E. Law Enforcement and Police Brutality--The Rodney King Case
In the early hours of March 3, 1991, a black man in Los Angeles was severely beaten and brutalized by police officers. Furthermore, their conduct was videotaped and repeatedly viewed by the public on national television. Many Americans were pathetically mystified that such conduct occurred as if the videotape had captured South African policemen beating a black man in South Africa.
Many Americans still have not fully acknowledged that a vicious crime was committed or that Rodney King's civil rights were violated. The sentiment of many is that if King would have “just laid still” through the beating, his injuries would not have been as severe. For African-Americans, however, the Rodney King beating was not out of the ordinary, but reflects the general treatment that African-Americans, particularly males, have received from police departments. The only difference between the Rodney King incident and many other incidents of police brutality involving black males is that the officers' conduct was video taped and continuously aired on national television.
The City of Los Angeles, like other cities, has paid millions of dollars in damages for cases of police brutality against African-Americans. In Prince George's County, Maryland, a jury awarded $1.9 million against four policemen for violating the civil rights of a Ghanaian when he died as a result of “blunt force trauma” by the arresting officers. In 1980, an African-American male insurance executive, Arthur McDuffie, was beaten to death by white Miami police officers; the officers were later acquitted of any charges. In Columbus, Ohio, a white police officer was indicted on felonious assault charges for striking an African-American male in the mouth with a flashlight.
Before the Rodney King incident could be resolved by the court, the nation was again stunned by another violent act directed at an African-American male motorist, Malice Greene, by white police officers in Detroit. Unlike the King situation, the beating of Malice Green was not video taped. A black officer was at the scene but did not intervene, and the death of Malice Green was the end result. According to witnesses, Malice Green, a 35-year old African-American male was stopped, beaten with a heavy flashlight and kicked by two police officers, while at least five other officers watched. Green subsequently died of head injuries in the hospital. Officers stated that Green resisted arrest.
With the exception of Detroit, very little outcry has come from the African-American community, human rights organizations, or the nation as a whole. Generally, the African-American community appears to have retreated back to a passive position on the issue of police brutality. There is presently no national plan of action designed by African-American communities to formulate a cohesive response to police brutality.