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Posts tagged Bridges McRae

R.I.P. Duanna Johnson

(Via Marja Erwin.)

Memphis police identified the body of transgender woman Duanna Johnson lying in the street near Hollywood and Staten Avenue early this morning.

Police believe Johnson was shot some time before midnight on Sunday. No suspects are in custody at this time.

Johnson was the victim of a Memphis police brutality case this summer when a video of former officer Bridges McRae beating her in a jail holding area was released to the media.

The video led to the eventual firing of McRae and Officer James Swain. It also led to the formation of a Stop Police Brutality Memphis, a coalition of human rights activists who lobbied the city council for more sensitivity training for Memphis Police officers.

A statement from the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center: Duanna bravely confronted the Memphis Police Department officers who brutalized her while she was in police custody. At great personal cost, Duanna was the public face of our community’s campaign against racism, homophobia, and transphobia. There was no justice for Duanna Johnson in life. The Mid-South Peace & Justice Center calls for justice in the investigation and prosecution of Duanna’s murder.

— Bianca Phillips, Memphis Flyer (2008-11-10): Transgender Beating Victim Found Dead in North Memphis

Because it’s important, and because it’s the decent thing to do, it’s one of the things you have to do in this life. But I hate remembering our dead. I am sick of there being more people every year that we have nothing left of but a memory. It’s not enough. It’s never enough.

But they deserve at least that. Duanna Johnson deserves at least that.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance is held every year around November 20th. There is a list of community events online.

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Law and Orders #8: Memphis cop Bridges McRae “exceeds expectations” by punching Duanna Johnson repeatedly in the face with handcuffs over his knuckles for failing to stand up on command in the booking area at 201 Poplar

(Via Thus Spoke Belinsky 2008-06-20.)

Trigger warning. The following videos of local news stories include graphic footage of extreme physical violence by a male police officer against a woman in his custody.

Cops are here to protect us by arresting a black trans woman on charges of possibly being willing to engage in consensual sex acts that violated nobody’s rights, then throwing her in a booking area as a lead-up to locking her in a cage, then using transphobic and homophobic slurs when ordering her to get up in order to be fingerprinted for having allegedly committed this non-crime, and then, should she refuse to get up in response to that kind of language, and instead go on sitting in her chair, threatening nobody, cops are here to protect the hell of of her by getting up in her face, wrapping a pair of handcuffs around their knuckles and bashing her head in with them over and over again, while sheriff’s deputies stand around and do nothing, and while a fellow cop runs up to hold her down in her chair — stopping eventually to pepper spray her, handcuff her behind her back, and then leave her lying helpless on the floor.

Please note that, according to Memphis Police Officer Bridges McRae, refusing to immediately follow a police officer’s bellowed command over a minor matter of paperwork is a crime which can rightfully be punished by a vicious gang beat-down. And according to the rest of the Gangsters in Blue on the scene, it’s a situation which calls for standing aside, or actively rushing to the aid of, their gang brother — and to hell with the suspect woman being assaulted.

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) — Video obtained by Action News 5 shows a Memphis police officer beating a suspect at 201 Poplar in an apparent case of police brutality.

The video, recorded February 12th, shows Duanna Johnson in the booking area at the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center after an arrest for prostitution. The tape clearly shows a Memphis police officer walk over to Johnson — a transsexual — and hit her in the face several times.

Actually he was trying to get me to come over to where he was, and I responded by telling him that wasn’t my name — that my mother didn’t name me a faggot or a he-she, so he got upset and approached me. And that’s when it started, Johnson said.

Johnson said the officer was attempting to call her over to be fingerprinted. She said she chose not respond to the derogatory name the officer called her.

He said, I’m telling you, I’m giving you one more chance to get up. So I’m looking at him, and he started putting his gloves on, and seen him take out a pair of handcuffs, Johnson said.

The officer hit Johnson several times with the handcuffs wrapped around his knuckles. In the video, you can see the flash of the metal. The tape shows another officer holding Johnson’s shoulders as she tries to protect herself.

