Friday, September 23, 2011

Dr. Boyce: Why Would Police Beat a Man with Down Syndrome?

police beat a man with Down Syndrome

by Dr. Boyce Watkins – Scholarship in Action 

Gilberto Powell, a man with Down Syndrome, was the subject of some of the most shameful behavior imaginable.   As the young man with special needs prepared to walk into his home, police stopped him to investigate the bulge in his pants.  It turns out that the item the officers ripped away from Powell was his colostomy bag and after being beaten severely by police, he is now recovering from his injuries.

As you can see, the police somehow felt that beating down a black man with special needs was somehow necessary for them to do their jobs.  Their investigation of Powell began when they saw the bulge and believed that a pat down was necessary. They asked Powell a few questions, which he likely could not clearly understand.  That's when Powell ran away from police and received his punishment.

In their report, the officers stated that after “multiple commands to stop moving in attempt to handcuff him,” he “fell on the ground and struck his forehead."

“I ran out yelling ‘hey hey what are you doing to him? He’s Down Syndrome! Leave him alone! What are you doing?’" said Powell's father.  "And when I got over there not one minute later his face was all busted up and he was in handcuffs.  I felt helpless, ’cause he was calling my name….He’s my baby, I go he goes, anywhere I go he goes with me.”

I'm no expert on Down Syndrome, but I did get a chance to spend some time with two individuals this spring who struggle with the condition.  In my time with (what some might affectionately refer to as) "Downs Kids," I saw nothing but lovable, trusting and friendly behavior, as well as a set of challenges that should make us all feel blessed to have our health.  This doesn't imply that an individual with Down Syndrome isn't capable of committing a crime, but the idea of beating someone in the way that police attacked Mr. Powell is an outrage.  This case, as well as the questionable execution of Troy Davis, shows that the penalties for being accused of harming a police officer can be severe and even deadly.   What makes matters worse is that the arresting officers are the ones who get to tell the story after the fact.

Individuals with Down Syndrome can be difficult to understand, and officers should have been trained on what they were dealing with.  Mr. Powell wasn't bothering anyone and suddenly found himself being harassed by police.  He is now traumatized for life and like other Down Syndrome victims, may not have the physique necessary to withstand such a beating.  These officers, their department and the city of Miami should pay severely for what they've done to this innocent young man.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coaltion.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Miami police have always prided themselves on most severe brutality known besides nypd.

Anonymous said...

This type of brutality is not just a Miami or New York thing. Police abuse their power all over this country. Black Americans are getting the sh__ beat out of them on all fronts, i.e., jobs, housing, education, etc. The plan is working--you will remain a slave by whatever means possible!

thomas7777 said...

Now the father told the police begging them. That he has down Syndrome. I am sorry the father witness all that went down.I would go to a lawyer the next day to see I got a case. I would take pictures of where he got beaten on his body at the hospital. And I would sue the hell out of the Miami PD. I know he will get a lot of money

Anonymous said...

The people who live with mental challenges are unsafe in our world of 'perfections'. It saddens my heart greatly, to see or even hear of a person suffering under unjust measures by imbeciles who call themselves men. To know they are law enforcers, makes it even worse to comprehend this abuse! Anyone who purposely hurt an individual who can not protect themselves, whether it be physically or verbally, deserves a Grand Whip Ass by the masses! These bastards should be punish permanently and quickly!

Anonymous said...

This has begun to be a modern day slavery. Instead of the KKK attacking with hidden faces we are know getting beaten and tormented by the criminal system. God, give us the strenght and knowledge to pray for all our enemies, even when we are not the enemy.

Anonymous said...

Honest to God, I do not quite understand why people are shocked when this type of things keep happening in our communities (minorities) over and over and over? First of all, the laws are such that the police can do these and many other criminal activities and get away with it! The laws are intentionally set in their favor--they are there to protect the wealthy not you and I...make no mistake about it--What happens when a Police officer lies on the record---nothing---and when you lie about your name to an office---its a charge of "lying to a law enforcement officer"--enforcement my azz--Police are gang members! I am more afraid of the police than gang members---The state sanctions the police--

Diane C said...

This racist action against Black people is exactly why police are the LAST resource that we turn to, (if at all.)
Racism is alive and well in America!!!

Anonymous said...

Shame, shame , shame on the MPD!!! Anyone can distinguish a person with Down Syndrome as one with special physical and develpmental needs. Are they so uneducated, racist and angry that they have no compassion at all? Those cops need to be procecuted and barred from police work. The department needs to give that family a huge settlement, an apology and retrain all their idiot officers!

