At the moment, we can carry some relief that Genele Laird is no longer being unjustly incarcerated for being battered by Madison police officers. However, to be released under threat of still being charged is not a release. And it’s not recognition that the Madison Police Department should not have handled this case the way that it did.
The restorative justice option afforded to Genele requires her to first accept responsibility for her charges – charges incurred while she was getting her ass beaten by Madison’s finest. If it’s clear that the charges shouldn’t exist, then why is she required to accept responsibility? How is accepting responsibility for someone else’s wrongdoing just? She did not cause a trained Mental Health Officer to escalate a childish situation. She did not make the officer strategically place his knee into her ribs over and over again. She did not force MPD into tasing her multiple times.
Without real MPD accountability, Genele is missing out on real justice. Because she’s accepting responsibility for what happened, the City of Madison and MPD miss their chance to step up for and address the unjust beating and tasing of an unarmed teen. The community misses a shot at real restoration.
Some have expressed that Genele at least has her freedom, right? Well, she may not be in jail, but she is not free of charge yet. If she does not accept the terms or complete her restorative justice agreement, the DA promises to file felony charges against her. Once again, the victim that we rally to support is seen at fault, and the trained protectors and perpetrators of the violence have no fault. Madison has once again sustained a culture that devalues Black life and excuses the misconduct of the MPD.
Where is the accountability now as the police and community leaders continue to thank each other for a job well done? You mean to tell me that MPD violates this 18-year-old girl so much so that she is released from unjust incarceration. She still faces felony charges for MPD’s wrongdoing – which she’s accepted responsibility for; and everything’s all good because MPD and “community leaders” got a pat on the back? Where do we consider what’s best for Genele and what’s best for our community?
She has accepted responsibility for bringing about the events that led to her brutalization and the injuries sustained by the officers during that brutalization. Per Chief Koval, she has to – excuse me, gets to — sit down with her perpetrators of this violence, and apologetically attempt to restore the community for “her wrongdoing.” Congratulations!
What we’ve received is a pacifier — a reason to think that it’s all good. We’ve given our DA an opportunity to boost his votes and “community leaders” a chance to show up and “make a difference” on camera. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that Genele is not charged or in prison … yet; but what has she or we gained as others gain around her? Depending on how restorative justice goes with the officers who beat and tased her, she may still be charged and sentenced. Her price for this pseudo-freedom is to accept that the wrong doing of MPD is her fault. The price of this “acceptance” is the ability to use this case as a tool to hold MPD accountable and improve our justice system. We’ve been stabbed in the back 9 inches and the knife has been pulled out 6 inches and we are calling that “justice.”
Genele Laird is not a platform for you to stand on. Genele is not part of your portfolio. Genele is not your credit.
This beating is a warning sign that we should take very seriously. It could have gone further. It didn’t, but it could have. Genele could’ve been killed just like Tony. Genele could be another hashtag in a sea of too many hashtags. Have you forgotten? Pay attention, Madison.
It’s moments like these that are the fork in the road to change. That’s why we still call for no charges to be brought against Genele Laird. That’s why we still call for MPD to be held accountable. That’s why we still call for Community Control Over Police. We needed it to prevent Tony. We need it to hold MPD accountable and truly free Genele. We will need it when MPD inevitably violates again. And I would expect nothing less of an institution created to enslave my black behind. The only way to sustainably address this detrimental pattern is to divorce this game of recognition and fluff to truly empower the community of those most impacted.
In the coming weeks – after the birth of my son – Young Gifted and Black (YGB) and community partners will be hosting discussions around Community Control Over Police and Collaborative Direct Democracy. Contact YGB to get involved. Stay vigilant.