More than a year after a white police officer grabbed a black Texas girl and slammed her to the ground as she tried to leave a pool party, the teenager is bringing a $5 million lawsuit against the city of McKinney, alleging that failure to properly train police personnel led to a discriminatory and dangerous practice, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The Black Lives Matter movement has shed light on police shootings that have killed dozens of unarmed black men, and cameras have captured incidents where officers apparently use excessive, but nonfatal, force on minority teens in schools or communities. The incidents have prompted a debate on whether racist officers or poor department policies are to blame for the high-profile clashes between law enforcement and young people caught on camera and shared on social media.
An attempt to bring criminal charges against the Texas officer failed, but a civil suit that takes aim at the institution rather than an individual could have broad-reaching impact, leading to a restructuring of the department’s leadership and training policies as well as redirecting the national conversation, says law Prof. Susan Bandes of DePaul University in Chicago. “The message suits like that send is very different from an indictment or firing of an individual,” she says. “It says, in her view at least, that this is a violation of her constitutional rights.” The complaint by 16-year-old Dajerria Becton stems from a 2015 incident in McKinney, 30 miles north of Dallas. When police responded to a disturbance report, officer Eric Casebolt approached black teenagers and began cursing and waving his weapon. He grabbed Dajerria and slammed her face into the ground before forcefully straddling her and shoving his knees into her back and neck as he tried to restrain her. She was not accused of a crime at the scene. Another teen captured the incident on video and posted it to YouTube.