Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Research: Minority Suspects Can’t Hear Police Orders Over Gunshots and Baton Blows

SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- When historians look back on the rise of the millennial generation, they may define the hallmark of the era as an environment of strife -- social unrest, divisive politics, crumbling race relations after decades of past progress, economic ruin and unprecedented levels of gun-related violence. Of particular concern is the perception that the country’s peace officers have become militarized, reactionary, too quick to act and belligerent, especially around minority suspects. A sweeping study of law enforcement practices released Wednesday sheds new light on the problem: minority suspects may not be resisting police, they just can’t hear the officers’ orders over the barrage of gunshots or baton blows.

From the brutal 1991 police response in the Rodney King case to this month’s tragic shooting death of unarmed Missouri teen Michael Brown, citizens across the nation are questioning the increasingly aggressive, and deadly, tactics of police, particularly where minorities are involved. Families of the victims blame racist authorities who are growing more paranoid as the Caucasian population shrinks, along with the stronghold of white privilege. On the other side of the gun, officers claim that minority suspects have become more threatening, more defiant.

According to researchers, however, the suspects in question may not willfully be resisting police. The report, compiled and funded by former federal regulators, found that nearly 90 percent of minority suspects killed or severely maimed in these confrontations couldn’t understand the directions officers were giving them.

“During our initial analysis, we looked into the possibility of certain races having hearing problems,” explained Sam Duntley, leader of the research team. “It seemed that, based on the extent of injuries sustained, whites had superior hearing, followed by Asians and very light-skinned Hispanics. But we quickly ruled out congential hearing impairment by race. We are now certain that the problems are entirely caused by external factors -- the deafening noises produced by gunfire, the loud crunch of bones under multiple, continuous baton strikes and even the electronic sizzling of a taser. The data was the same among all our volunteer test subjects, regardless of race, whom we brutalized in a manner consistent with modern police protocols.”

The study further concluded that when officers emerged from their cruisers shooting or pounced on suspected offenders to clout them viciously with their batons or boots, the questions they were asking became unintelligible background noise.

“Typically, a police officer will ask for a suspect’s name, address, the nature of his business in the area and an explanation of his actions,” Duntley said. “These are of course simple queries any person of interest could answer. But our studies demonstrated that they couldn’t make out the words when they were drawing heavy fire or being severely beaten. The problem is greatly exacerbated when victims are bludgeoned about the ears or shot in the head. In other situations, like a chokehold, we learned that the individuals clearly heard the officers’ orders but couldn’t respond because their windpipes had closed up.”

Duntley also noted that 21st century law enforcement procedures could pose new legal challenges in court for prosecutors.

“Public defenders now have a huge advantage in proving that proper arrest procedures weren’t followed,” Duntley observed. “A suspect probably doesn’t comprehend his Miranda rights while he’s unconscious, in the process of blacking out or being resuscitated by paramedics.”

2014. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. See disclaimers.

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