Mothers told of children being cursed at and provoked by police, threatened with arrest for asking questions, and being body-slammed to the ground.
“I asked, ‘Why are you doing this?’ and they said, ‘We the police. We can do what we want.’ They beat my son,” said Verlina Wilkerson, who burst into tears.
She said police came to her home in 2003, looking for someone who was not there. And when her son, Tyrosh Brown, objected, he felt the officers’ wrath, she said.
The crowd moaned as Tecelia Price described how police stopped her because the tags on her license plate had expired. “They handcuffed me and searched me and felt all between my legs and said they didn’t know if I was a man or a woman,” said the 55-year-old mother, who also cried.
Her son later told her not to complain to police about the incident, because “that will just make it worse.”
“And it did. It did get worse,” she wailed. She identified herself as the mother of Thames Hawkins, who died in the Kent County Jail following his arrest by Grand Rapids Police.
“I came down and saw the officer with his knees on his neck,” she said of her son’s arrest outside her home in May 2003. He was accused of failing to stop for an officer. An autopsy determined Hawkins died of a heart condition.
Assertions of misconduct seem to cyclically appear, and officers are taking the recent upheaval in stride, said Officer Ed Hillyer, president of the Police Officer Labor Council. The force will continue to act professionally while working through the charges.
“Perception, that’s all it is,” Hillyer said. “We’re not hiding anything and when something is validated, we take care of it. That’s been shown as recently as last year.”
Officer Matthew Lockhart was suspended pending his dismissal after fellow cops reported him for using his police radio to injure a suspect during a traffic stop. Lockhart pleaded no contest to aggravated assault last month.
Hillyer, meanwhile, took issue with the city board that solicited people to tell stories of their difficulties with officers.
“This type of a meeting is a joke. You’re asking for people to complain,” Hillyer said. “Every one of our officers knew this was going to be a b—-session. Let them b—-, and we’ll go out and do our job professionally. We knew exactly what was coming this time and there’s no way to satisfy everyone.
With all due respect to the boys in blue, for whose protection I am grateful, I don’t think this Hillyer guy is helping them any by blowing off serious charges of abuse and misconduct as a “bitch session.” Maybe it’s the way it’s being reported, but it sure sounds like serious problems are being trivialized and ignored.