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If Violence Isn’t the Answer, Someone Should Clue In the Police

| May 20, 2015

police brutality protest violence

Facing marchers. (Soozarty1)

By Nathalie Baptiste

Ferguson. New York. Baltimore.

As cities erupt after decades of oppression and violence at the hands of police, calls for nonviolence can be deafening. “Violence isn’t the answer,” the moralists chide when protesters throw rocks and clash with police.


They’re right. But they’re telling the wrong people.

On April 12, Baltimore resident Freddie Gray made eye contact with a police officer and ran. Sometime after the police detained him, his spine was severed. He died a short time later.

After days of large, peaceful protests that the mainstream media largely ignored, Baltimore erupted. Police donned riot gear as buildings and cars burned.

Maryland’s state attorney has since announced a range of charges — from false imprisonment to second-degree murder — against the six police officers involved in Gray’s death, who’d had the gall to claim that the handcuffed Gray inflicted his injury on himself.

Upon the news, some Baltimore residents stopped protesting and started celebrating. But some damage can’t be undone: A 25-year-old man is dead.

And for what? Making eye contact?

Gray joins the infuriatingly long — and ever-growing — list of black people killed by police.

Seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was sleeping when Detroit police broke into her house and shot her in the head. Akai Gurley was just taking the stairs in his New York apartment building when a startled cop shot him dead. The unarmed and unresisting Eric Garner was gruesomely choked to death by police officers on Staten Island.

other-wordsWhy are the killers of a sleeping child or an innocent man in his own apartment building not condemned as murderers when rock-throwing teenagers are castigated as violent thugs?

Garner’s gruesome choking death, which a bystander caught on video, didn’t elicit calls by mainstream America for nonviolence. But when a few angry people in Baltimore burned a CVS, critics unleashed a landslide of Martin Luther King Jr. quotes, sanitized for white consumption.

These aren’t isolated cases. Last year, for instance, police killed more than 100 unarmed people. Nationally, an unarmed black person is almost six times more likely than an armed white person to be killed by police.

And in at least 17 major U.S. cities, black men have a higher chance of being killed by cops than the average American has of being killed by anyone.

Each death leaves the black community and its allies a little bit sadder, but united nonetheless. Marches, rallies, and protests have reverberated in every major city — most of them peaceful, but a few resulting in the destruction of property and violence.

Nobody wants to see people hurt, businesses burned, or innocent lives disrupted by violence in their communities. But you can’t understand Baltimore’s unrest in isolation from the violence its residents face at the hands of their own government.

They threw rocks and burned cars because of their unbelievable anguish at seeing their brothers, sisters, and neighbors slain by those who are supposed to serve and protect.

Yes, violence isn’t the answer. Maybe somebody should tell the police.

Nathalie Baptiste is a writing fellow at the American Prospect, where an earlier version of this op-ed appeared.

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21 Responses for “If Violence Isn’t the Answer, Someone Should Clue In the Police”

  1. Just saying says:

    Can’t wait for the judge and jury in the Grey case to establish the facts and see how or if this rant changes

    • Tamir Crawford says:

      to: Just saying,

      The rant and arguments are valid, but the protests are citing the wrong people.

      Eric Garner was illegally selling cigarets, a crime that he was previously convicted of as well (among his 30 arrests). When police went to arrest him, he resisted arrest. Should he have died? No (selling cigarettes is not a Capital Offense). Should he have resisted arrest? No. Should he have know that when you try to fight police, bad things happen? Yes.

      Micheal Brown? Forensic evidence supports Officer Wilson’s account that there was a struggle as Wilson was still in his vehicle. Again, is resisting arrest and suspected robbery a Capital Offense? No. Should Micheal have know that bad things happen when you try to fight a police officer? Yes.

      The two notable people that should be mentioned are Tamir Rice and John Crawford III.

      Tamir Rice was a 12 year old kid at a playground. He ha d a toy gun and police shot him two seconds after pulling up to the playground. Two seconds. When I was 12, if police rushed up to me and gave me an order, I’d probably be a bit stunned. Two seconds isn’t enough time to pose a threat. Two seconds isn’t time yet for police to try to resolve the confrontation without violence.

