1,000 signatures reached
To: West Memphis Police Department
Protect Communities from Police Violence in West Memphis, Arkansas
1. A full investigation into the assault of Shawnda Brookshire by West Memphis PD officers
2. A public apology issued by the offending officers to Shawnda Brookshire and her family
3. Commensurate disciplinary action by the West Memphis PD for the offense, up to and including the removal of the offending officers’ badge(s)
4. The addition of “excessive use of force” onto the offending officers’ record(s)
Why is this important?
On November 17, 2019, West Memphis police officers accosted and attempted to arrest Shawanda Brookshire, a 33-year-old Black woman who had lost her 4-year-old daughter in a car accident the day before.
The incident occurred while Shawnda stood outside a LaQuinta Hotel in West Memphis, Arkansas - mere hours after she’d seen her daughters body for the first time at a local funeral home. Officers drove up to Shawnda, who was on the phone, grieving - demanding proof of stay. Shawnda complied - showing her hotel key card, informing the officers that her daughter had just died and that she wanted to be left alone. The offending officers then demanded identification, which she said she left in the hotel room.
The officers exited their vehicles, began to intimidate and surround Shawnda, prompting her to panic and call her family for assistance. One of the officers threatened arrest when she began to scream in fear. He then attempted to trip her and he fell to the ground. Aggravated, a second officer slammed Shawnda to the ground, handcuffed her, and placed the weight of his knee on her back.
When Shawnda’s family and hotel staff attempted to intervene, verifying her residency at the motel and the circumstances surrounding her grief, they were threatened with arrest and ignored. Shawnda was thrown in the back of a police car while her family insisted she committed no crime and demanded her release.
The United States has a long history of police violence against innocent civilians, particularly in impoverished Black and brown communities. The distrust resulting from the unequal treatment of minorities within the criminal justice system has spurred a rising tide of anger, frustration, and despair among people of color, especially the poor and working class.
The city of West Memphis, Arkansas, is 61.4% Black, and Black people constitute 2 out of 5 of West Memphis residents living below the poverty line. These socioeconomic factors increase the likelihood of harmful interactions with law enforcement, which in turn reinforce the social and economic disenfranchisement--and consequently, the dehumanization-- of poor Black families.
This incident is far from unique. What should have been a short, routine interaction respecting Shawnda’s civil rights, as well the dignity that a grieving mother deserves, in fact resulted in the isolation and assault of a woman in her most vulnerable emotional state.
We demand accountability from the West Memphis PD. Shawnda deserves justice.