But this implies that police brutality is a rare occurrence in the United States.
Riots are uncomfortable. It’s much easier for unaffected civilians to pretend that abuse like this rarely happens, to turn off their televisions and reassure themselves that the police are doing their jobs correctly. The truth is, if Ferguson-esque riots erupted every time a citizen was abused in Philadelphia, our city would quickly become a warzone.
The Police Advisory Commission released public data regarding police complaints dated from 2009-12. Kelvyn Anderson, executive director of the PAC, told Technical.ly Philly that the complaints only represent a subset of the total data.
But from the 455 complaints the PAC shared, it’s clear that many civilians have felt wronged by Philadelphia police. According to the data, 130 of the complaints regarded “physical abuse” – that’s almost 30 percent. In addition, six instances of “police shootings” were reported.
Thirty-one of the total complaints came from District 22 – the jurisdiction that Main Campus falls under.
Numbers like this make Mike Brown seem like much less of a “dramatic incident.” To make matters more concerning, the bubble of campus is not safe from the violence that occurs in District 22.
In November 2013, The Temple News reported that about 100 community members gathered to stage a riot against police brutality. The protest, which became a march to the 22nd District Police Station at 17th Street and Montgomery Avenue, was a reaction to police assaults on Temple students.
Sabrina Sample, a liberal arts major, told reporters for Workers.org that she and a friend were victimized near the site of the rally. The Temple News reported that the incident occurred at Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue – right outside the Dunkin’ Donuts I stop at daily for coffee.
Ian Lewis, a tourism and hospitality management major, had an even more dramatic story. According to attendees of the protest, he stood next to an enlarged photo of his face after he was beaten by Temple police and spoke about the injustices he felt were imposed on him.
“Police officers are dependent on the system,” he said.
Lewis told Workers.org that he had to miss his finals exams and was handcuffed to a hospital bed for eight hours.
Sample said both Philadelphia and Temple cops harassed her.
As students, we should feel that police, especially campus police, are protecting us. Thankfully, neither Sample nor Lewis lost their lives as a result of their experiences.
But Mike Brown did.
If state and federal governments can overlook the crimes that happened to Brown, Sample and Lewis, how safe should we really feel?
Most of my experiences with the police in my area have been negative – mainly consisting of officers yelling at me for walking by myself. No one has laid a hand on me, but that’s not what’s important.
What’s important is that the job of police – to protect and serve – has been compromised. Seeing it compromised in Ferguson was one thing, but incidents of brutality on campus make this seemingly far-off issue become pressing. And it certainly doesn’t make us feel protected.
As long as some police officers are abusing their positions, whether in Ferguson or North Philadelphia, there is enough reason to feel unsafe. The riots in Missouri may be extreme, but on Main Campus, they can serve as a talking point for problems that are certainly not going away.
Grace Holleran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org of on twitter @coupsdegrace