In the summer of 2012, DeShawn Franklin, 18, was asleep in his bedroom when police suddenly entered the room, punched him in the face, tasered him and dragged him out to a police car. The worst part is, he wasn’t even who they were looking for. The teen was taken into custody simply because he fit the description of a slender Black man with dreads.
Franklin and his family decided to file a civil suit claiming that South Bend police violated his constitutional rights by entering his house without a warrant then arresting him. Police even went as far as to admit their mistake, according to the Washington Post.
A jury decided to side with the family. However, they only ordered each of the defendants to pay Franklin the minimum award for the violations, coming out to a total of $18.
The low award is reportedly tied to a lack of evidence, which would’ve been photo, video or even hospital records. An attorney for the city claims he once offered the family a $15,000 settlement, but Franklin’s attorney declined station that similar cases usually get a settlement of $100,000 to $300,000.
“To me, it’s just solidifying that blacks in America, we have no rights,” said Russell Thomas Jr., Franklin’s nephew. “How can we fight for something when the system was not made for us in the first place?”
An internal affairs investigation into the incident showed that the officers did indeed use excessive force and enter the home of Franklin’s parents illegally. Also, those same three officers involved in Franklin’s assault – which is precisely what this was – settled another lawsuit related to an incident in 2013. They allegedly sliced the tires of a 7-Eleven employee before challenging him to eat a teaspoon of cinnamon in exchange for $30 and a dinner voucher to Applebees.
To speak on the culture of the South Bend police force, in 2014 there were 240 officers on the roster. Only 25 of them were black, 10 were Hispanic and 20 were female. That’s a highly disproportionate amount of white, male officers for a suburb that has a 25 percent black population.
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