Police Killing People of Color Is Not New; The Revealing Videos Are


BILL BERKOWITZ | BUZZFLASH | TRUTHOUT | December 15, 2015

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(Photo: INeverCry)In his bestselling book, Between The World And Me, an extended essay told as a letter to his 15-year-old son, Samori, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes: “I am writing you because this is the year you saw Eric Garner choked to death for selling cigarettes; … that John Crawford was shot down for browsing in a department store. And you have seen men in uniform drive by and murder Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old whom they were oath-bound to protect. And you have seen men in the same uniforms pummel Marlene Pinnock, someone’s grandmother, on the side of the road.” If and when Coates’ book goes to paperback, there are likely to be many more examples of the epidemic of police violence.

Pick a city, just about any city — or maybe even a smallish town — and there’s a good chance that sometime during the year on the front page of your local newspaper you’ll find a headline similar to: “Video puts new light on shooting,” which appeared in the Saturday, December 12 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. The headline topped a story about the December 2nd fatal police killing of 26-year-old Mario Woods in the city’s Bayview neighborhood. Surrounded by five police officers, Woods, with a knife in his hand, apparently had his arms down by his sides when the officers, claiming to be threatened, fired at least fifteen, and maybe as many as twenty shots.

According to the Chronicle’s Vivian Ho, a video “shows [that] San Francisco police officers fired a barrage of shots at [Woods] while he held his arms at his sides, an apparent contradiction to the Police Department’s account that he prompted his killing by threatening an officer with a kitchen knife.”

In this age when just about everyone has the tools to take videos and then instantaneously post them, two phrases in Ho’s piece stand out: a) “a video shows” and, b) “apparent contradiction to the Police Department’s account.” It is no great secret that official accounts by police – and corroboration by fellow officers – are justifiably and all too frequently suspect.

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