One of the more infuriating and inexplicable twists in modern American policing is the way in which they are able to bring violent white supremacists with blood-drenched hands into custody safely and unharmed while the most pedestrian of interactions with Black Americans usually leads to brutal violence and often death. While police defenders cry over and over that all we need is sensitivity training and police reforms, every day brings us the story of yet another appalling violation of human dignity that should prove to everyone that the police are not reformable and have no intention of changing their behaviors.
Rayhanah Alhanafi, a Black Muslim woman, is suing the New York Police Department after she was falsely arrested and viciously abused by police officers on July 12, 2019.
A simple traffic stop got out of control after officers refused her request to be only touched by a female officer due to her religious beliefs. Enraged at the pushback, the police officers became “increasingly aggressive and [threw] the plaintiff to the ground.” The lawsuit alleges that Officer Tuhin Khan then “pressed his knee down on Plaintiff’s neck and in her back” while she yelled that she couldn’t breathe.
Alhanafi was dragged across the ground to the point where her undergarments were exposed — deliberate humiliation by the police — before being shoved roughly into the car sideways as they yelled “stupid b*tch” at her.
Having sustained injuries during her assault, she demanded that they take her to a hospital or render her some kind of medical assistance, which they refused to do. The woman was left with a hairline fracture in her neck.
The lawsuit claims that the police had no legal basis to stop her in the first place; the police allege she was driving with a suspended license and forged license plates, but the criminal case against her was dropped.
There is absolutely no reason why any of this had to go down like this — but it did, and it keeps happening over and over and over again.
Incidents like this perfectly illustrate how a police culture of impunity dovetails with the officers’ personal inferiority complexes. The slightest amount of pushback or non-cooperation is met with violence, abuse, insults, and deliberately inflicted humiliation to make their victim know they are the ones with the power and there’s nothing you can do about it.
This is unacceptable behavior by police that plays out across the nation on a daily basis, but nobody has the political courage to do anything about it — not even Democrats. Until we find some, we will continue to be abused and mistreated by those that we have empowered to protect us, and the white supremacist superstructure we all say we want to destroy will continue to persist.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.