By now most of you have seen or at least heard about the UC Davis cop who “casually” pepper sprayed a row of students sitting peacefully in protest on their campus. The November 18th incident made headlines around the world and has prompted a hilarious Internet meme mocking the officer, the silver lining in a dark storm cloud of police brutality related to the Occupy movement.
As a result of that and two other incidents in California, legislators, university officials and civil rights leaders attended a hearing in Sacramento yesterday where they agreed that “campus police in protest situations needed stricter standards of conduct, and potentially a statewide crowd control policy,” Bay City News reports. Meanwhile, on the East Coast, the NYPD continues to abuse their power when it comes to handling protesters and those documenting Occupy events. John Knefel, a comedian and independent journalist, was arrested on December 12th and held for 37 hours after taking pictures and tweeting at the Winter Garden in lower Manhattan. (You can read his account of the ordeal on Salon, then take a look at BoingBoing’s post on the freedom of the press and the way our antiquated management system doesn’t accommodate modern indie journalism.)
You may think police brutality only occurs in our coastal blue states or when cops are provoked, but let me remind you that’s not the case. In May, I wrote about Phoenix, AZ police officer Patrick Larrison, who body checked an unarmed teenage girl, knocking her to the ground. And now I’ve got footage for you of a September incident during which an Allentown, PA cop tased 14-year-old Keshana Wilson in the groin, causing her to collapse in the street:
Yes, there is obviously footage missing here, one minute and 40 seconds worth according to The Huffington Post. But it’s clear that the officer, Jason Ammary, got physical with Wilson first and that her hands were up in a surrendering position right before she was tased. Wilson had to be taken to the hospital to have probes removed from her leg, and her mother believes “the attack was racially motivated,” HuffPo reports.
The Huffington Post notes that “Attorney Richard J. Orloski has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the girl’s mother claiming excessive force, but police told The Morning Call that Ammary was right to use the taser due to the “use-of-force continuum.’” NBC Philadelphia says, “The continuum is a standard that gives law enforcement officials guidelines regarding how much force may be used against a resisting subject in a given situation …. the continuum allows officers to use non-lethal means to restrain and control an active resister after their presence and verbal commands fail. These non-lethal means include pepper spray, hands, baton or the Taser.” It’s worth noting that all of those “non-lethal” means of restraint can cause fatalities.
Allentown police chief Joseph Hanna says Wilson “was considered a mid-level assailant and active resister and was likely to injure herself or the officer.”
With her hands up in the air, several feet away? Unacceptable.
That doesn’t mean Wilson didn’t fight an arrest prior to the tasing, but it’s clear that the use of force was excessive. (It’s also doubtful that Wilson should have been physically contacted by Ammary in the first place.) NBC Philadelphia notes:
The lawsuit claims the girl did nothing to provoke the officer. Orloski says Ammary grabbed Wilson from behind without identifying himself and violently pushed her into the car. Orloski also says Ammary made insulting remarks about the girl’s ‘socioeconomic status.’ She said that she did not strike this officer, that he choked her. She said that she was unable to breathe.
Additionally, Allentown Police claim Wilson was cursing and inciting a group of people. To what, it isn’t clear. This seems to me like another case of a cop on a power trip who couldn’t control his anger. If a parent got enraged and hit their teen simply because they were cursing, said parent would be investigated by child protective services and possibly lose custody of their child. Why is it that when a police officer does something much worse to a poor kid, it’s considered corrective behavior, defended by superiors who hail the out-of-control officer as an asset to our society? I cry foul. Why do you think poor people are more likely to wind up in the CPS system for hitting their kids? Because they’re being beaten every which way they look by a system that tells them they are garbage and not worthy of fair, equal treatment. That stress is going to end up coming home sooner or later. If we want to create a society full of fraternal stewardship, we need to take a look at our bureaucracies first and stop the institutional corruption.
End police brutality now.
Kids and violence: Is the media to blame or applaud?