US Justice: Sticks For Blacks And Latinos, Carrots For Cops

On Friday, former police officer, Johannes Mehserle, who killed unarmed passenger Oscar Grant on New Years day 2009 was sentenced by Judge Perry in Los Angeles. The police brutality occurred in Oakland, but the trial was moved to Los Angeles to avoid a repeat of the protests following the killing of Oscar Grant. Judge Perry sentenced Mehserle to just two years, ruling it was “involuntary manslaughter”. The LA judge is also taking off 146 days for time served, and another 146 days for “good behavior”. That is almost one year taking off the already minimal sentencing of two years. Without the leniency of judge Perry, Mehserle could have faced 14 years in jail.

After the questionable verdict, protest broke up in Oakland, and other protest were scheduled today in LA and nationwide. Last night in Oakland, police made more than 150 arrests after some protesters started confronting the cops, and broke some private and public properties. In Los Angeles, outside the courtroom, a relative of Oscar Grant expressed his deep frustration over the lenient verdict.

“I do believe it is a racist justice system,” said Bobby Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant.

John Burris, the attorney for the Johnson family was outraged by Judge Perry’s ruling as well.

“What you take from this is that Oscar Grant’s life was not worth very much,” said Burris.

The case of the shooting of Oscar Grant is not isolated at all, and police brutality has been apart of African-Americans and Latinos daily life for a very long time. A documentary filmmaker, and Pacifica radio host, JR Valrey is arguing that we are facing an epidemic of police brutality to the extent that Valrey qualifies it as “police terrorism”. In his film, “Operation Small Axe”, Valrey focus on the shooting and killing of Oscar Grant and the protests following the tragic incident.

“Police brutality is definitely not ‘isolated incidents’ as official always say after each new killing or beating by police. When we screened ‘Operation Small Axe’ in Atlanta, people were still talking about the police murder of 92-year old Kathryn Johnson in 2006,” said Valrey.

Recent data released by the National Police Misconduct Statistic and Reporting Project, which started keeping track of police brutality since 2009, 2,541 cases of police misconduct nationwide took place between January and June 2010. Further, police misconduct caused 124 deaths in the first six months of 2010 with 60 percent of the killings resulting from police gunfire. Additionally, during the same six months period, police brutality’s price tag for the taxpayer was around $150 million in police misconduct settlements or judgements paid out.

Valrey argues that police brutality unifies Blacks and Latinos across the country, and the activist journalist calls brutality committed by law enforcements officers “police terrorism”.

“People in the minority communities know that this police terrorism is happening. Latinos and Blacks usually don’t agree on religion or politics, but they agree that police terrorism is an unnecessary evil in our communities,” Valrey said. It is as if America’s law and order apparatus, at least in the case of Blacks and Latinos, has flipped the “presumption of innocence until proven guilty” by a presumption of guilt until proven innocent.

Note: All photographs by Thomas Hawk. To view some more of his great photo coverage of the Oakland protests click here.

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8 Responses to US Justice: Sticks For Blacks And Latinos, Carrots For Cops

  1. ImMe November 7, 2010 at 1:47 am

    Best article I’ve ever read in my 25 years living as a black man in America.
    Thank you for this.

  2. rj November 8, 2010 at 9:21 am

    have I been banned, where is my reply

    • Gilbert Mercier
      Gilbert Mercier November 8, 2010 at 2:04 pm

      What reply?

  3. rj November 9, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    my third typing of a well thought out reply did not go through again when I pressed submit. guess it was not meant to be.

    • Gilbert Mercier
      Gilbert Mercier November 9, 2010 at 9:04 pm

      It will come back to you, not to worry. No deleting of anything on our part.

      • rj November 10, 2010 at 11:31 am

        Here we go again since you insist.

        first and formost the report referenced took it’s stats from news reports, not exactly the most reliable way to produce a report that vilifies cops.

        As far as the shooting of the man in Oakland, here are a few observations after I looked and listened to all the video of the incident I could find on the net.

