This post includes a video and two related articles. I’ve put them both together, because I think it’s important that this story get a little extra context. I have included my own comment near the bottom.~ Mike
I’ll be the first to admit, when it comes to the police, I am the beneficiary of White Privilege. I’ve never been stopped, harassed and certainly never arrested. Obviously, I’ve never been assaulted by a police officer either. So the reality of how badly the police behave has never really been part of my reality. The few times it did intrude, by way of my noticeably Hispanic father being bothered for not being white, I was too young to understand it.
However, since the spread of cell phone cameras, I, and more importantly, White America, have gotten quite a good look at just how the police behave when they think no one is paying attention. Worse, we’re starting to see that they don’t care that anyone is watching because they think they can illegally confiscate the cameras or they just won’t get in any real trouble. There’s a tipping point coming where the public becomes fed up with an increasingly militarized and violent police force and the ubiquitous nature of smart phones is bringing it on faster than anyone could have imagined just a few years ago.
In this most recent case of unnecessary force, the police boarded a Los Angeles bus and confronted a mentally challenged woman by name. After she shouted obscenities and refused to leave the bus, one of the officers punched the belligerent, but non-violent, woman across the face.
Afterwards, the man recording the scene, Jermaine Green, claims he was approached by the officer who then threatened to arrest him if he didn’t hand over the phone. Green, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran with a clean record, refused and the officer was unable to confiscate the evidence. This time.
Here’s the video:
Last time I checked, the police aren’t allowed to punch in you in the face for being verbally abusive. Even in LA.
Even as the police step up their surveillance of the public, they are becoming increasingly combative when the tables are turned. Several states have creatively interpreted eavesdropping laws to arrest bystanders that record their activities. In other states, the police simply look for any excuse to arrest the “offender” or intimidate them into keeping quiet. This is why, if Mr. Green is correct (and he probably is), the officer that threw the unwarranted punch wanted to know if Green had any warrants against him. If Green had had one, he would have been arrested, the phone taken and “accidents happen.” There goes the evidence.
We’ll see, in the next few days as the officer is identified, whether or not he’ll be disciplined in any meaningful way. My feeling is that they’ll make a public show but nothing will come of it.
Welcome to America the Police State. You have no rights except the ones the police feel like giving you.
A Cop’s Response To A Special Needs Girl Punched In The Face By A Cop: A Perspective From Behind The Blue Wall
In response to [the self-described] Justin “The Filthy Liberal Scum” Rosario’s article about a cop punching a special needs girl in the face, I give you a cop’s perspective on video recording and excessive force. As a patrol officer, I find myself involved in tense moments such as the one seen here on the bus on a regular basis. I, like most (clearly not all) of my colleagues, are able to maintain self-control and act in a professional manner.
In some instances, even when confronting special needs people, there is a necessity to use force in order to restore order and/or ensure that everyone else has a peaceful ride home on the bus. That said there are a right ways and a wrong ways to do this. When force is necessary, it SHOULD be minimal, that is only to the degree necessary to gain compliance and restore order.
We have all seen the nationwide trends in videotaping officers who misbehave and unlike most of my colleagues, I welcome this trend. As a professional who has a deep love his profession, I care about the future of law enforcement in America and the people and rights I am sworn to protect. My profession comes with an enormous amount of responsibility and I strongly advocate American law enforcement agencies moving towards hiring a better educated and more tolerant officer.
Though rigorous hiring standards will not alleviate all issues such as the one seen in the video Rosario referenced, they will drastically cut down such incidents as a whole. For instance, evidence has shown that departments that incorporate a field training officer program into their training and retention plans, reduce their instances of civil lawsuits exponentially. This is because the officers who go through this additional training are better versed on what levels of force are applicable in a given situation and how to appropriately use each level of force among other things. Likewise, departments are afforded the opportunity to continue closely screening recruits and weed out those who may become a future liability to the municipalities they work for. Recruiting a better educated officer in the first place would likely only make these results better.
It is vitally important that departments across this country instill in their officers the knowledge that we, like any civil servant, work for the people; the taxpayers within our jurisdiction. Most citizens never require our services but when they do, they should be assured that all of those tax dollars they have spent over the years, have bought them a well qualified and professional officer who will do his/her absolute best to rectify whatever problem caused them to be summoned in the first place but in a professional manner.
Tempers will flare from time to time. We are after all, only human. It is through stricter educational requirements and screening of applicants and recruits that we will be able to better recruit and retain officers who are able to keep their cool when tensions are highest, and use the appropriate level of force to correct a situation. Punching someone in the face, at least in my jurisdiction, is never an appropriate level of force unless you are actively fighting a suspect or you can articulate that an attack from the suspect was imminent. Examples of imminent attack would include things like clinched fists in combination with a belated stance and/or verbal threats to fight the officer. I didn’t see that in this video.
I strongly encourage all Americans to demand better training and more rigorous hiring procedures for police officers. The civic leaders who hire us, answer to you the citizen. Hold them accountable! Though many of my brother/sister officers will beg to differ, I think it is a civic duty of all Americans to blow the whistle on public servants who are out of line. Every officer in America should act as if their every move is always being recorded. If we, as officers, could be learn to think in this manner, incidents such as this one could become rare. As public servants we should be open to public oversight so long as that oversight does not become counterproductive to the job the public expects us to do.
Having said all of this, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to stand up for officers whose actions have been misunderstood on videotape in the past (clearly not this incident). When appropriate levels of force are used, they still appear violent because they are. Force by its very nature and definition is violent. Appropriate use of force, however, minimizes the risk of serious injury to a suspect. We are not in the business of taking out aggression against the populace nor are we in the business of beating up people. Appropriate levels of force are intended only to gain compliance and should never be used as disproportionately or as a way of vetting frustrations over a particularly frustrating verbal assault.
For more from The Progressive Cop, pay me a visit at http://www.theprogressivecop.com/. If you like what you see, be sure and click to Facebook “like” for routine updates from a progressive-minded cop.
Mike Honig on January 12, 2012 at 3:33 PM
Nicely said, sir.
I am sympathetic to the challenges faced by police officers every day, and especially in this unquiet time. When I am stopped by a cop for any reason, I always show courtesy and respect, and expect that to be reciprocated. Problems usually begin when one or the other party does not. And sometimes (not often), it is the cop who does not reciprocate.
That said, I have been appalled at what I perceive as the over-reaction of some police to peaceful protests and protesters. I have been further appalled at the supervisors and upper-level police who have inspired, required, or led-by-example the violence sometimes perpetrated by their officers.
Cops have always had a tough job, but rarely as tough as today, when they are increasingly required to face masses of (mostly peaceful) people in near-military formations and circumstances.
It is easy for me, as a civilian, to expect an officer to refuse orders which may be unlawful or immoral, but every action — even a moral one — has consequences. It must take an amazingly brave officer to stand up to their peers and superiors in any circumstance.
It thus becomes even more important to have police like The Progressive Cop on our forces, not only for their thoughtful execution of their duty, but to create a peer environment where they are safe to perform the thoughtful execution of their duty.
Thank you, sir, for what you do and the thought you put into doing it.