Police Brutality Against an Indian Grandfather


On 16 Jan 2016, A federal judge in the US acquitted Eric Parker, the policeman charged for assault on an Indian man.  The judge threw out the case against Eric Parker after his two previous trials ended in hung juries.  In the judge’s opinion,  evidence presented during the two trials did not eliminate the reasonable doubt that the policeman was guilty of a crime. Mr Parker had told jurors that Mr Patel’s actions and appearance were ‘in sequence’ with those of a burglar.  He added that Mr Patel tried walking away and wouldn’t answer questions when officers approached him, and that he was suspicious when the man reached for his pockets and when he pulled one of his hands free during a pat-down.

After President Barack Obama made two rather unfortunate speeches alleging religious discrimination in India, a Madison police officer seriously injured an Indian grandfather during a police stop on 06 February 2015. The incidents showed that the emperor is the one now without his clothes.

Sureshbhai Patel’s story is the reality of many South Asian immigrant families living in North America. His son Chirag Patel, immigrated from a small farming town in India and worked his way through and settled down and started a family in the suburbs of Madison, Alabama. Owning a home in the upscale area is the “American dream” most immigrants from India look to accomplish. After settling down in his new home, he invited his father to come to the US to look after his young son, hoping to mutually benefit from his stay. Thus Sureshbhai Patel began his life in the US.

On that morning, Sureshbhai Patel went out on a stroll in the locality of his son’s home. He was dressed in Indian clothes and as per reports, someone in the area called the police and informed that a skinny black man was walking on the street near his home, close to the garage. The caller said that he saw him yesterday too, walking very close to their home and that he lived in the area for the past four years and had never seen this man before. The caller added that he was about to go to work and was nervous to leave his wife alone while the man walked around outside. The caller said the Patel was acting suspiciously by looking into windows and going through the trash.

Two Police officers on patrol duty, trainer Parker and his trainee Andrew Slaughter, were immediately alerted. The officers reached the spot 8 AM. They approached Sureshbhai Patel, who walking and stopped him for questioning. As the officers were questioning Sureshbhai Patel, he repeatedly said “no English,” “walking,” and “India” as he pointed to his son’s house by repeating the house number. The officers claimed Patel put his hands in his pockets, which escalated into slamming him to the ground. The incident left Patel with a bloody face, and in need of cervical fusion surgery to fuse two vertebrae. Sureshbhai is on his way to recovery and regained feeling in his arms and legs.

This was obviously a case of police using excessive force. Some argued that the police officer had no cause to stop Patel on a public sidewalk and search him, which may be a bit farfetched, especially considering the security scenario around the world.

As usual the Indian media went full blast, criticising the American President and its police forces. Arnab Goswami (most vociferous Indian News anchor) was at his day’s best and his strained vocal cords and as if to pacify him, Alabama’s Governor Robert Bentley, apologized to the government of India for the actions of the Madison police officers. The Governor Bentley also ordered the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to launch a parallel investigation — the Federal Bureau of Investigation had already begun its own probe — into the ‘excessive force’ that left Sureshbhai Patel, 57, partially paralyzed.

“I deeply regret the unfortunate use of excessive force by the Madison Police Department on Sureshbhai Patel and for the injuries sustained by Mr. Patel. I sincerely hope that Mr. Patel continues to improve and that he will regain full use of his legs,” Bentley said in a letter to India’s general consul in Atlanta, Ajit Kumar. “Finally, and most important, please accept our sincere apology for this tragic incident to your government, Mr. Patel, and the citizens of India who reside and work in our state,” the letter went on.

What are the lessons for the people visiting on staying with their children and grandchildren in US or Canada?

During the morning hours, especially in the summer, there are many such grandparents taking a stroll in the area. The children by then would have left for their work and the grandchildren to the school. One of the best use of this free time is to take a walk, enjoying the nature’s beauty and breathing fresh air, on a sidewalk, that too without the fear of dirt or garbage on the path and feeling safe that there would be no vehicle to hit you or dogs to bite or bark at you.

