When police start body slamming Indian grandfathers to the ground for having the audacity to walk slowly down public streets, can we finally agree that enough is enough?

By now, I suspect you’ve seen the video of Sureshbhai Patel, the 57 year old grandfather from India who was left partially paralyzed after being stopped and slammed to the ground by police officers in Madison, Alabama while going for a walk around his son’s suburban neighborhood on the morning of February 6. (Patel had just arrived in Alabama, where he was intending to help look after his one year old grandson.) Things apparently escalated quickly once police, who had been alerted to the presence of a skinny, dark-skinned man walking slowly down a residential street, became frustrated by Patel’s inability to say more than “India” and “no English.” Well I was thinking about this case, struggling with what I’d like to say about it, when I happened across the following quote from Michigan expatriate Brandon Zwagerman, which I thought summed things up pretty perfectly.

“Is this now the endgame when suburban landscape and attitudes (simply being a pedestrian is “suspicious” in this community which is the fastest-growing city in Alabama, 75% white, $90,000 median income) intersect with racist attitudes (especially if a pedestrian is “black”) and militarily blunt and aggressive police training? Disgusting.”

The answer, it would seem, at least judging from this video of the incident, is “Yes.”

One wonders what it will actually take for us, the people of the United States, to finally start to take the subject of excessive police force seriously. If this most recent incident isn’t enough to bring about serious change, what has to happen to get us to that point? Apparently seeing a 12 year old with a toy gun shot to death by police wasn’t enough. And neither was seeing an unarmed man choked to death by police. So, what will it be? Do we need to see an old woman being stomped to death by riot cops? Do we need to see a child thrown out of a window and killed during a raid? What the fuck has to happen before people take to the streets and demand real, substantive change?

[Thankfully, it would appear that, due in large part to the outcry from the Indian government, things have taken a positive turn in this case, and Eric Parker, the officer who threw Patel to the ground, has been arrested. Let’s hope that this is just the first step of many.]

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  1. Anonymous
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Not to excuse the actions of this officer, or downplay how terrible this is, but I wonder if these things have always happened and the only difference is that now we have video.

  2. Posted February 18, 2015 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    There has been video for quite some time. Remember Rodney King? There was a spark of rebellion in the wake of that particular incident. But, to my perception of the human condition in these united states, there have been no real cultural or policy changes in how police work is accomplished. Instead, we have seen a militarization of police forces.

  3. Kim
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Rodney King was black, as were the others noted above. If you want change, we need white victims of police brutality.

  4. Lynne
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    There are already white victims of police brutality.

    But yes, that is probably what it will take. It seems like the majority of people feel that this can’t happen to them. I know that as an educated, middle-class, white woman, I don’t usually fear for my safety, although I do admit that in certain parts of the country I am not at all out about being an atheist. You wont see changes until it is white christian heterosexual able-bodied people with jobs being beat up by the cops. A majority of people have to feel that it could happen to them.

    This is where I think the ubiquitous nature of cameras in our modern society is useful. My guess is that police have always been this brutal. I know that 25 years ago, I would talk to young men in criminal justice programs and they scared the bejeezus out of me. These were young men who had no business being police officers yet that is where they were headed. It led me to conclude that there are two main personality types who want to be cops. Those who genuinely want to serve and want to help others and those who are attracted by the idea of having power over others. I can’t think of a way to weed out that latter type but my impression of the young men I was talking to at the time was that they were the majority.

    So the cops have probably always been this brutal but now we’re seeing it and more importantly the video evidence is going to lead to the police losing more law suits. Maybe that is what will force the change? I mean, if I were on a jury for a police brutality case and there was an option to award a huge multimillion dollar settlement in punitive damages I would do it! Maybe when citizens find their tax bills going up because of police brutality settlements they’ll be motivated to do something. That can go either way though. It is also likely that the citizens will blame the victim? Don’t know.

    I do know that talking about it is likely to help. If a community makes it a priority to select officers who want to help people rather than lord over them as I believe the YPD does, you’re likely to see fewer incidences like this.

  5. Matt Siegfried
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    At least Mr. Patel had a government to raise a complaint about one of their citizens being brutalized. Too bad black folks in America don’t have the same thing.

  6. Tony
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately, I don’t think the police are anymore or less brutal today than in the past. Technology is the difference where everyone now has a HD video camera in their pocket. Bodycams help, but it doesn’t fix the root problem. Law enforcement attracts some with power trip issues. Then, as you see in this video, they teach others this type of behavior.

  7. facebook stalker
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    There are no bad cops.

    I read it on Facebook.


  8. Posted February 18, 2015 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    I often walk very slowly down the road because my body is healing and that’s what it wants. I worry that I look suspicious, but walking fast and being in pain is not an option. What happened to this man scares me. I don’t believe in violence. It can really permanently hurt people.

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