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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Shedding Light on Police Brutality

OFF THE WIRE
By CopBlock
Cecily Duran shared this post via CopBlock.org’s submit page.
As Alex Landau -age nineteen- and his passenger, Addison Hunold -age twenty one-, made their way down the street for some late-night burgers, a police car pulled in behind Landau, flashed its lights, and called for Landau to pull his car over. The officer made his way over to Landau’s window, said he’d made an illegal left turn, and asked for his license and registration. Landau explained to the officer that he had left his wallet at home, but offered the officer his proof of insurance and his Social Security number. As the officer went to check out the information given to him, Landau and Hunold waited in the car, both of them feeling nervous. The two had just come from a party where some people were smoking weed, not to mention that Hunold also had a container full of weed in his pocket. Both Hunold and Landau feared the smell of marijuana was noticeable enough for the officer to detect.
When the officer returned, Landau’s suspicions were proven right as the officer asked for the two to get out of the car to be searched for weapons or drugs. Hunold guessed the officer would find the weed anyway, so he handed over his container before even being patted down. The officer then asked Landau if he could search his car, and Landau approved. While the officer searched the front seats, a second cop car pulled over, occupied by male officer Randy Murr, and female officer Tiffany Middleton. When the first officer finished searching the inside of Landau’s car, he took his keys and walked towards the trunk. Landau cautiously stepped forward with his hands raised behind his head, and asked the officer if he had a warrant to search the trunk.
According to a civil rights complaint filed in court, the two cops who had just arrived went after Landau and grabbed him by both arms. The complaint notes that Officer Murr looked at Landau and said, “You don’t have your license,” then punched Landau in the face, causing both Officer Murr, Landau, Officer Middleton and the original officer Ricky Nixon, to lose their balance and tumble into the curb where the officers then continued to punch Landau. During the fight, Hunold screamed for them to stop, yet the brutal abuse continued.
It was when Landau faded in and out of consciousness that other cop cars pulled onto the scene, some standing idle and watching, others deciding to join in on the fight. During this long moment of torture for Landau, he seems to remember one horrifying detail: during the brawl, he recalls feeling the tip of a gun pressed to his temple. Shortly after this shocking realization, Landau blacked out. When he began to regain consciousness, he had already been dragged away from the crime scene where he remembers hearing an officer say, “Where’s that warrant now, you fucking nigger?” Landau remembers feeling someone behind him, putting him in handcuffs while an officer said to him, “You don’t know how close you were to getting your fucking head blown off.” Hunold was no longer on the scene, and there were approximately 8 officers now surrounding Landau, chatting and laughing as though the police abuse they had just witnessed was simply a casual event.
Alex Landau, a 23-year old African American man, was just one victim of thousands. From April of 2009 to June of 2010 alone, 5,986 cases of police misconduct were recorded in the United States, 60% of which consisted of excessive force through the use of firearms, 6.2% resulting in false arrests. Today our prisons consists mostly of men, the majority of which are African American or Latino. Several guesses as to why this is can be related to the societal pressure young men of color face, where being “tough” means never backing down to anyone, never exploiting their partners to the cops or ever allowing anyone to disrespect them. Other guesses are directed at the media and their influences on young men, where Lil Wayne and Drake are encouraged for their profanity, inappropriate behavior and catchy simple-minded lyrics such as the song “Love Me.” It is these artists and others similar who catch young people’s attention, influencing their style, personality and behavior. Yet, while the statistics regarding the differences between white and African and Latino prison percentages are quite close, the attitude wafting from most police officers are determined by the suspects’ race and their emitting appearances.
