In 1991, the world witnessed a horrendous video of several Los Angeles police officers brutally beating Rodney King. For me, that was my first view of police brutality. To see men who have sworn an oath to protect and serve beat a defenseless man over and over would become something I would never forget — and neither would others. Then, to witness the trial, where there was clear evidence that these officers were guilty, and watch as they were cleared of their charges and able to walk free. A couple officers were charged in a later civil rights trial, but I was young and the weight of what just happened didn’t quite register in my head. But once I was older and I perceived it differently, I never looked at the police the same again.
On June 5, video footage surfaced of an incident that took place on May 23, when Robert Johnson was beaten and forcefully arrested by four officers. In the video, you can clearly see that Johnson is unarmed and not a threat. A few minutes in, Johnson is punched repeatedly in the face and possibly knocked unconscious, as if he was the one attacking the officers. How many more times do we have to see situations like this? How much longer are we supposed to just sit and take this abuse? Especially from people who are supposed to protect us, who our tax dollars pay. I don’t think black people are paying you to constantly beat us or to be constantly harassed and profiled. I guess the term “to protect and serve” doesn’t apply to us? Johnson was arrested for disorderly conduct and hindering. Hindering what?
From the report, Johnson was headed towards the elevator when he walked into an ongoing situation where the officers were already present. He was beaten because they asked him to stop and sit down, but for what? He was heading towards the elevator. This attack was not provoked or needed. Can we not go to or leave our homes in peace without becoming a target?
In the full video of the incident at the 11:19 mark, you can see an officer ram Johnson's head into the elevator. What was the cause for this when he was already handcuffed?
As usual, the officers are out on administrative leave. Which means, technically, they still have a job. They still get paid with all of their benefits, while the victim continues to suffer the repercussions of the attack. These officers should be fired, plain and simple. They treated Johnson as if he was an extreme threat, but in the video, he’s unarmed and on his phone. Watch out, we got a black man with a deadly apple device!
This incident is just another example of police brutality on black people. Keyword, “another.” Every day there is a new video being shared of a unprovoked attack on a person of color. Think about that. Everyday! That’s not including the incidents that are not documented or on video. Previously, the most recent viral videos were of the two Waffle House altercations, where officers forcefully arrested and choked Chikesia Clemons in Alabama, and Anthony Wall in North Carolina. This just continues the long list of racial disparities with police use of force.
A major problem here is that when these unprovoked attacks happen, no real action is taken. They are not truly held accountable for their actions. Either there are no charges and they go free on their administrative leave, or there are charges, but a jury considers these attacks OK and justified, and considers the officers not guilty. When is this problem going to be really addressed? When is the deadly use of force by officers on people of color really going to be brought to the forefront?
It’s is no secret that police are quicker to draw their weapon or attack a person of color. They say it’s not racially motivated, but we all know the truth. Therefore, some black people don’t trust the police. I’ve had my own experience with a group of officers that solidified my distrust when I was still a teenager. I sat stretched out on the hood of a squad car with my cousin and his friends while three officers had fun laughing at our expense. Illegal searches, threatening us with their guns, racial slurs and making comments about us disappearing and never being heard from again. These were officers of the law, and this was fun for them. A lot of people are beginning to question what exactly are the police good for these days, and they have every right to question that.
For so long we have witnessed altercation after altercation of more police violence and killings over the years. Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Mike Brown, Walter Scott and more. I asked myself what could be done to a organization that was originally created to capture, detain and return runaway slaves? The racial biases run deep within the DNA and creation of our now police force.
Police brutality and police harassment need to end, but how? Is this organization so rooted into the society of America that the only way it can change is if it is destroyed and rebuilt again? There needs to be a serious conversation about this, but part of me knows that it’s a possibility it won’t change the mindset of some of these officers who view people of color as a threat. That alone is the real issue at heart — the perspective in which they view us. That perspective doesn’t only apply to white officers either. As we see in the Robert Johnson video, it was a black officer who continuously struck him. What is it about that badge and uniform that makes another black man treat someone of the same complexion that way?
These officers see us as threats and fear us, even when we are not the aggressors. These abusive officers are dangerous to our well being because they are the threat. They have become the monsters they claim we are. Police officers killed almost 1,200 people in 2017. Of that 1,200, 37 percent we’re unarmed black people. They say we make up 14 percent of the world’s population. What do these statistics say to you?
What can we do to stop this trend that has been going on for decades? What can we do to stop something that is so rooted in a system that wasn’t designed for us or truly cares about us? Like most, I’m tired of seeing videos of incidents like this. Like most, I’m tired of my people always being the victims of this senseless abuse. We don’t deserve this treatment and there’s nothing anyone can say that can justify that we do.