It’s happened again.
Like the incident in West Philly last year, and the one a couple of years before that in North Philly, a citizen beat down in Kensington on Monday by Philadelphia police officers was caught on camera.
Like the rest, this latest butt-kicking takes on a familiar theme: A young Black man is stopped by police, then things take a turn for the worse. Perhaps the young man is not inclined to be cooperative. Perhaps he says something rude, or even belligerent, to the arresting officer, or maybe the cop is just having a bad day.
You know what comes next.
The police, now greatly outnumbering the suspect thanks to the call for backup, begin wailing away with boots, fists and batons until the bleeding, semi-conscious man-child is flung into the back of a police car and taken to the hospital for stitches and treatment — but still under arrest.
This week’s kickee is 18-year-old Marcus Warryton of Kensington, who apparently had been involved in some sort of minor traffic incident with his girlfriend’s car when he was stopped. There was no question of whether the car was stolen — it wasn’t — and no evidence whatsoever that Warryton was involved in a crime at all.
He simply didn’t comply when the cop told him to put his hands behind his back.
I know we’ve gone over this before, but given the circumstances, it clearly bears repeating: When confronted by the police, do exactly what they tell you to do, and without backtalk.
I realize this goes against the grain, and in some ways violates the rules of manhood, especially if you’re innocent of a crime, but here’s the reality: If you don’t cooperate, you’re going to get your butt kicked.
Simple common decency and the mandates of a polite society would dictate that police have an obligation to treat all citizens with courtesy and respect, and as citizens of that society we have every right to demand equal treatment and justice under the law.
The police cannot, and should not, be allowed to work someone over just because they’re young and Black, even they do have a smart mouth and a bad attitude. The police are not thugs; they are the people we hired to protect us from thugs. And the nightstick-swinging, head-stomping maniacs in that video are thugs, pure and simple.
That said, there’s still what I think should be the overarching goal of every Black man stopped by the police: self-preservation. Get out of the situation with your body intact, even if your dignity isn’t. Even if you’re falsely arrested and inconvenienced by being handcuffed to a hard bench in a police station for several hours, that still beats having to put your teeth in a glass every night. Snatching away from the police trying to handcuff you while screaming, “Get off me!” may well assert your manhood and your rights as a free citizen, but it will also result in a permanent limp.
The argument, it seems to me, is about the reality versus what should be the ideal. The ideal should be that the cops treat all young men with dignity and respect, realizing that no matter what; they’re innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The reality, of course, is much different. The reality is that if you give the police a hard time, or give them some lip, or God help you, if you run and make them chase you — there’s a butt-kicking in your future.
Now, maybe you want to strike a blow for fairness and human dignity, and perhaps call attention to the very real problem of police brutality and racial profiling in minority communities. If that’s the case, I’m behind you 100 percent. I just happen to think there’s a better way to do that than making yourself an example of that brutality.
Because resisting arrest is a crime in itself, the suspect need not be guilty of the original crime in order to be charged — which is why Warryton is still sitting in a jail cell being held on $150,000 bail — lumps and all.
My hope is that Warryton’s split second of poor decision-making may serve as a good example of a bad example. Sure he’s innocent — but why should an innocent man take an unnecessary butt kicking? Better to cooperate now and file a lawsuit later than get beaten to a pulp and thrown in jail on trumped up charges.
Given the Hobson’s choice between a temporary loss of dignity and a permanent loss of teeth — I’ll keep the teeth, thanks.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.