After taking several blows, Johnson stands up and swings back.

I was afraid. I had had enough. Like I said, I thought the other officers that were witnessing this would at least try to stop him, Johnson said. I mean, he hit me so hard. Like the third time he hit me, it split my skull and I had blood coming out. So I jumped up, Johnson said.

But then she sat back down, and the officer her in the face again. Then he maced her. On the tape, other people in the room are seen turning away and fanning their hands because of the smell.

. . . On the tape, Duanna is eventually handcuffed and left on the floor. A nurse comes in, and goes directly to the officer.

I couldn’t breathe, and they just made me lay there, Johnson said. Nobody checked to see if I was okay. My eyes were burning. My skin was burning. I was scared to death. Even the nurse came in and she just ignored me, and I begged her to help me.

— WMC-TV (2008-06-18): Video shows police beating at 201 Poplar

Officer Bridges McRae, Gangster in Blue

James Swain, Gangster in Blue

After this brutal gang assault committed in full view of a security camera and several witnesses, McRae had the audacity to file a charge of assault against Duanna Johnson. And then to file an internal affairs complaint against the detective in the booking area for standing by and doing nothing, instead of joining in on the beating.

This happened back on February 12th. At the time that it happened, the D.A. dropped all charges against Johnson. The rookie cop who held Johnson back in her chair during the beating, James Swain, lost his job. On the other hand, Bridges McRae, the thug who was actually bashing the poor woman’s head in, was given a paid vacation from street duty (at a $49,000 / year salary) for four months, pending an administrative disciplinary hearing, which he repeatedly delayed using sick leave and other excuses, after which he finally lost his own job. Neither of these brutal and dangerous thugs has yet faced any criminal charges for this videotaped assault.

Meanwhile, the Fraternal Order of Pigs has provided McRae with a lawyer, who is helping him appeal the decision to fire him from the police force. The lawyer wants you to realize that the mere evidence of your senses is no reason not to give a violent cop the benefit of the doubt:

McRae is the officer seen in the video repeatedly hitting Duanna Johnson in the booking area at 201 Poplar. McRea had arrested her for prostitution, but the charges were later dropped.

In the video, you can see McRae hitting Johnson with what appears to be handcuffs. Memphis Police Association attorney Ted Hansom, representing McRea, said Thursday that handcuffs were not used as a weapon by the officer.

Once it starts, the handcuffs were out to handcuff that person, Hansom said. You don’t have time to say let me put these down and then we will resume this.

Hansom said the video shows a different story when it is slowed down. . . . Hansom said the video is not the whole story, and it will be his job to explain it all.

. . . The video shows McRae hitting Johnson in the face. She was also pepper sprayed. But it also shows Johnson hitting McRae at least once.

Hansom points out that there is no audio on the video so you do not know what is being said.

He also said McRae had reason to believe the 6 Feet 5 inch Johnson was a threat. Hansom said he has studied the video.

I saw some actions on the complaining party. So if they are coupled with statements or prior conduct or dealing with this person and knowing the size of that person might put you in apprehension of what’s going to happen, Hansom said.

— WMC-TV (2008-06-19): McRae’s attorney says video is not the whole story

Along the way this class act demonstrates his sensitive awareness of issues surrounding police brutality in some communities:

The way he is being depicted with just this video tape. It doesn’t tell the story. It’s the Rodney King approach [sic!]. Lets look at a few minutes of video and make our decisions. It’s not that simple, Hansom said.

— WMC-TV (2008-06-19): McRae’s attorney says video is not the whole story

And informs us that merely refusing to refuse an order to stand up, while you are in a secure area, is apparently enough to count as a threat to the safety of a heavily armed cop surrounded by other cops:

Hansom said the video shows a different story when it is slowed down. He said it is clear Duanna Johnson could easily have been considered a threat, because she was in a secure area and was refusing orders from Bridges.

