THE LAST SUPPER
Hunter Williams, first year writing UNC Asheville student
Police Brutality in the Black Community
DeWayne Barton created this peace garden to express his beliefs on various current events. He managed to create a garden full of meaningful sculptures out of junk in his area. This enabled him to kill two birds with one stone. An art installation was created, and his community was cleaned up. Over the years the Burton Street community has changed and is currently undergoing a sort of gentrification. There are also city planners who want to widen the nearby highway which would take out a section of his neighborhood. While you walk through the garden keep an open mind and think hard about what each sculpture means.
The sculpture I picked to write about is a collection of photographs of people who were killed by gun violence and police brutality. Police brutality against African Americans is becoming an increasingly deadly problem. In Ferguson, Missouri, the department of justice discovered some alarming numbers. It was found that African Americans made up 60 percent of the population and ninety three percent of arrests (Department of Justice, 2014). These problems stem mostly from the way in which the police department works. They make most of these arrests to generate revenue. They arrest people for outrageous code violations, Jaywalking and write a crazy amount of bogus tickets for insane amounts of money (Department of Justice, 2014). This is why there is such a disconnect and distrust between Police Officers and the community. In this article I will cover examples of police brutality and this is what I have found.
On August 9th, 2014 Officer Darren Wilson responded to a call about a robbery. Michael Brown and a friend had just stolen some cigarillos from a convenience store and were on their way to Browns grandmother’s house. Officer Wilson pulled up beside them and asked them to stop. When Officer Wilson attempted to exit the vehicle, Brown pushed him back in. It is unclear whether or not there was actually a struggle for the officer’s gun. Wilson fired two shots from the vehicle, one grazing Brown’s thumb. Then Brown ran from the officer, Wilson pursued on foot and when Wilson closed the distance, Michael Brown apparently turned around and came toward the officer in an aggressive manner. Some witnesses say that he put his hands up while others say he charged the officer. He was fatally shot around a hundred feet from the police car. Although Michael Brown did rob the store and push the officer, he could have been detained instead of shot. Brown did not pose a threat to the community, so the officer could have waited for back up and made an arrest. All too often police grab their gun before a taser or even calling for backup. To fix this issue there will have to be much more education and maybe even rewrite some police procedures. The grand jury did not prosecute Officer Wilson (Department of Justice, 2014).
A New York Times reporter recently interviewed a black NYPD officer who wished to remain anonymous. He gives examples of a couple views of his fellow officers and what he has experienced on the force. He says, “Some officers believe there is a certain look that most perpetrators have and that tends to be those who follow the trends of urban Hip Hop culture. That would consist of cornrows, sagging jeans, earring, fitted caps, etc.”(NewsOne Staff). He goes on to talk about his experiences and says most of the time those individuals do end up being a “perp”. Even if profiling works sometimes it does not make it ok to do. He then talks about the cities stop and frisk policy. This allows officers to stop anyone for any reason and search them. This is obviously unconstitutional, but he says it helps keep the streets safer because they are able to confiscate many firearms and drugs (NewsOne Staff). The surprising thing about this interview is that he says the relations between the public and the police are good. It is hard to believe that a police force that stops and searches people for no apparent reason and who have admitted to racial profiling can be in good relation with the community. He says their relationship with the public could be much better if the media didn’t jump the gun and report false information which strikes emotion and fear. Although this specific community seems to have a decent relationship with the police, there still needs to be a nationwide effort by both the police and the community to improve it.
On March 18th, 2018 yet another police shooting happened in Sacramento, California. Police respond to a call about a man breaking windows of cars and homes. They catch up with the suspect in his own backyard. They demanded he show them his hands. He was holding a cellphone and put both his hands out in front of him. This led the officers to believe he was holding a gun. They fired twenty shots, killing him. This is a prime example of why there needs to be better police training. When the officers arrived, they did not say who they were, so he probably thought he was about to get mugged. (Levenson, Park). They did not need to shoot twenty times although the confusion about what he was holding in his hand does make sense being that it was pitch black. This particular instance will make it hard to prosecute the officers, although some cases are very obvious such as the latest shooting in Asheville NC.
On August 25th, 2017 in Asheville North Carolina a man named johnnie Rush was walking home from work when he was caught jaywalking. He was issued a verbal warning but then police saw him do it again. They stopped him again and attempted to write him a ticket. This is when one of the officers tried handcuffing him. Rush then ran but was tased and tackled. While the officers had him detained, Hickman tased him again and beat him several times on the head. While this was happening, Rush claimed that he could not breathe yet nothing was done. They prosecuted the officer involved with assault and excessive force. This incident did not need to happen and there is no reason the officer had to get violent. (Levenson Eric, Boyettee Chris). This incident occurred around 3 a.m. when no one was on the road so Jaywalking doesn’t seem like a major crime. This is part of the reason they believe race was a factor. Many cops seem to be very uptight about the law and any tiny slip-up makes them feel justified to use excessive force and this must be fixed. The other problem is the lack of crosswalks near his path home. Here is a man who just finished a shift at 3 a.m. and is headed home. Now any person in their right mind is going to go home as soon as they can and get to sleep. They aren’t going to walk out of their way to go out of there way and wait at a crosswalk. Police should start looking at situations from the citizen’s point of view and not just from the comfort of their police car driving around profiling people. Even though the incident was horrendous, the Asheville police department handled it very well. They immediately suspended the officer and launched an internal investigation. They watched over fifty hours of bodycam footage and found four other incidents of excessive force. This gave the jury ample evidence to indict him for assault. The APD made it very clear that they do not tolerate any police brutality or racism (Levenson, Boyettee),
Examples of Police Brutality
Police brutality is a major problem and must be resolved. There are some ongoing efforts to prevent future instances. Such as requiring body cameras and ride along partners as well as assigning more black officers to black neighborhoods (Levenson, Park). Though body cameras record any egregious act and may prevent an officer from using excessive force on camera, they need to add more rules regarding the use of those cameras. As of now the officers are aloud to mute their cameras which prevents jury’s as well as the [public from hearing what happened. The poor relationship between the black community and the police must also be addressed. Which is one of the things that this peace garden represents. Police must stop being so aggressive and work more on building relationships with the people in their district. Media must stop showing news stories that paint police as evil, racist and killers before they even have the facts. Lastly there must be a reform on police training, specifically the training on interactions with a suspect. Hopefully this will prevent police from jumping the gun and doing something that cannot be undone.
NewsOne Staff, (2010 August 13) Police Officer Talks Police Brutality and Racism
Department of Justice, (2014 August 9) The investigation into police shooting unarmed Michael Brown
Suresh Anirudh, (2017 March 4) A statistical Perspective on Police Brutality
Blow Charles, (2018 Febuary 25) America is the Gun
Worral Patrick, (2014 27) Do Black Americans commit more crime?
Eric Levenson and Chris Boyettee, (2018 march 10) North Carolina officer beats man for jaywalking
Eric Levenson, Madison Park, (2018 March 22) Sacramento police shot man holding cell phone in his grandmothers yard