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Police brutality videos blanketed the news this week

Police-Brutality-ThumbBy Kari Paul From Mashable

As protests continue in Ferguson, Missouri, police violence is still a big part of the national conversation — and a spate of videos showing police brutality have gone viral in recent weeks.

Although incidents of police brutality are not new, the ubiquity of their documentation, both by mobile phone and surveillance cameras, has brought the issue to the fore.

The use of force by police isn’t necessarily on the rise — the Department of Justice says there was no statistically significant increase from 2002 to 2008 — but the combination of proliferating cameras and viral videos makes it seem as though the recordings just keep coming.

On Wednesday, a South Carolina state trooper was arrested after a disturbing video surfaced showing him shooting an unarmed man during a routine traffic stop. Sean Groubert, a 31-year-old lance corporal, now faces 20 years in prison if convicted of wrongfully shooting the driver.

The video was taken on Sept. 4, and shows Groubert pulling over Levar Jones for a seat belt violation before asking to see his license. As Jones reaches back into his vehicle, Goubert opens fire with a handgun.

Jones was struck at least once, in the hip, and can be heard repeating “I just grabbed my license, you said get my license,” and, “What did I do, sir?”

On the same day, the New York Daily News published a video of a visibly pregnant woman allegedly being thrown to the ground, belly-first, by a New York Police Department officer in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The NYPD internal affairs division has opened an investigation into the incident.

A similar scene was shown in a video from the same Brooklyn neighborhood earlier this month when a police officer was caught kicking a street vendor who resisted arrest. The officer was later stripped of his badge, and the situation is still under investigation.

Yet another video showing a violent altercation with police went viral in late August. The video, titled “Black man tazed and taken to jail for sitting,” has garnered more than a million views since it was uploaded to YouTube on Aug. 26. It shows Chris Lollie, a father of four from Minnesota, being arrested and tased while waiting to pick his children up from daycare. The Police-Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission is now investigating the case, and Lollie has said he plans to launch a federal civil rights lawsuit.

Though the videos have drawn attention to the issue of excessive force in arrests, they do not always lead to prosecution. On Aug. 5, 22-year-old John Crawford III was killed by police in a Walmart while carrying an air rifle (also known as a BB gun) sold in the store. The incident was caught on tape.

A grand jury decided Wednesday after reviewing the video that the shooting was justified, and no officers involved would be indicted.

Crawford’s family said in a statement they are “disgusted” by the decision.

“The Walmart surveillance video and eyewitnesses prove that the killing of John H. Crawford, lll was not justified and was not reasonable,” they said.

In some cases, however, the public outcry caused by the videos has led to investigation and prosecution of police officers. One woman whose brutal beating by a California Highway Patrol officer was caught on tape will receive a $1.5 million settlement, the state agency announced Wednesday.

But in Ferguson, where the unarmed teen Michael Brown was shot by Darren Wilson, a police officer, there was no video to help determine what happened and whether excessive force was used. A grand jury is currently considering whether to bring charges against Wilson. The FBI is independently investigating the incident to determine whether Brown’s civil rights were violated.

IMAGE: Sandra Amezquita and her lawyer at a press conference. Amezquita was caught on amateur video showing a New York police officer taking her to the ground on her stomach as she tried to intervene in the arrest of her 17-year-old son. IMAGE: KATHY WILLENS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

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