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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

June 5, 2007

Written by C.N.

Alleged Police Brutality in San Jose

I recently received an email from a White police officer from Michigan. He said that as a reflection of how Asian Americans now comprise close to 10% of his city’s population, he asked me for tips on how to attract more Asian American candidates to join his department. I commended him and his department on their efforts to try to make their membership more diverse, inclusive, and reflective of the communities they serve. I also have hope that Asian Americans will be more open to law enforcement as a career option.

But I also told him that in terms of trying to attract more Asian American applicants, the practical reality is that many police departments have a negative image problem to overcome. The sad truth is that many Asian Americans do not see police departments to be a welcoming environment. They are see that in many cases, there continues to be an “insider vs. outside” mentality within many police departments that result in non-White officers feeling discriminated against, marginalized, and unwelcomed.

It also does not help that there continues to be publicized incidents in which predominantly White law enforcement officers allegedly commit brutality and racial profiling against members of the Asian American community. As New American Media reports, the latest example involves alleged police brutality committed in San Jose, CA, ironically one of the most prosperous and culturally diverse cities in the U.S.:

Supporters allege that during a routine traffic stop, Marlo Custodio, age 18, was dragged from his car and tackled by eight San Jose police officers while two others stood by and watched. They say Custodio managed to place a call to his mother on his cell phone, asking for help, before being repeatedly tasered by officers.

When she arrived, Marilou Alvarado Custodio, age 50, accompanied by Marlo’s two brothers, was violently restrained, her head repeatedly slammed against the side of a police car. Though cooperative, Romel Custodio, 25, was subdued, tasered and kneed in the face. All three were then arrested and booked into San Jose county jail. . . .

Many who attended [a subsequent protest rally] saw the incident as part of a bigger problem of police violence in San Jose. Speakers cited the case of Cau Tran, a young Vietnamese woman shot to death by San Jose police in 2003 when her vegetable peeler was mistaken for a weapon. They also cited the case of Rudy Cardenas, a San Jose man shot in the back and killed by a state narcotics agent in 2004. Unarmed, Cardenas was mistaken by the agent for another man.

Both cases ended with officers cleared of any misconduct. “Police brutality does not have a color, or a personality or even an age. It happens to Asians as well as blacks and Latinos,” said Mark Serrano, program director for the Filipino Youth Coalition. “It’s a power trip,” he added.

Unfortunately, this incident in San Jose is another in a continuous line of similar incidents of police brutality and racial profiling committed against Asian Americans through the years. It is indeed sad and ironic that on the one hand, we apparently see efforts like that in Michigan to recruit more Asian American police officers, but at the same time, we also continuing incidents of brutality against such Asian Americans.

As I’ve always said, if anything, the U.S. is increasingly the Land of Contradictions.

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Alleged Police Brutality in San Jose" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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