Everyone has a camera today; all cell phones have them; police cruisers have dash cams; and there are surveillance cameras in most cities and inside most businesses. Soon many police departments will require officers to wear personnel cameras, defining their every action. For citizens, it’s a good thing; for police it may not be so good, as brutality and false statements will be revealed.
The subject regarding the use of excessive force by law enforcement is a national issue, except in Washington D.C., where, like most important issues to the American people, it is being ignored.
Two Philadelphia policemen thought they got away with their crime. In May 2013, a 23-year-old man was accosted by the two officers for failing to come to a stop where a sign was posted about ten in the evening. The officers said he attempted to drive away on the motor scooter he was riding. The officers claimed they pursued the man, and when they caught him, he became aggressive and slammed one of them into a brick wall, attempting to take the officer’s baton. They subsequently knocked him over; he suffered a fractured orbital bone and lacerations to his skull. Assault charges were filed by the policemen.
The 23-year-old man’s girlfriend heard a different story. She decided that there must be a surveillance camera somewhere in the area. She was relentless in her search. Eventually she did find a camera, and acquired the film. When the court viewed the footage, they saw a quite different situation.
One of the officers hit the young man in the head with a baton from the patrol car, knocking him down, as the scooter was bumped by their vehicle. They exited their patrol car and immediately took control of the situation; the man never resisted, and never fought back as one of the policemen held him against a wall allowing the other officer to strike him repeatedly with a baton. Then they held him on the ground and struck him again with batons and fists. When a third officer arrived at the scene, he said he believed that the young man had been shot; his body was lifeless.
Charges were dismissed against the young man, and both officers are facing criminal charges. Both policemen had previously received seven citizen complaints.
In Denver, Colorado, a police officer has been relieved of his position as a patrolman and reassigned for the use of excessive force. The officer had been investigated in 16 separate accusations; two of them cost the city over a million dollars. The final complaint was filed by a business owner. He called 911, claiming that some customers were threatening him with bodily harm. When the officer arrived, he roughly handcuffed the proprietor for falsifying a 911 call.
The underlying problem in both situations appears to be supervision. How can any officer be allowed to remain employed by a law enforcement agency after multiple, and verifiable complaints?
Sixteen complaints, at least two of which went to trial and forced Denver to compensate the victims; truly unbelievable.
Eric Garner, the man who died after the application of a choke hold in New York City, was the victim of an officer who had previous complaints for using excessive force. Once more a grand jury failed to indict him.
Tell me again, why don’t we trust law enforcement?
By James Turnage