Current Trends by Natasha Sapp

With the seemingly unending rash of videos, from polices’ own dash cam footage to instances recorded by city, store surveillance cameras or bystanders, concerned citizens cellphone films capturing moments the world almost instantly sees and needs to see, with the shootings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, among others, being forefront in our minds, causing civil unrest and constituting the catalyst for social change, chronicled footage showing persons shot trying to fulfill officer instructions, riddled with bullets while clearly running away from them, the abysmal treatment of individuals known to be mentally ill, demonstrating signs of obvious  mental disturbance, developmental delay, occurrences where cops kicked, punched, tased someone already subdued; cases where officers pulled over cars, interrogated occupants of vehicles not remotely matching what they were supposed to be looking for, at least once frightening a women and her children on a darkened road, is it any wonder we are in a constant state of questioning police behavior? From this standpoint it’s easy to lump all officers who use force in with those who use that force excessively tragically leading to the needless death of people suspected of petty crime, virtually exterminated before they can even be processed, never mind a verdict rendered on strong armed robbery, loose cigarettes, traffic violations, petty theft. A South Carolina father dead because he ran away from an officer possibly over a warrant for back child support, shot repeatedly in the back after supposedly fighting over a taser. What we learn from subsequent investigations into officer backgrounds and police department dynamics doesn’t bolster our trust, faith  in polices’ sworn oath to protect and serve; Michael Slager, the policeman in the last incident listed having a suspicious history both regarding unarmed black men and the device, once bursting into a man’s home and tasing him, arresting him for resisting arrest though he never struggled, complied with instruction in what turned out was a case of mistaken identity according to final inquiries by his department. Par for the course in government investigations revealing a consistent pattern of racism, civil rights violations, using traffic tickets and other minor offenses to line a city’s coffers to name but a few of the problems outlined. That it is white officers routinely shooting black and brown persons to death with alarming frequency only adds to the perception force was unwarranted, loved ones were murdered unjustly; sentiments compounded  by police forces housing only a hand full of minority officers, if any at all. Finding out the officer who fatally shot the latest human being to become national news because he is dead over what should have been a routine traffic stop, giving someone a ticket, court summons for jay walking, a standard booking on small misdemeanor offenses turned into a controversial incident had a past history of dubious, questionable behavior, complaints against them, involved in bizarre situations, encounters with the public, police departments failing to check prior personnel records before hire, uncovered  performance records indicating an officer was about to be fired before leaving one job for another further erodes public confidence in law enforcement’s ability to yes enforce the law. But not harm ordinary people in the process; yes keep order but doing so in an organized fashion, yes ensuring public safety, but not taking safety away from one group to give it to another. Quickly today we can forget force, initially seen as excessive, unconventional, sometimes even deadly, is necessary. Deadly force, shooting dangerous people is sometimes the only way to save everyone from hostages to innocent bystanders who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, chose the same grocery store, restaurant or where passing through the same stretch of highway as a criminal, unstable person on a rampage, fleeing justice. Not all cops who use force do so out of a psychological superiority complex, narcissistic personality, distain for ordinary citizen life, sheer recklessness and arrogance they somehow get to do it because of their badge, but because they have little or no other choice in protecting the public.