Renee said...

Not surprise. I feel something drastic has to happen for black people as a whole to react. I am a pacifist and I don't endorse violence in any way. However, I believe in my heart the police force is nothing more but klansmen in disguise. And I am talking specifically about the white officers. They are the most hostile, angry, overzealous, ready to murder a black person on site group of thugs I know. They are the ONLY officers I see attacking people like the natural born animals they are. None of them have a human heart but filled with hate. Until ordinary people fight violence with violence and let those in authority know they cannot continue to abuse their power, expect more shit like this. I feel as a whole, we are dead consciously. Police know they can get away with this type of shit. They do it everyday and it's done mostly to blacks in poor neighborhoods because society do not value the fair and equal treatment towards blacks. They always dismiss our concerns as a bunch of people playing the "race card." Sighs, whatever. The only language these people understand is hate, violence, and death. So, give it right back to them. I know my response may be regard as hateful, but I didn't always feel this way. When one is constantly experiencing and witnessing gross injustice and hate on the basis of skin color over and over, year after year, your views start to change. You're no longer compassionate to those in uniform -particularly white people. They breed hate.

Anonymous said...

No surprises there. The white male ego is so fragile that it can only be satisfied by beating on helpless people.

After all, they arrested Henry Louis Gates in his own home. And the only law he broke was speaking his mind. Besides, Henry was physically challenged. He walks with a cane and could not be handcuffed from behind because his gait would not allow him to balance his body.

But all is ok. Karma will show up on the doorstep of each and every police officer involved.

Anonymous said...

IN THE NAME OF JESUS!!

Anonymous said...

It's amazing what racist will do to my culture because they HATE the fact we have a Black President. Shame on them. They need to pay for this disgrace BIG time!

Anonymous said...

Where are our civil right leaders when we need them? I was told that the new leaders are the Rappers.Again, where are our civil rights leaders? Our voice is being taken away.

Anonymous said...

So sad and shameful, maybe as their punishment for being so ignorant and stupid, someone should beat them until they need a colostomy bag. Then maybe it will be just our luck that the same thing that happened to this gentleman, would happen to them. Let's see if they understand....Karma is a deadly weapon

ECKY said...

When the majority voted Obama in office...we were sending Mr.& Mrs. "White is Right" a message,that we can when we want to. The message they sent back was the same as always..."stay in your place". They take anything they perceive as not specific towards white advantage as a threat and everybody reading this knows that when white people feel threatened people die (one way or another).Now,whats the threat?...that you are no longer soley control ...that my black ass is just as good as yours.

Anonymous said...

Not shocked at all and that is a shame as I should be. What happened to Officer Friendly? Police need to get out of the cars, walk beats and the get to know the communities they are paid to serve and protect. I remember when you seeing a police officer brought comfort and now its like a street gang with badges.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Where is the NAACP... Black Caucus... and the two guys pretending they have our poor best interest at heart by complaining about President Obama???? I hope to see this get National News Media attention because it deserves it. The News can't keep hiding this and only report on missing white girls after missing white girls on the same island for years.

ntf said...

Some of us are left with the impression that this is a police state, that is to say a police can stop you whenever they want and this is totally wrong.. And yes this is one of the reasons that we don't trust police. The question is what kind of training they get at their academies.

Angela Gardner said...

I am a Disability Rights Advocate and I am not suprised that this brutality against people with disabilities are happening. In Southern California where I live, there is a case of a man with schizophrenia that was beaten to death by the police this summer. Many families with disabled loved ones have expressed concern about how the police interact with them. I agree there needs to be specialized training of police officers in dealing with individuals with all types of disabilities instead of violence and agression being the first response for suspicious behavior.

Anonymous said...

i'm a senior citizen and have 2 sons that are doing pretty well in
this hateful world. i tried teaching them to treat others as they want be treated. i'm sure they have been mistreated by cops
somewhere down the line. they never
told me anything because they knew
it would upset me. they've never
been in jail thank god.
policemen all over this country need to be educated on how to treat people especially our black
men. it's a sin and a shame the
way they beat that young man. there
is no doubt that they will get away
with it. where the hell is the
NAACP when u need them?? it's
terrible what is allowed to go on in this country in the criminal
justice system...especially with
the poor. justice IS blind!!
GOD HELP US!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Seem to me the policemen's out doing the gang bangers, so sad we have these sort of suppose to be Law Protectors to protect us seems now we need protection from the Police.....

Anonymous said...

The police seem to become more and more insensitive. Do we need to go back to the civil rights protests???