Relax, everybody. The viral video showing a white police officer violently arresting a Black woman is no big deal because it’s from 2018.
Or, at least, that’s what the chief of a police department in Washington State would like for us all to believe after he was forced to issue a defensive mea culpa over the footage of his cop body-slamming a Black woman, twisting and contorting her arm and sitting on top of her head — all in the name of trying to restrain her.
Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett insisted on Friday that viewers were missing precious context to what seemed like to the naked eye to be excessive force for an alleged violation that was initially described as a nonviolent “suspicion of failing to transfer her automobile title.” Mylett was responding because the video of the arrest had gone viral as the nation was coming to terms with its racist legacy against Black people, especially in law enforcement.
In the video, the unidentified Black woman is being handcuffed by the cop. After it’s apparent he cannot apply the restraints, he sweeps her feet off the ground and repeatedly slams her on the pavement, the trained officer still unable to get her cuffed. So then he decided to put the Black woman in a chokehold from behind while he’s putting all his weight on her back. At this point the woman has completely submitted, but the cop looks to be intensifying his hold around her neck as the person filming the episode says to stop. The 36-second video ends without the officer having managed to cuff the woman.
Watch the troubling two-part video footage below that was originally recorded on Dec. 23, 2018.
People were tweeting and retweeting the video on Friday as if it had just happened.
Instead of offering some words of comfort — you know, de-escalating — (or even saying nothing at all) during one of the most racially contentious times in modern American history, Mylett decided the best response would be to defiantly defend the officer.
“When taken in its complete context the officer’s actions were determined reasonable for the resistance he was faced with,” Myett said in a brief statement released Friday. “From the officer’s perspective, he believed the driver posed a threat to him and others in the area through her refusal to comply with his lawful repeated orders, continual efforts to remove her hand from her purse, and her attempts put the car in gear. As a result of the totality of the situation and the driver’s resistance, the officer used force to overcome the active resistance.”
Like the Black woman, Floyd was suspected of a nonviolent crime (using a counterfeit bill) before Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin snatched him out of his car, handcuffed him and applied deadly pressure from his knee to the neck of the 46-year-old man. Garner was the victim of an illegal chokehold by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo over suspicions of selling untaxed, loose cigarettes, a nonviolent crime. Both were Black and unarmed when they were asphyxiated by police officers in broad daylight on a city street.
Bellevue Police Chief Mylett must have felt the pressure from his higher-ups because his department issued a separate press release, also on Friday, saying that it would no longer use chokeholds — for now, and only in some cases, that is.
“We recognize that neck restraint techniques, while effective, are highly controversial and divisive,” Mylett said in a statement that was conspicuously missing from his defense of the still-unidentified officer. “Until we can have additional conversations with the Bellevue community, I have decided to stop their use until further notice, except when the officer’s life is in danger.”
To recap, it took the resurfacing of an old video of apparent police brutality (and not Floyd’s egregious, world-affecting police killing) for the Bellevue Police Department to “suspend” chokeholds, sometimes. Floyd’s killing has prompted other police departments to voluntarily end chokeholds, but not Mylett’s. Even after seeing it (again) used on the unidentified Black woman along with Garner and Floyd, Mylett still apparently isn’t sure whether there are better ways to restrain unarmed people suspected of nonviolent crimes.
This is America.