L-I: [Fwd: [BRC-NEWS] 90s Were Decade of Police Brutality]

Carrol Cox cbcox at SPAMilstu.edu
Fri Jun 30 19:31:48 MDT 2000

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] 90s Were Decade of Police Brutality
Date: Fri, 30 Jun 2000 20:01:15 -0400
From: Brian Sheppard <bakunin at anarcho.zzn.com>
To: brc-news at lists.tao.ca

June 2000

90s Were Decade of Police Brutality [1,108 Words]

By Brian Oliver Sheppard <bakunin at anarcho.zzn.com>

The 1990s will be remembered by many as the beginning of the
New Economy, the start of the Internet Age, and as the
decade that saw the Cold War crumble as the former Soviet
Union split into separate countries and abolished its
previous policies.  But for many in the United States, it
was also a decade of egregious police misconduct. Although
US Attorney General Janet Reno admitted in a press
conference in April, 1995, that "there is a problem" with
excessive use of force by police, much remains to be done to
combat this problem. The conduct of the police in the United
States, and of the justice system in general, is attracting
increasingly critical attention not only from the domestic
population, but from the international community as well.

Data on police brutality is hard to come by. Though the
Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994
charged the US Justice Department with collecting national
statistics on complaints of police misconduct, the
organization has failed to comply, according to Amnesty
International. Human Rights Watch recently published the
report "Shielded From Justice: Police Brutality and
Accountability in the United States," sampling the conduct
of 14 major city police departments between 1995 and 1998.
The results are not so encouraging, and in fact many
spokespeople from the analyzed police departments "resorted
to name-calling and defensiveness" in response to the
report, according to Human Rights Watch. This follows a
pattern of cover-up and rationalization by police
departments, the report indicates. "Police or public
officials greet each new report of brutality with denials or
explain that the act was an aberration," the report claims,
"while the administrative and criminal systems that should
deter these abuses by holding officers accountable instead
virtually guarantee them impunity."

Some accounts of police brutality were so sensational that
even the media could not help but notice. An overview of the
major accounts of police, and justice system, abuse,
wrongful death, and travesty follows. This timeline does not
mean demean or ignore any cases not here mentioned. Rather,
its purpose is to provide a sampling of the major events
that were picked up by the media throughout the decade that
caused public skepticism to progress to its current levels
(In the interest of continuity, one event from the year 2000
is also noted):

        o March, 1991: Rodney King is beaten with 56 baton
strokes, is kicked in the head, torso, and groin, and is
stunned with a Taser gun by at least 4 white officers after
a high speed chase. The incident is captured on video. The
Christopher Commission report quotes an officer saying "[H]e
pissed us off, so I guess he needs an ambulance now...."
over his squad car radio after the beating. The State of
California acquits the four white officers.

        o November, 1992: Undercover African-American
officer Derwin Pannel is shot by three white police officers
in New York City. Pannel was making an arrest in plain
clothes but was thought to be assaulting someone.

        o June, 1993: 30 year-old African-American Archie
Elliott is handcuffed and placed in custody in a police
cruiser in Prince George County, Maryland. He is shot at 22
times while cuffed. Officers say he was resisting arrest. 14
bullets hit him, killing him.

        o August, 1994: Undercover officer Desmond Robinson
is shot five times by white off-duty officer Peter Del
Debbio in New York City. Robinson is African-American and is
in plain clothes at the time. Del Debbio said he thought
Robinson was involved in a crime since he was carrying a

        o October, 1995: Jonny Gammage, cousin of pro
football player Ray Seals, is killed by New Jersey police
officer John Vojtas during a "routine" traffic stop. Gammage
is ordered out of his car, when a police officer subdues him
after suspecting the Jaguar Gammage is driving is stolen
(the Jaguar was Gammage's). The officer crushes Gammage's
trachea, killing him. Officer Vojtas is promoted to Sergeant
and is acquitted of murder.

        o June, 1996: African-American Aswan Watson is shot
18 times while sitting unarmed in a stolen car in Brooklyn.
Watson is killed. Officers are acquitted of charges in 1997.

        o July, 1996: 26 year-old African-American Nathaniel
Levi Gaines, Jr., a Navy Gulf War veteran, is shot in the
back by a New York City police officer. He is unarmed.
This same month, 29 year-old Anthony Baez, a man of Puerto
Rican descent, is put in a chokehold and strangled to death
by another New York City police officer after Baez allegedly
threw a football that hit a patrol car.

        o April, 1997: An African-American woman, Caroline
Sue Botticher, is shot and killed after police fire 22
rounds into her vehicle in West Charlotte, North Carolina.
She had failed to stop at a police checkpoint. She is

        o June, 1997: geronimo ji Jaga (preferred
capitalization), aka Geronimo Pratt, is released from jail
after serving 27 years on a murder conviction that is later
overturned. New evidence is found that exonerates him. He is
an ex-Black Panther leader and was sentenced to life in

        o August, 1997: At least 4 officers are charged with
beating and sexually assaulting Haitian immigrant Abner
Louima in the Bronx of New York. Officer Justin Volpe is
charged with forcing a wooden stick into Louima's rectum.

        o December, 1997: New York police officers shoot and
kill William J. Whitfield III, an African-American man, in a
supermarket. He is unarmed. Police say that they thought he
was reaching for a gun. Later it is determined that he was
reaching for his keys.

        o December, 1998: Tyisha Shenee Miller, a 19 year
old African-American woman, is killed by Riverside,
California, police in a fusillade of 27 bullets as she sits
in a state of near unconsciousness in her stranded vehicle.
She had had a seizure and the police were called to assist

        o February, 1999: Immigrant Amadou Diallo is killed
in a hail of 41 bullets fired by police outside his Bronx
apartment. Diallo is unarmed and is reaching for his wallet
when the firing begins. Later, all four officers are
acquitted by the state of charges against them.

        o October, 1999: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge
signs death warrant for ex- Black Panther and journalist
Mumia Abu-Jamal. After coming within two months of facing
state execution, Abu-Jamal is granted a stay of execution by
a federal judge. Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and a
journalist, sits on death row to this day.

        o March, 2000: Unarmed security guard Patrick
Dorismond is shot to death by an undercover New York City
police officer. The officer, in plain clothes, approached
Dorismond, wanting to buy drugs.

Copyright (c) 2000 by Brian Oliver Sheppard.

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