Out Of Control

Kids are universally seen as “innocent” and in need of protection. The older they get, the less those protections apply, right? So when people view and treat kids of color as if they’re older than they really are, they’re excluding those children from those protections.

In effect, they’re seeing black children as less innocent than white children,independent of any wrongdoing. That plays out about like you’d expect when it comes to law enforcement.

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According to Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, co-author of the study, the officers surveyed showed “a use of force about three times as high towards black children as towards white children or Latino children.” Officers who exhibited dehumanizing views toward black children were more likely to have used violent force against them in the past.

And to tie that back to the first finding, those officers were also more likely to see black children as older and more blameworthy. Goff explains, “In our minds, we represent particularly those young men that we imagine are possibly dangerous to be older than they are so that we’re essentially justifying the threat that we feel.” – Maz Ali, “They Did A Psychological Study Of Police Officers.  What They Found Makes Me Sick With Worry,” Upworthy.com


An unidentified Phoenix police officer was caught on tape slamming a 16 year-old boy to the ground, his head smacking off of the pavement.  The boy was handcuffed at the time.

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Other than the allegation that his conduct was “borderline disorderly,” it doesn’t seem that the officer has any reason to harass the kid other than his need to feel superior and exert control.  It’s definitely worthy to note that the officer and his partner are both white patrolling what appears to be a largely hispanic neighborhood. – Charles Topher, “White Cop Slams Hispanic Boy’s Head Off The Ground For ‘Borderline Disorderly Conduct'”, Inyouonlynews.com, December 10, 2014

A University of Iowa student claims police are lying about the details surrounding his arrest — and says he has the video to prove it.  It’s all based on a September arrest near campus. We asked the Johnson County Attorney for a copy of the video, but she couldn’t release it because this is an active case. Grayson Scogin was able to get the video of his arrest, and KWWL’s Michelle Corless sat down and watched it with him. He still has a hard time watching it. He feels he didn’t do anything wrong. In the video, you can hear Scogin asking the officer what he did. It all starts when the officer claims Scogin nearly walked into a car, though we don’t see that on the dash cam video. Scogin says he thinks he was stopped because of the color of his skin. In a report, the officer calls Scogin “white with Hispanic origin.” “I told him I was white twice, which is true despite the fact that I’m very tan,” said Scogin. “He continued to list me as Hispanic.” That’s why Scogin is sharing the video of his arrest. “I really felt that there was a lack of accountability in the University of Iowa police force,” said Scogin. – Michele Corless, “U. of Iowa Student: Police Hurt Him, Mistook Him For Hispanic”, Kwwl.com, December 8, 2014

During the protests centered around Berkeley, a small group kept trying to incite the crowd into engaging in illegal activity, from fights to looting. Happens in any large protest, right? In this case, however, it turned out that this group of inciters were undercover police officers.

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When exposed, they immediately turned violent, threatening protestors, and even drawing a weapon on anyone who dared use a camera. – Nathaniel Downes, “Undercover Cops Busted Trying To Incite Looting – Threaten Crowd When Exposed”, Addictinginfo.com, December 11, 2014

US actress Daniele Watts says she is angry and frustrated after she was arrested by police because they saw her kissing her husband in public, and apparently mistook her for a prostitute.

Watts, who is African American and appeared in the film Django Unchained, claimed she was handcuffed by police in Los Angeles when she was out with white husband Brian James Lucas. – Louise Riley, “Black Actress ‘Mistaken For Prostitute’ And Arrested After Kissing White Husband,” HuffingtonPost.com, September 14, 2014


New York City’s police union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, is urging its members to ban Mayor Bill de Blasio from their funerals, the latest episode in the ongoing clash between the mayor and the city’s law-enforcement power structure.

Officers are encouraged to fill out a form on the union’s website titled “Don’t Insult My Sacrifice” to request that neither de Blasio nor Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito attend their funeral, should they be killed in the line of duty.

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Since taking office, de Blasio has struggled to balance supporting the NYPD with acknowledging the distrust many have when it comes to racial profiling, exemplified by the controversial “Stop and Frisk” policy.

