Hero Aurora Cops Terrorize Black Children, Give Them Coupon For Free Therapy


Brittney Gilliam had taken her daughter, her sister, and two nieces to a nail salon in Aurora, Colorado. It would've been a fun family outing during otherwise trying times, but they didn't have a chance to enjoy any Black girl magic before the cops showed up. Those cops bum-rushed Gilliam and the four children with guns drawn. The cops yelled at them to get out of the car. Once they had, the cops ordered Gilliam and the girls — 17, 14, 12, and six — to lie face down on the hot pavement. Gilliam, her 12-year-old sister, and 17-year-old niece were all handcuffed.

John Lewis didn't march for nothing: The police at least need a reason these days to jack up Black folks. It just doesn't have to be a good one. They thought the car was stolen, and its likely priceless Blue Book value somehow justified terrorizing children, who are seen crying in the video that was posted on Facebook. Thank God for social media. As long as Black folks have a camera crew with us at all times, we might at least survive random encounters with the police.

When Gilliam asked why the minors were being handcuffed, the cops didn't immediately put her in a chokehold for "resisting." These were obviously the “good cops" we hear so much about. The officers told Gilliam that they "handcuff kids when they get hostile," which means they have a general "handcuff Black kids" policy because no child is cool like Fonzie when people are pointing guns at them and handcuffing their loved ones.

There's no excuse for treating children this way even if Gilliam was a car thief, but she's not! It was all a mistake, one that just keeps happening as if it's the desired outcome.

Gilliam's car was stolen in February but they were eventually reunited. She offered to show the police her vehicle registration and insurance paperwork. It's as if she's the one who's had training in police work and peaceful conflict resolution. The police had also somehow mistaken Gilliam's SUV for a stolen motorcycle, which even I know are two different types of vehicles.

Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson just got this crap job Monday and has spent most of her time apologizing for her button men's behavior. Last month, when she was still interim chief, Wilson had to smooth things over after some ghouls in her department were revealed to have taken photos mocking the brutal death of Elijah McClain, whom Aurora police cruelly killed last year.

If the police suspected that the car was stolen, they could've just asked Gilliam for proof of ownership, but as Wilson explained, that might pose a level of risk to trained officers who are armed. Can't have that. Better play it safe and only risk the six-year-old pissing her pants.

WILSON: We have been training our officers that when they contact a suspected stolen car, they should do what is called a high-risk stop. This involves drawing their weapons and ordering all occupants to exit the car and lie prone on the ground. But we must allow our officers to have discretion and to deviate from this process when different scenarios present themselves.

OK, I've already spotted a problem. If you allow officers “discretion," they're going to point guns at Black people and handcuff them. That's their go-to response. They have to do it. It's part of their lifestyle. You need to make not hurting Black people a non-negotiable rule, but cops will threaten to quit if that's even a mild suggestion.

WILSON: I have already directed my team to look at new practices and training.

“New practices and training" aren't going to stop the police from seeing and treating Black people like animals. If a human-resembling person can hear these children's screams and feel fine with what they're doing, no training can help them.

The cops released Gilliam and the kids once they realized their mistake, but they shouldn't expect a medal.

WILSON: I have called the family to apologize and to offer any help we can provide, especially for the children who may have been traumatized by yesterday's events. I have reached out to our victim advocates so we can offer age-appropriate therapy that the city will cover.


Most white people have positive stories about cops. I don't know them that way. One of my earliest memories is of my cousin coming to our house in tears. A cop had pulled her over at night and ordered her to remove the tint from her windows, with her fingers, at gunpoint. She was 16.

There was probably a law, a rule, of course. That's what even white liberals might reflexively think when they hear stories about police mistreating Black people. The problem is those rules are not applied to everyone. White people freak out when you ask them to wear a mask inside a Walmart.

Cops talk a lot about facing all the “bad people" out there — murderers, rapists, gangbangers, et al. They make it seem as if regular people never encounter criminals, either, and while conservatives might invoke the specter of "black-on-black crime," they express no appreciation for the Black experience in America. Criminals still prey on us while the police treat us no better than criminals. We have no respite, no safe harbor, and the pain and humiliation we suffer from the police are considered worth it if suburbanites can feel safe in their gated communities.

I used to just silently smirk whenever a white liberal or moderate would boast about how their Fox News-binging, Trump-enabling parents were becoming less racist. Maybe they have a Black friend now or went to a Beyoncé concert and enjoyed themselves. They're making progress! Give them some more time and “hearts and minds" will change.

It's unclear why recognition of Black people's humanity is on their timetable, but exactly how much more time do they need? As James Baldwin said, they've "taken my father's time, my mother's time, my uncle's time, my brothers' and my sisters' time, my nieces' and my nephew's time." Do they need the time of a six-year-old girl? My son is six years old, as well. You're not getting his time.

James Baldwin: How Much Time Do You Want For Your "Progress?" www.youtube.com


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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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