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Tough time for Black women – like Black men – with police

JESSE J. HOLLAND | 11/9/2015, 4:22 a.m.
It’s not just Black men having difficult relations with police. Black women are having a tough time, too.
Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable Public Policy Network.

WASHINGTON – It’s not just Black men having difficult relations with police. Black women are having a tough time, too.

Consider the schoolgirl who was slammed to the floor in a South Carolina classroom and the mysterious death of Sandra Bland inside a Texas jail cell. Videos showing Black women being manhandled by police are bringing such problems to the forefront at a time when the public has focused largely on the relationship between Black men and law enforcement.

Civil rights groups and organizations representing women say closer attention is needed to what’s happening between police and women of color.

“We cannot continue to wait for something to show up on a video to ask for change,” said Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable Public Policy Network.

Last week, South Carolina Deputy Sheriff Ben Fields was fired after flipping a Black girl out of her desk and tossing her across the floor for disrupting a high school math class. County Sheriff Leon Lott said the deputy’s actions were “unacceptable” and that videos recorded by the student’s classmates show the girl posed no danger.

The FBI is investigating whether the student’s civil rights were violated; school district officials promise to review how police are used for discipline. The student and another Black female student who verbally challenged the officer’s actions during the arrest still face misdemeanor charges of disturbing school, punishable by up to a $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail, the sheriff stated.

Black girls are suspended from school six times as often as their White counterparts. Also, 12 percent of Black girls were subjected to exclusionary suspensions, compared with 2 percent of White girls, according to a 2015 report by the African American Policy Forum and Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectional and Social Policy Studies.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed, 50 percent of America’s female prison population is White and 21 percent is Black, and Black females are 1.6 times to 4.1 times more likely to be imprisoned than White females.

“We are seeing increasingly more cases where Black girls and women are being subjected to abuse and over enforcement. We must start placing more attention on the plight of females in the criminal justice system,” Elsie Scott, founding director of the Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center at Howard University, said in a statement.

The South Carolina case wasn’t the first time a Black woman’s confrontation with police has made headlines.

In June, a video showed McKinney, Texas Police Cpl. David Eric Casebolt push a Black girl in a bikini to the ground and then brandish his gun at other Black teenagers after officers responded to complaints about the pool party at a community-owned swimming pool. Casebolt later resigned from the force.

The Texas Rangers are investigating his conduct, said criminal defense lawyer Darrell Jordan, who is representing some of the families whose children were involved in that incident.