Politics: Minorities and Law Enforcement
Based on these two stories, you just have to ask yourself, what the hell is in the water in Ohio?
Hope Steffey is a 47-year-old blonde white woman resident of a town named Salem in Ohio. She weighs 125 lb. It sounds as if she's a member of the rapidly disappearing American middle-class.
Tarika Wilson was a 26-year-old Black American woman resident of a town named Lima in Ohio. We don't know much about her except that she had six children under the age of ten years. It sounds as if she's a member of the working/lower class.
Over a year ago, Hope Steffey was assaulted by one of her (apparently female) cousins, who knocked her unconscious and pulled out a patch of her hair. Another cousin called the police for help. The police who showed up decided to help Ms. Steffey by slamming her up against a police car, breaking one of her teeth. They then threw her on the ground, handcuffed her, arrested her, took her to the slammer, forcibly stripped off, with the assistance of some seven officers male and female, all her clothing, including her underwear, and left her in a cell for six hours, stark naked in the cold without so much as a stitch to preserve what was left of her battered and bruised dignity.
She is now suing the police department in Federal court. The police department is denying any wrongdoing, despite the fact that a videotape of Ms. Steffey in handcuffs with two big fat male cops holding her down and having all her clothes torn off (and screaming, begging, and pleading throughout the procedure) is now making the rounds on YouTube and the blogs. Understandably, Ms. Steffey and her family are scandalized at the treatment meted out to her.
"And you have to ask yourself, what was the purpose of the strip search?" said Steffey's lawyer. "What was the necessity of it? This was a disorderly conduct claim."It is unconscionable that a woman who has committed no crime, and who is, in fact, the victim of a crime, is treated this way by the very police that her tax dollars are paying to defend her and people like her.
The lawsuit says that Steffey remained in the cell for six hours and wrapped herself in toilet paper to stay warm. During that time, she was not allowed to use a phone or seek medical assistance for injuries she accrued that night, including a cracked tooth, bulging disc, and bruises.
The result of the lawsuit will be taxpayer dollars paid out in damages to Ms. Steffey. She deserves damages, and the purpose of the damages is to force the city and county employers of the police to be more stringent in their standards and the training of their employees. But all the officers who participated in the assault should have to face some penalty. Perhaps losing their jobs would be a suitable penalty. Clearly, if they can bring themselves to treat their fellow citizens this way, they should not have this kind of power over others.
About a year later, police in the city of Lima, Ohio shot and killed Tarika Wilson in her own home while purportedly conducting a drug raid on the house. During the course of the raid, they injured Wilson's year-old son, who was in her arms at the time. The child has since had his finger amputated as a result of the injury. Ms. Wilson's partner, 31-year-old Anthony Terry, was arrested and removed from the premises.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer has the grim details. Lima apparently has a long history of police misbehaviour as concerns the rights of the Black American community, although for a time that changed. All too briefly, apparently:
In the 1990s, life improved when federal money allowed the city to hire 10 police officers to work in the community. Residents and police point to that time, when officers were friendly and welcomed members of the community.Hmmm. Not to shill for Hillary here, but that would be the Clinton years, yes?
But by the end of the decade, the money was gone, and with it, the community police officers. Drugs, discontent and confrontations with police rose sharply.
Ronald Gailes, pastor of a local church, speaks about the tense situation around Ms. Wilson's death:
"We have a desensitized law enforcement agency that treats black people as suspects."The two incidents have only one thing in common - law enforcement officers exercising inappropriate levels of force. If the officers who stripped Ms. Steffey had been punished immediately for their behaviour, it is possible that Ms. Wilson might be alive today. If police officers were given better staffing levels, better training, it is possible that Ms. Steffey's ordeal and the orphaning of the Wilson children would never have occurred.
Failes acknowledged that drugs plague the community, but he noted that unemployment creates desperation.
"When a man has to feed his family, he'll do what he has to do," Failes said.
Law enforcement is a very tough job. Imagine yourself in the position of a cop, knowing that at any moment you could lose your life or limb or job because of one incorrect assessment, one second extra in making a decision. Understandably, cops get pretty fucked up after working a job like that day after day for years. The pressure on one's personal life, one's family life, one's relationships, has to be unreal. But that does not excuse the actions of those officers involved in either case. Ultimately, what it points to is an inability by these men and women with guns and badges to understand that people who are not white or male or do not have guns and badges are still people and should be treated humanely. We do not have to follow the precepts of the madman in charge who tells us that torture is OK, and humans have no innate rights. There is a better way. And most of all, law enforcement officers need to learn not to exercise inappropriate levels of force against others just because they can.
A petition requesting the Attorney General to investigate Ms. Steffey's case is already on the internet. As for Ms. Wilson, we fervently hope that her family files a lawsuit and receives damages also. Even if her partner was actively dealing drugs, the police knew there were young children in that house and behaved inappropriately.
If you know of any attempt to seek justice for Ms. Wilson, please leave us a comment, thanks. Stumble It!