What is police violence? When did it start, and more importantly, when will it end?
Why was Derek Chauvin so concerned with George Floyd’s size? Chauvin stated that Floyd had to be “brought under control.” Why did Chauvin, who essentially lynched Floyd, have his hand in his pocket? Why didn’t he have it dangling down outside his pocket or on his hip? Did Chauvin look straight into the camera and was not apprehensive about being filmed because he just knew nothing would happen to him. Nothing happened to the four Los Angeles police officers who beat Rodney King fifty-six times in Los Angeles. There were no consequences to the six officers who kicked, stomped, beat tasered Reggie Thomas in Pasadena, CA, in front of his eight children. There were questionable results of the officers using the no-knock rule in Louisville, KY, to break into Breonna Taylor’s apartment to shoot her dead. Did Chauvin think that he would get away with murder too? Why did Chauvin allow his feet to come off the pavement to grind his knee more into the neck of George Floyd?
“What’s Going On” was released on May 21, 1971, and made it possible for Marvin Gaye to have a foreboding on what was happening in this country as a whole and what would be still happening fifty years later. Young black men are very close to their mothers. The song starts with the words, “Mother, Mother, there are too many of you crying.” While Chauvin was being tried for murder, about 10 miles away, Daunte Wright, who was stopped by the police, called his mother, Katie Wright. Ms. Wright wanted to talk to the police, but before that happened, former Police Officer Kim Potter, after 26 years on the force, could not distinguish a plastic Taser from a Glock 9 mm and fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte in the chest. Not in the back, but in the chest. Before Oscar Grant was fatally shot in the back by BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland, California, Grant had called his mother from a store to give instructions to a store customer on how to cook fish. On New Years Day, Grant was being held down by a police officer when Mehserle shot Grant in the back, thinking that his gun was a taser. The words of Marvin Gaye ring true for Daunte Wright’s and Oscar Grant’s mother, “What’s Going On?
Police Violence, which researchers define as repeated beatings, evident brutality, and excessive force, has been prevalent against minority communities. Documented historical accounts have shown how myths, stereotypes, and racist ideologies led to discriminatory policies and court rulings that fueled racial violence in the post-Reconstruction era and culminated in an exponential increase in Black male incarceration today.
This article looks at why law enforcement agencies have unreasonably used deadly force on Black males allegedly considered “suspects” or “persons of interest.” History demonstrates that five years after the Ferguson protest when officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown, the officer-involved shooting deaths have not diminished. Police Violence has been inflicted on minority communities throughout the nation since the 1700s. While white southern landowners relied almost exclusively on slave labor, they were afraid of black rebellion, and thus, the police aimed to employ the Slave Patrol to catch runaway slaves to beat and whip escaped slaves. These patrols were meant to control the movements and behavior of the slave population. As a result, the Slave Patrol was one of the earliest forms of policing in the South.
The similarities between the slave patrol and modern American policing are too noticeable to ignore or dismiss. Hence, the slave patrol should be considered a forerunner of modern American law enforcement. The Slave Patrol had three main functions: 1) to chase down, apprehend, and return runaway slaves, 2) to engage in organized terror to deter slave revolt, 3) to maintain a form of discipline for slave workers to summary justice outside the law.
Police racial violence has been an issue for a long time. President Lyndon Johnson initiated the Kerner Commission to determine how and why the violent 1967 riots killed 43 people in Detroit and 26 in Newark. President Johnson had three questions; “What happened?, Why did it happen?, What can be done to prevent it from happening again?” The most recent investigation of rioting up to that point had been the McCone Commission which explored the 1965 Watts riot and accused “riffraff” of starting the unrest. In contrast, relying on social scientists’ work and in-depth studies of the nation’s impoverished black urban areas, the Kerner Commission reached an entirely different interpretation of the riot’s cause. In March 1968, the Kerner Commission declared that white racism-not black anger – is the cause of the violent uprising. The Kerner Report outlined a goal of moving toward “a single society and a single American identity. It has called for substantial federal funds to assist African American communities and prevent further polarization and violence and violence. The recommendations were in education, employment, housing, police-community relations, and welfare. The Johnson Administration reacted harshly to the recommendations, and the Nixon Administration made the recommendations an impossibility to become policy.
Anthony McClain of Pasadena was fatally shot in the back by a Pasadena police officer on the right side of his lower back while fleeing from a traffic stop. Mr. McClain was not the driver. Police officials stated that McClain might have had drugs in his system. However, Attorney Carrie Harper, a former police officer, stated, “let us put the blame on the person with the finger on the trigger, not the man that’s in the ground.”
The next section will review the effects of mental health in dealing with Police Violence.