When Black police officers feed racial injustice

Susan K. Smith.2
Susan K. Smith.2
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By SUSAN K. SMITH

Crazy Faith Ministries

There is no reason any 6-year-old child who has misbehaved should be arrested, handcuffed and fingerprinted.

And while incidences of Black children being arrested by White officers are not all that uncommon, it is reprehensible when the officer arresting and handcuffing a Black child is a Black police officer.

Kaia Rolle, 6, was arrested after having a temper tantrum. The arresting officer, one Dennis L. Turner, arrested another child, age 8, in the same school on the same day. The identity of the second child has not been revealed. Turner is a Black man.

Reports say that Kaia, a student at the Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy, kicked another student during a tantrum. Officer Turner, an Orlando school resource officer, arrested her, going so far as to handcuff and fingerprint her, according to The New York Times and Heavy.com.

Turner apparently has a reputation for being violent and abusive, even toward his own children. In 1998, he was charged with aggravated child abuse in an incident involving his own son who was 7 at the time.

It is one thing to see White officers brutalize Black people, including children, but when the officer perpetrating violence against a Black person and, more specifically, a Black child, the disgust is palpable.

From the outside, it looks and feels as though police officers have unbridled authority to be violent. I have long argued that all a police officer has to say to avoid being held accountable for their violence is “I was in fear for my life.” That sentence is a dealbreaker when it comes to the victim of police violence seeking justice.

But what is it in the psyche of a person that results in his committing violent acts against children, even those as young as 6 years of age?

Times have surely changed. In my young life, I saw some of my classmates and other students as well commit what looked like violent acts toward each other, but nobody was arrested. At best, you were put into a corner; at worst, you were sent to the principal’s office. You were made to understand that what you had done was wrong, but nobody was branded as a criminal.

What makes today’s officers – and perhaps school officials – think that criminalizing children for doing what children do – is acceptable behavior? How can those who are charged with taking care of and teaching children be all right with this heinous practice, and how can police departments sanction it?

It will not work to say that “kids are badder” than they used to be. Every generation thinks that children are worse than they used to be. They attribute the erosion and disappearance of “good” children to a number of things, including the absence of prayer in school.

Never mind that prayer in school never stopped children from misbehaving.

It is through misbehavior that children learn what is right and what is wrong, what is acceptable and what is not. Children have to be held accountable, or they do not learn, and that causes problems for them later in life.

But misbehavior is not a crime, and children who misbehave are not criminals. If they were, or if misbehavior was a crime, all of us would have police records.

The fact that Officer Turner, a Black man living in a White world, chose to arrest this little girl and another child in the same day, says something about the mindset of police officers in general and about this man in particular. The sanction of police brutality is an abuse of power, but when the brutality or excessive force involves children this young, it indicates that living in a violent world controlled by white supremacist mores does severe psychic damage to White officers generally and specifically to Black officers, who work hard to assimilate into the police officer culture.

Our children need someone “out there” to protect them. They are sitting targets for all kinds of unfair treatment due to what’s accepted as normal in a society which does not value them. No officer who commits excessive force should be allowed to continue working, but officers who accost children need to be fired. Child abuse is never acceptable.

And it is even less acceptable when the officer accused of abusing a young Black child is himself or herself Black.

Turner should be kicked off the force. Perhaps he should have been kicked off a long time ago.

 

Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. Contact her at revsuekim@sbcglobal.net. Her latest book, Rest for the Justice-Seeking Soul, is now available for preorder through Barnes and Noble at http://bit.ly/restbn or through Amazon at http://bit.ly/restamazon.

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