Take the shocking case of  video just released showing a policeman striking a man with his patrol car; at first the scene takes your breath away, makes you immediately think police brutality, angry, saddened officers meant to uphold the law could do such a thing. Then we learn more details, A- the man was actually armed with a weapon known to be a real gun allegedly stolen by him from a local Wal-Mart; unlike individuals such as John Crawford III wandering the aisles of a store with an air soft, unloaded, available right there for sale BB gun, a child with a toy that only looks real, persons holding ordinary items, video game controllers to car keys mistaken for a gun, knife, projectile object meant to harm surrounding police. B-this man was wanted for multiple violent, semi violent crimes constituting a mini crime spree including robbing a 7-11, stealing a car, setting a church fire and finally stealing the gun. Said suspect showed, according to released dash cam footage, a clear and present danger to both himself and others; contrary to one citizen bystander heard almost pleading with the officers not to fire on the armed man, the gun was not, as he thought, locked, unable to be loaded or fired, facts proved moments later when pointing the loaded rifle at his own neck, responding, when the officer calmly tells him he doesn’t wanna do this, by firing a shot directly in the air, the whole time walking toward businesses where innocent people could easily be shot. Next the officer heard speaking throughout much of the given footage is not the one who used his vehicle to finally stop the armed man, nor are his words asking officers on a named stretch of road to stand down, stay off, directed at the officer who came up behind him, rather the ones at the opposite end of the street. Michael Rapiejko appears to have seen an opening to end a tense, potentially deadly situation and took it; most of the damage done to the cinderblock wall and the car windshield not the human being breaking the law. Contrast that Arizona scene with the Alabama policeman responding to a resident call noting a suspicious person during which they apprehended an elderly grandfather from India, speaking little English, here on a visa visiting family, calmly walking down the sidewalk minding his own business, having done nothing wrong, who was left partially paralyzed after being slammed into the pavement by the arresting officer. What happened in Arizona is reminiscent of the police confrontation at a New York Jewish community center involving a man and a knife. Making news because it was another deadly run in between public and law enforcement, not that officers had done anything wrong in handling the situation where that individual had gone back and forth putting the knife down, picking it up again, lunging at officers before they fire. Key here too, our suspect in Arizona lived to face the 15 felony counts now pending against him; for all the graphic nature of the video, the unconventionally, potentially more dangerous way this officer brought down a completely unruly citizen, his injuries were relatively minor. We aren’t hearing reports of catastrophic bodily damaged, limb amputation, multiple broken bones, spinal cord issues, brain damage, coma, spending a mere 2 days in the hospital before being booked into jail. Sure his lawyer is quoted by every media outlet as saying it’s a miracle her client isn’t dead; she is his legal counsel, it is her job to defend her client. Maybe luck did have a part to play in it; maybe the officer is fortunate, extremely fortunate things did not go drastically in the other direction. But in fact what we don’t see here speaks almost louder than the provocative video eliciting mixed feelings from a varied and divided public; what they did right that should be echoing past the could have been scenarios had the suspect ultimately died of his vehicle inflicted injuries. He wasn’t left in the street for hours akin to Michael Brown’s body, he wasn’t denied critical first aid, mocked for his non-compliance, unresponsiveness while in medical distress, similar to Eric Garner left on the sidewalk while officers milled around after hearing him repeatedly state he couldn’t breathe, failing to give him CPR and when confronted by bystanders questioning their inaction stating he was breathing without ever checking. Or little Tamir Rice shot in the stomach left on the cold ground 4 critical minutes before EMS arrive when they know he has been shot, multiple officers again in the immediate area discussing the goings on, but not helping Tamir. Even barring his family from his dying side as he lay there sans ever trying to confirm their identity; instead handcuffing his teenage sister and putting her in a patrol car, threatening his mother with the same unless she calmed down and stayed behind police tape.

Despite the suspects name being Mario Valencia, looking Hispanic, Latino there is no racial element here, no evidence of a toxic police department, work environment officers repeatedly and routinely engaging in racist board games to pass the time like ones reviled regarding U.S. air marshals, racist e-mails uncovered at a Florida precinct leading to the firing of 2 officers, the resignation of another, the racial profiling department wide that fueled Darren Wilson’s perceptions, interactions with Michael Brown. No one at the scene or in subsequent moments was seen, found ranting, railing against thugs, criminals, minorities, illegal immigrants, spouting stereotypes a-la George Zimmerman in his 911 call about Trayvon Martin, the racist garbage penned by Michael Dunn from his jailhouse on trial for murdering Jordan Davis over loud music, or the controversy swirling around another Arizona figure, sheriff Joe Arpaio and his racial profiling, jail conditions deemed by both the justice department and Amnesty International to be inhumane treatment of prisoners, mostly pre-trial awaiting their day in court. Police at the scene were able to adequately and realistically describe equally what transpired and the suspect sans embellishments making him a larger than life, angry monster capable of somehow superhuman strength, long held beliefs blacks, Latinos with poor home lives, growing up in the ghetto will turn out possessing the “powers” listed and the police armed with weapons and training no more effective than mere children, implications of Darrin Wilson’s account of encountering Michael Brown, conservative rhetoric on impoverished urban minorities. Though Rapiejko has a prior claim of excessive force to his name from now infamous New York, plaintiff in the suit alleging he pointed his gun, threatened him, choked him, eventually handcuffing him all in front of his family on charges labeled obstructing government administration, it is a singular allegation hardly holding a candle to another of New York’s finest turned disgrace, Daniel Pantaleo accused of touching 2 black men’s genitals during an