      John Crawford III was in a Walmart on his cellphone. He picked up a BB gun to buy for his kid. Yes, the “gun” that he was holding was one that he was going to buy. The “gun” that he was holding was merchandise from the store that he was still in. He was on his cellphone when police attempted to confront him. The police were behind him the entire time; they never were in his field of vision. If I’m on my cellphone in Walmart, I ignore what other shoppers are saying. With this, the police never gained Mr. Crawford’s attention. He was just holding the “gun” that he was going to buy as he was talking to his Dad. The police shot him from behind.

      The only changes to the article should be the focus on these two completely innocent individuals who were shot and killed by police, police who didn’t need to fire their weapons.

      The points of this article, and the voices in the protests, are valid; they are just citing the wrong cases.

      • Just saying says:

        Maybe you need to address the Supreme Court; Graham v. Connor and Tennessee v. Garner. It would appear so far that both of those shootings were within the law as it was applied at the time.

        Using the objective reason standard, has there been any evidence to show that those subjects didn’t poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others, that the responding officers would have had at the time of the “seizure”? No hindsight that it was only bb guns, just that they were call because people were frightened about an armed actor, that the actor had an object that was similar to a firearm, and if that firearm was used it would cause death or serious physical injury to the officer or others. I haven’t seen it, just the facts that were apparent afterwards.

        • a tiny manatee says:

          Food for thought: an officer can execute you if he or she perceives a threat, regardless of the presence of an actual threat. Perception is powered by emotion, and a bad day can make you feel as though everything is out to get you. That means that you should treat every interaction with an officer as if you are dealing with an armed psychopath that might shoot you for no reason except a “feeling”, and in the case of incidents like Walter Scott, might shoot you for no reason at all and then plant evidence making it look like you are the criminal.

      • I/M/O says:

        Tamir: This is why Eric Garner Died.

        3 months before his death the Governor of New York established a statewide Untaxed Cigarette Task Force.

        The taxes on a pack of cigarettes are draconian in New York. One pack of cigarettes can cost a consumer $13.00 in New York City.

        As former Mayor Bloomberg kept raising taxes on cigarettes he created a Black Market for untaxed cigarettes. As we know Prohibition to change behavior always results in criminals moving in because the profits for selling untaxed cigarettes became huge.

        When Cuomo created his State wide Task Force that included allmlaw enforcement agencies and tax collection agenices in New York he appointed a former narcotics Sergeant who had been involved with the War on Drugs for years. to head his new Task Force. Why was this man appointed to head the new Cuomo Untaxed Cigarette Task Force? Because they intended to use the same tactics with the untaxed cigarettes that they had been using against illegal drugs.

        That tactic is called “Climbing the Ladder.” You pressure street dealers by arresting them in the hope that pressure of those arrests will force them to give up their suppliers. Then you go after those suppliers and their suppliers. You “Climb The Ladder” hoping to eventually get to the main suppliers that are running the Black Market. It seldom works. You seldom get to the main players. They are to well insulated with many levels between them and the lowly street dealers.

        Now those two Police Officers did not on their own decide to go after Eric Garner who was known on the street as “Mr. Cigareete.” New York City cops don’t have that independence. They had been ordered to pressure Eric Garner and as we hear in the video they were continuously arresting him hoping to pressure him to give up his suppliers. On that last day Eric Garner was out on bail from previous arrests. Eric Garner was a career criminal. He knew that if was arrested again he would forfeit his bail and be held at Riker’s Island. He knew that if he forfeited his bail no Bondman was going to risk putting his bail up again. So I/M/o that is why Eric Garner got so upset.

        Now let’s examine that these two Officers and their female Supervisor were not indicted. Why? If the Officers had been indicted for Murder and brought to Trial the Defense Attorneys would have asked for every order, directive, procedure and report not just as to the Garner arrest but as they pertained to Cuomo’s Task Force. That would have exposed a whole lot of upper echelon State officials and New York City Police Superior Officers to scrutiny. As I have stated two flunky Staten Island cops don’t go out and start arresting people for selling loose cigarettes. They were ordered to do it and ordered to target Garner. They were Climbing the Ladder” with Garner. Continuous pressure with arrest after arrest until he broke and stated giving up information.

