Thousands of incidents take place every day in this country in which people of color are unfairly shot, beaten, harassed, threatened, menaced, humiliated, or disrespected by law enforcement officers.
Video released last week shows a white police officer in Austin, Texas, dragging a Black female teacher from her car during a traffic stop for speeding and throwing her to the ground twice. A second white officer told the motorist that white people are afraid of Black people because of their “violent tendencies.”
The video of Breaion King’s arrest on June 15, 2015, was released after she hired a lawyer to obtain dashboard-camera videos from the police department. It shows officer Bryan Richter pulling Ms. King from her car and throwing her to the ground. She stood, and he lifted her and threw her down again, then handcuffed her and pulled her up by her hands.
A separate video captured a conversation between a second officer, Patrick Spradlin, and Ms. King while she was in the back of his police car:
Ms. King: “I believe that Caucasians have more supremacy over Black people, just to be honest. They have more rights.”
Officer Spradlin: “I don’t think that.”
Ms. King: “I think a lot of people are afraid of Black people.”
Officer Spradlin: “Why are so many people afraid of Black people?”
Ms. King: “That’s what I want to figure out. Because I’m not a bad Black person.”
Officer Spradlin: “I can give you a really good idea why it might be that way.”
Ms. King: “Why?”
Officer Spradlin: “Violent tendencies. I want you to think about that. I’m not saying anything. I’m not saying it’s true. I’m not saying that I can prove it or nothing. But 99 percent of the time when you hear about stuff like that, it is the Black community that’s being violent. That’s why a lot of the white people are afraid, and I don’t blame them.”
EJI has documented a presumption of dangerousness that threatens people of color in American society during police encounters.
In a news conference last Thursday, Austin police chief Art Acevedo issued a public apology and said Officer Richter’s conduct and record are being investigated.
Officer Spradlin is also under investigation, the New York Times reported. “For those that think that life is perfect for people of color, I want you to listen to that conversation and tell me that we don’t have social issues in this nation, issues of bias, issues of racism, issues of people being looked at differently because of their color,” Chief Acevedo said.
Ms. King suffered bruising and swelling and still has pain in her shoulders. In an interview last week, she said she was saddened by Officer Spradlin’s comments. “I was hurt,” she said. “It was very disheartening to know that when people see me, they see violence, or when people see me, they see anger.”