Commentary

03.29.19

On Police Violence, Our Legal System and Community Members Disagree

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Police Cars

It was a Saturday in August 2017 when I drove across town to gather in Euclid with family and friends of Luke Stewart, a young father who was killed by Euclid Police after they found him sleeping in his parked car. It was sunny and humid, and people had brought bagels, donuts, coffee. We were canvassing the neighborhood to invite residents to an upcoming city council meeting to demand accountability for the City’s senseless taking of life.

Canvassing was successful. Neighbors were supportive and many pledged to come out. Afterward I drove home, walked inside, and plopped down on my couch. I opened Facebook as I often do to give my mind a break. But this was no break. Being shared was a video of a Euclid police officer attacking another Black community member during a simple traffic stop: punching his head and slamming him into the asphalt. The brutal beating had happened that very morning, while I was in Euclid, mere blocks from where I had been canvassing with Luke Stewart’s family. The man being beaten was Richard Hubbard III. The police officer beating him, Michael Amiott.

Recently Cleveland.com reported that in January Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley determined he would not file felony charges against officer Amiott. Federal investigators still have the option to pursue federal charges, and Euclid prosecutors could pursue misdemeanor charges. Knowing what I know about prosecution rates of police officers, I’m not holding my breath.

But regardless of what legal decision federal investigators or Euclid prosecutors may make, the violence Amiott inflicted on Mr. Hubbard is unacceptable, and never should have happened. Officers too often resort to excessive force in interactions with Black and brown people. Violence such as this traumatizes entire neighborhoods – and entire generations.

Our legal system imposes weak restrictions on police use of force, so it often rubber stamps violence such as this. But cities and their police departments can build stronger requirements into their use of force and discipline policies to prevent such violence. I and so many other Ohioans agree: we shouldn’t have to live in constant fear of the officials who are meant to protect us.

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