        Then he died and the Governor, State Officials and New York city Police Department’s upper management had to cover up what they had created. This was never the Cover Up of what the two Officers did but always the Cover up what the politicians had done.

        The Cuomo Untaxed Task Force is why Eric Garner died.

        • a tiny manatee says:

          I see. His death had nothing to do with being strangled by police using an illegal chokehold.

          I have to say, it is truly amazing to see the lengths that people will go through to rationalize racism and justify the actions of police, no matter how ridiculous they are. Tell me, why did Tamir Rice die? Obamacare?

  2. R Gross says:

    If you are going to report on these incidents, please try to state all the facts, not only those that support your cause, your viewpoint or your opinion. I absolutely agree that no one regardless of race, age, religion or economic status should be hurt or killed by the police for no reason. There are some sad cases when accidents happen, as you reported a startled police office shot a man dead on his stairs. To read the tone of most of the reporting, you would believe that these police officers get up each day with a specific plan to go out and oppress and murder innocent black citizens. That is so far from the truth or the facts.

    Do we have police officers that abuse their power absolutely, but lets get real. If we believe what the ratings hungry news media tries to portray the numbers in the high 60-70% of officers are bad or abuse their power. Some are just scared to death every day they go to work. They work at a job that leaves them guessing every time they walk up to a car or a house, or just sit in their car that someone is going to pull a gun and shoot them. Thats not their fault, that is societies fault. Yes we have the highest per capita number of incarcerated citizens….lets see, maybe that is because we have fools out there that do not know how to abide by basic rules of a civilized society.

    What do you say to the fact that many of these individuals that end up being killed by the police, have extensive records of arrest…oh wait I am sorry. I forgot we do not want to talk about the cause of their death, just the end result. Most of these individuals should have been in prison. You get arrested 20 times, you obviously don’t understand the rules, and therefore offer nothing useful to society.

    I grew up in the projects, dropped out of school after the 9th grade, but I made different choices in my life, and do not have an extensive history with the police. I made that statement for all of those out there that blame these upstanding citizens history with police on their economic status, the neighborhood they grew up in…etc…etc..etc… Society has allowed individuals to play the victim for too long, negating any personal responsibility for their own person choices.

    Go to school, get an education find a job and change your economic status…oh wait Im sorry that would take effort. That would require taking personal responsibility for their actions. I know that there are individuals who are trying, that are working hard and are having a difficult time changing their economic status…my respect to them. I bet they are not having issues with the police…maybe in their past, but they made a choice to change.

    You started a statement with “Garner’s gruesome choking death” really !!!!! you people are absolutely unashamed in trying to stir the pot. What was most gruesome, is that other citizens had to watch that go down, and the police involved have to live with his death. Oh wait Im sorry, I forgot…you believe they got up that morning went out with the purpose and plan to kill a black man, and could care less….you should be stopped….how can you write such garbage.

    Mr. Garner knowingly stood on a corner, breaking the law. When confronted by the police, he very specifically said he had no intention of complying with them. When they tried to use a little force to get him to comply, he resisted. Mr Garner was a very large man, he had diabetes, cardiovascular disease and asthma. Did he know these things..YES…did the police know these things..NO… but HE chose to resist arrest, probably exacerbating his cardiovascular disease and most definitely exacerbating his asthma. As he lay on the ground “supposedly being choked” how do you know that….you say “because he was saying he can’t breath” well a little tip…if you are talking you are breathing..it take air moving across the vocal cords to say something…just saying. did the wrestling with the police officers lead to his death…most probably. Did they directly choke him until he died…ABSOLUTELY NOT…SO STOP REPORTING THAT!!!!

    We have to start holding the Mr Garner’s and Michael Brown’s accountable for their actions that led up to their deaths….lets start looking at the cause, not just the effect. Maybe Black men have a higher chance of being killed by the police, because they are more likely and more frequently going to come into contact with the police because of their behavior…oh wait…we cannot state that…doesn’t make for good reporting. I am surprised that we do not see, middle class and wealthier educated blacks, whites or hispanics being killed by the police…why is that??? because they do not do things that create a reason for the police to come in contact with them.

    Please feel free to report on an unbiased basis anytime you like…but please refrain from publishing half truths and garbage that just incites the poor, innocent thugs and criminals to riot and say…see they are killing us for no reason…the paper said so.

