Tasing and Bust of Videotaper Shows Abuse of Blacks is Just Normal Cop Behavior
Philadelphia--Fatal shootings and severe beatings by police are grabbing headlines nationwide, but the far more frequent forms of police abuse are – the use of foul language, conducting improper stops and frisks and the making of false arrests -- abuses that remain below the public’s and the media’s proverbial ‘radar.’
Those forms of abuse comprise the daily indignities endured by thousands of mostly minority people across America.
And, it is those forms of abuse that ignite intense ire against police, particularly in poor and/or non-white communities. Citizens in minority communities feel besieged by the police who are supposed to be serving and protecting them. Too many feel that too many cops do not treat them with either the dignity or respect that is essential for effective policing, according to the report from President Obama’s task force on policing released months ago.
Abuses by police often arise from deliberate police practices, especially overly aggressive law enforcement strategies that the Obama task force noted can “do lasting damage” to public trust. That presidential task force is co-chaired by Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey of Philadelphia who ironically leads a department long assailed for its persistent brutality and corruption.
An example of that aggressive behavior is about to play out in a Philadelphia courtroom as the Philadelphia Police Department was recently hit with yet another lawsuit – this one arising from yet another incident of alleged police abuse. The victim in this case claims Philadelphia police beat, kicked and shot him twice with a Taser in May 2013 simply because he was videotaping them engaging in abusive behavior.
That police assault on Sharif Anderson provides a chilling case study of so much that is wrong with the criminal justice system in Philadelphia and too many places across America.
“I was in disbelief,” Sharif Anderson said about the police attack that occurred when officers rushed him while he was on his own front porch using his smart phone to video other police roughing-up some of his colleagues out on the sidewalk.
Incredibly, the ‘crime’ of videoing police that triggered the attack on and arrest of Anderson is not really a crime in Philadelphia. Police Commissioner Ramsey had issued two directives, in 2011 and in 2012, telling his officers that citizens had a right to videotape them– directives apparently disregarded by the officers involved in Anderson’s arrest.
Given the fact that Commissioner Ramsey had barred arrests for simply photographing and/or videoing police, some observers contend Philadelphia prosecutors should have rejected the arrests of Anderson and four others in that 2013 incident because those arrests arose from violations of Ramsey’s directives. But prosecutors reflexively accepted police claims that disorderly conduct – not videoing – precipitated the arrest of Anderson and the four others.