Thursday, July 10, 2014

Walking While Black in America

Calif. highway patrol beating demands more than cops probing cops, say analysts

By Starla Muhammad -Assistant Editor- | Last updated: Jul 9, 2014 - 1:22:55 PM

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The family of a woman seen on video struck repeatedly by a California highway patrolman is filing a civil lawsuit against the department on her behalf. Shock and outrage was the response to the latest videotaped violent law enforcement encounter involving a Black woman and a cop, this time happening on the side of a Los Angeles freeway.

Cell phone video of the July 1 incident shows a uniformed California Highway Patrol officer repeatedly striking 51-year-old Marlene Pinnock in the head.
chp_beating_07-15-2014_1.jpg
In this July 1, 2014 image made from video provided by motorist David Diaz, a California Highway Patrol officer straddles a woman while punching her in the head on the shoulder of a Los Angeles freeway. The woman had been walking on Interstate 10 west of downtown Los Angeles, endangering herself and people in traffic, and the officer was trying to restrain her, according to a CHP assistant chief. The officer, who has not been identified, has been placed on administrative leave during an investigation. Photo: A/P World Wide Photos

'How dare we tell China or some other country about human rights violations? We see them sitting right in our front door'
—Dr. Julianne Malveaux, activist and president emerita of Bennett College for Women

According to police, Ms. Pinnock was walking barefoot alongside the Santa Monica Freeway, ignored commands to stop and became “physically combative.” Nothing in the police report says or suggests she was armed. 

The video shows the woman struggling and trying to sit up while the officer punches her in the face and head until an off-duty law enforcement officer appears and helps handcuff her.

Passing driver David Diaz recorded the incident and provided it to media outlets including The Associated Press. He told the AP in a phone interview July 4 that he arrived as the woman was walking off the freeway. She turned around only after the officer shouted something to her, he said.
“He agitated the situation more than helped it,” said Mr. Diaz, who started filming soon after.

The officer, whose name has not been released, was placed on administrative assignment. Ms. Pinnock was arrested and at Final Call presstime was still being held in a hospital on an involuntary psychiatric hold at the Los Angeles County Medical Center.

Chris O’Quinn, asst. chief of CHP, said there was no need for an independent investigation and the department’s “internal investigation process is very, very detailed.”

“As of today, we are investigating this use of force and (the) status is that we are looking into why he (officer) came into contact with the pedestrian on the freeway and what transpired and as of now the investigation is ongoing,” Officer Edgar Figueroa, CHP public information officer told The Final Call. He said no charges have been filed against Ms. Pinnock and that “everything is still under review.” There is no timetable for how long the investigation could take.

Pinnock’s family attorney Caree Harper announced plans July 6 to file a lawsuit stating the mother, grandmother and great-grandmother received multiple injuries on her face, arms and shoulders.
The Final Call left messages for Atty. Harper but received no response.

There have been calls for a federal investigation into the incident.

“There were many times on the tape where he could have just put handcuffs on her and he just kept beating her and that is unnecessary,” said Dr. Julianne Malveaux, activist and president emerita of Bennett College for Women. The community and leadership response in this case should be as vocal as it was for Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, she added. That case, in which Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted of murder, touched off a nationwide firestorm of activism. 

“Just like those leaders who went to Florida, rallying around Zimmerman’s slaughter of Trayvon Martin, there needs to be some people, the same leaders, in Los Angeles, rallying around this sister,” said Dr. Malveaux.

Mental health, instability, treatment and how law enforcement is trained to deal with these issues must also be addressed, she added.

Attorney Nkechi Taifa, a social justice attorney, agreed.

“The woman was barefoot. Obviously something might not have been right about her. At what point is your training supposed to kick in and say this person might need some services as opposed to the type of brutality that ensued?” asked Atty. Taifa.

Dr. Malveaux agreed an independent investigation is needed.

“They should take every effort to make sure that this is fully investigated and does not mean simply a group of police officers checking on another police officer. They need some civilians on the committee that investigates this incident. They do not need to make this an internal matter,” added Dr. Malveaux.

Amirah Sankofa Kweli, national minister of information for the New Black Panther Party, said from what she saw of the video it is a clear case of police brutality and excessive force. The community must organize around the issue of police brutality, she added.

“We can go about it in taking it to the streets in a very responsible manner, informing the people through education and letting them know exactly what’s going on because some of us don’t know about it,” Ms. Kweli told The Final Call.

She said citizen review boards are critical in terms of having a system in place to monitor police action. Defining “excessive force” cannot be left up to police departments, she added.

The Final Call asked if the U.S. Justice Department should be called in to investigate and review this latest incident.

“Having them come and review? They’ve been reviewing all these different cases and nothing has ever come of this. We’re still getting beaten, abused. They’re still Tasering, it’s lawful and it’s causing people to die and have heart attacks,” she said.

Atty. Taifa said many times police feel they can get away with brutality. If a pattern of abusive behavior is subsequently uncovered, litigation, a federal probe that could initiate civil rights actions could happen as it has in other states, Atty. Taifa told The Final Call.

As one goes down the police hierarchy, discretion increases, she explained. “The cop on the block, on the beat, the California Highway patrolman that perpetrated this case have so much  better discretion at their disposal and as a result they feel that they are accountable to no one and they feel that they are justified in what they are doing.” 

“How dare we tell China or some other country about human rights violations? We see them sitting right in our front door,” said Dr. Malveaux. 

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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