Police must rise above racism in serving citizens

By Albie Nicol

Police brutality is happening everywhere — and not just in the viral news. Waterloo Police officer Adam Wittmayer became one of the culprits he is supposed to be stopping in an incident on April 19.

Montavius Keller, a 24-year-old African American, was speeding in the middle of traffic, and he did not pull over when he was first signaled to. Instead, he sped up.

Then Wittmeyer put down tire-puncturing sticks, which slowed him down enough that he edged Keller toward a house he then ran his car into. Keller went to the ground, obeying the police orders ,and that’s when Wittmayer switched from cop to criminal.

The white police officer Wittmayer beat Keller on the head twice before moving on to tug on his dreadlocks and call him names such as “moron.” Keller had no previous criminal record but was charged with four felonies including eluding police, attempted assault of an officer and possessing 42.5 grams of cannabis and planning to deliver. He will not face the court until later this month.

Police brutality and racial violence tend to run hand in hand since the dawn of time. Most people see this kind of news on national talk shows and think, “I’m so glad that doesn’t happen around here.” Well, Cedar Falls, this happened here, just a town over in Waterloo.

Assistant Attorney General of Iowa Scott Brown wrote, “The likelihood of Black Hawk County jury convicting Officer Wittmayer is minimal if not completely nonexistent.” Since the strikes and pulling of dreadlocks were quick in nature and did not hurt Keller, Brown said he thinks there is no viable case. The students in this school, however, feel differently.

“Actions used by the police to detain someone should never involve dehumanization or kicking them when they are down, and should never, ever involve slurs,” junior Julia Corbett said. “I feel slightly better about the situation knowing that the officer involved was disciplined for his actions, however, that is usually not the case,” Corbett said.

Many reports from ABC News and New York Daily News say that Wittmayer has been disciplined, but he has not been fired, and no one knows to what extent “discipline” goes.

For junior Meron Abebe, the subject hits close to home. “Having lived in Cedar Falls for 12 years, I wasn’t used to hearing about police brutality on a larger scale. The story made me realize that I might not be as safe as I previously thought,” Abebe said. “The whole ordeal made me extremely upset.”

The one thing I know for sure is we need body cameras on police officers at all times. The video where Wittmayer can be seen pulling on dreads and using offensive language is mostly from the patrol car camera. Many police brutality incidents or racial violence attacks are caught on cellular devices by someone in close proximity to the event, and while that is a good way to document something that wouldn’t otherwise be documented, we need more coverage to really show how police officers handle situations like the abuse of Keller.

It’s time to start speaking up for individuals like Keller who don’t get the chance to speak for themselves.

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