— WMC-TV (2008-06-19): McRae’s attorney says video is not the whole story

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, which runs in the jail in which McRae beat the hell out of Duanna Johnson, is mainly concerned to deny any responsibility (because their flunkies stood by and did nothing but watch in the course of this brutal beating), and to launch a criminal investigation into who finally made this tape, which should have been public knowledge four months ago, available to the newsmedia.

I know, I know. In any big police department there are A Few More Bad Apples, and every now and again there is just going to be Yet Another Isolated Incident. Sometimes life is like that. Terrible things like this just happen. Sometimes there are no red flags, no real warning signs.

McRae was fired after an administrative hearing for beating a transgendered woman he arrested Feb. 12 for prostitution. The video, which didn’t record sound, showed the officer repeatedly hitting Duanna Johnson in the intake area of the Shelby County Jail at 201 Poplar. Johnson said McRae made derogatory remarks. McRae is shown hitting Johnson and then using pepper spray.

McRae’s personnel file showed only three reprimands for minor offenses during his nearly four years on the force. His latest evaluation said he exceeds expectations.

— Memphis Commercial Appeal (2008-06-27): Officer fired over beating had accusers

Here are some of the ways he exceeded expectations.

Who would have ever thought that Bridges McRae might do something like this to a black trans woman in prostitution?

Meanwhile, here’s an interesting tidbit about Memphis police department procedure:

Police Director Larry Godwin said if an officer receives multiple complaints, the department may move the officer to another precinct to see if the complaints continue.

— Memphis Commercial Appeal (2008-06-27): Officer fired over beating had accusers

When Catholic bishops engage in this kind of practice with priests accused of child sexual assault, it’s called a conspiracy and a massive cover-up. When the boss cops do it, it is treated as if it were a perfectly mundane bit of bureaucratic detail, as just so much business as usual.

The comments on the local Memphis newspaper stories are actually more encouraging to me than I expected them to be. I’m heartened to see as many people as I do with the empathy and the courage necessary to speak out about this kind of outrage in public, and to call out the Mephis Police Department as an institution. But there is also the usual sado-fascist howling that you would expect, and the usual efforts to use absolutely any prejudice available against the victim of violence in order to smear her, ridicule her, and exonerate the cops for absolutely anything they might do to her. If you needed any more convincing on this point, take this as evidence that, even if it is on tape, even if it is in a public place in front of a crowd of witnesses, if you fall under one or more demographically suspect categories, there is absolutely nothing a cop could do to you that would be so low, so vile, so obviously over-the-top, or so brutal that cop couldn’t still count on hordes of Law-‘n’-Order creeps to befoul every public forum with victim-smearing and fabricated excuses on his behalf. He can fully expect that no matter what he might do, in full view of other police officers and a camera, still other officers will either stand by and do nothing, or come running to his aid, and that unless the tape reaches the media, he will almost certainly never face any personal consequences whatsoever for doing it. If he had walked up and shot her in the face I wouldn’t expect anything more to happen to him than what has happened to him so far. The Gangsters in Blue get each other’s backs, and it’s likely that nothing would ever have happened to him at all, beyond yet another unfounded complaint being recorded in his closed IA file, except for the fact that somebody bravely defied the law to get this tape out to the newsmedia.

The truth is, when every fucking week brings another story of a Few More Bad Apples causing Yet Another Isolated Incident, and the police themselves almost invariably doing everything in its power to ignore, cover up, excuse, or minimize the violence, even in defiance of the evidence of the senses and no matter how obviously harmless or helpless the victim may be, it beggars belief to keep on claiming that there is no systemic problem here, that cops ought to be given every benefit of the doubt, or blanket condemnations of policing in major American cities are somehow a sign of hastiness or unfair prejudice against good cops. The plain fact is that what we have here is one of two things: either a professionalized system of violent control which tacitly permits and encourages cops to exercise this kind of rampant, repeated, intense, and unrepentant abuse against powerless people–or else a system which has clearly demonstrated that it can do nothing effectual to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

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