Yesterday afternoon the question was posed (via twitter), “Did cops stop killing black people or did the agenda of the media change?” This tweet caught my eye because, as I started searching my memory for any recent occurrence of police brutality, specifically against Black Americans, I came up short. I can’t recall one event of police brutality in the past three months. Normally, I find out about these events through Twitter, Instagram, or television news broadcasts, all of which I have browsed the same amount as usual so what changed? Did police brutality stop altogether? Did media coverage indeed change?
Terrill Thomas, a Milwaukee resident, died of dehydration at the hands of Sheriff David Clarke while being held at the Milwaukee County Jail in April of last year. Thomas had been contained for 9 days upon his death. He went without water at least 6 days prior to his death. Sheriff Clarke, a widely outspoken Trump supporter, deliberately discontinued water flow to Thomas’ cell. Thomas had been “begging and pleading” for water in the days leading up to his death, yet his cries still went unanswered by Sheriff Clarke and other officials running the Milwaukee county jail. After Thomas’ family filed a lawsuit against Clarke and the Milwaukee County Jail, his death was ruled a homicide. Terrill Thomas’s family is one of the few who received justice.
Just this past weekend on March 11th, 2017, videos surfaced of a police officer beating an unarmed black man as well as shouting “F**k off!” in the direction of the small crowd witnessing the violence. The abuser has been identified as Officer Spencer Muniz-Bottomley, a former marine. The video begins with Officer Muniz-Bottomley chasing the victim, who sits down and waits for the officer to reach him. Upon Muniz-Bottomley’s arrival, he proceeds to throw the victim to the ground and begin aggressively punching and restraining the man. At one point the officer produces his flashlight and continues to pummel the victim with it.
On February 21st of this year, an off-duty police officer is caught on video aggressively handling a teen who supposedly walked on his lawn. The officer has restrained the young teen and will not release him despite efforts by the surrounding teenagers. Later in the three-minute video, the cop drags the child across a median of bushes and proceeds to pull out a firearm which he directs and fires at the teenagers who then disperse. The family of the 13-year old boy is now suing the off-duty police officer.
In North Carolina just two months ago, a high school officer body-slams 15-year-old Jasmine Darwin, a Black student in Rolesville, NC. The student explained that she was attempting to break up a fight involving her sister. While this was happening, Officer Ruben De Los Santos wraps his arms around her torso, lifting her up into the air, and slams her down to the ground. Darwin’s mother calls for the officer to be fired after leaving her daughter with a concussion.
It turns out that this is the case: Whether intentional or not, in my experience with the media, there has been less focus on cases of police violence which have still been occurring.
These incidents all occurred in the past year, so what does that imply about our media coverage? In just the past three years, police violence, killings specifically, have been highest on Black Americans. Black Americans are three times more likely to be killed by police than white Americans.
While these are just a few of the attacks involving police brutality in the past year, these events show that no, police did not stop inflicting unsolicited violence on Black Americans, but for some reason, the media merely ceases to care anymore.