Crime After Crime, But No Cop Doing Time: Why Police Brutality Endures

Indrani Sengupta
We get so caught up in the endless onslaught of injustices faced by Black men and women at the hands of (mostly white) police officers, that we often forget a parallel trend: the offending officers rarely face any legal punishment.

Another month. another shooting. And if the (often fatal) abuse of (mostly Black) citizens isn't injustice enough, consider that the vast majority of these wrongs remain uncorrected. The cops go free. Some even keep their jobs.

How can we ever hope to combat police brutality if the crime bears no real threat of legal consequences?

Death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Offending cop not charged.

May 16th, 2010. Seven-year old Aiyana was shot and killed by Officer Joseph Weekley during a nighttime police raid. The child had been asleep at the time. Weekley initially faced a manslaughter charge, but it was dropped in January 2015.

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The death of Eric Garner. Offending cop not indicted.

July 17th, 2014. An unarmed Eric Garner was approached by NYPD officers on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes.  Officer Daniel Pantaleo pushed his face to the ground, while four other officers moved to restrain him. Garner repeated “I can’t breathe” 11 times before losing consciousness. The cops did not perform CPR on Garner. Garner was pronounced dead one hour later.

The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, but the jury declined to indict Pantaleo, who had been previous accused of false arrest and violation of police procedures. He’s been relegated to desk duty, but could get his job back in time.

All the other officers involved were granted immunity.

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The death of Michael Brown. Offending cop not indicted.

August 9th, 2014. An unarmed Michael stole several packs of cigarillos and shoved a store clerk. He was approached by officer Darren Wilson, upon which a struggle ensured. Brown fled with Wilson in pursuit. Brown allegedly stopped and turned to face the officer, upon which Wilson shot him several times in the front, killing him.

The grand jury did not indict Wilson, arguing that the witness’ accounts that said Brown had surrendered were not credible. It ruled that Wilson acted in self-defense…even though he was the pursuer.

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The death of Michelle Cusseaux. Offending cop not indicted.

August 14th, 2014. Michelle Cusseaux suffered from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression. She grew agitated that day when a cab didn’t show up to take her to the hospital, so she called a health facility. The officer manager found her comments to be threatening, and called the police to make a mental health pickup so Cusseaux could be taken to a psychiatric care facility.

Cusseaux, perhaps confused by the presence of officers at her door, slammed it shut. The officers pulled her door off with a crowbar, whereupon they saw Cusseaux holding a hammer. When she charged at them, likely frightened and disoriented, Sergeant Percy Dupra shot her in the chest, killing her.

None of the officers on scene had received any training in interactions with the mentally ill, not did they call for help from anyone who did.

Attorney Bill Montgomery found Dupra to be justified in shooting Cusseaux. No charges were filed against him.

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Death of Tamir Rice. Offending cops not arrested.

November 22nd, 2014. Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback received a police dispatch call of “a male black sitting on a swing and pointing a gun at people,” which also asserted that the gun “was probably fake” and the person in question “is probably a juvenile.” When the officers approached 12-year-old Tamir Rice, he reached towards his “gun.” Loehmann shot him twice before the zone car came to a halt. Neither officer administered first aid to the child, who died the next day.

Municipal Court Judge Ronald Adrine stated that Officer Loehmann should be charged with murder and Officer Garmback with negligent homicide, but did not order the two men to be arrested (apparently judges no longer have the authority to issue warrants themselves in such cases). He forwarded the case to Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, who is still “investigating the case.” It has been seven months since the incident, and nothing has been done.

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Attack on Floyd Dent. Cops not prosecuted. Dent is.

January 28th, 2015. Floyd Dent was pulled over by a police cruiser for failing to use a traffic signal and disregarding a stop sign. He opened his window and put both his hands out to show that he was unarmed. Officer William Melendez, believing Dent was reaching for a gun, approached with a firearm. Dent was dragged out of his car, put in a chokehold, struck 16 times on the temple, then tasered thrice for good measure. Dent didn’t resist, even when the blood dropped from his forehead and cheek. He suffered a fractured left orbital, blood on the brain, and four broken ribs.

The only person who faced charges has been Dent himself, for assault, resisting arrest, and possession of cocaine that the officers allegedly planted on him.

Recommended: When White Killers Are Treated Better Than Black Victims

Pool Party Incident. Offending cop allowed to resign.

June 5th, 2015. Officer Eric Casebolt manhandled an unarmed 15-year-old girl (Dajerria Becton) at a pool party, pushing her to the ground and restraining her as she wept. He also pulled a gun on two other Black teenagers who attempted to help her.

Casebolt was never indicted. He didn’t even face the indignity of being fired. Instead, he was allowed to resign.

Read more: US Police Have Killed More People in 2015 Than Iceland Has In 71 Years

Banner image credit: Reuters