AFRICANGLOBE – American law enforcement has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past few decades. The war on drugs, the world’s most effective way to fill prisons with African-Americans while doing nothing to curtail drug use, has warped the priorities and practices of police departments around the country.
Federal funding incentivizes police to go after low-level drug use while neglecting more serious crimes like rape. In city after city, the crackdown on drug crime has expanded police power and pointed it straight at ethnic minorities and the poor. It’s the reason we’re number one when it comes to rates of incarceration. With 5 percent of the population, America has a quarter of the world’s prisoners.
Meanwhile, the decade-long war on terror has stocked local police departments with weapons from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan—do local police really need drones and tanks? (Journalist Radley Balko has extensively documented the militarization of police by way of the wars on drugs and terror.) The shift toward more aggressive, violent policing has had tragic results on the ground. Assembled below is an incomplete list of brutal and unnecessary police actions, from this month alone.
1. Black 14-year-old Carrying a Puppy Tackled and Choked by Police for Giving Them a “Dehumanizing Stare”
Cell phone footage taken by his mother shows a teen boy being thrown to the ground and pinned by police. His crime? Giving officers a funny look while armed with a puppy.
Fourteen-year-old Tremaine McMillan says he was feeding his puppy and playing on the beach with some friends when cops riding ATVs approached him and asked what he was doing. The “peacekeeping” officers say they saw McMillan roughhousing with another teenager, told him it was “unacceptable behavior,” and asked where his mother was. When McMillan walked away, they chased him on ATVs, jumped out, pinned him to the ground and arrested him. According to police reports, McMillan “attempted to pull his arm away, stating, ‘Man, don’t touch me like I did something.'”
Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta justified the use of force, saying McMillan was exhibiting threatening “body language,” which includes “clenched fists.” McMillan adamantly denies this charge because, well, he was holding a puppy.
2. Cops Go Undercover at High School to Bust Special-Needs Kid for Pot: Why Are Police So Desperate to Throw Kids in Jail?
Why wait for a crime to occur when you can just instigate one? As Kristen Gwynne reported:
In a video segment on ABC News, they say they were “thrilled” when their son—who has Asperger’s and other disabilities and struggled to make friends—appeared to have instantly made a friend named Daniel.
“He suddenly had this friend who was texting him around the clock,” Doug Snodgrass told ABC News. His son had just recently enrolled at Chaparral High School.
“Daniel,” however, was an undercover cop with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department who ” hounded” the teenager to sell him his prescription medication. When he refused, the undercover cop gave him $20 to buy him weed, and he complied, not realizing the guy he wanted to befriend wanted him behind bars.
In December, the unnamed senior was arrested along with 21 other students from three schools, all charged with crimes related to the two officers’ undercover drug operation at two public schools in Temecula, California (Chaparral and Temecula Valley High School). This March, Judge Marian H. Tully ruled that Temecula Valley Unified School District could not expel the student, and had in fact failed to provide him with proper services.
After beating a father of four to death, police allegedly tried to cover up video evidence. Natasha Lennard reported:
Following the death of father of four, David Sal Silva last week, his family’s attorneys are calling for police to release bystander video evidence that reportedly shows California Highway Patrol officers brutally beating the 33-year-old. A video from a surveillance camera (which does not show the scene closeup) has been released and shows the man repeatedly struck with a baton. Local press have also reported on details from a 911 call made, in which witness Sulina Quair, 34, said “There is a man laying on the floor and your police officers beat the (expletive) out of him and killed him. I have it all on video camera. We videotaped the whole thing.” Officers say they were responding to a call about an intoxicated man and that Silva had fought them.
Attorneys representing the Silva family expressed concern that police may tamper with video evidence and demanded that they be given access to any recordings of the lethal incident. Details emerged, the Bakersfield Californian reported, that officers confiscated the phones of bystanders who had captured the event as it unfolded. Police reportedly arrived at Quair’s home to take his phone.
4. Texas Police Forced Man to Set Up Drug Deal So They Could Take a Kilo of Coke for Themselves
South Texas lawmen ransacked an elderly couple’s home looking for drugs, and finding none, forced the husband to set up a cocaine dealer and took a kilo for themselves, the couple claim in court.
Jose and Maria Perez sued Hidalgo County, Sheriff Guadalupe “Lupe” Trevino and the City of Mission in Federal court.
Five sheriff’s officers, including members of the unit mentioned in the Perezes’ lawsuit, pleaded guilty this week to drug charges.
“In July 2012, Jose G. Perez and his wife, Maria Guadalupe Perez … were sitting in their home when six armed men burst into their home demanding drugs,” the complaint states. “These invaders were agents and officers of the Panama Unit of the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department and officers of the Mission Police Department. These intruders proceeded to ransack the furniture and broke open cabinets searching for their illegal prize.
“When the intruders found nothing in the home of plaintiffs, they forced the elderly couple into an unmarked SUV, and told Jose G. Perez to ‘call someone that sells drugs or else.’