illegal strip search, compliant resulting in a settlement, having a second complaint pending for wrongful arrest when he violated departmental policy placing an obviously non-violent Eric Garner in the chokehold that caused a massive heart attack. Strengthening support for the finding no charges be brought against Mr. Rapiejko, deeming the deadly force applied authorized, there is no abuse of power surrounding the current case; there was no one harassing Valencia because he was next to a bodega and had a prior history engaging in X criminal activity, what we saw in the Garner video, no one was needlessly dragging this man from a vehicle, no punching, kicking after the person is in handcuffs, what we saw in dash cam released material regarding Curtis Buford, no  evidence of an easily subdued person bloodied by officers in the course of arrest, what happened with Floyd Dent and the UVA student whose arrest went viral. There is no prior record indicating officers fabricated evidence against the man now sitting in the Prima county jail, as is the possibility referring to Mr. Dent; officers never finding the gun they were sure he was reaching for, who says the drugs purportedly found in his car were planted and whose arresting officer was accused and later acquitted of same, in another state’s precinct. As ill thought out as it may seem to viewers to actually ram a person with a car, officer Rapiejko didn’t suddenly shut off his dash cam before following through, completing his controversial move, isn’t caught on tape before or after worried about what the camera picked up, warning fellow officers they have rolling camera on them, what one policewoman did at the Buford scene. There is exactly zero indication they mistakenly targeted the wrong person, attempted to take him into custody because he was Mexican, Hispanic, Latino, African American ‘and those people all look alike,’ they mistook his clothing, his car, his location for someone else; actions of police in Forney Texas in dealing with Kametra Barbour subjected to a felony traffic stop while her 4 small children huddled in her car screaming and crying, because they thought her burgundy Nissan housing herself and minors well under 18, was the tan Toyota they were looking for housing 4 males and a gun. Perhaps Rapiejko should have faced criminal charges in the 2005 incident entering court in 2008, perhaps he should have faced internal disciplinary action, dismissal, however; his actions in February on that Arizona street resulted in everyone being alive and well by the end, a dangerous person gotten away from the unsuspecting public, treated for his injuries and parked in jail where he belongs.

Putting aside the unusual application of a vehicle, the damage to city property and the patrol car, along with the shock value of the video itself, there is no indication officers acted unprofessionally; polar opposite many instances dominating the news. This isn’t something officers are trained to do, told to do as an option, but it clearly worked here in stopping a potentially harm to people, surrounding officers and the suspect himself. Too, independent his obvious threat, readily witnessed aggressive behavior and the violent nature of the charges to be filed against him, police actually tried to talk this man down, talk him into relinquishing his weapon before applying force, lethal or otherwise. They kept their distance as not to escalate the situation any further; again the exact opposite of the roll up way too close, immediately open fire tactic used to confront Tamir Rice. They never once drew their firearms, let alone discharged them, yet considering the situation they would have been well within protocols and common sense to do so; though Valencia was indeed hit with a car, no one tried to back up and hit him again because he was a useless thug, criminal, a minority, vindictive, vengeful, irritated they had to chase him. There is no evidence of an acute overreaction by police, former police who should know better; who could forget Curtis Reeves, then 71, a retired police captain complete with god only knows how much training, daily defusing of situations and regular interactions with people using his permitted conceal and carry weapon to shoot Chad Oulson for refusing to stop texting and after being hit with a bag of popcorn, even having a prior run in with another pair at the theater over their use of a cellphone. Overreaction similar to what happened to the Mexican national in Washington state shot twice in the back, among other bullet wounds, for throwing a single rock at police already in riot gear, the majority of shots fired striking him as he ran away with his hands up.  How about the South Carolina, now former, cop facing assault charges for shooting a man who reached into his truck to retrieve his license, as the officer instructed him to let him see? No one found the events that transpired funny, a laughing matter as alleged audio of Michael Slager, the former South Carolina cop now facing murder charges in the death of Walter Scott, apparently shows he did. Valencia isn’t riddled with a double digit number of bullets only to find out he was really unarmed, mimicking the Cleveland officer who stood on the hood of a car firing 15 shots killing the couple inside, continued firing after other officers present had stopped only to claim he doesn’t remember doing it. We aren’t dealing with a story like Laquan McDonald shot 16 times by Chicago PD for walking down a southbound lane of traffic holding a knife, refusing to drop it as ordered; police responding to a 911 call of a man with a knife attempting to break into cars. Interesting here is that out of multiple cars housing multiple police personnel only one shot his weapon all 16 times even as Laquan 17, appears to have just graduated high school, first tries to walk away from officers, when shot spins around on the ground as the officer continues firing his gun, eventually shouting something and kicking the knife from Laquan; information gathered from McDonald’s family attorney since police are hiding behind both state and federal investigations not to release the described dash cam recordings but moving forward with a 5 million dollar settlement for the family to avoid both a jury and civil suites. Marana Arizona isn’t Ferguson Missouri Duck Dynasty redneck philosophy meets Mayberry ill-preparedness handling largely peaceful protesters with military unfitted vehicles designed to deflect IED’s in a warzone, tear gas a riot gear, holding press conferences releasing inflammatory video into an already on edge, powder keg community. There were no conflicting accounts given regarding why Valencia was pursued, stopped by police, events leading up to him being hit with the cruiser; top administration didn’t hide the officers name, pertinent documents, were able to clearly articulate both why police apprehended him the way they did and why the forced used in doing so was authorized.

