We as a nation have had a history of police brutality against men and women of color for more than a century. The difference between police brutality then and now is the ways in which those incidents are documented.
Many cases prior to the age of modern technology were told through word of mouth without much or any visual representation at all. In the past five to 10 years, more visual documentation has been available and a very troubling and unmentioned sight is in numerous videos – the presence of Black police officers who decided not to intervene against the abuse and mistreatment of people of color.
This issue was brought to my attention in the disturbing and gut-wrenching video of the arrest of Sandra Bland, an African-American woman from Naperville, Ill. who was in the Prairie View, Texas, area for a job interview. Bland was stopped by the local police on July 10 for failure to signal. Following her stop, she was arrested and later found dead in her jail cell due to an alleged suicide. What was most troubling in Bland’s arrest video was the presence of an African-American policewoman who aided the arresting officer without questioning why Bland was being arrested and why she was detained for a simple failure to signal.
The issue of black officers being present during the abuse and mistreatment of men and women of color has been unnoticed by the Black Lives Matter movement and pundits on both local and national news.
Black sergeants and police officers also were seen in the video of the death of Eric Garner and did little to help protect Garner’s life before he was brought down in a violent chokehold.
This issue needs to be addressed quickly because black bodies are being disposed of at an alarming rate at the hands of police, and witnessed by the eyes of officers of color. Are Black officers and members of law enforcement that voiceless that they do not have the courage speak against the actions that are going on while their colleagues are making arrests? Is there a “shield” or honor code that states one is not supposed to interfere with an arrest?
I don’t have the answers to those questions, but we need to be just as hard on Black officers in the said videos as we are on the white or non-black arresting officers.
Staff Writer – Opinions