Is There a Trend of Police Brutality?
This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect that of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.
October 6th, 2009
I’ve just finished reading the complaint of a young gay man who was cited for doing a cartwheel in Grand Central Station and then beaten unconscious for complaining about it.
Of course this is his side of the story and there may be circumstances which differ from his recollection and report. But I’ve been cautious a number of times this year over assuming too much about police brutality, only to find that it was every bit as bad as originally reported.
Which has me thinking: what’s going on?
Are these just a string of independent and unrelated actions of which gay people are the victim of overly aggressive officers, or is there currently a trend of police brutality?
I grew up in a small town where you waved “hello” if you saw a police officer. They waved back. The police were your friend, there to protect you and serve you and, occasionally, nudge you back to being a good citizen and neighbor.
And it was this attitude that I brought with me to “the big city”. I thought that we all participate in the policing of our community and that officers were our allies against crime.
But I currently live in a city where you get off the street if you see an officer ahead, where you do not call the police unless you absolutely have to, and where any interaction at all with police is to be avoided. It is rare to hear anyone talk about their experience with the LAPD which was not hostile, in which the victim was not made to feel like a suspect, or in which they did not leave the interaction with the impression that the officer viewed them with contempt and was just daring them to be anything but submissive and obsequious.
I recently had a minor interaction with an LAPD squad car who, it appeared to me, pulled me and a friend over because I treated them like they were any other car while merging in traffic. Although there was nothing for which I could be hauled in or ticketed, the officers were aggressive, hostile, and intrusive. And while it was not their business where we was going (to the grocery store), I was afraid not to answer when they demanded to know. I sat there meekly taking it and keeping a smile on my face.
And although my instinct runs to support of law and order, I knew that this was just bullying. We were the enemy, the “perps”, the faggots, and we were being put in our place.
My complaint is minor. It cost me a few minutes of my life. Some who meet with the police don’t live to tell about it.
This is not to say that there aren’t wonderful officers. The sheriffs office that operates out of West Hollywood seeks to keep peace, protect residents, and serve the community. Interactions with that office tend to be friendly, efficient, and purposeful.
(What made the interaction more disconcerting was that the LAPD pulled us over in West Hollywood, where they don’t have jurisdiction.)
But the West Hollywood Sheriff’s department seems to be the exception, rather than the rule. The more I hear of law enforcement and their interaction with gay citizens – or, often, any citizens – the more I am becoming concerned that police enforcement in general is more about force and compliance and oppression and, frankly, brutality than it is about public service or civic order.
And that is very sad. I hope I’m mistaken.