Police Need to be Held Accountable for Violence Against Black Women and Girls

McKinney, Texas police officer Eric Casebolt’s violent attack on Dajerria Becton, a 15-year-old African American girl at a neighborhood pool party, which was captured on video, went immediately viral over the weekend.

via Markus Prime
via Markus Prime

There is little data on police violence toward African American women and girls, which, according to the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) “There is a paucity of data in cases of police violence against Black women, which perpetuates the myth that they are not impacted by this problem.”  Yet we know that 12 African American women were reported killed by police in 2014, and this is only what is currently known. There has been no systematic collection of these data.

AAPF, under the leadership of its Director and Founder Kimberlé Crenshaw, a well-recognized UCLA and Columbia University Professor who developed the theory of intersectionality, has created a Black Women Police Violence Database, to which it is inviting the public to add their stories. Crenshaw and the AAPF released a report last month called “#SayHerName: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women.” The report highlights stories of Black women who have been killed by police, and studies forms of police brutality, such as sexual assault, that are often disproportionately experienced by women.

By Tuesday, after of the publicity caused by the video, which was viewed more than 6 million times over the weekend, Casebolt resigned. The McKinney Police Chief Greg Conley called Casebolt’s behavior “indefensible” and “out of control.” In a statement, Conley said, “Our policies, our training, our practice do not support his actions.” No decision has been made if Casebolt will be prosecuted.

“Ex-officer Casebolt must face legal action for his violent, reckless action against Becton. Until more police officers are held accountable, this out of control violent behavior disproportionately against African Americans –women and girls as well as boys and men – will continue,” said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

“So far the public debate about police violence has centered on body cameras and training. But a central element has been neglected: police department recruiting and representation of people of color and women both on police forces and in police command positions,” Smeal continued.

Of the 170 sworn officers in McKinney’s police department, 141 or 83 percent were white and 88 percent were male, according to 2013 data (the most recent that could be located). Only 16 officers or 9 percent were identified as white females. McKinney’s police department has only 1 African American woman. Four officers, or 2 percent of the force, were Latinas; 9 or 5 percent were African American males; and 16 or 9 percent were Latinos. Meanwhile the population of McKinney is 26.5 percent black, 17 percent Latina/o, and 44.6 percent white.

“The under-representation of women and people of color is a serious problem in one police department after another in our nation,” said Smeal, adding “For decades, the FMF National Center for Women and Policing has reported that the underrepresentation of women in policing and the lack of community policing is contributing to police brutality. Our nation must not only change the culture, but also the makeup of its police forces by gender, race, and ethnicity,” concluded Smeal.

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