Proving the Point

[Content Note: Police brutality; racism; injury. Please note that video showing altercation may begin playing automatically at link.]

Just down the road from me in Hammond, Indiana, a black family has filed a lawsuit alleging excessive force, false arrest, and battery after two police officers pulled over their vehicle and the situation escalated from there.

In the car were Lisa Mahone, who was driving the family on the way to visit her mother in the hospital, her boyfriend Jamal Jones, who was in the passenger seat, Joseph Ivy, their 14-year-old son, who recorded the altercation from the backseat, and his little sister Janiya, who was seated beside him.

Hammond Police Officers Patrick Vicari and Charles Turner, who both appear to be white, pulled over the vehicle under the auspices of a seatbelt violation. The officers requested information from Mahone and Jones, and, at some point, "put spike strips in front of the vehicle" so they could not leave, which the officers later said was because Mahone "shifted her car into drive and moved her vehicle in a forward motion." Further, the officers pulled a gun on the family, which the officers later said was because they "feared for their own safety because one officer said he saw Jones drop his hands behind the center console of the vehicle."

Mahone and Jones say they did not understand why anyone but the driver was being questioned for a seatbelt violation, nor why Jones was presumed to be reaching for a weapon when asked for his ID. They were scared when an officer pulled his weapon on them, which seems pretty fucking reasonable.

At that point, Mahone called 911 and reported that they were afraid to get out of the car and didn't understand what was happening. And not for lack of asking the cops, who continued to just order Jones to get out of the car, with a gun drawn on him. While Mahone speaks to a 911 dispatcher, Jones speaks with the cops through his cracked car window, trying to understand why he is being asked to get out of the car.

And then one of the officers shatters Jones' passenger side window, sending glass throughout the car. The officer reaches in and tases him, then they drag him from the vehicle, as Mahone exclaims and the children make shocked and terrified sounds. Jones is then thrown to the ground, tased a second time, cuffed, and taken away. He has been charged with resisting arrest.

Despite the fact that the officers did not tell him he was under arrest nor even explain to him for what reason he was being asked to exit the vehicle in the first place.

According to the lawsuit, Officer Vicari has been named as a defendant in three other cases alleging excessive force, and Officer Turner has been named as a defendant in one other case involving excessive force.

Meanwhile, Hammond Police Lt. Richard Hoyda is defending the officers' actions: "In general, police officers who make legal traffic stops are allowed to ask passengers inside of a stopped vehicle for identification and to request that they exit a stopped vehicle for the officer's safety without a requirement of reasonable suspicion."

Okay. Sure. But officers cannot continue to pretend that they exist in a vacuum. In a nation in which police brutality against black people has a long history, and during a time in which multiple incidents of deadly police shootings of black men have been prominently in the news, it's bullshit to pretend that it's entirely reasonable to order an unarmed black man who has done nothing wrong to get out of the car while an officer is aiming a gun at him.

The police keep saying that this is all about keeping officers safe. But I can't just be expected to forgive all manner of fuckery because I want officers to be safe. I want people who interact with officers to be safe, too.

And we have seen that there is no guarantee that complying with officers' orders will necessarily ensure someone's safety. Black men have been shot with their hands in the air. Black men have been shot while lying on the ground. Black men have been shot while handcuffed.

Police cannot keep pretending this doesn't matter.

And let's be real about what happened here: Mahone and Jones were afraid that the police were going to use excessive force. And then the police used excessive force. Their fears were entirely justified.

Police officers cannot keep proving the point, and then blaming people for a failure to comply. If it isn't safe for people to comply, don't be fucking surprised when they don't.

And, for fuck's sake, stop using that as a justification for harming people.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus