We watched as unarmed Black men—Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Jonathan Ferrell, among others—were killed by cops whose duty is to protect the communities they serve. The outrage that followed these killings went viral, bringing a breadth of social and political attention to epidemic police brutality.

Our sons, brothers and husbands aren't the only ones who suffer at the hands of police. Black women, too, were battered and beaten, accosted and criminalized by overzealous officers who turned disputes into brutal altercations.

ESSENCE photographed three women who survived such encounters. They are the faces of resilience in a society that still has trouble acknowledging our humanity.


Marlene Pinnock

The 51-year-old grandmother was apprehended by a California Highway Patrol officer when he found her walking alongside a freeway in July. The officer was caught on video repeatedly pummeling Pinnock's head with his fists as he straddled her and she lay helpless on the ground. Of her attack, Pinnock told the Associated Press, "I felt like he was trying to kill me, beat me to death." She won a $1.5 million civil rights settlement and the officer voluntarily resigned.

Adrienne Waheed and Peter Chin

Former officer Daniel Andrew says that he was attempting to keep Marlene Pinnock from wandering into oncoming traffic

Taylor Lewis
Dec, 03, 2015

The Los Angeles District Attorney has declined to file criminal charges against former officer Daniel Andrew, the California highway patrolman who was caught on camera assaulting a mentally ill homeless woman along the side of a highway last year.

Witness video shows Andrew straddling and punching then-51-year-old Marlene Pinnock, who was reportedly homeless and mentally ill. Andrew claims that he was attempting to stop Pinnock from walking onto the busy freeway, but Pinnock says that the force was unwarranted. 

“I felt like he was trying to kill me, beat me to death,” Pinnock, who won a $1.5 million settlement with the city, told the Associated Press last year.

Marlene Pinnock Receives $1.5 Million Settlement from California Highway Patrol

However, earlier today, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said that Andrew, who has since resigned from the highway patrol, would not face any criminal charges for his actions.

“When looking at all of the evidence, and especially the medical reports and eyewitness accounts, it becomes exceedingly clear that the officer, who was alone and struggling with Ms. Pinnock precariously close to evening freeway traffic, acted within the law,” D.A. Jackie Lacey said in a statement. “In our analysis, his use of force was legal and necessary to protect not only his own life, but also that of Ms. Pinnock.”