Police there also voluntarily released said controversial video once their departmental, state investigation was completed; an investigation that took a fraction of the time it took in Ferguson owing to police having their act together far more than an absence of unrest, eliminating any perception they engaged in a cover up. Officers’ statements match the dash cam footage, audio recordings explaining the incident, things that cannot be said about Tamir Rice, the Washington state man, nearly all the counter cases throughout this article. Administration personnel stand behind the officer using facts not spin; they aren’t making fools of themselves calling an obvious chokehold a seatbelt maneuver like the New York police union rep did after Eric Garner, didn’t openly state to public, press “at no time was he shot in the back” only to have independent autopsy results directly contradict those to camera declarations, problems faced by Washington state police. Spokespersons didn’t assert a victim killed while being taken into custody by police was shot in the chest, telling only half the story; he was shot everywhere else too, including in the back, as is the reality in the still unfolding saga of Laquan McDonald. Top brass didn’t shamelessly stand by their man, their employee, their officer of the law namely because it’s what you do, in an attempt to save face, look good in the public eye; plainly what authorities regulating police in Forney Texas did after finding out what happened to Kametra Barbour.   Responding personnel didn’t profoundly change, significantly revise their statements regarding what happened only after video footage was presented to their bosses, the public to justify use of force, usually deadly force. They aren’t making things up that never actually transpired, i.e. a California deputy filmed  savagely beating a woman on the side of the highway originally, reading the officers written statement taken into custody for her own safely due to walking unsteadily too close to highway traffic. Reason behind the repeated punches to her head, face while he was positioned atop her prone body on the ground, only movements from her active attempts to protect her face, head, neck, fend off raining blows, she refused to comply; except full viewing of passing motorist’s cellphone video shows the officer not the woman making the first aggressive move, violently shoving her to the ground, tackling her.  We know Cleveland officers saying they ordered Tamir Rice to put his hands up from the car alleging he refused to comply, hints why they rolled up and immediately opened fire, are a 99% probability falsehood. The South Carolina patrol cop adamantly told his superiors he gave Walter Scott CPR; cellphone shot video, courtesy of a guy in the bushes, telling a completely different story, starting with Scott running away when gunned down by the officer, he and another officer are seen standing over the body, going through his pockets, never once checking his pulse never mind giving CPR. These aren’t the actions of the volunteer deputy Robert Bates participating in an undercover sting who confused his gun and his taser shooting a man to death. Next background revealing it’s possible he used his friendship with the sheriff and his sizable donations to the city, police department to be allowed to train, to become deputized, essentially operating on a pay to play model. Training records now apparently unable to be found, suspicions his existing records were falsified and that persons within the Oklahoma police department were transferred to other jobs post their refusal to do so; officials openly acknowledging they can’t find some records pertaining to Bates’ qualifications reportedly submitted and are vowing to track down the former employee in order to get to the bottom of it. Further while Bates insists he received specialized training in Arizona’s Maricopa country home of embattled sheriff Joe Arpaio, in responding to active shooters, they have never heard of him, are emphatic he never came to Arizona, at least not for training; they have no knowledge of him training with them. Forget the debate on use of reserve officers given full authority like full time police or that this is the first high profile case of its kind in recent years, what was a 73 year old full time insurance CEO doing as a volunteer deputy; his age and reflexes commiserate with same should disqualify him from using a gun on a professional level, perhaps even from a civilian conceal and carry permit, let alone participating in a sting operation, in any capacity, that should require additional  training, be reserved for fully fledged, fully trained officers. Worse is what Bates has to say for himself, not only mentioning his former battle with cancer, as if anyone has sympathy for him considering a man is dead, but also proclaiming it can happen to anyone going on to demonstrate where on his person both his gun and his taser were housed; Today’s Matt Lauer voicing the opinion of many saying people would look at that and wonder how he confused them as his gun is on his hip and his taser hooked to his chest in a special vest compartment. Other news outlet obtained comments by Bates involve him saying the laser light targeting on both his gun and his taser are the same; therefore he saw the light, assumed he had his taser lifted it and fired. Also assuming his training records are legit, holes will eventually be accounted for, which is assuming a lot, either way Bates was/is totally incompetent something that should have been seen before he was allowed to kill a man in such a ghastly mistake.

