On Monday, Talking Points Memo reported
A Cleveland police union has demanded that the Cleveland Browns football team apologize for a player who wore a T-shirt before Sunday's game protesting the police shootings of two black people.
Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins wore a shirt reading "Justice for Tamir Rice And John Crawford III" during pre-game warmups. Rice, who was just 12 years old, died last month after a Cleveland police officer shot him when he mistook the boy's toy gun for a real weapon. Crawford, 22, was shot dead by police in August at an area Wal-Mart while he was holding an air rifle.
Cleveland Police Patrolman Union President Jeff Follmer sent local TV station WEWS a statement after Sunday's game that called for an apology from the NFL team.
"It's pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law," the statement read, as quoted by WEWS. "They should stick to what they know best on the field. The Cleveland Police protect and serve the Browns stadium and the Browns organization owes us an apology."
Perhaps we're getting overly sensitive, even- dare I say- politically correct. Fortunately, the Browns' organization that night, in one of their few wise moves over the past 15 years, defended their "players' rights to project their support and bring awareness to issues that are important to them if done so in a responsible manner." Extra credit: the team knew not to cite a right to "free speech," for the First Amendment applies to government but not to private entities.
Before the Browns' response was widely reported, Digby commented
The only right way to deal with this is to say nothing. This self-righteous defensiveness just exposes them as the kind of thin-skinned, unprofessional authorities with little regard for citizens' constitutional rights that has people up in arms in the first place. Failing to treat the police with the respect they believe they deserve is not against the law. At least not yet.
At least not yet. A year ago, the Huffington Post had recalled
In June, for instance, a 20-year-old man named David Castellani was allegedly hit, clubbed and kicked by a group of five police officers outside an Atlantic City nightclub, CNN reports. Castellani, whose family has filed a lawsuit against Atlantic City police, also alleges that a sixth police officer allowed his police dog to attack him.
"It's definitely the worst thing that's ever happened to me in my life," the college student told the outlet of the incident, which was captured on surveillance video. (Watch it below.)
According to Philly.com, K-9 officer Sterling Wheaten, one of the police officers allegedly involved in the attack, has been the "subject of more than a dozen internal affairs investigations and 21 civilian complaints of misconduct." He has also been sued on several occasions for alleged assault or the use of "excessive force," the report notes.
In December, Wheaten was found guilty of assaulting a 39-year-old man in 2008. The court determined that Wheaten should pay him $250,000 in compensatory damages,Philly.com writes.
As the video above indicates, Castellani evidently was assaulted because he was yelling at police after he was removed from a casino for being underage. (He was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and aggravated assault on a canine and in turn filed a suit of his own).
There are at least two morals to this story. White men are not immune to violent overreaction by police departments. Additionally, the the police-community relationship has been deteriorating for quite some time, but under the radar, brought to the fore only by the killing of Michael Brown Jr. by then-police officer Darren Wilson. As horrid as the loss of life of young (disproportionately black) men has been, it is little more than the tip of a larger problem, one highlighted by the personal offense taken by Cleveland police to a small, largely symbolic, and tasteful protest of the death of a twelve-year old boy.