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“”You can truly grieve for every officer who's been lost in the line of duty in this country, and still be troubled by cases of police overreach. Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive. You can have great regard for law enforcement and still want them to be held to high standards.
Police brutality is the use of excessive and/or suppressive force by (otherwise legitimate) police — as distinct from force used by secret police, or by a foreign (illegitimate) occupying force, or by police inaction that allows a third party to initiate force (such as Orval Faubus standing down the police force in 1957 so that mobs could harass black students trying to integrate into a segregated school), though the lines can get blurry.
While police brutality gets the most attention when it's done against an emergent or temporary movement, police brutality is often a continuing problem. Note too that police brutality rarely happens as an initiating force for change; indeed, police brutality tends to intensify when direct action aims directly at the status quo. Contrast the hostility of police towards American civil-rights activists versus their ambiguity towards (or sometimes collusion with) the first and second incarnations of the Ku Klux Klan.
While it should be obvious that police brutality is the first line of defense for an authoritarian regime's hold on power, citizens in a republic distressingly often encourage it as an impetus to keep down citizens of a "bad" subgroup. You can blame citizens' and their politicians' fetishism for "tough on crime", which leads to a spiraling increase of force.
Instruments of brutality
The weapon of gun is a favorite, and this rings especially true in the United States of America, where it's assumed that everyone owns a gun or two, hence why the police freak out if the odd Australian steps out of their cars to confront officers. The gun has seen use in many notable cases, such as the death of Trayvon Martin, who was shot dead by George Zimmerman; the death of Botham Jean, who was shot in his own apartment by an off-duty cop; the shooting of Charles Kinsey, where a toy truck was mistaken for a firearm; and unfortunately, many more that would be too comprehensive for this page to list. Some countries don't routinely arm their police with guns, most notably Britain. According to the Police Shootings Database, almost 1,000 people are shot to death every year, but most shootings are justified, as many suspects were either carrying a weapon themselves or acting aggressively towards the officers (such as trying to seize their weapons). A disproportionate number of victims have mental health problems (keep in mind the stigmatization of these mental health problems and their association with violence), and the police receive a paltry amount of training and resources dealing with this, typically only between five and ten hours of training. Out of the 1,099 shootings in 2019, 24% of the victims were African American, despite being only 13% of the population.
Also known as tasers or stun guns, these electric-powered weapons that fire two prongs are a (usually) less-than-lethal measure used to incapacitate dangerous suspects, such as 10-year-olds who refuse to take a shower, frail old ladies, and 11 times on an unconscious diabetic, just to be safe. When used properly, however, they're more likely to keep a suspect alive than guns are, although it may be lethal to people who have heart disease, seizures, or are using a pacemaker. Children, elderly people, pregnant women, and thin people are at higher risk of serious damage. Other potentially serious side effects that may occur from taser deployment can contribute from falling on hard surfaces, operating hard machinery, or places where explosive or flammable material are present. Another way that tasers could be used is to "drive stun" people; in other words, deliver a painful shock as a pain compliance technique (or torture in other other words).
Another problem with tasers is that although they are a (usually) less-than-lethal option, their reduced chance to cause long-lasting damage has occasionally led to their increased use. For example, the Baltimore Sun found that the officers that used them failed to meet safety guidelines and used them against people who posed no immediate threat. In fact, most states don't have taser standards, with only Connecticut and Vermont adopting statewide policies.
Beanbag guns are a (usually) less-than-lethal measure that loads a shotgun with a pillow filled with
fluffy feathers lead. The weapon short-term incapacitates people if aimed at large muscle groups, though head shots can cause death, and hitting the ribs can cause fractures or pierce the heart and lungs. Unintended discharge additionally has killed two suspects. A young woman during the 2019 Hong Kong protests may lose sight in the right eye after being hit with a bean bag on the face.
Batons are blunt sticks (also known as nightsticks) that can be used to brutally beat people up. They have uses such as breaking windows to free trapped people, breaking windows to free (and then cuff) trapped sovcit idiots in their cars, and self-defense. However, abuse of heavy, blunt sticks onto people can have deadly consequences. A famous example is Rodney King, who, in 1991, was beaten by LAPD officers for 15 minutes after being chased. After the acquittal, a giant riot started, which ignited the conversation surrounding racial and economic disparity and police brutality.
