Police Brutality & Senseless Crimes: We Won’t Let You Rest

root - Posted on 07 October 2002

DAMO looks at the recent case of police brutality against Donavon Jackson and other cases of senseless crimes against people of color with disabilites

by Leroy Moore/DAMO and PoorNewsNetwork

I can’t rest

My disabled brothers and sisters

Are shot, dragged and beaten to death……….

My poem, Can’t Rest, is more than words on paper, unfortunately it’s reality. In the last four years, Disability Advocates of Minorities Organization (DAMO) and I had many sleepless nights because of the continuous brutality and senseless crimes against our disabled bothers and sisters of color. What really keeps us up at night is the lack of awareness, media attention and no local community forums to educate and heal on this issue. Last July DAMO organized and implemented the first ever Senseless Crimes Open Forum dealing with people with disabilities of color in the community. However, since last July, DAMO and I still can’t rest

It’s been a year since our open forum and the physical attacks and police brutalities continue to happen to disabled people of color all over California. The following is a brief picture of this year's senseless crimes and police brutality against people of color with disabilities;

On Sunday evening, March 16th, Richard Tims, a frail, Black, mentally-ill young man, felt threatened when a teen stepped on his foot on a San Francisco Muni Bus and therefore tried to protect himself with a knife. He stabbed the teen, but when he got off the bus and hid in a bus shelter, the police arrived and talked to the wounded teen. After locating Mr. Tims the SFPD shot up the bus shelter killing Mr. Tims and seriously injuring an elderly woman coming out of a nearby fast food restaurant.

During Malcolm X’s birthday on May 19th, a disabled immigrant man of color was walking out of VALMAR SUPER LIQUOR & DELI on 16th & Valencia St. in the Mission District of San Francisco. A White male in his forties on a big skateboard was screaming about how this country was his country and how he hated fags and foreigners. He approached this elderly, disabled man and asked, "Are you an immigrant?" But the elderly man kept on walking. That’s when this White man picked up his big skateboard and hit the elderly man on the back of his head. On top of that, the three men of color inside the deli watched the whole thing and did nothing.

David Smith, a Black developmentally disabled youth of West Oakland was frisked and taken into police custody in the week of May 27th for no reason. After hours of questioning the officer realized they had the wrong person. David was let go with no apologies. David is still traumatized by the whole incident.

All of the above cases of police brutality and senseless crimes have been against poor people of color with disabilities who have very little resources to fight back. None of the cases had a witness video taping the incident so they were invisible to the public. Another example of this invisibility was the shooting and killing of Margaret L. Mitchell of L.A. You’d think the LAPD, and police in general, would stop, think and learn? However the recent L.A. police brutality against a Black, developmentally disabled and hard of hearing teen, Donovan Jackson of Inglewood, CA. is an on-going example that the LAPD doesn’t seem to have the intellectual capacity to learn from their history.

The LAPD & SFPD share a common reason why their victims end up wounded or dead: because "the victim had lunged towards the officer and the officer felt his life was in danger." From the above cases this reason doesn’t add up to me. Both Margaret L Mitchell and Richard Tims were frail and weighed only a hundred pounds. Both were accused of lunging toward the police officer with a very small weapon, but in both incidents the victims were outnumbered by police officers at the scene. Now why can’t police officers use reasonable thinking and come up with a less lethal tactic to deescalate the situation in which the police outnumber and outweigh its victim?

Donovan Jackson, a skinny teenager with developmental disabilities, only had a bag of chips. But once again an LA police officer, Jeremy Morse, said the Black disabled teen lunged at him and squeezed his testicles. So this forty-something year old grown man, who outweighed Jackson, punched him with all his weight. Although Jackson was punched, slammed on the roof of the police car, and dragged by his necklace, Jackson was booked for investigation of battery on a police office. As a Black, disabled advocate who worked with youth and young adults with developmental disabilities (for example, mental retardation) for almost twenty years, I have learned a lot about common traits they share. One common trait in most of the youth and young adults with mental retardation is the strong sense of loyalty and protectiveness some have towards family members and friends. So when Jackson returned to the car and saw the police still there, like any son he wanted to know what was going on and protect his father.

If you add that Jackson was hard of hearing, you get a very confused and hostile environment this teen had never been in before. If Morse took his time and realized that Jackson had developmental disabilities and was hard of hearing, he would have realized that Jackson needed accommodation. Morse could have let Jackson’s father do all the explaining on what was going on, or Morse could have turned face-to-face with Jackson to see if Jackson could read lips, or to see which ear had better hearing. Instead Morse escalated the situation, from which there was no turning back from that point on.

Another common factor found in some youth and young adults I’ve worked with who have developmental disabilities, is that if he or she has a good or bad experience with something or someone, it’s very difficult to change his or her mind of that person. Jackson is only a teenager, and from this horrible brutality it might be very hard to change his views about police. I don’t blame him! The most shocking but common finding in police brutality cases is that the officers, nine times out of ten, have a closet full of brutality cases against individuals (or a whole class of people) that haven’t been let out of their closet. Well Jeremy Morse’s closet is wide open and the media has been doing some Spring-cleaning. One of his brutality cases hit many news services, including the Saturday, July 13th LA Times. One case almost resembled what happen on Martin Luther Kings’ Birthday this year, in the Bayview Hunters Point District in San Francisco, where Black teens were physically and sexually assaulted and forced to lie on the ground at gunpoint. According to the July 13th LA Times, Morse had other legal and disciplinary problems including an off-duty incident in which he forced three teenagers at gunpoint to lie on the ground because he incorrectly believed they were stalking the sister of his then-girlfriend, court records showed. Morse was suspended for 13 days in connection with the incident, and the city settled a lawsuit with the teenagers for $37,000. Before Jackson’s tragic incident, Morse had continued to work for the Inglewood Police Department.

I’m glad that the Mayor of Inglewood, Roosevelt Dorn, took action and was vocal about the behavior of Morse. But I wonder, if there was no videotape, would he still react like he did? For example, the shooting of Idriss Stelley, a young Black man with mental illness in the San Francisco Sony Metreon Theater, didn’t have a video of the shooting that could have played nationwide. Although the grassroots campaign for Justice for Idriss is strong, still Mayor Willie Brown and the Chief of Police have been very slow to the demands of Idriss’ family and supporters. What are we saying? If it’s not on TV, then its not real and elected officials don’t need to react?

I agree with the Mayor that these cops should be fired and brought up on charges! As the Justice system does its job, we, the people, must do ours. I think it’s time for a grassroots movement on police brutality and senseless crimes against people with disabilities, especially people of color with disabilities including mental illness, locally and on a state level. Right here in San Francisco, Idriss’ mother, Mesha Irizarry, started a support group, Victory Over Violence, for families and loved ones who lost their disabled or non-disabled loved ones by the hands of the police. They meet the first Sunday of every month. There also has to be more community open forums on this issue with the financial and community support; more training of police officers on how to deescalate a tense situation involving people with mental illness and others with disabilities. Local groups and activists like:

Najee Ali of Project Islamic HOPE of LA,
Mesha Irizarry of Victory Over Violence of San Francisco and
Myself of Disability Advocates of Minorities Organization of San Francisco Bay Area
need more support, resources and media attention throughout the year for our work on this issue, not national leaders and not only during crisis!

My disabled brothers and sisters are put to rest

On the streets, in psychiatric wards & in prison

But I feel your sprit & anger in my chest

I won’t rest

Your sprit & anger won’t

We won’t let you rest

By Leroy F. Moore Jr.

Executive Director of DAMO

(510) 569-8438 sfdamo@Yahoo.com


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