To the 4 White Male Policemen Who Beat Me for Checking the Health of a Sick Black Man in Their Custody…
You may or may not know that the incidence and relapse rates of schizophrenia in African-Caribbean males in Western countries has been reported as being much higher than equivalent white male cohorts. E.g.
We found remarkably high IRRs for both schizophrenia and manic psychosis in both African-Caribbeans (schizophrenia 9.1, manic psychosis 8.0) and Black Africans (schizophrenia 5.8, manic psychosis 6.2) in men and women. Fearon et al, 2006
This knowledge was forefront in my mind when I saw a man in his twenties muttering to himself, handcuffed and surrounded by 4 white male police officers on El Camino, in Northern California. As a physician, I have a duty (shit, I swore an actual oath) to preserve the health of all humans. There was no way I was going to drive past this situation without making sure that guy was going to be fine.
As I pulled over to ask if the gentleman was OK, I was immediately threatened with a ticket for blocking traffic. I re-parked my car legally and returned. My exact words were “I want to help to make sure this guy is OK”. The officers were aggressive and angry, instantly.
“Show me your ID?”
“Show me your ID! You must obey an officer.”
“I haven’t done anything, I need to know he is OK, and I will be on my way”
“He is resisting arrest!” Shouted one of them.
And before I knew it, I was face first on the sidewalk. I didn’t fight or protest or resist?—?I’m a nerdy non-violent type, and then things started to get really weird.
“He is fighting” one shouted as he planted his knee in my lumbar spine.
“I am not fighting, I am calm”
“He is resisting arrest!”
“No I am not”
They were running this weird fake dialog in the background.
“The ID looks fake” As he bent it and tried to scratch the numbers off of my CA driving license.
“Look it is bent”
“You just bent it”
“Definitely a fake ID, we have to take him in”
And then, weirdly someone grabbed my left middle finger and bent it back as far as it would go. Then my right ankle.
“Why would you bend my finger back?”
“Because you are resisting arrest.”
By now I am bleeding below my right eye (thanks for smacking my bespectacled eyes into the pavement) and my elbow has some road burn on it. I can’t move because of the pain in my lumbar spine and of course I have bilateral torn deltoids from cuffing procedure. I have not resisted or shown aggression in the slightest. It was obvious that there had been a collective decision to “teach this guy a lesson”
“I hope you learned something today”
“Yes sir, I learned that everything I read and hear about the corrupt and criminal police departments in this country is fact. I have seen it for myself.”
Wrong answer, I guess, because he put me in the back of his car and started driving me to the police station.
“You are going to jail”.
“Arrest for what?”
“Disobeying an officer.”
“If you asked me to jump off a bridge do I have to do it?”
“Did I ask you to jump off of a bridge?”
Fair point I guess.
“Why can’t I just go home.”
“Because we have procedures, otherwise people will think we beat you for nothing.”
“So you admit you beat me for nothing?”
“No, that’s the procedure.”
“Have you seen the videos of police shooting black guys for no reason?”
“You shouldn’t believe everything you see on YouTube.”
“I want a lawyer.”
I was out within an hour. The best they could do was a citation for driving without a seat belt (in addition to resisting/delaying arrest). But only after I answered the question “what did you learn today?” with “I learned not to interfere with police business”.
But you know what? Fuck you.
Every time I see officers surrounding an individual who needs protection, I will interfere. Every fucking time. I will interfere like a middle-eastern mother-in-law. It is my duty as a physician. As a human. It is my duty to hold those people responsible for their actions. I can take a beating, thank-you. I will never ever ever ever walk by silently. Ever, fuckers. Pick on schizophrenics, you are picking on me.
Fuck you if you think you can scare people like me. You can’t. You only make us more determined to do the right thing. And yes, assholes, I could name each of you here. Name and shame. Each of 4 white, ignorant, asshole police officers.
But I won’t, I’ll see you in court with a badass lawyer. I have privileges that the other poor guy could never have. And I am going to use them.
p.s. if anyone knows what happened to the guy, I am still worried about him.
About Ali Afshar: Google Developer Platform. Advanced Trauma Life Support. Open Source. Abominator Class. Twitter.