Last September I wrote a 25 part series on how we solve the crisis of police brutality in America. Each part unpacks a very practical, achievable solution that whittles away at the problem. I’m often asked of the 25 solutions, which ones might have the biggest and most immediate impact. And on that short list, I always include Solution #4 – which is that the bad apples of every police department must be fired and prosecuted for their brutality and corruption.
Here’s the deal – conservatives in America want to have their cake and eat it too on the issue of police brutality. That want to tell us that “all police aren’t bad” and that what we are dealing with is actually “just a few bad apples.” The problem with that line of thinking is that local police departments and prosecutors simply aren’t holding their few bad apples accountable. Instead, they are kept on for years and years in spite of their horrific track records, and they spoil everything around them in the process.
Such was the case in the Gwinnett County Police Department in metro Atlanta. After Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni and Officer Robert McDonald were recorded by at least two different onlookers assaulting a young black man, Demetrius Hollins, during a routine traffic stop, the police department made the rare first step two weeks ago of firing the officers.
Both Bongiovanni and McDonald took turns punching and kicking Hollins. He was not armed. He was not resisting arrest. He was not wanted on some violent warrant. When he was punched with a brutal blow to the face, his hands were in the air and when he was stomped in the head he was handcuffed and laying on the ground.
After the videos of their brutality went viral, it was then revealed that both of these officers had a horrific history of violence and that Sgt. Bongiovanni, who had been with the department for over 20 years, had actually had over a dozen different citizen complaints of his brutality upheld by the department – which I think is the most I’ve ever heard of in my life. I’ve heard of officers having way more than a dozen citizen’s complaints filed against them, but I’ve never heard of an officer having over a dozen of those complaints upheld – and this man still kept his job. I don’t think that would be possible in any other profession in America outside of possibly being a famous Fox News host.
Well, yesterday the Gwinnett County District Attorney, Danny Porter, did what we rarely seen done in America – he filed criminal charges and issued arrest warrants for Bongiovanni and McDonald. This is what should’ve happened, but what should happen rarely happens when it comes to police brutality in America. Both of the disgraced officers were charged with a misdemeanor battery charge and a felony charge of violating their oath of office – which carries a mandatory minimum of at least one year in prison. Some may say DA Porter undercharged these officers, but my guess is that he found the two charges he sincerely thought could stick on these guys.
You have to remember, that while charging a brutal officer with a crime is rare, and feels like a victory for advocates of police reform, it’s just one step. These officers have to be convicted – and juries – particularly in a rather conservative county like this one – are not quick to convict even the worst cops for anything. These charges will be easily proven.
In my opinion, both of the officers committed felony assault against Demetrius Hollins – so proving misdemeanor battery should be very achievable. But what is likely even more achievable is proving that these officers violated their oath of office. It appears that both of them told explicit lies on their police reports about the incident – leaving out their violence altogether – and that they both were fully prepared to cover up their actions. On this charge, it appears they’ve been caught red-handed.
I’ll believe it when I see it. I could tell you a hundred different stories of terrible police officers that I thought were going to actually be held accountable for their actions – only to see them beat the rap. The system will never change as long as that’s happening. Here’s to hoping Gwinnett County Georgia does things differently.
Metro Atlanta County Makes The Rare Decision To Actually Arrest Two Of Its Brutal Officers was originally published on blackamericaweb.com