    • Footballen says:

      Wow I am so happy to see that someone else feels the same way. I felt like I was going insane there for a minute. How did all of this turn into “The Police are the problem”? How about you act like a civilized human being and just comply when the Police tell you what to do? There is a court where you get every single opportunity under the sun to prove a “reasonable doubt”! I have had personal contact with many Police Officers and none of them were completely unreasonable. Some were “jerks” but there was never a situation where I wondered if I would survive the situation simply because I have the good sense to comply when given instruction. Should we now hang the judges because they too will not listen and just cast “judgement?” These men and women are tasked with handling back to back explosive situations. They may not have time to treat you as if they were your favorite auntie.

  3. Sherry E says:

    Please feel free to write your comments “on an unbiased basis any time you like. . .” Unfortunately, I don’t see any of those here!

    • R Gross says:

      So I guess indicating that I do not agree with any individual being hurt or killed regardless of race religion or other is unbiased. I simply think that people need to take responsibility for their actions. Sad that people think that if you go out and run around in traffic naked on the interstate and you get hit by a car, they should charge the driver of the car with manslaughter. If you do not believe that then I am not sure what the problem is with understanding that Mr Garner and Mr Brown both made choices that led to their death, but it would appear that we should ignore that…Now that is biased..

  4. R Gross says:

    You are absolutely correct…in these instances, mistakes were made…police did not do the right thing. I would question any parent that would allow their 12 year old to walk around a public park, waving a gun even a toy gun in the current state of unrest that exists in our country. My daughter don’t leave my front yeard and I am out there with her when she is in that front yard. I accepted the responsibility of being a parent when I made that choice.

    I am in no way condoning what the police did, but we once again must look at what caused this. A young, very well developed young boy who looked older than he was standing in a public park pointing a gun at people. I am sorry but that is what led to this unfortunate shooting. Yes mistakes were made….no it should not have happened…the police should have stopped further back and assessed the situation and probably would have either determined it was a toy, or he would have had time to understand what was happening and dropped the toy gun.

    I once again say “where were his parents?” We have to stop negating and redirecting the responsibilities in these cases. The gentlemen at the Wal-Mart should not have been shot…should have never even had to think or worry that it could happen in a Wal-Mart. I know that if police were screaming at me to drop the gun…I am sorry I think I would not have ignored them. In this day and age I am situationally aware at all times…it may mean life or death…As was the case in this instance…Let me be clear..I truly believe if this is as stated, then these police officers should be charged with manslaughter and convicted. If they were not…burning down buildings and cars and destroying any neighborhood let alone your own is not how you handle it.

    Once again, we should be outraged at the lack of parenting….the lack of personal responsibility, the violence of black on black, white on black….whatever color on whatever color…that is what civilized people do. They see a problem they step up and fix it….lets stop the fatherless babies from coming into this world…do we not know what birth control is, or bringing babies into this world when you can’t even feed yourself. drop out of school and then complain that you cannot get a job because you do not have an education. Again these are personal choices, and people continue to make them everyday and then turn around, shirk their own responsibility for their situation and blame the government, the system, the whites, the police, hell they blame everyone and anyone for their problems except themselves. When I say they and them, I am referring to people of all races that the description I stated applies to.

    No one should die needlessly, but the police and the law abiding citizens should not have to live in fear. We cannot and should not turn our backs on enforcing the law. If you commit a crime, you better expect you will have to deal with the police and bad things might happen. If the individuals that want to protest and raise their voices up, would do it when appropriate and not when it involves career criminals, you might be heard, you might have a wider base of support from all races. Thanks for expressing that in the last reply..it is absolutely what needs to happen. We need to stop being politically correct, stop allowing people to make excuses…stand up and hold each individual responsible for his or her decisions….including the police who make bad decisions.