        The finding of involuntary manslaughter may have been right on the nose, here’s why.
        In most states that finding is reserved when the actons taken result in the death of an individual without intent to cause death.
        At first glance that sounds ludicrus that shooting a man can be anything but intending to cause death. The issue here is weather the officer intended to shoot the gun and not the tasor.
        I watched every shred of video that I could find, based strictly on the video I could not determine if the officer holding the suspect’s head at the time started moving away immedately previous to or immediatly following the shot.
        When officers are trained in the use of less lethal weapons, ie bean bag shotguns, pepper spray, tasor, night stick etc one of the first things taught is to announce your intention to surrounding officers to allow them time to unhand a suspect or protect their face from overspray to keep themselves from being incapacitated by the force chosen.
        When the suspect was struggling with the officers trying to hand cuff him he brought on the need for escalation of force. The officer at the head of the suspect was barely able to control his head, while the officer trying to hand cuff the supect was trying to force the suspect’s hands out from under his body and to his back so he could be cuffed. The officer trying to force the suspect’s hands out from under his body is at a distinct disadvantage for a couple reasons, the suspects hands, arms are close to his trunk, clinched tight, and wiggling and may contain a knife or gun he pulled from his waist band. The officer is bent over, trying to grasp a struggling arm to pull it behind the suspects back, his arms are extended away from his trunk and placing his center of balance at a distinct disadvantage. He is likley giving commands of give me your hands, or put your hands behind your back, the suspect fails to comply and contiinues to struggle,
        The officer is hearing the crowd shouting fuk the police…etc and knowing that the longer this struggle goes on the worse it is going to be, or he is just about at the end of his strength and decides to move to a tool, ie tasor. He shouts out the warning of tasor, or code blue which ever he had been trained and releases the suspect hands to stand and remove his tasor, hearing the warning the officer on the suspects head begins to release the suspect to allow the tasor shot, and the officer in the heat of the fight simply pulled the wrong tool from his belt and fired.
        Based on the finding of involuntary manslaughter I believe that some thing other than video ( testimony) led to the finding or if not that than reasonable doubt as to intent to cause death.
        One of the worst things in the last few years is the liberal believe that an officer is required to allow a suspect to have the first punch, or fire the first shot or ignore multiple commands prior to responding.
        Understand, if an officer is conducting his duties lawfully he has the statutory authority do use force if necessary to conduct those duties.
        If an officer gives an order on a traffic stop for the driver to stay in the car, that is a reasonable use of command presence, the suspect who fails to comply with the order forces the officer to escalate force for his protection.
        The officer who gives a suspect a command to stop advancing to the officer is giving a reasonable command, the suspect who continues to advance to the officer against orders forces the officer to escalate the force he is using, stick, spray, tasor
        The suspect who has a knife in his hand and ignores the officers command to drop it forces the officer to take stronger measures of force,
        An officer has no duty to retreat, or repeat commands or debate or argue or allow a suspect to hit him first or shoot first
        In most cases officers react to suspect actions.
        As the old saying goes, till you have walked a mile in my shoes…that is why MANY officers never make it through the hiring process or training….they dont have what it takes.
        sheep, wolves, sheep dogs

  4. RJ November 10, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    make that many aspiring offocers never…

  5. Bilgeman November 13, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    “After the questionable verdict, protest broke up in Oakland, and other protest were scheduled today in LA and nationwide.”

    What was “questionable” about the verdict?

    That YOU didn’t agree with it?

    I bet you’d be singing a totally different tune if the jury, (you know…the folks who had the facts), had thrown the book at him.

    As for the nationwide scheduled protests…noy much came of that, huh?

    Mehserle made a stupid rookie mistake., but an understandable one.
    The model of Taser carried by the Transit Police does have a butt that could be mistaken for the butt of the department’s issue Glocks.

    So, I guess that YOU wouldn’t be happy unless they hanged the guy, eh?

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