In St. Louis, Missouri, an editorial board compared a viral video of a police dog biting a black man to Bull Connor’s legacy of opposing the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.
A video shared on social media by a local radio station showed the man’s arrest for allegedly trespassing near the St. Louis Lambert International Airport on Monday.
It depicted the man being attacked by a police dog while being arrested. Later, the police officers claimed the man was believed to be high on methamphetamine, and they alleged that he threatened to kill an officer and allegedly said he would run away into rush-hour traffic.
The editorial board for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch compared this incident to pre-civil rights days in Alabama. The board wrote that Bull Connor — a Democrat and the Commissioner of Public Safety for the city of Birmingham, Alabama, — “would sure be proud to see that his legacy lives on.”
“Somehow, all of the lessons from 1960s Alabama to 2020 Minneapolis about race-based law enforcement were lost on three white Woodson Terrace police officers as they tried to make an unarmed Black man submit to their will on Monday,” the board also said, further arguing that this is part of a pattern of police deliberately “inflicting pain” as a form of “street justice”:
The suspect’s reflexive recoiling gave officers the apparent pretext they needed to assert that he was resisting arrest — justifying letting the dog loose to attack the man. The more the dog bit into the man’s leg, the more he recoiled. The dog’s handler pulled the dog off, then released the animal to attack again when the man continued to struggle and scream. It was an appalling display that merits more than the “thorough review” that St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell has pledged.
This incident bears all the hallmarks of cops deciding to issue their personal form of street justice — inflicting pain and punishment on the spot instead of waiting for the courts to do their job. We’ve seen it before, such as during the October 2017 protests in St. Louis city, when officers mercilessly beat a detainee who turned out to be an undercover cop.
There’s an ongoing, national pattern of using attack dogs to terrorize Blacks suspected of petty crimes, as underscored in a 2020 investigation by the Marshall Project, AL.com, the IndyStar and Invisible Institute. In one Alabama court deposition, a police sergeant testified that his boss: “Basically … wanted a dog that would bite a Black person.”
The board believes that “There was nothing so urgent in the Woodson Terrace arrest that prevented officers from trying alternative techniques so cooler heads could prevail,” which they believe only give one message, “If you as a black person show the slightest resistance, here’s what we can do to you.”
The Associated Press reported on the situation when the man was arrested:
After the officer pulls off the dog, the man appears to take a step to run but stumbles, and the dog lunges at him again, this time biting a leg for another 30 seconds until the officer stops the animal. Officers then handcuff the man, who seems to be barely able to walk as he is led to a squad car.
The police department said in its Facebook post that an ambulance was sent to the scene but the man refused medical treatment. However, it says he later complained about his injuries and was treated at a hospital, but it didn’t release details about the severity of his injuries.
Police said a substance believed to be methamphetamine was found on the man. He has not yet been charged and was released from police custody, police said.
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell said in a statement to AP that his office “is aware of this video, and we will make a thorough review of the incident.” The report noted that he declined to comment any further on the ongoing case.
Follow Jacob Bliss on Twitter @jacobmbliss.