  5. Outsider says:

    Eric Garner was not resisting? That’s not what the video shows, so the author has to resort to lying to make his case. Credibility destroyed. Here’s a novel idea: stop breaking the law over and over and you will not have repeated interactions with the police, who, contrary to popular belief, are not baby sitters or mental health counselors, but people who are doing the dangerous job no one else will do and trying to stay alive in the process. As humans, they are not infallible, and being that they are required to make life and death decisions in a split second they will occasionally get it wrong. Who hasn’t made a mistake at one time or another in their own career? Since you chose a profession where a mistake might have resulted in the loss of an account, a legal case, or someone getting a cheeseburger with onions when it was ordered without, no one died. The fact is if you obey the law, and obey the commands of a police officer even if you did nothing wrong, in the end you will be alive and the rest can be sorted out in short order. I also suggest you watch a few episodes of “COPS,” where you will see many criminals crying they can’t breathe, their arms hurt, they didn’t do what was just caught on video, etc. so it’s understandable if the cops don’t believe everything that comes out of the perpetrator’s mouth. And whatever the odds are of a black man being shot by a cop in a large city is, I’ll bet it’s a hundred times more likely he will be shot by another black man in said city. Finally, for the end of my rant, if you are one of those young black people milling about the streets of Baltimore or any other city complaining about how you are treated by the police, then challenge yourself to get the training and education required to become a police officer and try to change things, otherwise you are just part of the problem.

  6. I/M/O says:

    Freddie Gray was a Career Criminal with well over 25 arrests. Most of his arrests were for distribution of heroin. He was a “Purveyor Of Death” in the community. An addict himself he took every opportunity to convince young people to try his heroin. His aim was to hook other young people to heroin to support his own habit.

    Being a carreer criminal and drug distributor he was well know to the Baltimore Police. He was out on bail for 3 other arrests on that day. He was on parole for previous convictions.

    A parolee is not supposed to be frequenting a drug sale location or hanging out with other drug distributors and users. Freddie Gray was spotted in such a location a location that he used to sell heroin. Being on parole he was obligated not to run from any Police Officer who approached him. Bring on prole he was not supposed to be in possession of any knife be it a designated unlawful weapon by law or a simple pocket knife. Parolees are forbidden to carry any weapon.

    As to his death in the back of that van he was not the first prisoner to have his neck broken in those types of vans. Eleven years before Freedie Gray died another prisoner had his neck broken when he was thrown about in a police van. He became a paraplegic. He sued and a jury awarded him millions of dollars in damages. A Baltimore Judge threw out the Jury /Award and gave that man a $200,000 settlement. So the upper echelon of the Baltimore Police Department was well aware of the danger to prisoners riding in their vans without seat belts. Did they immediately change the policy? No they did not.

    Eleven years later the Police Chief of Baltimore finally signed off on new procedures as to transporting prisoners. He signed the order on April 6, 2015 and sent it to the printer. The printer finished producing the new procedure on April 8 and they were sent to the various commands to arrive on April 9th and 10th which was a Thursday and a Friday. The order that was mailed to the various commands stated that each and every Officer was to be re-trained in the new procedure. Freddie Gray died on Sunday April 12th.

    So one must ask “Why did it take the Police Department of Baltimore 11 years after the first man suffered a broken neck to finally issue new procedures.” For 11 years the Administrators of the Baltimore Police Department did nothing! It was only 11 years later they issued new orders to seat belt every prisoner.

    Now if the new orders arrived at the numerous commands on Friday April 9th and 10th did the Training Officers have the time to retrain an entire department in 2 days? Had any training been conduct over that weekend or were the new procedures siting in some Training Officer’s Desk who was off for the weekend. Was he training documented. In most large departments each Officer is documented as to being given a new procedure. They initial the sign in sheet as having received the new orders at the Training Session. The Training session and who attend is also documented by various Supervisors.

    If that documentation as to the Officers involved is not produced at Trail the negligence charges will have to be dismissed. Issuing an order does not take away the responsibility of the Baltimore Police Chief to assure the proper training was done.

  7. I/M/O says:

    By the way the Mayor, Police Chief, Deputy Police Chief do not live in Baltimore. They all live in the suburbs of Baltimore.

    The Mayor and her Baltimore City Council member husband live in what is designated as the richest County in Maryland. Yes they do not live in Baltimore County.

    The Mayor lives in a planned community built in the 1960’s by two brothers. The community has well over 20 outdoor swimming polls, 5 indoor swimming pools, 3 lakes, a multitude of parks, a roller skating ring, ice skating rink, hiking trails, tennis courts and an excellent school system.

