A cell phone video was leaked this week of a Georgia police officer beating a homeless Black woman in a Decatur gas station, leading local law enforcement authorities to re-open an investigation into the officer’s behavior.
The gruesome, nearly two-minute video shows the unidentified officer repeatedly beating the victim, 38-year-old Katie McCrary, while she lays struggling on the floor asking “What did I do?” The officer hit McCrary with his baton on her arms, legs and head while holding her down on the ground with his knees and elbows. In the video, McCrary attempts to wriggle away from the officer, and when she tries to grab the baton to get him to stop hurting her, we hear him yell, “let it go or I am going to shoot you.” Bystanders encouraged the officer not to shoot.
McCrary suffered lacerations to her leg and many other physical ailments due to the beating and was eventually transferred from DeKalb County jail to Grady Memorial Hospital for care.
“Now that the Department has this new evidence,” the DeKalb County Police Department said in a statement, “we have reopened the investigation and will determine whether the incident is consistent with policy and the law.” The officer who attacked McCray is still unidentified to the public.
The incident on June 4 began when the officer received a call about a woman panhandling outside of the gas station. In his incident report, the officer alleges that when he came to inspect the situation, McCrary attempted to push him out of the way and grab his police badge and radio.
Police brutality against women, especially low-income women of color, is all too common and too often overlooked. Women of color, like their male counterparts, are targeted by police: In 2013, 54 percent of the women stopped by police on the streets of New York were African-American. In 2015, Oklahoma police officer Daniel Holtzclaw was found guilty of serially assaulting vulnerable Black women while on duty. Just last month, a police officer killed Charleena Lyles in front of her children when she called the authorities for help.
Over two decades of research shows that women police officers rely more on communication than violence, and that women are less likely to be involved in police brutality and more effective at taking calls regarding violence against women. Gender parity in policing, however, remains elusive. The National Center for Women and Policing (NCWP), a program of the Feminist Majority Foundation, works to create gender parity in police departments to defuse violence.
“Inclusion of Black women’s experiences in social movements, media narratives and police demands around policing and police brutality is critical,” says Kimberly Crenshaw, Founder of the African-American Policy Forum (AAPF), “to effectively combating racialized state violence for black communities and other communities of color.” In 2015, AAPF launched the #SayHerName campaign in response to the widespread silence about women victims of police brutality that they found in movements and media coverage around the issue.
Her name is Katie McCrary, and she was abused and attacked by a police officer who was supposed to protect her. We must continue to say her name, and say the names of all women who suffer from police brutality, as we fight for racial and gender justice.