An Abuse of Power

So, we have another suspected case of police brutality. This time? A nineteen year old boy versus twelve Louisville Metro Crisis Intervention Team. He was playing basketball at a local high school at night, and got so hot that he decided to take his clothes off.His friends had left him there alone, and police were called.

Shawn Gellhaus was roughed up, and threatened with rape if he did not stop “jiggling.”

My thoughts? Based on the article, I’m guessing he was suffering from some hot weather injuries. Summer in Kentucky is serious business, regularly reaching 80-90 degrees with close to %100 percent humidity. The heat, humidity, combined with dehydration and a lack of food, I’m surprised the boy did not collapse a lot earlier. I myself passed out earlier this week despite my being hydrated and well-fed.

LMPD, especially the Crisis Intervention Team should know better–but they were likely, like the commenters on the article (which I would not advise you to read. No really, I know you’re going to click it. Don’t.) quick to assume that he was on drugs.The commenters are also quick to blame the young man for LMPD’s actions, if they believed he was attacked at all.

There are a lot of things to dissect in this situation, and none of it is good.

Shawn’s condition should have been apparent to LMPD. Like I already said, the heat of Kentucky summers, especially in Louisville, the largest city in Kentucky, is oppressive. It’s very easy to get heat exhaustion, heat stroke, etc. if you’re not careful. That Shawn’s health was not considered is appalling. According to the article, he was out of it, and not able to remember parts of the encounter. His symptoms would have been apparent to anyone paying attention.

Police brutality…is police brutality. It’s wrong, reprehensible, and a disgrace to the idea of the Louisville Metro Police Department. However, it does not surprise me. Nor does the mental hoops people will through to justify police brutality, or dismiss its occurrence altogether.

Why? People want desperately to believe in the goodness of people coded socially as good. Police are authority figures; authority figures are socially coded as…you guessed it! Good. In American society, one that revers democracy and fears tyranny, the very idea that the police force could be abusive is frightening to the very core.

Like the military, the purpose of the police force is to protect the citizens of the society that they operate in. People believe in the goodness of these institutions, they see the need of them, and fear what would happen to them without these institutions. That belief in these institutions’ goodness transfers to its members, naturally.

Respect is instantly given to a servicemember or a police officer–because of their sacrifice, their willingness to put their life on the life, and many other common tropes we’ve all heard before.

Another reason instant and unquestioning respect is given to police and members of the military is that people fear danger. The idea of putting oneself in danger, and out of safety, exposing oneself to harm, is something most cannot imagine, and people that do are almost superhuman to them. That these superhumans can be corrupt, capable of gross abuses, mistakes, doesn’t fit with their idea of who police and servicemembers should be. Hence, the mental hoops.

But that’s not all. We’re all only just human. But society, and people, refuse to recognize that otherwise good people can do bad things. People can do bad things and still be human. That people do good and bad things, and that does not translate into who they are, i.e. good people or bad people. No one is perfect–we all know this on an intellectual level, but when it comes to applying it, many times we falter. Especially when it comes to police, servicemembers, and those who the former are to “protect” the public from.

The consequence of this is that police are not able, by this faulty logic, to be bad. It is also that “criminals” are not able to be good, or innocent, and human. This is why it is so easy, and so common for people to believe that a suspect or person of interest deserves whatever the police dish out.

There is a lot more to digest here, but I’ll end this here. I hope Shawn recovers from his injuries, and from his trauma. I’ve heard that his uncle is a member of LMPD, so perhaps he will get justice. But that won’t negate the wrong that was done him.

I was going to post the symptoms of various weather-related injuries, but this post is already getting too long. I’ll put them in another post, and link back here.

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About Brittany-Ann
Brittany-Ann is a proud, self-identified feminist with fictional tendencies. She currently writes for LouisvilleKY.com and moderates at My Fault I'm Female. She smokes camels, reads Dumas, and navigates a conservative state as "one of them darn liberals."

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