While walking our dog in the morning, one has observed some newly arrived folks with a tendency to look deep into the houses in the neighbourhood, with an inquisitiveness to record the proceedings. Some stare at the women, especially at those women who are dressed to beat the summer heat. Some inspect the garbage cans placed outside the homes, as they see many articles which would have never been thrown back home (most would have been sold to the scavenger for a few bucks).

These actions are sure to set some alarm bells ringing and also some uncivilised reactions. This is mostly so as people value their privacy and are sensitive about any breaches of their privacy. These reactions are immediately labelled ‘racial’ and claims are made that these reactions were because of the skin colour.

This is where the children or grandchildren have a role to play in educating the parents or grandparents about the society and culture of US/Canada. They need to be briefed in detail about the behaviour expected, especially when on a stroll on the road or the park or while visiting the malls or shopping centres. The educated folks must do a detailed study about it (the Internet is the best source), prior to their arrival in US/Canada.

9 thoughts on “Police Brutality Against an Indian Grandfather

  1. Well said Reji. I’d opine that the police officer concerned had a bad day in office. At least he responded; (unlike back here; where the other day one guy walked into our ‘secured’ area, kicked the girl child of a maid and stole her Dad’s bicycle. Our police refused to even lodge an Information Report because unsolved complaints from lower economic strata reflects badly on the department).
    As you said, children or grandchildren have a role to play in educating the parents or grandparents about the society and culture of US/Canada, instead of ‘racializing’ (sic) the incident.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The remark that Indians look at “garbage” to check if there is something to retrieve from them is extremely unfair and reduces Brand India to garbage. One presumes that Americans and Canadians, Aussies and Brits have both the sense and municipal/health related demand to make sure their “garbage” cans have lids on them. Since one presumes that garbage cans are made of steel not plexiglass, one would have to lift a lid on a can to peer on what lies inside. One  presumes that if the son had moved int an upscale home, surely he would have briefed his father not to sniff the neighbours garbage cans and Gujus and others hardly do such activity in India.One visible fear that Indians settling abroad must guard against is to be more American than the Americans themselves. This is pretty unnecessary as it must remain an ethical exercise to recognise excess as excess. It is regrettably another form of Mccarthyism that plagues white skinned people.America has always been racist and Gone with the Wind is living testimony to their racism. Treating Aborogines, Red Indians, Maoris and Negros as “Blacks” and treating them subhumanely is a white excess that at least Indians must not condone. Indians can be racist and stupid too and that too must be condemned. This however was a pure hate crime; a crime born out of intolerance, boorishness and plain stupidity. I would suggest a HR group should have sued the complainer for making a false representation, besides sacking the Policemen for gross arrogance and sub human behaviour.As for briefing “ignorant” parents about correct behaviour abroad, one should presume that unless the Patel son was a nitwit, he must have done all he could to educate his Dad, except may be tell him that taking a walk a 100 yards from his home would result in a fractured back. Since no one has said that the Patel father was a nitwit/challenged, one presumes that the US stands exposed for racial bias, arrogance, intolerance and plain stupidity. We do not need to find Indian complicity for covering up for white racism at its worst.Raj

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rather surprised that u took a view, in someways, justifying the brutality. Also the garbage bin part doesn’t make sense. The whole article somehow suggests that the fault was that of the of the 57 year old Indian. Whether it was outright racist arrogance or an honest mistake is anybody’s guess and probably will never be revealed by any investigation. One appreciates the Governors spontaneous apology. This sort of incidents keep happening to American blacks and Hispanics. So what’s the point of justification?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is difficult to make a judgement on the issue since the intense media war, causes the media to go to any length to sensationalise every issue, without trying to ascertain the truth. We have seen it happen in cases involving other countries quite frequently in the recent past. But surely such media activism would have some positive effect on the conduct of the law enforcing agencies.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yea True..new immigrants training is necessary.But here the officers are trained fully to use as much as force necessary to arrest a person ..but the action of these officers are uncalled for,,,

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The action of strong, well-built, police officers using excessive force against a frail, old man can never be justified, whatever be the nationality or ethnic back ground.

    Liked by 1 person

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