It Matters That A Texas Officer Thinks Blacks Have ‘Violent Tendencies’
In dashcam footage of the violent July 2015 arrest of 26-year-old Breaion King, a Black woman and elementary school teacher in Texas, an Austin police officer named Patrick Spradin explains to King that part of the reason why so many Whites are afraid of Black people is because they have “violent tendencies.”
This explanation is his justification for the unwarranted body slamming and physical assault she was subjected to by an officer twice her size. Whether he knew it or not, this officer was verifying that, even when Black people are doing nothing threatening or violent, they are seen as dangerous by many Whites. This is the case even when those White people wear blue.
The footage was just released by the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV on Thursday. In the video, one can see that, after a routine traffic stop for speeding, a White officer named Bryan Richter pulls over King and subsequently believes she is not complying with his requests for identification. However, the footage shows that, even though she was in compliance, the situation escalates into a physical arrest within only seven seconds.
The video is very difficult to watch the large officer swings King’s petite body around and slams her into concrete. Spradin appears at the end of the altercation and attempts to justify violence against Black people.
Until now, Spradin’s comments were never reported. On the other hand, Richter’s involvement was reported but received the lowest possible punishment – counselling and additional training. Luckily, the District Attorney threw out the case against King after reviewing the dashcam footage.
Given all of this, there are several truly disturbing aspects to this confrontation which have implications for Black Americans on the whole.
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First, King is clearly complying with the officer when he chooses to enter her vehicle to physically drag her out of it. All of this was for her allegedly speeding. While many would see her responses to him as confusion (since she repeatedly asks him, “are you serious?”) he interprets her actions as resistance. What is problematic about this is that his reaction and response automatically penalizes and criminalizes those of us in the world who are #LoudBlackGirls, who express ourselves vocally and are often misread as “having an attitude.” Rather than understanding that this woman might have been disconcerted when an officer swerved into a parking lot behind her and started making demands, he assumes she is a threat.
Second, as the officer is throwing King around like she had drawn a weapon on him, others are watching the entire display. At the end of the footage, a guy walks over to confirm that he “saw the whole thing” from where he was standing and King was “resisting” from what he could see. They also mention that a woman had been nearby filming the entire thing. Yet, no one calls out to help King. And, honestly, what the fuck is “resisting” anyway?
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It isn’t natural to have a large man climbing into your driver side door especially when you are confused as to why he is there in the first place. The word “resisting” is used so much in the footage that it suggests that almost anything King could have done might have been interpreted as combative. To add, the officer’s clear use of intimidation and excessive force has nothing to do with King resisting. It has to do with him trying to assert himself as the dominant person, as the enforcer. From his snap reaction to her sitting peacefully in her driver’s seat, it is clear he was going to find any reason he could to assault King that day.
Third, in the footage following King’s arrest, Richter keeps describing scenarios during the altercation where he “didn’t know what she was going to do.” Or, he was uncertain if she would run off or maybe draw a weapon. At one point, he even raises his arm to gesture how he thought her movements (which were likely reflexes resulting from being kneed, slammed, and yanked by this huge cop) seemed like she was going to hit him.
But what would have happened if she had hit him? Is she strong enough to overpower this man? Absolutely not. So, why would he feel the need to assault her so brutally if he could have arrested her with less force? After getting her cuffed and subdued, he even raises her arms behind her back in the cuffs just to punish her. This isn’t about public safety. This is about race and gender discrimination.
Finally, this video reminded me of another I saw a few weeks ago of a young woman giving an interview during a protest. During the interview, she is talking calmly into a camera about the processes of organizing and what might make the collective action better. Then, five police officers in SWAT gear storm into the frame as she says, “Oh my God, oh my God.” They then escort her behind the police line and take her into custody.
It struck me because, in both cases, the women were saying things like “Oh my God,” and King even asked “why are you doing this?” Neither of the women were combative. Neither of them were angry or violent. They were literally just there and clearly afraid. Yet, that was enough to get them arrested.
I kept watching the footage of King thinking, “if that were me, I would be dead right now.” As a woman with a known heart condition, I would not have survived the assault King experienced. What is terrifying about it, though, is that based on the final officer’s account, this type of violence is not only justified but necessary to quell the “violent tendencies” of Black Americans.
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In essence, the modern police force is trained to predict that Black people will be more violent, more harmful, and more of a threat even when the indications suggest otherwise. This is part of the reason why Miriam Carey, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, John Crawford, and Michael Brown are not alive today. Because the very people who are meant to “serve and protect” are committed to the same racial biases and institutional inequalities which have oppressed Black people for generations. Not only that, they have incorporated it into the ways they police and the justifications they use when doling out punishment.
The fact of the matter is: We are literally paying police officers to kill us. And they don’t even need probable cause to justify their actions.
These are undeniable facts and since this isn’t an episode of Minority Report where police can simple see the future and know who will be violent before they commit any crimes, they must take a serious look at the ways their own biases inform their actions. I say tear it all down and start over again because clearly, the system is not “serving and protecting” all of us.
Photo: YouTube screenshot