    Baltimore’s Police Chief and his family live 62 miles outside of Baltimore.

    Yet these politicians are the first to accuse Police Officers of not living where they work.

    Total hypocrisy.

  8. Sherry E says:

    Ahhhh. . . Very passionate Prejudice and Bigotry alive and well in Flagler County! How very, very sad to see such comments from citizens in my home state! You are so right on Tiny Manatee, but I’m afraid anyone who is open minded, compassionate and who celebrates ALL human beings is going to have a difficult time raising consciousness and kindness with some people in this area.

  9. Sherry E says:

    Another excellent article. . . describing the massive costs to tax payers. . . about our militarized cop culture:

    In a Cop Culture, the Bill of Rights Doesn’t Amount to Much

    By John W. Whitehead

    Police officers are more likely to be struck by lightning than be held financially accountable for their actions.—Law professor Joanna C. Schwartz (paraphrased)
    “In a democratic society,” observed Oakland police chief Sean Whent, “people have a say in how they are policed.”

    Unfortunately, if you can be kicked, punched, tasered, shot, intimidated, harassed, stripped, searched, brutalized, terrorized, wrongfully arrested, and even killed by a police officer, and that officer is never held accountable for violating your rights and his oath of office to serve and protect, never forced to make amends, never told that what he did was wrong, and never made to change his modus operandi, then you don’t live in a constitutional republic.

    You live in a police state.

    It doesn’t even matter that “crime is at historic lows and most cities are safer than they have been in generations, for residents and officers alike,” as the New York Times reports.

    What matters is whether you’re going to make it through a police confrontation alive and with your health and freedoms intact. For a growing number of Americans, those confrontations do not end well.

    As David O. Brown, the Dallas chief of police, noted: “Sometimes it seems like our young officers want to get into an athletic event with people they want to arrest. They have a ‘don’t retreat’ mentality. They feel like they’re warriors and they can’t back down when someone is running from them, no matter how minor the underlying crime is.”

    Making matters worse, in the cop culture that is America today, the Bill of Rights doesn’t amount to much. Unless, that is, it’s the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBoR), which protects police officers from being subjected to the kinds of debilitating indignities heaped upon the average citizen.

    Most Americans, oblivious about their own rights, aren’t even aware that police officers have their own Bill of Rights. Yet at the same time that our own protections against government abuses have been reduced to little more than historic window dressing, 14 states have already adopted LEOBoRs—written by police unions and being considered by many more states and Congress—which provides police officers accused of a crime with special due process rights and privileges not afforded to the average citizen.

    In other words, the LEOBoR protects police officers from being treated as we are treated during criminal investigations: questioned unmercifully for hours on end, harassed, harangued, browbeaten, denied food, water and bathroom breaks, subjected to hostile interrogations, and left in the dark about our accusers and any charges and evidence against us.

    Not only are officers given a 10-day “cooling-off period” during which they cannot be forced to make any statements about the incident, but when they are questioned, it must be “for a reasonable length of time, at a reasonable hour, by only one or two investigators (who must be fellow policemen), and with plenty of breaks for food and water.”

    According to investigative journalist Eli Hager, the most common rights afforded police officers accused of wrongdoing are as follows:

    If a department decides to pursue a complaint against an officer, the department must notify the officer and his union.
    The officer must be informed of the complainants, and their testimony against him, before he is questioned.
    During questioning, investigators may not harass, threaten, or promise rewards to the officer, as interrogators not infrequently do to civilian suspects.
    Bathroom breaks are assured during questioning.
    In Maryland, the officer may appeal his case to a “hearing board,” whose decision is binding, before a final decision has been made by his superiors about his discipline. The hearing board consists of three of the suspected offender’s fellow officers.
    In some jurisdictions, the officer may not be disciplined if more than a certain number of days (often 100) have passed since his alleged misconduct, which limits the time for investigation.
    Even if the officer is suspended, the department must continue to pay salary and benefits, as well as the cost of the officer’s attorney.

    It’s a pretty sweet deal if you can get it, I suppose: protection from the courts, immunity from wrongdoing, paid leave while you’re under investigation, and the assurance that you won’t have to spend a dime of your own money in your defense. And yet these LEOBoR epitomize everything that is wrong with America today.