Pepper spray contains capsaicin in canisters, and can be used to keep rabid animals at bay, which include sitting protestors at a university and Hong Kong protestors. When aimed at the eyes, they strongly irritate them to the point of incapacitating a violent person. However, like a lot of less-than-lethal methods, some people just don't get fazed by it. Like tasers, pepper spray also requires the police to be close to the suspect, and must be aimed directly at the eyes to stop them. It's also been misused by a lot of crazy people as well, so unlike most weapons listed here, you don't need a badge to abuse it.[note 1]
A widely covered incident that involves Rodney King and the LAPD. On March 3, 1991, after a high-speed chase, King was dragged out of his vehicle and beaten by LAPD officers, where he was hit over 50 times and suffered 11 fractures and multiple other injuries. Although the officers were tried for charges on assault with a deadly weapon and excessive force, the officers were acquitted by a predominantly white jury, which sparked the 1992 violent riots in Los Angeles. The riots left over 50 people dead, over 2,000 injured, caused over $1 billion worth of damage, 12,000 people arrested, and over 9,800 California National Guard troops deployed alongside other branches of the military. Mayor Tom Bradley was against the verdict, saying "Today that jury asked us to accept the senseless and brutal beating of a helpless man." On the third day of the riots, Rodney King was quoted saying, "People, I just want to say, can't we all get along? Can't we all get along?"
In June 1993, police chief Daryl Gates was forced to resign and was replaced by Willie Williams, a black chief, while Bradley chose not to run for a sixth term as mayor. The United States Department of Justice then filed two civil suits against four of the officers, where two (Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell) were found guilty, served 30 months in prison, and did not return to the police force while King was awarded $3.8 million for the injuries he sustained. The other two officers (Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno) were fired from the LAPD.
George Perry Floyd Jr. (1973–2020) was an unarmed black man murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020, during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill, by suffocation. Chauvin was convicted of second-degree manslaughter, third-degree murder, and unintentional second-degree murder on April 20, 2021. Three other officers who had aided Chauvin in the murder were also jailed.
The murder of Floyd was the impetus for weeks of worldwide protests against police brutality (and in extreme cases, full-scale riots against the police), his death being one of countless similar events throughout U.S. history (especially in the South and similarly right-leaning states) of white police officers responding to false positives involving black people and responding with disproportionate, unwarranted violence.
On the other hand, Floyd's death also triggered a media circus of conservative pundits and racists either justifying his death or attempting to shift the responsibility of his death onto anything but the adult man kneeling on his neck and blocking his airways, who was even caught on a security camera. But on the other hand, the subsequent public crackdown on racial discrimination resulted in multiple brands, corporations, and politicians showing massive displays of out-of-touch-ness, such as changing the name of master bedrooms due to its "association with slavery", the state of Rhode Island removing "and Providence Plantations" from its official name over wildly ahistorical claims about associations with slavery (though slavery existed in Rhode Island "plantation" in New England is an entirely unrelated colonial-era term referring to a system of local government, one which still exists in Maine), changing "whitelist" to "allowed list" and "blacklist" to "banned list", replacing voice actors playing characters of color who weren't people of color with people of color, excessive and unnecessary self-criticism from white people who had no part in any racism to begin with, and other such examples of empty, performative "wokeness".
“”Rushin maintains he ended up on the wrong side of the road because he lost control of the car. Rushin does not recall what was going through his mind when he was "losing control" of the car. He recalls "the lights". Rushin says he doesn't recall "the truck spinning or the airbags going off". He states that he remembers seeing that Ford and "coming to".
Matthew Rushin (c. 1998–) is a black and autistic young man imprisoned for a traffic accident. While forensic evidence suggests that Rushin tried to prevent the accident and transcripts suggest that he may have experienced a seizure while driving, he was charged with second-degree murder and ordered to spend 10 years in prison out of a 50-year sentence.
Rushin drove to Panera Bread on a rainy night. He experienced an accident in the parking lot and began to drive away while crying and panicking. He reportedly realized that he should return to the scene and attempted a U-turn, saw another car coming, tried to brake, and then collided with the car.
Forensic engineer and crash reconstruction specialist Kurt Weiss believes that the accident was caused by pedal misapplication, which he notes is "a common cause of crash collisions among those age 16-20 and those with poor executive functioning, as is common in autism and ADHD." Rushin was likely startled when he saw a "NO U TURN" sign while making his U-turn and hit the accelerator when he thought he was hitting the brake. Weiss notes that Rushin's behavior was not consistent with that of suicidal people (who typically drive straight ahead into solid objects).
The severe collision resulted in serious injuries to a man named George Cusick, who ended up in a coma for nearly 2 months.
Basically, when Rushin climbed out the back of his vehicle, a man approached him, yelling "Are you trying to fucking kill yourself?", also yelling a few more obscenities. Rushin shrank back against his vehicle and began repeating "trying to kill myself." Repeating words and phrases is known as echolalia, and it's one way autistic people may try to calm themselves under stress. Many autistic people struggle to think and speak clearly when experiencing severe stress. Witness testimony suggests that Rushin was "distraught" and disoriented to the point that he wasn't fully processing what other people were saying to him.
