I remember sitting in an elementary school classroom while my teacher showed the class photos taken during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.
I can still feel the sheer bewilderment I had as my eight-year-old eyes scanned the images of police officers beating Black people with batons, spraying demonstrators with high-pressure hoses and dragging them through the streets. It was my first introduction to unabashed police violence and an honest look at the nation’s history — and really, my people’s history.
Now, the generation coming after me won’t need teachers to show them these sorts of truth-telling photographs. Thanks to social media, videos and photos of police brutality are just a click away.
There was one photo that always stayed with me. I can still hear the hum of the projector as my teacher adjusted it for the screen in front of our tiny classroom. The photo was of a large police dog tugging a Black man hard enough to rip his sweater sleeve. A police officer was holding the leash, unmoved and in complete control.
This image came to mind when I heard of a cell phone video that captured three white officers allowing a police dog to bite a Black man repeatedly. On Sunday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the FBI opened an investigation into the arrest that took place last Monday. The case falls under “color of law,” which entails accusations of a government official violating someone’s constitutional rights, the Post-Dispatch notes.
Woodson Terrace police Chief Randy Halstead said the department was “fully cooperating” with federal investigators and the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office in an email to the Post-Dispatch. The county prosecutor Wesley Bell and federal officials declined to comment on the case.
Here’s the video captured by an onlooker, courtesy of NBC affiliate KSDK News:
For those who do not want to watch the disturbing footage, here’s a description of what happened from the Associated Press:
Cellphone video from an onlooker shows the dog biting the man’s foot as he yells out in pain. The dog’s handler holds it by a leash but allows the biting to go on for about 30 seconds.
After the officer pulls off the dog, the man appears to take a step but stumbles and the dog lunges at him again, biting one of his legs for another 30 seconds until the officer stops the animal.
The man was treated at a hospital and released. He hasn’t been charged with any crimes.
Before the arrest, police responded to a call that a man broke into a business that morning. According to AP, the police statement says the man appeared to be on drugs, threatened officers and said he was a “sovereign citizen. The man remains unnamed since he has not been charged with any crimes.
AP reports that protesters gathered outside the police department on Friday, calling for the three officers to be fired and prosecuted.