    Once in a while, the system appears to work on the side of justice, and police officers engaged in wrongdoing are actually charged for abusing their authority and using excessive force against American citizens.

    Yet even in these instances, it’s still the American taxpayer who foots the bill.
    For example, Baltimore taxpayers have paid roughly $5.7 million since 2011 over lawsuits stemming from police abuses, with an additional $5.8 million going towards legal fees. If the six Baltimore police officers charged with the death of Freddie Gray are convicted, you can rest assured it will be the Baltimore taxpayers who feel the pinch.

    New York taxpayers have shelled out almost $1,130 per year per police officer (there are 34,500 officers in the NYPD) to address charges of misconduct. That translates to $38 million every year just to clean up after these so-called public servants.

    Over a 10-year-period, Oakland, Calif., taxpayers were made to cough up more than $57 million (curiously enough, the same amount as the city’s deficit back in 2011) in order to settle accounts with alleged victims of police abuse.

    Chicago taxpayers were asked to pay out nearly $33 million on one day alone to victims of police misconduct, with one person slated to receive $22.5 million, potentially the largest single amount settled on any one victim. The City has paid more than half a billion dollars to victims over the course of a decade. The Chicago City Council actually had to borrow $100 million just to pay off lawsuits arising over police misconduct in 2013. The city’s payout for 2014 was estimated to be in the same ballpark, especially with cases pending such as the one involving the man who was reportedly sodomized by a police officer’s gun in order to force him to “cooperate.”

    Over 78% of the funds paid out by Denver taxpayers over the course of a decade arose as a result of alleged abuse or excessive use of force by the Denver police and sheriff departments. Meanwhile, taxpayers in Ferguson, Missouri, are being asked to pay $40 million in compensation—more than the city’s entire budget—for police officers treating them “‘as if they were war combatants,’ using tactics like beating, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and stun grenades, while the plaintiffs were peacefully protesting, sitting in a McDonalds, and in one case walking down the street to visit relatives.”

    That’s just a small sampling of the most egregious payouts, but just about every community—large and small—feels the pinch when it comes to compensating victims who have been subjected to deadly or excessive force by police.

    The ones who rarely ever feel the pinch are the officers accused or convicted of wrongdoing, “even if they are disciplined or terminated by their department, criminally prosecuted, or even imprisoned.” Indeed, a study published in the NYU Law Review reveals that 99.8% of the monies paid in settlements and judgments in police misconduct cases never come out of the officers’ own pockets, even when state laws require them to be held liable. Moreover, these officers rarely ever have to pay for their own legal defense.

    For instance, law professor Joanna C. Schwartz references a case in which three Denver police officers chased and then beat a 16-year-old boy, stomping “on the boy’s back while using a fence for leverage, breaking his ribs and causing him to suffer kidney damage and a lacerated liver.” The cost to Denver taxpayers to settle the lawsuit: $885,000. The amount the officers contributed: 0.

    Kathryn Johnston, 92 years old, was shot and killed during a SWAT team raid that went awry. Attempting to cover their backs, the officers falsely claimed Johnston’s home was the site of a cocaine sale and went so far as to plant marijuana in the house to support their claim. The cost to Atlanta taxpayers to settle the lawsuit: $4.9 million. The amount the officers contributed: 0.

    Meanwhile, in Albuquerque, a police officer was convicted of raping a woman in his police car, in addition to sexually assaulting four other women and girls, physically abusing two additional women, and kidnapping or falsely imprisoning five men and boys. The cost to the Albuquerque taxpayers to settle the lawsuit: $1,000,000. The amount the officer contributed: 0.

    • I/M/O says:

      Sherry E…the “People” as you put it have nothing to say as to how they are policed. State legislatures, municipalities, towns and village politicians write the Criminal Codes and the procedures that pertain to the Criminal Justice System.

      Not “The People.”

      “The people.” Stop living in fantasy land. Those who are attacking the police are playing right into the hands of the politicians.

      • a tiny manatee says:

        Yes, yes. An unarmed black man is shot in the back and then an officer drops his taser in an attempt to frame him and justify murder. And you’re just playing into politicians hands by objecting to it.

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