The subject of police brutality has been part of public discourse for years, and since the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum after the murder of George Floyd, it's been under a particularly bright spotlight. But even with ample examples we can point to, sometimes a story still manages to stun with its horrifying blatancy. This is one of those times.
The city of Philadelphia agreed to pay $2 million to a young Black mother after police officers smashed the windows… https://t.co/dSG3BT29Sq— The New York Times (@The New York Times) 1631709008.0
The headline here is that the city of Philadelphia was just ordered to pay a Black mother $2 million in damages for the beating she endured and trauma she and her 2-year-old experienced at the hands of the Philadelphia police in October of 2020. But there's so much more to the story than that.
Here's the background:
According to NBC10 Philadelphia, nursing aide Rickia Young was driving home in the early morning hours of Oct. 27, 2020, after picking up her 16-year-old nephew in West Philadelphia, when she unintentionally drove into a protest over the police killing of Walter Wallace, Jr. (Wallace was shot and killed by police after his family called 911 because he was having a mental health episode and they wanted him to get medical help.)
The police ordered Young to turn back, but as she started to do a 3-point turn, police swarmed her car and smashed her windows out with batons. According to Young's attorney, police pulled Young and her nephew from the car and struck them. Then police pulled Young's 2-year-old from the car and took him away, telling her they were taking him "to a better place."
Young was bleeding and had swelling on her face, body, and trachea. She was able to call her mother, who went to find the 2-year-old. She eventually found him in the back of a police car four miles away, without his hearing aids and with glass shards in his carseat.
So we can agree that's all bad, right? Well, here's where it goes even farther south.
Two days after the incident, the National Fraternal Order of Police—the largest police union in the U.S.—shared a photo of one of the police officers at the scene, holding Young's son, with the following text:
"This child was lost during the violent riots in Philadelphia, wandering around barefoot in an area that was experiencing complete lawlessness. The only thing this Philadelphia Police Officer cared about in that moment was protecting this child.
We are not your enemy. We are the Thin Blue Line. And WE ARE the only thing standing between Order and Anarchy."
What the police union posted to their social media: https://t.co/YgLWUGs2tk— Laurie Voss (@Laurie Voss) 1631717659.0
The irony would be hilarious if it weren't so horrifying.
The post was taken down within a day, but not before it had been shared widely. The following day, the police union wrote that the union "learned of conflicting accounts of the circumstances under which the child came to be assisted by the officer and immediately took the photo and caption down."
No apology. No mention of what had really occurred. No acknowledgment of the trauma that boy had endured watching the police smash the windows of his car before beating his mother in front of him.
According to NBC10, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said that she and the law enforcement community "demand that officers exhibit the utmost professionalism, decorum, and poise while interacting with members of the public." Two officers were ultimately fired over the incident, and 14 additional officers faced disciplinary hearings.
"The behavior that occurred during the interaction between Rickia Young, her nephew, her son, and some of the officers on the scene violated the mission of the Philadelphia Police Department," Outlaw said in a statement. "As a matter of fact, the ability for officers and supervisors on the scene to diffuse the situation was abandoned, and instead of fighting crime and the fear of crime, some of the officers on the scene created an environment that terrorized Rickia Young, her family, and other members of the public."
Hence, the $2 million payment from the city.
Philadelphia Reaches $2M Settlement With, Rickia Young, Mother Who Was Beaten By Police During Unres www.youtube.com
The Philadelphia Inquirer shared a detailed account of what occurred that night, and it's worth a read. Again, the blatancy of the brutality and injustice alone is enough, but to have the photo of Young's son that night used as pro-police fodder by the nation's largest police union just added insult to literal injury. And the response from the union was pretty much the definition of "inadequate."
No one can undo what Young and her son experienced, but the firing of the officers and the payout from the city is at least something resembling accountability.
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