Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Black Women and Police Brutality


WaPo |  From 1980 to 2014, the rate of growth in the number of women in prison outpaced that of men by more than 50 percent (and black women continue to be incarcerated at twice the rate of white women). Women are particularly vulnerable to the drug enforcement tactics acclaimed by Steven H. Cook, the former prosecutor who leads Mr. Sessions’s task force: “We made buys from individuals who were lower in the organization. We used the mandatory minimums to pressure them to cooperate.”

As is true in most industries, women are largely relegated to the lower echelons of the drug trade. They have been aggressively prosecuted on the theory that they would lead law enforcement to elusive “drug kingpins.” Yet because they had little information to trade, they were often saddled with sentences much longer than those of men higher up in the industry.

Then there are the police encounters that lead to these sentences, which are often characterized by physical, sexual and sometimes deadly violence.

The infamous former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw — convicted in 2015 of 18 counts, including the rape and sexual battery of black women — often ordered women to lift their shirts or open their pants to show him they were not carrying any drugs. In another notorious case, four women arrested on drug-related charges came forward to accuse two Los Angeles police officers of coercing sex from them. Research suggests that drug law enforcement is too often accompanied by such sexual shakedowns, in which women — who may or may not be using, carrying or dealing drugs — are given the choice between performing sexual acts or facing what could be decades in prison.

A Government Accountability Office report on contraband searches at airports, released in 2000, reflected another form of violation. Black, Asian-American and Hispanic women, it found, were almost three times as likely as men of the same race to be subject to humiliating strip-searches. Black women in particular were more likely than any other group to be X-rayed in addition to being frisked, though they were less likely to be actually carrying drugs. The report also mentioned instances in which travelers were subjected to body cavity searches and monitored bowel movements.

Such intrusive procedures are not limited to airports. In 2015 Charneshia Corley was pulled out of her car at a gas station after a police officer claimed he smelled marijuana during a traffic stop. Two female officers then forced her legs apart and probed her vagina in full view of passers-by.

Three years earlier, two other black women, Brandy Hamilton and Alexandria Randle, were also subjected to a roadside cavity search by officers who claimed to have smelled marijuana. These incidents eventually prompted the Texas Legislature to pass a bill banning cavity searches during traffic stops absent a warrant.

You may now be asking yourself: Can police officers actually get a warrant to search someone’s vagina? The answer is yes.