Chris Powell: The big problem isn't racist cops

Does racism explain why white police officers are abusing black criminal 
suspects more often than they abuse white suspects, as asserted by the clamor 
over the recent fatal incidents in Ferguson, Mo., and  New 
York City? 

Since there is racism among all groups, racism surely is part of such abuse. But 
racism can't explain all hostile racial interaction with police, since crime 
itself is racially disproportionate, as is poverty, which also correlates with 
crime. If racism explained the racially disproportionate composition of 
Connecticut's prison population -- about 80 percent from minorities -- the state 
would have to be largely racist rather than, as it is, largely indifferent to 

And the black men killed in the incidents with the white cops in Missouri and 
New York were not picked on for their race. The man in Missouri had just robbed 
a store, walked in the middle of the street to show his contempt for society, 
and got mouthy with and maybe even attacked the officer who confronted him. The 
man in New York was selling untaxed cigarettes and weighed 400 pounds and was 
asthmatic and was thus especially unwise to resist arrest as he did. So while 
the judgment of the police in those incidents may be questioned, it is not 
surprising that investigations cleared them. 

Yes, some cops love the chance to bully and even beat people on any pretext, 
usually without regard to race. Power corrupts in every occupation. Enfield, Conn.,
learned as much this year from the many brutality complaints brought against one 
of its police officers, causing his dismissal. Bridgeport learned as much this 
year as two of its officers were sent to prison for an incident three years ago 
in which they kicked and stomped a man who was disabled by a stun gun and lying 
on the ground unresisting, brutality caught on cellphone video. 

While measures to increase accountability in police work -- like body cameras -- 
may reduce corruption by power, power will always cause it. The bigger issue is 
what can be done to reduce the racial disproportions in crime and poverty. 

No one in Connecticut needs to go to Missouri or New York to confront these 
issues. Indeed, the emphasis on the Missouri and New York cases here and 
throughout the country is largely distraction, pious posturing to make its 
participants feel righteous. 

Connecticut has many such posturers. They have held demonstrations about the 
Missouri and New York cases while overlooking better-documented cases of police 
excess close to home. 

Last week those posturers included the basketball team of Weaver High School, in 
Hartford, whose members wore T-shirts emblazoned with "I can't breathe," the 
last words of the asthmatic who was wrestled to death by the police in New York, 
a slogan now popular with race mongers throughout the country. Yet only a few 
weeks earlier people in Connecticut of all races had been shocked by security 
camera video of a Hartford police officer's unprovoked assault on an unarmed 
black teenager. 

The teen had been running toward the officer but stopped and stood still, hands 
at his sides, about 25 feet away. Still, the officer strode purposefully toward 
him while aiming a stun gun at him, firing it from about 10 feet away. The teen 
fell backward, hitting his head on the sidewalk and going into convulsions. 

Having viewed the video, even Gov. Dannel Malloy said he was "momentarily 
sickened." But while the teen assaulted by the officer was black, so was the 
officer himself, the police department somehow cleared him, and the governor's 
revulsion was indeed only momentary. His sympathetic comment got him past the 
brief political uproar about the incident and he hasn't mentioned it since. 

For apparently abuse of black people by black officers is OK because it can't be 
exploited racially and signifies that the problems of police work and criminal 
justice go far beyond the racial attitudes of cops and the solutions of the race 

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.