“There’s a difference between saying we should respect our officers, which of course we should,” de Blasio said in response to criticism from Lynch this month, “versus the reality that so many parents have felt that unfortunately their child might confront unfair treatment.” – Allen McDuffee, “Police To DeBlasio: Don’t Attend My Funeral”, TheAtlantic.com, December 13, 2014


Demonstrators nationwide protesting the fatal shootings of unarmed black men killed by police chanted “I can’t breathe!” ”Hands up, don’t shoot!” and waved signs that read “Black lives matter!” as family members of three victims packed a stage in front of the U.S. Capitol, urging thousands of supportive marchers to keep pressing for changes to the criminal justice system.

The march in Washington on Saturday — attended by family members for Michael Brown and Eric Garner, who were killed by police in recent months, and Amadou Diallo, who was fatally shot by police more than 15 years ago — coincided with nationwide demonstrations that spanned from iconic Fifth Avenue in New York to the streets of San Francisco and the steps of the Boston Statehouse. Most were peaceful protests, although about two dozen people were arrested in the Massachusetts capital for disorderly conduct. – Matthew Barakat, “US Protesters March Against Police Slayings Of Black Men”, news.yahoo.com, Demeber 14, 2014


I could go on, but I believe this litany makes my point clear.  It isn’t just in Ferguson, MO, or Arizona, or New York City.  It isn’t just about the militarization of police responses to protests.  It isn’t just that both civilians and police continue to be cleared of any wrong-doing when young men of color are killed.  Police across the country are out of control, and minority youth – but not just youth, as the story of actress Daniele Watts makes clear – are the target.  Whether it’s lethal force in a variety of forms, street harassment based on mistaken identity, or even trying to turn a peaceful protest toward violence then drawing their sidearms on those who caught them, police forces across the country feel they can act with impunity, not only killing people of color, but arresting, harassing, creating violent situations, even disrespect the Mayor of New York City without consequence.

The reason for this is simple: there are no consequences for police who act this way.  They aren’t discharged.  They aren’t charged with crimes.  They aren’t even offered opportunities to attend courses in racial sensitivity, properly identifying alleged suspects before events spiral out of control.

Today is the day people of all races are to dress in Black in solidarity with African-Americans.  The theme, “Black Lives Matter”, is indeed one that needs to be repeated over and over.  Black lives matter despite the evidence the powers-that-be treat people of color as criminals, sometimes criminals in need of death, prior to any evidence being presented that a crime has been committed.  It is, however, more than just the fact that the lives of African-Americans are always in danger when confronted by law enforcement.  Law enforcement across the country believes itself immune to the very laws they are supposed to uphold; when they kill an innocent person, they know the killing will be ruled justified.  When undercover, rather than gather information, they try to create panic, violence, and rioting, then turn their weapons on those who out them to the world.  When the Mayor of New York reminds the police of his city that he has had to warn his own son about interactions with police, the Police Union responds with a disrespectful letter, refusing to acknowledge that their interactions with minority suspects might well warrant inspection, investigation, and a change.

The marches are a good start. Marching, however, only publicizes the problem.  Police departments across the country are in need not just of investigation; they are in need of radical change, both from the top down and the bottom up.  Municipalities, counties, and states need to take this particular blue bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground.  Those who cooperate need to be rewarded.  Those who do not can find other work, work where their particular talents can be utilized with fewer restrictions, like private military contractors.  Police accountability needs to be more than just a theme for 2015.  It needs to be an action we take as a people.  Out-of-control police departments, while primarily threatening communities of color, eventually pose a threat to all of us.  People who feel they can act without consequence, at the end of the day, feel free from any moral constraints.  Those Black Lives Matter.  They matter far more than the respect and deference police departments believe they are entitled.


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About gksafford

I'm a middle-aged theologically educated clergy spouse, living in the Midwest. My children are the most important thing in my life. Right behind them and my wife is music. I'm most interested in teaching people to listen to contemporary music with ears of faith. Everything else you read on here is straw.
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