Jack has lost his job, and cannot find another because he is uneducated. He is angry, so he drinks to ease the frustration. When that doesn't work, he goes home and beats his wife.
When he is arrested for disorderly conduct, Jack believes the charges are unfair and refuses to cooperate with the police. The police, angered by his arrogance, beat him into unconsciousness in an alley.
About 50 men and women -- feminists, police officers, civil rights activists -- listened to seemingly endless examples of brutality when they gathered last Saturday in the crowded chapel of St. Augustine's Church for a day-long forum on poverty and violence.
The meeting, sponsored by the D.C. Afro-American Police Officers Association, D.C. Area Feminist Alliance, D.C. Citizen's Party and My Sister's Place (a shelter for battered women), was marked by loud, militant rhetoric offering conflicting strategies for overcoming people's sense of powerlessness over their own lives -- especially among the destitute, and abused women.
"My position is we have to be more militant in the 1980s," said Damu Smith, a representative of the American Friends Service Committee. "If the Congress doesn't listen, people ought to sit in the gallery of Congress and stay there."
Several D.C. police officers representing the Afro-American Police Officer's Alliance cited from a 1978 report statistics on police brutality in the District. They urged the audience to support a bill, now before the City Council, establishing a citizens' complaint board to investigate such incidents. Such investigations now are usually conducted within the department.
"If a lion walked into this room, sat down in front of you, and said, 'I'm not going to eat you,' would you believe it?" asked D.C. police officer Lowell Duckett. Duckett, who reported another officer for brutality 11 years ago, continued, "That's like the police department trying to investigate itself."
Citing figures from public documents, Ab Jordan, president of the United Black Front, said from January 1978 until July 1979, the courts made 19 judgments of brutality against the police, at a cost of $563,786 in damages. He said another 84 brutality cases were settled out of court, at a cost of $184,075.
"In terms of a time when the city is in deep economic crisis, the $150,000 it would cost to establish such an office seems a mere pittance compared to court fees," Jordan said, adding that most of those who pursued brutality cases were "whites, and those who had the time and money."
"When a homicide occurs, complainants and witnesses are separated," said Ron Hampton, president of the D.C. Afro-American Police Officers Association. "But when an officer shoots somebody, they allow him to meet with his officials. That gives them time to get their stories together."
After testimony from a woman who had been abused by her husband, representatives from My Sisters Place urged that women follow through with complaints against their abusers, in spite of what they called a general unresponsiveness on the part of the police and a lack of quick legal aid in the city.