Police in Alameda, Northern California, seem to have learned nothing from the George Floyd protests because of police brutality. Bodycam footage released by Almeda’s police department shows the detaining of Mario Gonzalez, a 26-year-old father of one and caretaker of his autistic brother. The footage shows police approaching and engaging in small talk with him.
Watching the footage, it’s clear that Mario was either intoxicated or had a mental illness. 911 calls released by the city reveals that among those who called the police on Mario was a man who said Mario wasn’t doing anything wrong but loitering around, which according to him, scared his wife but was very clear that Mario wasn’t doing anything wrong. Another caller was concerned that Mario was breaking tags off alcohol bottles.
The police then put handcuffs on Mario after he fails to tell them his details. Shortly afterward, that beloved phrase of police officers, “stop resisting,” can be heard from the footage as Mario is taken to the ground. The footage then shows officers parking their knees and elbows on Mario’s back.
An officer can be heard telling Mario to stop struggling, though it was clear that he was gasping for air. How does one stop struggling when one cannot breathe? One of the police officers asks another officer whether they could roll him to the side, and he replies, “I don’t want to lose what I got.”
Mario then goes unresponsive, and the cops try to perform CPR to no avail; he never woke up. Why not just sit him on the pavement as he was already handcuffed? He was unarmed, he was not a danger to anyone, and anyone with a drop of common sense would understand that obese people probably have other underlying health conditions, so why did these cops do what they did?
The Alameda police department has placed the three arresting officers on administrative leave as the DA’s office carries out criminal investigations.
Gerardo Gonzalez, the victim’s brother, spoke to the media and said,
“The police killed my brother in the same manner they killed George Floyd.”
Mario’s mother recounting on her slain son, said,
“He’s a lovely guy. He’s respectful all the time. They broke my family for no reason.”
The Alameda police department also issued a statement promising transparency and involving outside agencies to investigate the death of Mario Gonzalez. However, their initial statement reads nothing like the bodycam footage. The police claimed that “officers responded to two separate reports where a male who appeared to be under the influence and a suspect in a possible theft. Officers attempted to detain the man, and a physical altercation ensued.”
This is not the first time police in California made headlines. There is a history of police brutality where drugs were planted on African Americans and falsified police reports. In California’s L. A county police killed 925 people since the year 2000, whereas the summer of 2020 was dubbed as the reign of terror due to the high frequency of police killings. There is a real fear of police brutality, and going by the dashcam footage released after the occurrence of police brutality, it’s a real justified fear.
On social media or commentaries made on police brutality articles, one is bound to come across the perplexing honest question where an American asks, “why can’t people just comply and not resist arrest.” While the question is genuine, in most circumstances, people comply but when a couple of angry police officers descend on a person, sometimes complying means death. For Mario Gonzalez, the footage shows that he complied. Still, when officers tell a gasping and a suffocating man to stop struggling, I don’t see how humanly possible anyone can meet such a police demand.
It is often mentioned that the American police are too aggressive, that their police training is inadequate. In countries like Norway and Finland, police recruits go to a three-year police university to qualify as a police officer, where they leave with a qualification equivalent to a bachelor’s degree. Contrast that to how police officers are trained in America, where officers receive training between 10 to 36 weeks, and then they are handed a badge and a gun.
While Californians, especially the residents of Alameda, come to terms with this shocking yet preventable death in the hands of police, perhaps now is the right time for the State to invest in the proper training for its police officers. The millions used to settle lawsuits because of policing gone wrong is money that can be appropriately utilized. If correctly spent on police training, the returns will be many lives saved and fewer lawsuits. What do you think?