Police Violence is a Feminist Issue

Recent stories of police violence are worrying. Working-class communities of color have worked for years to hold police accountable to protect and serve all citizens. But I often wonder whether the average patrol car on the street is there to protect me, or if it will transform into something like the Transformers Barricade Decepticon, whose charge is to punish and enslave.

Women and girls are often at the center of police violence. Take Aiyana Stanley Jones, the seven-year old African-American girl gunned down in her sleep May 16th by Detroit police. Officers used a flash bang device to enter her home in search of a suspect accused of killing a 17-year old boy. The device–which seems like excessive use of force for local law enforcement–temporarily disables targets by disrupting their hearing and vision. Detroit police reported that a scuffle ensued between an officer and Jones’s grandmother, and a gun was accidentally discharged. However, Geoffrey Fieger, attorney for the Jones family, disputes this claim. Footage captured by the film crew of the A&E reality series The First 48 allegedly shows police firing into the home before the flash bang discharged.

Another recent incident of police violence was the double-murder-suicide of Pierce County, Washington, sheriff deputy Allen Myron, who fatally shot his wife’s parents before killing himself. Tacoma police Detective Gretchen Aguirre claimed that there was no history of domestic violence in the Myron family. However, according to the Department of Justice, only 60 percent of family violence is reported to the police, with 19 percent of women reporting that fear of reprisal by the perpetrator is the reason for not reporting. According to the National Center for Women and Policing, 40 percent of police families experience domestic violence, compared to 10 percent in the general American population. The most common disciplinary action imposed on officers accused of domestic violence is counseling; termination is uncommon.

In Detroit, where Aiyana died, the police department has been under two court-ordered consent decrees since 2003 to resolve issues of police use of force on suspects. In the Myron case, Pierce County domestic violence organizations are also dealing with the repercussions of the 2003 murder-suicide of Tacoma Chief of Police David Brame.

Sherina James, community victim liaison for the Washington State Department of Corrections, said these incidents have made domestic violence advocacy more difficult.

When there are survivors that want to report an incident, they question, well, if the police can’t get it right, who can? If they do this, what’s going to happen to me?

Civilian review boards and community relations units may contribute to increased community accountability of police. We need to support organizations like INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Communities United Against Police Brutality.  They are making police violence visible and promoting tougher sanctions and better oversight.

Image from Creative Commons, Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Comments

  1. Thank you for featuring our organization in this blog. One of our activities is to provide advocacy and assistance for people dealing with the effects of police brutality. It may be interesting to your readers to know that as president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, I have a whole group of women I work with who are the former wives or girlfriends of police officers who have abused them and gotten away with it. I’ve sat with these women at the emergency room, helped them get doors or windows replaced when their abusers have broken into their homes, gone to court with them, etc. The situation for battered women whose abusers are cops is truly appalling as they literally have no law enforcement agency that will hold their abusers accountable.

    Thank you for covering the issue of police brutality, which is of vital interest to women, especially women of color and low income women.

    Michelle Gross, President
    Communities United Against Police Brutality
    Minneapolis,MN

  2. Tom Vitale says:

    Fundamentalism is the root cause, the core, the rationalization and justification of all violence, both physical and non-physical. Fundamentalism is the root core of all supremacy, be it racial, gender, national, whatever–even bigotry over levels of intelligence and physical co-ordination. Fundamentalism:
    A belief that one knows absolute TRUTH, is one with a God who separates humanity according to people’s beliefs, the rituals they practice, the dogmas and doctrines they share.
    A belief that one is therefore superior to all who do not subscribe to the truth, which again, only the fundamentalist KNOWS.
    A belief, therefore, is separation and segregation.
    A didainment of all religions other than one’s own. And even within that religion, people who disagree with any one point are wrong.
    It is deeper than a belief in a literal reading of Scripture. For one thing, the fundamentalist is interpreting Scripture according to how she/he was taught and according to his/her own psychology and sociology.
    The fundamentalist mind is rigid, inflexible, incapable of comprehending the legitimacy of different beliefs, cultures, races, gender, world views. It literally fears open mindedness, believing evil comes in to the mind if it is open to all or any point of view other than what that “literal” reading of Scripture dictates. “The Bible is the only book I need.” “Buddha is in hell and all his followers are going to hell”. “Don’t worry Tom, I was a Catholic once too.” “You blaspheme” “You fornicate” “That’s heresy”. “You are a witch”.
    Fundamentalism is fanaticism.

    Like this: “I am a believer; you are not. I am right and you are wrong and headed for eternal damnation. It is my mission to either convert you, pity you or destroy you. And I can do anything I want to you for you are not only inferior but rejected by “God”.”
    Fundamentalism is fanaticism.

  3. Very interesting but I am not really surprised at the statistics you show.

    Some very basic root cause analysis might be in order here, although who is really responsible to do such? I ask this because it is clear that one of two things is likely to be the case. First, have we allowed our police agencies to stray so far from there original purposes that they are experiencing a decline internally? This may well be the case as it is common knowledge that exposure to crime and violence results in a higher likelihood of perpetrating some sort of violence on the part of the witness. Police are certainty witness to a large amount of violence so it would stand to reason that they are more likely to perpetrate violence against someone else. A very general solution might be to establish more comprehensive counseling and review processes for officer behavior.

    Second, is really a question of how we choose and train our Police Officers. In the State of Utah, for example, Prison Guards often make just over minimum wage in many cases. While this may not be true of all Police, it is a serious matter that we are not willing to pay a professional wage, or at least a living wage, to those we expect to protect us. To say the least this is not the way to attract the best of society to do what is arguably a difficult job. This creates more susceptibility to corruption and violence. More stress, more personal economic hardship, etc. All of which are common causes behind domestic violence. Even if it is not money related, our standards of a Police Officer must be high enough that we find the people that are most likely to succeed.

    Regardless of the cause it is clear we have reached an epidemic level of Police Violence and something must be done to stop it in all communities. The very fact that Police are using Para Military tools and tactics, like Flash Bang Grenades, is highly troubling.

    Another troubling trend is the use of force as a way of managing the risk of being a Police Officer. I feel this is a huge issue of training and mindset that is also contributing to the problem. For example, it is common for Police in many jurisdictions to use a Taser to force compliance. This is done because the Taser is viewed as less than lethal, but the fact is that it is very lethal in a variety of cases. Police Officers will use a Taser to subdue a person in cases where they might have previously used physical force. In fact it is not uncommon for them to use the device when previously no force would have been used. In general, even if Tasing is not used, police now treat others that they deal with in a far more aggressive manner than they ever have.

    If we really appreciate the hard work of our founding fathers we will take the opportunity to take a stand, then do something about this serious issue.

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