The concept of police brutality was rough to understand in the beginning. I grew up in a low income neighborhood in Tazewell County, VA but I went to schools that had strong academics and competitive athletic programs. I had been pulled over by cops before, both alone and with friends, but I had never feared for my life and those cops had been respectful while writing their ticket or telling us to chill out for a little speeding. I’d see cops in stores, post offices, or just sitting in parking lots and it wasn’t uncommon to say hello or to have a nice day.
Millions of people in America have had the same experiences I have with cops. Even the arrests I did witness rarely involved drawing weapons or any type of physical abuse to their suspect. However my privilege as a black person in this country to grow up feeling safe does not blind me from the reality that for millions of black people and other non-whites, safety and security are luxuries that they are almost conditioned to believe they will never have.
I say “almost” because the mental and physical abuse suffered to Americans by the hands of rogue police officers, the office of the Trump administration, and by overt racists who feel justified ignoring laws is now acknowledged as a pattern. Patterns can be rewritten and we are on the cusp. Americans are no longer willing to be victimized by their own, and the tricks used by abusers are no longer mysterious enough to make the audience think it is all make-believe.
In September 2006 Harvard Health Publishing released a path to recognizing domestic partner abuse. Upon reviewing Recognizing Domestic Partner Abuse and several articles like it, it has become increasingly evident that those who defend and attempt to justify the lack of accountability by rogue police officers, prosecutors, and grand juries in cases where unarmed citizens have not fairly received their day in court in favor of being murdered, have become domestic abusers who manipulate their victims (and witnesses) into believing there is no way out and it is their own fault.
The first sign is the fairy tale. To the world, the United States proclaims itself as a beacon of hope, a savior, a safe haven, a prince of peace, and the great stabilizer. Abroad, the United States has brave representatives working to make change, create thriving communities, and implement (where they can) governments that involve input by citizens on how they wish to be governed.
However, at home, it is a different story. Even with tools such as social media, petitions, phone calls to congressional elected officials, and peaceful protests, the American government on every level has crushed that fairy tale. Black people and other non-white groups rarely get positive change or equal representation, at least not without having to plead for their own humanity first.
Their voices are rarely taken seriously and are quickly dismissed. Their communities rarely get opportunities to thrive because their citizens are often stripped of funding and educational backing to the point that they must resort to impractical means for income and survival. Their communities become isolated… just how domestic abusers begin to mentally, financially, and physically attack their victims.
Next becomes the need for control and power through fear tactics. The article states, “He may intimidate and demean his partner by constantly criticizing her, monopolizing household finances, or telling her what she can wear, where she can go, and whom she can see.”
Is this any different for black Americans in 2020 and every year prior? Are white Americans being threatened with their income or education over wearing their natural hair to school and work the way black people are? Are white Americans labeled “thugs” or “suspicious” for wearing hoodies the way black people are? Are white Americans usually targets for walking through an affluent neighborhood that they live in or for driving a luxury automobile that they own as black people are?
Rogue police officers in America use fear and control to intimidate black and non-white individuals by brandishing their firearms to confront unarmed teenagers or to witnesses calling for them to police with dignity when confronting those they see as suspects. They call for backup and arrive in three or more cars for one black citizen who may be a suspect or questioned in order to escalate fear in the individual and justify pulling a trigger.
Rogue officers quickly use the phrase “I feared for my life”, although they are the ones with the weapons and they are the ones who should be utilizing their training to de-escalate the emotions of the fear their target may feel. This meets the definition of unrealistic expectations, explained on the New Hope for Women website with “an abuser expects the victim to meet all of the abuser’s needs, to take care of everything emotionally and domestically.”
Photo credit: Jennifer Wurtz, witness
Black families and families who have members with mental illnesses must teach their children at a young age about how to engage a police officer because normal reactions that mentally stable white people may display when being confronted by cops could easily be interpreted as dangerous and hostile. Hypersensitivity is also a sign of abusers according to NHFW because they are “easily insulted, receiving the slightest setbacks as personal attacks.”
Why do so many unarmed black people and people with mental illnesses end up killed instead of arrested and on their way to court? Because in many cases, they exercised their rights to ask questions, carry a weapon, walk away, or even misunderstand commands. In many cases, they had a strong physique or did not maintain eye contact. In many cases, they simply stood up for themselves, which is something for which the flag flies but some police absolutely detest.
