely dangerous line of work. I remember one time @ my old job (restaurant/bar), this gentleman got drunk & was politely asked to leave. He called one of my bouncers a N—-R & then swung @ him. He also shattered the front glass door. We detained him until the boys in blue arrived. I wanted him arrested however our local law enforcement did not want to do the 3AM paper work. When I insisted, the sargeant made everyone @ the bar pull out their ID’s. Then gave me a misdemeanor citation (which could’ve given me a criminal record). I was lucky to have a very good attorney. By the way, the man that started all the ruckus, shattered the back passenger window in the squad car.

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