Returning to Michael Rapiejko, truth be told, Mario Valencia is a dreaded example cited by social commentators telling minorities, often black people, to get their act together of a person doing something wrong, who would not have ended up injured, shot or dead had he not been engaged in criminal activity, actively, willfully, brazenly breaking the law, openly defying officer instruction. A possible career criminal at the very least possessing a gun when he was already a person not legally allowed to do so, hinting at some kind of prior criminal behavior, criminal history.  He is a far better poster child for the consequences of criminal behavior, justification of why police may use force to apprehend you, why you could be shot, even killed by police if you are caught committing a crime, shortly after and you refuse to follow police directions than Bill Cosby’s infamous pound cake scenario. Mario Valencia represents exactly why police are allowed to use force, deadly force if it comes to it and, up until recent years, recent incidents were given a broad, sweeping amount of discretion, benefit of the doubt rather than immediately being brought up on charges for ever shooting a suspect, violent altercations resulting in any suspect injury. Mr. Rapiejko is likewise the kind of officer you want on a police force, who actually thought before doing something deciding against firing his gun, who used only the amount of force needed to resolve the situation, no more no less. And while it doesn’t look pretty, appears savage on the surface, could turn brutal if used regularly; firstly the realities of police work aren’t pretty, shouldn’t be romanticized. Secondly here was a single incident, releasing the video in that perspective is more problematic to the future, what other officers, precincts and the public could, will extrapolate from it; however, it was done in the name of transparency, in the name of getting ahead of the news and quite frankly showing the difference between violent, twitchy, paranoid, obsessed with their own authority, borderline psychotic officer and one doing their job to the best of their ability. We in turn have to be a discerning public; we can’t look at every video depicting an officer using force and automatically jump to the conclusion police brutality. We too have to look at the situation, listen to all the facts, understand there are violent, bad, dangerous people out there in all shapes, sizes, age brackets, skin colors and ethnicities; just as a person’s origins, heritage, race, completion shouldn’t mean you are a target for aggressive policing, harassment, brutality, it shouldn’t be a pass when you do something violently wrong endangering the public and officers called to deal with the mess you created. Yes there is a proportional response to what is the person doing, what is the person being stopped, arrested for, are they armed and with what; a gun, an explosive much different that pocket, kitchen knife, broom or bat. Chainsaws, machetes, the occasional sword much different than an average switchblade; approach varying widely based on which one it is exactly how aggressive the person is being in wielding their weapon, what they are or aren’t threatening to do with it, who and what else is around them, a secluded area versus crowds of people, one potential victim, a hand full as opposed to dozens.  Finally to recap, Valencia was armed, had already fired one shot into the air from a gun that was supposed to be locked unable to be loaded or fired, was moving toward a busy business area where he could have shot, killed injured and/or terrorized numerous persons; though his back was turned when hit, he had been talked to by an officer, they had tried to reason with him and despite his violence, Mr. Valencia is alive to receive his day in court, to defend himself against the charges, if in fact he is innocent of all but using a gun in a threatening manner, evading police. He will have the opportunity to clear his name if need be unlike so many others who were found unarmed but reaching for something, unarmed but fitting the description of… unarmed but looking like they didn’t belong where they were, unarmed but stopped for petty crime, broken taillights exc.