The Cops We Deserve

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By now you've seen the video above. Here are some typically trenchant thoughts from Jim and Alexis. I think the only thing I can add is that it's worth boring down some on the cops defense of their action:


Shortly before 4 p.m., about 35 officers from UC Davis and other UC campuses as well as the city of Davis responded to the protest, said Annette Spicuzza, UC Davis police chief. They were wearing protective gear and some held batons. The protest initially involved about 50 students, Spicuzza said, but swelled to about 200 as the confrontation with police escalated. 

She said officers were forced to use pepper spray when students surrounded them. They used a sweeping motion on the group, per procedure, to avoid injury, she said. The students were informed repeatedly ahead of time that if they didn't move, force would be used, she said. 

"There was no way out of that circle," Spicuzza said. "They were cutting the officers off from their support. It's a very volatile situation."

Those of who've followed police brutality cases over the years will see the pattern at work. When accused of police brutality cops often claim to be endangered, regardless of the facts of the situation. An abusive could be driving a tank and facing off with a baby stroller, and yet somehow he/she would be the one outgunned. When there simply is no evidence at all, abusive officer will create the evidence and then laugh about it later:

The officer, Michael Daragjati, 32, an eight-year veteran, stopped a 31-year-old man on Targee Street in the Stapleton neighborhood on April 15, prosecutors said. A search of the man revealed no contraband, but after he complained about his treatment and asked for the officer's badge number, 

Officer Daragjati arrested him and charged him with resisting arrest, telling him that he did not like being disrespected, prosecutors said. Officer Daragjati then wrote in a police report that the man had flailed his arms and kicked his legs during the arrest, causing the man to be detained for about 36 hours, according to a federal complaint. 

The next day, the government intercepted a phone call between Officer Daragjati and a female friend in which the officer complained that he had just gotten out of court on the stop-and-frisk case, but that it had been worth the hassle. 

 "I sat there for a couple of hours by the time I got it all done but, fried another nigger," the officer says on a transcript provided by prosecutors. "What?" The woman asks. Officer Daragjati uses the same phrase and then adds, "no big deal." The woman laughs.

Not to diminish what happened at UC Davis, but it's worth considering what happens in poor  neighborhoods and prisons, far from the cameras. I'm not saying that to diminish this video in anyway. But I'd like people to see this a part of a broad systemic attitude we've adopted as a country toward law enforcement. There's a direct line from this officer invoking his privilege to brutalize these students, and an officer invoking his privilege to detain Henry Louis Gates for sassing him.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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