The recent highly publicized killings of unarmed black men by police officers have stirred up feelings of outrage and frustration within objective and fair-minded people from every walk of life. In response to those killings and the resultant feelings of shock and despair for the victims and the victims’ families, people have united and are making a public cry for justice for the victims. These groups want the offending officers subjected to the same legal procedures other Americans who commit similar crimes experience. They want the responsible officers arrested, charged, and tried. They also want the killings investigated by a body independent of local influence.
Some of those demanding justice for the victims, including me, view police killings of unarmed people as symptomatic of a larger problem in the nation’s police forces. That problem is the abuse of legal authority by those officers who use their power to brutalize people, and then attempt to cover up their crimes by levying false charges against helpless suspects. As the following list highlights police brutality is widespread and occurs more frequently than some want to admit. However, the list is not exhaustive. For example, the Abner Louima case is the only sexual assault case noted. But numerous law enforcement officials have been convicted of sexual assault.
- Rodney King was beaten mercilessly by police officers in Los Angeles, California on March 3, 1991. He survived his injuries. King was unarmed.
- Jonny Gammage died as the result of injuries sustained from a beating by police officers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 12, 1995. Gammage was unarmed.
- Amadou Diallo was shot to death in front of his apartment building by police officers in New York City on February 4, 1999. He was shot forty-one times. Diallo was unarmed.
- Sean Bell was shot to death by police officers in New York City on November 26, 2006. Bell was unarmed. ’
- Abner Louima sustained major injuries from being sodomized with a broken off broom handle by a police officer in New York City on August 7, 1999. Louima was unarmed.
- Sara Lesende was brutally beaten by a police officer in Newark, NJ in October 2004. Sara was unarmed.
- Oscar Grant was shot to death by a police officer in Oakland, California on January 1, 2009. Grant was unarmed.
- Michael Brown was shot to death in broad daylight by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014. Brown was unarmed.
- Alexander Landau was severely beaten by police officers in Denver, Colorado in January 2009
- Quadriplegic Brian Sterner was dumped out of his wheelchair by a law enforcement official in Hillsborough County, Florida on January 29, 2008. Sterner was unarmed.
- Jordan Miles was beaten to a pulp by police in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on January 12, 2010. Miles was unarmed.
- Eric Garner died as the result of police officers in Stanton Island, NY placing Garner in a choke hold on July 17, 2014. Garner was unarmed.
- Jianqing “Jessica” Klyzek was struck by a police officer while she was handcuffed and kneeling, and unarmed. The incident occurred in Chicago, Illinois and was caught on video tape.
- Michael McCloskey was riding his motorcycle when he was pulled over by police and shot without provocation. The entire incident was captured on tape by a police dashboard camera. The incident took place in Ohio. Mcclosky was unarmed.
The preceding list gives a sampling of police brutality. If police brutality is to stop level-headed people who are passionate about justice must coalesce and work with captains of local police precincts. To achieve the objective of stopping police brutality the following measureable goals are offered.
- Equip every police officer with a body camera that must be worn at all times while the officer is on duty.
- Equip each police vehicle with a dash camera.
- Require each municipality to establish a civilian review board that includes clergy. (Clergy members should rotate biannually to insure every faith tradition in the community is represented on the review board.)
- Insist law enforcement create a safe space for police officers to report police brutality without fear of retribution. The fear of retribution- loss of life, liberty, and income- makes it very difficult for decent law-abiding law enforcement officials to blow the whistle on fellow officers.