Police in San Francisco Commit Murder

This is horrifying (Holly at Feministe, emphasis mine):

On New Year’s morning, the San Francisco BART police–yes, transit cops–dragged a bunch of young men off a train, including Oscar Grant. An officer then proceeded to execute Grant of them with a gunshot through the back, while he was restrained and lying face-down on the ground.

I think you should watch the videos, if you think you can handle it. They made me want to throw up, made me feel dizzy and aching, but they’re important. If bystanders hadn’t been leaning out of their trains with cellphone cameras, this incident might have passed largely unnoticed. According to witnesses, the BART police reacted immediately by confiscating cameras and phones in the name of “evidence.” The two videos that have surfaced were apparently taken by people who managed to keep their phones because the train started moving before the cops could get them. You have wonder why some city governments have been pushing in recent years to criminalize recording video in public without a license.

What was Grant doing to encourage such treatment (emphasis mine)?

It’s not entirely clear yet what happened during the incident, and it may never be. He was apparently not one of the initial group dragged off the train–one of the videos shows him unrestrained and standing up, trying to intercede with the police. According to witnesses, he was trying to de-escalate the situation between the cops and his friends.

This reminds me of a question I had when writing about a case in Maryland:

When will it be enough?  When will police abuse of power be recognized as an issue by the candidates, and addressed in a serious and systemic way?

The police have to be held accountable for actions such as these.  Pinning a man to the ground and shooting him in the back is a crime, even if a police officer commits it.  There is no justification for this.  None.  If the man was on the ground face down he could have been handcuffed or knocked unconcious.  Instead he was killed.

As Holly observes, this is a systemic issue:

This is not an isolated incident, not by a long shot. This kind of thing happens all the time: out-of-control police violence in response to non-violent communication. It happens to people of color, and to queer folks too. It happened to me and Jack a little more than a year ago, along with a group of colleagues and friends, for asking the police why they were making an arrest. An officer decided to pepper spray our group, without any real provocation. We’re lucky, and privileged, that it wasn’t a gun.

The officers responsible ought to go to jail for this.  And police departments nation wide need to engage in a serious effort to solve this problem.  As things stand now a police officer could just as equally be an out of control asshole on a life threatening power trip as the source of comfort and protection the police are supposed to represent.

If you are in the San Francisco area, there are protests planned:

There is a protest planned for today from 3-8 PM PST at the Fruitvale BART station, and another one being planned for Saturday.

BART Police have a website here.  Here is their contact info.

There ought to be an investigation immediately.  Not just of the murder, but of the efforts to cover up the crime.

UPDATE: Thanks concerned, I’ve updated the contact info for the correct department.

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2 Responses

  1. You don’t have your facts straight. This incident had nothing to do with San Francisco or San Francisco Police. The incident occurred in Oakland and the officer involved was a BART Police Officer, they have their own agency.

    I know your training as a police officer taught you that what you and your friend “Jack” did is a violation of 148.1(a) of the California Penal Code, delay, obstruct or resist arrest…. How about taking a step back and let the legal system and proper investigative steps take place. Get your facts in order before posting.

  2. concerned,
    I was mistaken about a single fact, not all of my facts as you imply. Namely which police department ought to be contacted to complain. Embarrassing, to be sure. It does nothing to undermine the facts of the case itself, or my argument for systemic change to address police brutality.

    A violation of the California Penal Code for delaying, obstructing or resisting arrest doesn’t come with a death penalty. Even if it did, there would customarily be a trial first.

    The legal system and “proper investigative steps” can, at most, ensure the family of the murdered man receive justice. (And it isn’t clear that they will). What needs to happen is a wider change to how police officers are selected, trained, viewed, and treated.

    It is, and always will be, essential for citizens to involve themselves and speak up on issues such as this.

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