Maybe some of the cities wouldn’t be so broke…If they introduced some rationality to their Police forces.
The sound of a battering ram against wood would have been jarring enough, but Viola Briggs had a metal front door.
The only warning that it was about to come crashing open was a knock and a three-word shout: “Police! Open up!”
The 55-year-old legal assistant had just finished watching an episode of “CSI: Miami” on her computer. She would have opened the door but didn’t have time to take a step. She shouted for her older brother, who lived with her in their Southwest Washington apartment. Then, suddenly, the door frame gave way and 13 police officers rushed in, weapons drawn.
Over the past two years, one graphic video after another has captured ugly and sometimes deadly interactions between police officers and black residents of the communities they serve. From one city to the next, the shaky-framed images have fueled demonstrations and made household names of the dead: Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile.
But for Briggs, and many people like her across the country, their trust in the police was eroded long before videos of police shootings were going viral on Facebook and Twitter. It was destroyed in moments that were not caught on camera and that might have gone unnoticed if they hadn’t been reported.
An extensive examination of citizen complaints and civil lawsuits filed against D.C. police over the past decade shows that even in a city with a majority-black department and a robust civilian oversight office with newly enhanced powers, hundreds of incidents occur each year in which people feel mistreated by those who are supposed to protect them.
In one case, a 65-year old African American man said he was leaving a library in Southeast Washington when he was detained and handcuffed, even though he did not fit the description of the threatening library patron police had been called about. In another, an officer admitted to spreading a black man’s buttocks twice in an unlawful body-cavity search but denied that he “jammed” a finger inside him, as the man claimed.
Since 2005, the city has agreed or been ordered to pay at least $31.6 million in 173 cases alleging police misconduct, including claims of false arrest and excessive use of force, according to a Washington Post analysis of data obtained from the D.C. attorney general’s office.
Complaints against police — and the settlements that sometimes result — are common across the country. Baltimore, which has a similar-size police force, paid $5.7 million in 102 court judgments and settlements for alleged misconduct between 2011 and September 2014, according to a Baltimore Sun analysis of city and court records. During roughly that same period, alleged police misconduct cost the District $2.9 million in 38 cases.
But since then, the District’s payouts have risen sharply. In the first nine months of 2016, misconduct lawsuits cost city taxpayers at least $3.8 million in judgments or settlements. And last week, the family of Terrence Sterling, a motorcyclist fatally shot Sept. 11 by a D.C. police officer, filed a $50 million lawsuitagainst the city and the police department alleging that the 31-year-old “was unarmed and posed no danger” when he was killed.
Some of the District’s lawsuits detail beatings that resulted in hospital stays. Others tell of people who had committed no crimes before contentious encounters with police landed them in jail.
Viola Briggs and her brother, Frank Briggs, were the recipients of a settlement this year.
The two had moved into their apartment three months before the night of Jan. 20, 2012, when the officers, several wearing ski masks, held them at gunpoint.
Police had a search warrant for drugs but did not find any, according to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the siblings. The case, launched against the city and the 13 officers involved, argued that the warrant was based on a conversation with a confidential informant and that investigators did not attempt to corroborate the information or research who lived at the residence.
Once inside, the officers ordered the siblings to lie on the floor. Viola Briggs did. But as her brother, then 56 and suffering from back pain so debilitating that he qualified for disability, slowly lowered himself, an officer shoved him to the ground, according to the suit.
Before that day, Viola Briggs said, she held a deep respect for law enforcement. One of her three sons is an Army captain who has considered joining a civilian police force, she said. She regularly donated to the Fraternal Order of Police. And, after two U.S. Capitol Police officers were killed in the line of duty, she wrote this on a Washington Post online memorial site: “I would like to express my sincere condolences to the family of the two brave officers who gave their lives for the protection of others. May GOD be with you in your time of need and may HE also bring you peace.”
After the raid on her apartment, she said, she was left not only with a broken door but also with a shattered sense of security. For years, she slept with a baseball bat at her side and a chair shoved against the door.
“It made me hate the police,” Briggs said. “Not all of the police. It made me hate the police at the 7th District because of what they did to me.”…More here…