Ever since the killing of Ferguson, Mo., black teen Michael Brown last August, reports of questionable civilian deaths at the hands of police have been in the news.
A series of racially charged events that took place between January and April suggests that 2015 may be an equally demoralizing year — both for the American public, whose trust in police continues to erode, and for the vast majority of fair-minded law enforcement officers who are just trying to do their jobs.
• Lt. Terry Shawn Williams, of the Charleston, W.Va., police department resigned on Jan. 21, just before he was to appear at a termination hearing for producing videos showing his young daughter dressed like a police officer and dancing to a KKK anthem. The seven videos have been sealed by a judge, but have been described as “unspeakable.”
• The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the findings of two civil rights investigations of Ferguson in March. Though it found no grounds for federal civil rights charges against Officer Darren Wilson, who fatally shot the unarmed Michael Brown, the DOJ did find that the police department “engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the First, Fourth, and 14th Amendments of the Constitution.”
• Jackson County, Miss., sheriff’s deputy Michael Slater was fired on March 4 after he was recorded using XBox’s voice chat feature to tell a competitor in an online game that, as a law enforcement officer, “I get paid to beat up n------ like you.”
• The San Francisco Police Department moved to fire several officers, including four veterans who had been with the force for over a decade, after a San Francisco Chronicle report on March 16 revealed Michael Robinson, Noel Schwab, Rain Daugherty and Michael Celis had exchanged racist and homophobic text messages. In addition to referring to black people with terms like “monkey” and “animal,” they joked about cross-burnings. One officer wrote, “All n------ must f------ hang.”
• Fort Lauderdale police officers Jason Holding, James Wells and Christopher Sousa were fired on March 20, after Officer Alex Alvarez resigned in January, for their parts in making a racist video involving a Klan hood and a series of text messages, including one that said, “We are coming and drinking all your beer and killing n------.”
• On March 26, a federal grand jury in Alabama indicted Madison, Ala., police officer Eric Parker, 26, on a single charge of using “unreasonable force” against Sureshbhai Patel, a 57-year-old grandfather who was visiting from India to help care for his disabled grandson. While responding to a 911 call about a suspicious-looking “skinny black guy,” Parker ignored Patel’s effort to convey that he was from India and did not speak English and threw him to the ground, partially paralyzing him. Parker was fired from his job and charged with third-degree assault.
• Three members of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan who also worked as corrections officers in Florida’s state prison system were arrested on April 2 for allegedly plotting to kill a former inmate who is black. Officials said Thomas Jordan Driver, 25, David E. Moran, 47, and Charles T. Newcomb, 42, plotted to inject the former inmate with insulin, then drown him, because he was infected with a sexually transmitted disease and had bitten Driver during a prison fight.