When police arrived, Rushin was able to say that he was autistic. He told them repeatedly that he had lost control of his truck. Although people are supposed to be taken to the hospital after car crashes, he was not taken there or given any medical care.
The Black Lives Matter movement and the autism rights movement, as well as concerned citizens, protested Rushin's sentencing with petitions, letters, and the hashtag #FreeMatthewRushin. Also, a Change.org petition to free Matthew Rushin has gathered over 150,000 signatures. Furthermore, the Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network issued a joint letter asking Governor Ralph Northam and Secretary Kelly Thomasson to review the case and rethink Rushin's punishment, and asking for better safeguards for people with disabilities in the criminal justice system. The Autism Society's Tidewater Virginia chapter released an open letter asking for an appeal of the sentence, stating concerns that Rushin did not receive medical help or adequate support to understand his situation. Journalist Mariah Person pointed out a similar case in which a white autistic young man from the same neighborhood drove recklessly through people's yards, hit 14 cars, and nearly killed three people (a pregnant mom and her small children), but spent no time in jail and was given one year of unsupervised probation; the case was not publicized and was heard in a juvenile court. It's also worth noting that today, this person attends[When?] the same college that Rushin did before his arrest.
Interrogation room footage shows Rushin pacing in agitation and making repetitive movements (aka stimming, a self-calming mechanism in neurodivergent people). At one point, he stopped abruptly and did not move, which is a sign of a potential seizure.[note 2] During the interrogation, his story remained consistent: he was extremely stressed, made a U-turn, and tried to brake before the crash.
Although Rushin signed a plea deal, his mother has reason to believe that he may not have fully understood it. She says that Rushin repeatedly told her, "I signed that plea agreement to come home."
His mother reported that in prison, Rushin has not received medical attention, even though he experiences severe headaches, dizziness so severe that he sleeps on the floor instead of in a bed, and episodes of complete blindness. Rushin was transferred to Nottoway Correctional Center, a facility with no air conditioning. People have raised concerns that the level of heat in the summer could be life-threatening, especially to someone who is medically fragile.
The Virginia Beach police department said that it reviewed what happened and found nothing wrong with how they handled Rushin's case.
One has to be careful when relying on viral incidents in social media such as Twitter or Facebook to properly document accusations of police brutality. While there are some legitimate cases of police brutality that spun from viral incidents on social media, there are plenty of examples to be on the lookout for, but the general trend of the videos recorded on social media is that the interaction occurs at the climatic peak, sometimes deliberately cherry-picked to solicit an emotional response from the viewers, which make for a sensational story, but not the one necessarily driven by fact. Some viral incidents perpetrated also originate from a lack of understanding of police tactics (such as mistaking a beanbag shotgun for a real one or misunderstanding how a Taser works) or any sort of prior history on why the police react towards a suspect; on-lookers are not going to be aware that the person the police are chasing after may be a dangerous, armed criminal who has recently robbed a store, for example. One example is an incident in Hyattsville, Maryland, where 10 officers shot what appears to be an unarmed, wandering suspect down, where the tweet sourced went viral. In actuality, the suspect was carrying two knives, aggressively charged at them and resisted the officer's nonlethal measures (Tasers, pepper spray, beanbags, and a flashbang grenade) to put the guy down. Certainly, this incident is not the only viral incident to be on the lookout for, but one should understandably be skeptical of such incidents and look up sources to get a fuller picture of the entire incident, as well as wait until investigations are played out before throwing any accusations of mistreatment.
Black Lives Matter
Recently in the US, police brutality (specifically against unarmed black people) has come back into focus. This is most likely not due to it becoming more widespread, but rather due to cell phones with video capability catching more and more of those acts, and thus shattering the stories of policemen who were acting in self-defense. Whether guns or the lack of training[note 3] of police officers plays a role has not yet been discussed all that much. However, surprisingly often, police departments that have problems with police brutality against minorities have also had accusations of racism against them or even a department head who takes part in KKK rallies in his spare time. This, of course, is entirely coincidental.
- Black Lives Matter
- Black Panther Party
- Civil rights
- Cops (TV show)
- Felony disenfranchisement
- Ferguson effect
- J. Edgar Hoover
- Plain View Project, a database containing horrific posts made by police officers, both current and former.
- If you take a look at recent pepper spray incidents on the news, many of the incidents have been perpetrated by criminals rather than the police.
- Considering that repetitive movements ease stress in autistic people, and Rushin was just in a serious car crash, stopping and standing extremely still seems highly unusual.
