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Professor Donald Tibbs Discusses the Racial Implications of Aggressive Policing on WHYY

July 07, 2015

Professor Donald F. Tibbs was a guest on the July 1 airing of the The Remix on WHYY to discuss race and gender as they relate to aggressive policing. 

Professor Tibbs, whose expertise focuses on the the overlapping issues of race, law, civil rights and civil procedure commented on the case of Dajerria Beckton, the young black woman wrestled to the ground by a police officer while wearing only a bikini. 

"There are multiple ways police officers are trained to contain crowds or manage disturbances ... but to grab someone and throw them on the ground when they don't pose a physical or violent threat to the police officer seems beyond the boundaries of what would be acceptable [by police procedure or by law]. And it's completely unacceptable when you're talking about a man treating a young woman in a particular way — whether she's black or whether she's white . . . particularly related to the type of clothing she was wearing...what was the threat to the police officer . . . other than, perhaps, nothing more than her blackness?" Tibbs commented.

Tibbs later added that such an act, if considered outside the context of policing, would normally be considered an act of sexual violence, and one that has its roots "all the way back to slavery and talk about how black women have were subjected to constant and daily abuse throughout their lives," Tibbs suggested.

Tibbs added that there is little incentive for a police officer acting in such a manner to stop.  Not only are such officers being acquitted, Tibbs argued, but they are not even being indicted. Indeed, in the case of Dajerria Beckton, although the officer at issue resigned, he resigned with his pension intact, Tibbs said.  "What's the incentive to stop?" Tibbs inquired. 

Tibbs also commented on the case of Khalif Browder, a young man who committed suicide after spending over 1,000 days in prison and over two years in solitary confinement for allegedly having stolen a backpack. Browder fell victim to a police system that seeks to coerce confession, Tibbs claimed. Rather than taking a plea, Browder elected to have his day in court and fell victim to a system that "incentivizes people to go ahead and admit to crimes rather than face what they may face if they sit back [in prison] and wait for their day in court." 

Tibbs also argued that such circumstances bring into question the viability of the constitutional right to a "speedy trial." "This is an absolute failure by the criminal justice system . . . the reality is that we have a constitutional right to a 'speedy' trial. What the courts have said is that 'speedy' is malleable. It is based upon dockets, backlogs and things of that nature . . . but 1,000 days . . . snatches the power away from the citizens to know that we have constitutional rights to protect," Tibbs added.