by Mason Harrison
Originally published: July 26, 2016
Police tactics this summer have come under a microscope not seen since the early 1990s beating of Black motorist Rodney King in Los Angeles at the hands of four white police officers and the emergence of what would become the infamous recordings of Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman describing the wanton framing and beating of Black suspects. Both incidents squarely thrust race and policing into the national spotlight.
Cassette tapes, first produced a decade earlier, revealed Fuhrman’s racial bias in policing as a witness in the murder trial investigation of former NFL player and actor O.J. Simpson. A videotape of the King beating birthed nationwide riots after the officers in the case were acquitted on charges brought by the district attorney’s office of excessive force.
Two decades later media has become ubiquitous in the hands of civilians eager to record police misconduct filtered through a 24-hour news cycle that – once again – has thrust racial bias in policing onto a national stage that is increasingly hard to ignore, making its way into this year’s presidential politics and into the ire of violent Black activists, one of whom shot and killed three Baton Rouge police officers in an ambush assault.