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An Epidemic of Police Brutality


By dlindorff - Posted on 04 November 2010

By Linn Washington Jr.

Hours after San Francisco Bay Area radio show host J.R. Valrey screened his documentary film about police brutality at a university in Philadelphia daily newspapers in that city carried articles about two separate lawsuits filed against Philly police alleging brutality.

Those lawsuits, filed respectively by a state legislator and a high-profile media commentator (both of whom are black) didn’t surprise Valrey. His travels across America screening his film highlighted for him – again – a reality that governmental officials constantly reject: police brutality is a widespread scourge.

“Police brutality is definitely not ‘isolated incidents’ as officials always say after each new killing or beating by police,” said Valrey, host of the Block Report, a program aired on KPFA-FM, the Pacifica station in the Bay Area.

“When we screened the film in Atlanta people were still talking about the police murder of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston [in 2006].”

Valrey’s film “Operation Small Axe” primarily examines the January 1, 2009 fatal shooting of unarmed Oscar Grant by a transit policeman at a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station in Oakland. That killing sparked riots in Oakland.

That deadly New Years Day incident, which was captured on cell phone videos by eyewitnesses, triggered condemnations across America.

In an unusual twist for police abuse incidents, a jury last summer convicted Johannes Mehserle, the BART police officer who shot the handcuffed Grant in the back, of involuntary manslaughter. (Police officers involved in abuse incidents rarely face criminal charges, and most escape even discipline from their police department.)

Decades of incidents across the country and repeated documentation from a variety of sources substantiate Valrey’s assessment of the systemic nature of police brutality.

For the rest of this article by LINN WASHINGTON in ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent online alternative newspaper, please go to: ThisCantBeHappening!

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