- A police officer in Europe goes through two or more years of training; in the US it is rather something like eight weeks.
- Allyn, Bobby. (October 2, 2019). Amber Guyger, Ex-Officer Who Killed Man In His Apartment, Given 10 Years In Prison. NPR. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
- Neuman, Scott. (June 18, 2019). Miami Officer Acquitted Of Attempted Manslaughter In Shooting Of Caregiver. NPR. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
- Rathi, Akshat (June 4, 2017). Even with all these terror attacks, it’s still very rare to see police with guns in England. Quartz. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
- Police Shootings Database. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
- Pauly, M. (October 11, 2013). "How Police Officers Are (or Aren't) Trained in Mental Health" The Atlantic. Retrieved June 14, 2020.
- Mapping Police Violence.
- Allen, Nick. (Nov 19, 2009). Taser gun used on 10-year-old girl who 'refused to take shower'. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
- Raw Video: Cop Tasers 72 Year-Old Granny. Wired. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
- Fallon, Sean. (December 30, 2019). Cop Tasers Unconscious Diabetic 11 Times. Gizmodo. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
- Zipes, Douglas P. , MD (March 19, 2012). Sudden Cardiac Arrest and Death Following Application of Shocks from a TASER Electronic Control Device. American Heart Association. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
- Editorial Board. (April 12, 2020). Police use Tasers with increasing frequency — and some lethal results. The Washington Post. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
- Police in Maryland didn't follow Taser safety recommendations in hundreds of incidents. Baltimore Sun. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
- Fourkiller, Larkin. (April 6, 2020). Understanding less lethal options. Officer.com. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
- Less-Lethal: Bean-Bag Rounds. POLICE Magazine. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
- Ramsay, Stuart. (August 11, 2019). Hong Kong protests: Police in no mood for compromise now. Sky News. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
- Karen Grigsby. Sastry, Anjuli. Bates,(April 26, 2017). When LA Erupted In Anger: A Look Back At The Rodney King Riots. NPR. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
- (March 31, 2020). Police: Partially Naked Man Tased After Being Unfazed by Pepper Spray. Arlnow. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
- Rodney King. Biography. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
- Wallenfeldt, Jeff. (Feb 13, 2020). Los Angeles Riots Fast Facts. CNN. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
- Los Angeles Riots of 1992. Britannica. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
- Staff. (Sep 18, 2013). Los Angeles Riots Fast Facts CNN. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
- Celebration is laced with warnings after Derek Chauvin conviction
- Ex-police officers guilty in George Floyd death
- Matthew Rushin: Did Virginia Beach PD suspect a seizure and hide it?, Neuroclastic
- AWN & ASAN Joint Statement Supporting Matthew Rushin and George Cusick Return Home, Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network
- #FreeMatthewRushin on Twitter
- Free Matthew Rushin (Autistic College Student @ ODU), Change.org
- Request for Relief for Matthew Rushin
- June 14 letter, Autism Society
- Matthew Rushin's Case Shows What Happens When Racism and Ableism Collide, The Mighty
- Matthew Rushin and the injustice system: the worst nightmare of every parent of an autistic, Neuroclastic
- Tweet by NeuroClastic
- Tweet by @NeuroClastic
- Facebook post by Virginia Beach police department
- Like this example, where, while the family pulled over did have a suspended license, didn't pull over when traffic-stopped, and had shoplifted a store, it's utterly inexcusable to threaten a mother holding a baby to "Put a fucking cap in your fucking head!" The good news is that those two officers got punished for it, with the shouting man getting fired and his partner getting a written reprimand.
- Take a look at this incident on Buzzfeed, complete with clickbait headlines, where the viral tweets fail to mention that the officers were responding to a shots-fired call. The footage in question isn't even all that violent as it says it is; it's simply a bunch of cops dogpiling on a suspect, which is sometimes necessary to detain a person who really does not want to be detained.
- Twitter post about the incident. TRIGGER WARNING ON THE VIDEO, it shows officers gunning a guy down. Twitter. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
- Ray, Rashawn. (October 16, 2019). What does the shooting of Leonard Shand tell us about the mental health of civilians and police?. Brookings. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
- Donut Operator. (Sep 30, 2019). TEN COPS shoot one guy in Hyattsville, Maryland — Liar Liar Pants on Fire. YouTube. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
- BY THE NUMBERS: HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE KILLED BY POLICE? AUGUST 19, 2014 BY DANIEL BIER: "It’s not obvious that such killings are dramatically more common than they used to be. It may just be that in the digital age, we are much more aware of them." Or maybe not: Updated BY THE NUMBERS: HOW OFTEN DO COPS KILL? JULY 13, 2016 BY DANIEL BIER