As the Los Angeles police beat Rodney King over sixty times, one citizen with a video camera taped the whole event. Without that camera, the assault on King would have never been exposed and he would have been just another victim of anonymous police brutality.
Since the Rodney King case fifteen years ago, we have seen many cases of police brutality. Media coverage of cases such as those of Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima, Timothy Thomas, Inglewood teen Donovan Jackson, and most recently Edmon Burns in St. Louis have raised eyebrows of folks across the nation.
But does this happen here in Phoenix?
Cases of police brutality that tend to get media coverage are those that involve deaths. In mid July, 2004, it was reported that the City of Phoenix had it's 15th officer-involved shooting, 10 of which were fatal. There was also a death at the end of July of someone who was Tasered by police in Mesa. Recently, the Arizona Republic conducted research regarding the use of force by police departments across the country. Their findings were that from 1996 to 2000, Phoenix police killed an average of 3.33 people per 1,000 officers, making them 2.5 times more likely to use deadly force than officers in bigger cities like L.A. or New York. Overall, Valley officers shot and killed 23 people in 2001, adding to the total of 154 killed between 1980 and 2000.
These are people like Mario Madrigal Jr., Dawn Rae Nelson (see Copwatch Statement), Rudy Buchanan Jr., Edward Mallet, and Ali Altug. These people were ordinary folks who faced the police for various reasons, but all were subject to the judge, jury and executioner mentality of the police officers that shot them.
Cases of police brutality that do not involve shooting are rarely or never covered by the media, so we don't hear about them. Therefore we cannot know how often it occurs. The recent addition of the taser to local officers' collection of tools has been particularly of concern because it can easily be abused.
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