Police Power Abused: In the Suburb of Parma, Ohio

by Letters 4 the Damned

Dear Fellow Mankind,
In effort to illustrate that acts of injustice are not solely confined to areas of low-income and/or minorities I thought it best to begin with an example of injustice in my own community. I live in Parma Heights, OH, which is a neighboring city of Parma. If you have heard of Parma it may be due to The Drew Carrey Show though the reality of the city is not all that humorous. It is a city known for its racial tensions and policy attempts to segregate itself from minorities and the poor in nearby Cleveland. It is also well known for its abuse of police power and while this more commonly shows up as racial profiling or warrantless search and seizure there are more severe incidents. Most disturbingly, age is not a deterrent of such behaviors. On March 4, 2014 Parma police settled with the family of a teenage boy to the tune of 40,000 dollars. In November of 2012, the 16 year old teenage boy and his two friends had just been picked up from a friends home by the 16 year olds father, when, they were pulled over by Parma police officer James Manzo.  Officer Manzo informed the father he was being pulled over for suspicious behavior in the form of circling the block, needless to say there are many realistic reasons why this behavior is not suspicious. When the 16-year-old boy challenged the officer’s assertion the officer removed him from the vehicle and sat him in the back of the cruiser. After patting the boy down he removed a hard object, allegedly a flashlight, from the boy’s pocket and struck him over the head twice. The officer than radioed dispatch informing them that the boy hit his head on the window and needed medical assistance. Following the incident, the boy’s blood was cleaned and removed from the vehicle before investigators could examine the evidence. This may have very well been an attempt to cover up the brutality of the attack, which may have been measured by blood spatter patterns or other forensic methodologies. He was transported to the hospital where he was handcuffed to the bed and received stitches and stapling to seal a facial contusion. The boy still has continued headaches as a result and has incurred substantial medical bills according to a report by Brian Byrne of Northeast Ohio Media Group. Terry Gilbert, the family’s attorney had this to say “I think the citizens of Parma should be concerned that they have a cop that has a license to go around and beat minors up like that without suffering consequences, This was not just an accident, it was an intentional, deliberate act against a defenseless minor. There’s just no excuse for it. If anyone else did something like this, they would be hauled off and be charged and have to answer to a felony.” (Byrne, 2014) Not only were police reports unavailable immediately following the incident but according to the city law director Tim Dobeck the 16 year old still has charges pending against him in juvenile court. The family’s lawsuit, claiming assault and battery, false arrest and imprisonment and professional misconduct, was settled with Parma police this March 4 of 2014. Why do these things happen? Is it simply that power is put in the wrong hands or is it the power that enables an individual to consciously commit such acts without remorse? Is it, as Marx would theorize, a result of class conflict or is it something as simple as an ugly combination of hate, anger, and stress? I’m not sure there is an explanation that is consistent across every case of injustice as reasoning may often vary depending on situational context. One thing I do know is that these behaviors cannot be allowed and we need not hesitate to speak up as our silence only enables further injustice. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Even when it’s in a quiet suburb such as Parma, OH.