First and foremost, it should be noted that the job of a police officer is not an easy one. Police officers have to face stressful and frustrating situations that may be very often or very scarce, police officers face heavy pressure to meet society’s expectations and are entrusted to do the right thing and to put their lives on the line every day. Yet even though these are difficult tasks, some wonder if these requirements are crutches used for those facing court due to breaking procedure. In the case of Alex Landau, racial discrimination couldn’t have been more obvious. As for David Hudson, co-founder of DC Cop Block, he himself has encountered first-hand experience of men of color being targets for law enforcement. He says that, “As an African American 29-year-old male I can say yes, I am a victim of police brutality and harassment a lot. I’ve been kicked, punched, pepper sprayed, and choked.” As for any form of recurring violence, paranoia and mistrust can seep into those in society who have faced racial discrimination from their police officers. In situations such as protests and strikes, police officers are known to weapon themselves with pepper spray, guns, and tear gas. These weapons of choice damage the citizens through both physical and chemical abuse, and result in citizens feeling threatened by officers in our society. Hudson states, “Yes, I do feel threatened by the presence of law enforcement, especially when I’m alone. The reason why is because the law enforcement feel [that because] they have badges [it] gives them extra rights. They are taught to shoot first and ask questions later.” The problem with this ideology in our law enforcement system is that it creates room for corruption, preventable deaths, racial profiling – a term for a tactic where one is targeted by law enforcement due to the color of their skin – and overwhelming conflicts in low income communities where crime rates are much higher than those in high income communities.
Some people may wonder why the issue of racial profiling has not been addressed, and the answer lays with justifications for reasonable actions by law enforcement. Officers either do not admit or do not know that they are profiling. One officer of the San Leandro Police Department who wishes to remain anonymous notes, “Do I stop people because they’re black? No. Do I stop people because they’re Hispanic? No. It had nothing to do with race, you committed a crime.” While this is true for some police officers in the United States, this could also be used as an excuse for their departments meeting their monthly quota, a prescribed number of how many tickets need to be distributed or arrests to be made. As for Alameda County supervisor Richard Valle, his justification for people accusing police officers to be known for excessive force was that putting a badge and a uniform on does not ensure that a police officer will not lose his or her temper; “We’re only human, police make mistakes too.”
Alex Landau and David Hudson are but two living victims of over hundreds of victims related to police abuse. Yet there have been cases of victims who were not so lucky, whose families had to mourn their losses to the barrel of an officer’s gun or the fists of men with badges. Kelly Thomas died July 10, 2011 by the hands of three Fullerton police officers. Rodney King, in 1991, was severely beaten by LAPD during a riot, and later pronounced dead from a drowning accident. Oscar Grant, shot by ex-cop Johannes Mehserle, died on New Years of 2009. Melvin Jones III, lived through yet experienced an unnecessary beating by ex-cop Jeffrey M. Asher. Malice Green was beaten to death by an ex-detroit cop. Anthony Baez, 29 years old, was choked to death by Officer Livoti in 1994. Noel Polanco was unarmed and fatally shot by New York police. David Hudson relives a short story of police abuse during 2010: “I was pulled over for speeding. The officer walked up to my truck and opened my door. Then he began to choke me because I told him he was wrong for opening my door.”
It is important to say that not all police officers have overstepped their positions, thus explaining why some may feel that there are misconceptions about law enforcement. One officer stated a ‘misconception’ that is used regularly against police officers, “[The] most common is we’re all mean and use excessive force.” An anonymous officer of Hayward Police Department says, “[A common misconception is] that we cover or are willing to lie for each other.” This power to use excessive force is one people fear. Where some may be afraid to stand up for the belief that officers are corrupted, others prefer to take action into their own hands. Hudson states, “I came across some folks with sad stories and I just got tired of watching videos of police brutality. My, and others’, rights were being violated, so after doing some research on how to file a complaint form and “get justice the right way,” two years later I found myself on Copblock.org. We all want justice and police to [be] held accountable for [their] actions.” For those like Hudson, police abuse was not something that could be disregarded or pushed to the side. Alex Landau, too, couldn’t let the abuse go, and filed suit against Officer Murr, Officer Middleton and Officer Nixon. After fighting his case in court for years, Landau received compensation for the brutal beatings he had received, is now working in movements against police brutality and racial discrimination, and is inspiring others in our country to believe that it is possible to speak out against police injustice.

Cecily Duran