For those who know me truly well, they know that I am not a person who “plays the race card” or who simply sides with racial and ethnic minorities because I am African-American. In fact, on many issues, I have been and am at odds with what many of my fellow African-Americans believe. Although I had originally planned to post an article that I have been working on for some time now (on a less serious topic), the White male cop in Seattle who viciously punched a 19 year old African-American female in the face compelled me to offer an immediate response.
I am quite unsettled by the reality that a White Seattle cop used a vicious punch to the face of a 19 year old African-American female simply because she lightly put her hands on his hands to step between the argument between him and the other 17 year old African-American female. Both of the females were jaywalking and the cop was trying to give them both tickets. While I think that the cop was well within in his right to give both of the females tickets for jaywalking, I contend that he unnecessarily employed excessive force. Neither of the African-American females posed an imminent threat to him. From my perspective, he simply did not like what the females were saying to him and did not like the fact that the 19 year old Black female lightly touched him.
The Black female never should have lightly put her hands on his hands, but this light placement of her hands on his hands did not warrant the use of excessive force. He could have removed her hands without using such great force. As a Criminal Justice minor during my undergraduate studies, I gained a firm understanding of criminal law, especially concerning policing. I have, therefore, a serious understanding about the fact that police officers have discretion (what is called “police discretion”). Police discretion does not allow a police officer to resort to an abuse of his power. An example of an abuse of police power is an unnecessary use of force. The police officer launched himself to ensure that he was punching the young lady with all of his power. All of this force for an unarmed 19 year old Black female? Really? On a street named after Martin Luther King, Jr.? Are you kidding me?
A Seattle police spokesman stated that the police officer acted within his discretion and disclosed that it’s up to an individual officer when to use excessive force. The police department has not punished the officer in any way at this moment. The department has required the officer to review training guidelines to see if improvement can be made. I’m certainly glad to see that the police department is having him to review training guidelines to see if he could improve his performance, but this is simply not all that the department needs to do to address this police officer. The department needs to fire this man for his unprofessional behavior and abuse of power. This is not the first time that Seattle police officers have unnecessarily brutalized a Black woman. They have brutalized Black women and men in the past. A pattern has conspicuously evolved.
This evolution of police brutality causes me to think that racism was an important factor in how the White police officer handled himself. A Seattle police spokesman claims that the officer became increasingly fearful of his safety as he was handling this issue on his own and there was a crowd of people around. The officer claims that this could have been a tragedy. The spokesman is right about one thing: this was a tragedy. What is tragic about this event is an unarmed Black female was viciously punched by a White police officer. How’s that for tragedy? The only thing that I can see that motivated this cop to react in the way he did is a deep gut bucket Mississippi Jim Crowism mentality. As I watched his face and his delivery of the punch, the punish itself seemed to communicate one word for me: Nigger! Let me be clear—I never heard him say that word, but his actions communicated that he was calling her that name.
Black women are twice a minority: Black and female. Sexism played a significant role in this matter because it seemed to me that he wanted to put her in a woman’s place, a Black woman’s place (in his mind): on her back. This punch evinced a true disregard for the Black woman’s body. When looking at this punch from a gender perspective, I also see that the punched communicated this message to the woman: filthy Black whore. This could explain why he did not want her touching him—no matter how light of a touching it was.
I urge the Seattle police department to fire this White police officer, Ian Walsh, and to develop a comprehensive plan to significantly diminish the chances of an incident like this from occurring again. Moreover, I urge all people who have been unsettled and unnerved by this incident to make sure that justice is served in this case. We have to remember what justice really is. Justice is what love looks like in public.
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison
- New $500,000 claim filed against Seattle Police Department (mynorthwest.com)
- Woman Sues Seattle Police after Video Shows they Fabricated Case Against Her (photographyisnotacrime.com)
- Seattle police facing another use-of-force claim (komonews.com)
- Study questions DOJ’s claim on SPD’s use of excessive force (komonews.com)