There are several other signs that rogue police officers are guilty of that leads to domestic abuse toward citizens who have not yet been proven to be criminals: verbal abuse, past battering, threats of violence, and any force during an argument. Like the case of Muhammad Muhaymin Jr., there are often mountains of evidence containing video footage, witness accounts, and audio demonstrating that police officers often have no problems with name-calling and racial slurs or threats to shoot unarmed citizens simply because they will not “go quietly” when they know they’ve done nothing wrong.
It is often revealed, such as in the recent case of the George Floyd killing involving officer Derek Chauvin, that some officers have a horrific track record of crossing the line and lengthy disciplinary action. The justice system has allowed for these abusers to move from precinct to precinct, hunting new prey, rather than developing protocols that shut down unwarranted or aggressive behavior by unstable officers. There is a failure to see that therapy and training only works on people who have an interest in self-development or can acknowledge any wrong-doing. Where are the systems in place for the officers who cannot or will not?
Domestic abusers blame others for their problems and their feelings; the police officers, the media outlets, the prosecutors, and other groups who conveniently use the victim’s past against him or her in an unrelated way when they are unarmed and murdered, are unfortunately, no different. The police officers blame the victim’s tone, movements, or invoking their rights as a “reason” why they strayed from their own training. The media digs up criminal charges, which are usually insignificant, or drug use, to attempt to explain away why the victim was deserving to no longer exist without being found guilty of an actual crime, or even a chance of a defense at all.
When black people have past drug use in the media, it is because they are criminals and have no self control. However, by comparison, when white drug abusers get arrested it is because they “need help” or have “mental health” conditions. They are seen as equals rather than easy prey and seen as intelligent rather than animals.
At this point, the media, the prosecution, and those who allow themselves to be swayed by public opinion become accessories to the domestic abuse inflicted by the police officers who forget their oaths and are incapable of living up to them. There are those who absolutely need to believe that those who were murdered unarmed had to not be complying or had to have been breaking the law in order to cover up that, they themselves, likely don’t know the laws and believe that black and non-white citizens are a threat by existing...
After Rodney King, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Breyona Taylor, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, the aforementioned and the many more unknown, it is still “the norm” that some with authority in America would like for black citizens and those who support them to stand down on the demand for equal opportunity to have a fair trial. The term “fair” being used as the actual person who has been injured or murdered without legal judgement, is seen as the victim and their families are not forced to be the defendant against the cop(s) who actually pulled the trigger.
In order for black Americans and other non-whites to escape the domestic violence that is rogue police officers and the politicians who support them, they must arm themselves with information and their voting power. They must know the difference between sheriffs and police officers as well as which state and local positions are by election and by appointment to ensure that those not performing well do not receive additional terms. Domestic abuse works by making the victims believe they have no power and there can be no change.
Likewise, those who work within the system must ensure that wearing a badge or holding a position of service lives up to being honorable. Good cops must speak out against or de-escalate cops who are not worthy of the job. Those working to uphold the law and only seek to make the best deal in order to get credit for their convictions or acquittals must be held accountable to their positions as well. Citizens must begin utilizing their abilities to gather research and file complaints to the Bar against lawyers who are unethical. Prosecutors must present ALL the facts to the grand jury in cop cases instead of choosing to withhold information favorable to the victim.
Despite the tensions among police and citizens, there must be efforts of diplomacy within individual communities such as in the example of Camden, NJ. Understandably in larger cities, it is difficult to get to know everyone but when visiting that courthouse or standing in line at the grocery store next to that officer, a simple “stay safe” humanizes everyone. Both police and every day people have a role to play in breaking this cycle of domestic abuse. Little by little it can be done.
Photo Credit: Charlie Neuman | Union-Tribune
It takes a true support system to help people in a domestic abuse cycle to leave the home or break that cycle. It is no different when breaking the cycle of rogue officers,excessive force, and city officials who are compliant. The burden does not solely lie on police to fix and it doesn't solely lie on the citizens.
An attack on one unarmed citizen by a rogue police officer is a threat to everyone’s security, including the fellow officers who are valiantly upholding the uniform. In cases of excessive force, the suspect stops becoming the aggressor; it is the officer who becomes the threat. It will take a community to neutralize the threat.