Thursday, June 17, 2010 | 07:37 AM
Commentary: And the Beatings Go On
I've watched the tape of a Washington State Police officer punching a 17-year-old Black girl in the face at least a dozen times, and I still can't make any sense of it. I cannot figure out how this man, who was trained to restrain suspects, finds himself incapable of subduing this young lady any other way than a fist to her face. How can someone so incompetent be allowed to police the streets, protected by both his gun and his badge? What's nearly as troubling as the assault itself is the fact that the altercation started when the officer stopped a group of young Black girls in order to issue a jaywalking citation. Even if the young ladies overreacted, the aggression the officer shows on the tape makes it hard to believe that the officer approached them respectfully. How could such a nominal charge lead to such a volatile situation? Perhaps it's because it was a group of young Black girls, who are so often the target of police attention for infractions as small as existing publicly and breathing. The video shows the officer tussling with the victim's 19-year-old cousin for at least 30 seconds as she resisted his attempts to cuff her. It's mind-blowing that he wasn't able to restrain a woman who looked to be at least 40 pounds lighter than he is. He slams her down onto a car and flings her around like a rag doll, and yet he can't get her cuffed. When the young victim makes the regrettable choice to try and defend her cousin, the officer slugs her in the face as if she were a man his own size. I cannot imagine any set of circumstances in which a White officer would have punched a 17-year-old White girl in the face, and I'd wager that a Black male cop using that sort of force on one would be placed so far under the jail he'd see China. If anyone can watch that tape and tell you that the officer was justified in punching that child in the face, I'd suggest you check the trunk of their car for some white hoods and wooded crosses. While I can't emphasize enough the importance of teaching your children how to interact with the police, it's extremely hard to ask people to respect the law when the people who are paid to uphold it treat Black people so unjustly. The officer in question took an oath to serve and protect the young women on that tape. Did he approach them in that spirit or did he roll up on them for jaywalking as if it were some violent infraction? So long as the police treat Black people like second class citizens or natural born suspects, stories such as this will happen again and again. Our community's hostility toward officers of the law will continue. Good cops will be treated like pigs by the people and good people will be treated like criminals by the pigs. Until police departments nationwide address the problem of racial bias on the force, don't expect a change to come anytime soon.