UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

America’s suffocating blanket of police brutality

Saichand Chowdary
Boston Police cars parked at South Bay Shopping Center nearby campus. Photo by Saichand Chowdary / Mass Media Staff.

Last January, a stunning story of police brutality, severe abuse of power and flagrant civil rights violations emerged out of Rankin County, Miss. Six off-duty police officers, who dubbed themselves the “Goon Squad”—a term describing a group of criminals—unlawfully entered a citizen’s home and tortured the men they found inside.  

According to the Associated Press, Michael Jenkins and Eddie Parker, two Black men, were held hostage and physically and verbally assaulted by these police officers for nearly two hours. [1] Jenkins and Parker were taunted with racial slurs, subjected to unspeakable violence and then framed for drugs and weapons possession. [2] After the horrors were over, the officers left the scene to destroy evidence, leaving Jenkins and Parker bruised and battered. For months after, the victims faced false charges and lived in fear of retribution from their attackers, who nearly skirted accountability.  

Major news outlets have used words like “rogue” and “vigilantism” to describe the torture, but a better label would be “expected” or even “normal.”  

Police brutality is so tightly woven into the fabric of American society that it is nearly impossible to avoid it, brush over it or make it invisible. The threads are multicolored, tinted red with the blood of innocents and blue with tears. Intertwined with white, the illusion of justice and peace, America has managed to maintain that its criminal justice system lacks fundamental flaws.

It is much easier to blame an individual displaying vile actionsactions indicative of a larger, all-encompassing issuerather than target the institution itself. But those who are the face of our racist, classist criminal justice system deserve to be held accountable for their behavior. Although uncomfortable to reckon with, the truth still stands that police officers do not solve or prevent crime; instead, they often perpetrate it.  

The Rankin County torture incident is just a patch on America’s quilt of injustice and oppression. Prior to the Goon Squad’s deliberate and planned attack on two innocent Black citizens, the police officers had been involved in violent confrontations with other Black men. [3] According to Business Insider, two men died because of these incidentsbecause of excessive and completely unnecessary violence.  

Additionally, an independent investigation of the Rankin County Police Department conducted by The New York Times and Mississippi Today revealed multiple incidents of blatant police brutality that spanned years. [4] Many of these cases involved repeated tasering, beatings and entry into citizens’ homes without a warrant. These are only some of the violent tactics mentionedthe other torture methods used by police officers were even more stomach-turning.  

None of these repulsive incidents happened in a vacuum. Not a single instance of police brutality or abuse of power is an anomaly. It is more than just ignorant to believe that the thousands of stories of the injuries and deaths at the hands of police are random—it is arbitrarily dangerous. Classifying events like the Goon Squad tortures, the murder of George Floyd or the shooting of Breonna Taylor as random or unexpected is incomprehensible to me. 

But I must remember that the American quilt of injustice is heavy, and it is comfortable. We wrap ourselves in its softness, ignoring the trauma-stained red and blue fabric. It’s easier to focus on the white, the gentle and calming vision of a criminal justice system that works for all. Throwing this blanket off our shoulders is difficult because the bitter cold of our oppressive reality is often too hard to bear. However, there must come a day when we collect our quilts and finally destroy them. Others suffering cannot end until we each sacrifice our own comfort, and that movement is when we can start to sew again.  



[1] https://apnews.com/article/rankin-mississippi-deputies-civil-rights-brutality-2c2154e67cc6cd3b9a28cb16686f2a5c 

[2] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/mississippi-good-squad-rankin-county-brett-mcalpin-joshua-hartfield/ 

[3] https://www.businessinsider.com/mississippi-rankin-county-sheriff-goon-squad-2019-shooting-black-man 

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/30/us/rankin-county-mississippi-sheriff.html