Current Trends by Natasha Sapp

And it isn’t just that an officer in the heat of the moment, in a potentially dangerous situation had to make a split second decision that ended up injuring someone who turned out to be innocent, killing someone in the process of arrest for petty crime, nor is it the frequency with which we see this today, seemingly unable to go a month without a questionable video being put before our eyes, raising questions about police conduct. It isn’t exclusive to race relations, accusations of bias, systematic discrimination against minorities, the debate over body cameras for officers, the limits of dash cam or reforming procedures to keep the public at large safe when officers do go rouge, though both things are important. It is repeatedly what we find out after the fact, details later revealed about officers sworn to protect and serve who never should have been hired in the first place or who shouldn’t have remained on the job post a previous officer involved shooting, harassment, improper conduct occurrence when they fatally shot, injured a human being who was someone’s son, father, bother, friend, mother daughter, sister, aunt. It’s how long racial bias, discrimination, a get out of jail free card for cops running carte blanche through their city doing whatever they want and no one will call them on it, unfortunately we aren’t talking occasional speeding tickets, the odd parking ticket rather ruining and increasingly taking lives, goes on before someone dares question what they are doing, being allowed to do on a regular basis. It is when there is clear video/audio evidence against the officer, substantiating witness statements, pointing to excessive force, wrongful death, misconduct, obvious violations of department policy and prosecutors still can’t make their case, present evidence in a way that gets the authority figure brought up on charges to then decide final innocence or guilt; classic case, Eric Garner. It remains the nearly constant and consistent bungling by local authorities regarding high profile cases, cases where ranked persons involved can’t get their stories straight about why someone was arrested, why video, information, other materials were released to the public, a-la Michael Brown. Incident on top of incident where there is possibility of a cover up by police, at minimum major covering for someone thought to have done something wrong, cases where federal personnel should have been immediately brought in and ultimately when they finally are, they discover how abysmally things were handled. Key instances where police know what they are doing is suspicious if not outright illegal, who circumvent the law or who seem, at certain times, to even be unfamiliar with what the law is regarding common situation X, who are under the mistaken impression their job description, their badge gives them more power than it actually does, to the detriment of citizens all.

Example, woman sues 2 Oregon city police departments over the confiscation of her cellphone by officers after filming the arrest of a man while getting off the city bus; she became frightened during the verbal confrontation with an officer when he told her she would have to give him her phone or he would seize it, then proceeded to snatch said phone from her. But citizens have every right to film content using their phones provided they are doing so in a public area and police cannot confiscate them independent probable cause the phone’s owner has committed a crime, is destroying evidence of a crime. Further Carrie Medina’s lawsuit, stemming from the encounter 2 years ago, alleges in addition to illegally taking her phone, searching the contents minus a warrant, the officer got physical with her both grabbing her arm and twisting it, proceeding to lecture her on why he had the right to view her phone, returning it to her moments later. Now initially one has to wonder was he interested in the footage on her phone because he was concerned about what she had seen, keeping in mind her whole reason for filming period was the apparent ‘rough,’ her word, arrest of a young man; returning it almost immediately rules out him finding any pertinent material to his arrest of said suspect. Proving his likely reason for approaching Carrie Medina, taking her phone, examining the contents was simply because he didn’t appreciate being on camera, because he could, and when she offered resistance he set out to use, however minimal, force projecting the idea you will “respect my authorita;” similar to the California roadside beating of a woman the officer alleged he was taking into custody for her own safety due to walking unsteadily and too close to busy freeway traffic. When she dared refuse his “help” extended video shows her shoved to the ground, he gets on top of her and proceeds to punch her in the face and head, he claimed trying to subdue her. Since the Organ encounter the Supreme Court has ruled police cannot view cellphone content of those arrested sans a court order hopefully eliminating experiences like Medina’s; though holding out hope for that may be optimistically premature at best. Equally disturbing here, the officer saw nothing wrong with his behavior either in the semi-violent arrest or in intimidating bystanders knowing she is filming as they argue over whether or not she will willingly hand over her phone. Contrast this officer with police in Steubenville investigated their infamous rape case involving a girl, 2 football players and a party where alcohol was plentiful, police interviewing a host of witnesses sure, yet merely asking people to come forward with video  related to the party. Of course police caught on tape doing every inappropriate, bullying, borderline-stalking, aggressive, violent, strange thing is hardly new; take this Florida police officer’s interaction with a homeless man. Apparently waiting for his turn at the bus terminal public toilet officer Victor Ramirez follows the man suddenly shoving him to the ground, man tries to explain he needs to use the bathroom, officer is belligerent in telling him that he wasn’t going, he wasn’t supposed to be there, when man tires to protest being thrown to the ground officer is heard saying he would push him to the ground, beat him up if he f-ing tried to fight him; except there was no fight, you see the man pulled away from one area by the officer attempting to lead him somewhere, he calmly pulls his arm away, walks away, officer again takes his arm when man pulls away, he his shoved to the ground. While officer is making his shocking statement about what he will do man is sitting up knees bent to chest hands/arms around those same knees offering no physical aggression whatsoever. Next officer orders the man 2-3 times to get up reaching for his arm, when the man pulls his arm back, body language indicating he is further agitated by being touched, fears being touched, the last time he is subjected to a vicious open hand slap knocking him over from his sitting position to prone on the ground, officer steps back pointing his finger in the man’s face repeatedly saying don’t f-ing touch me. Except again, the man didn’t touch the officer, rather it was the officer touching his arm, trying to pull him to his feet to remove him from the terminal, man making no aggressive moves, hands either in front of his chest in a defensive posture, reaching toward, but some distance away from the officer, in a pleading gesture; he then puts him in handcuffs proceeding to berate him for not following directions, use of profanity toward an officer. Never mind the profanity used was after being shoved to the ground, trying to explain why he was there; why not let the man use the bathroom, escort him off the property and call it a day? Upon local police receiving the video Ramirez was suspended with pay pending investigation. More important examining these videos, why the unfounded aggression in either case where no one has pulled anything from their pockets or person, forget looking like a weapon, when people began their run in with police in a calm and orderly fashion only for it to turn into something worthy of justifiable national debate?

Mentalities that carry over when guns, only slightly less lethal tasers are a factor as well, and yes research is being done into the combined issues of why officers shoot, what their thought process is during these intense situations along with sophisticated training on when to shoot and when not to. We the public do understand the fear, apprehension, not knowing if someone stopped will pull a gun, will speed off in their car, try to use their car to run you over, will become physically aggressive, walking into volatile situations where someone has a gun, other weapon and that’s why you are there, identical to the numerous videos cataloging near misses seen on video shows over the years; sadly the number of police behaving suspiciously, abusing power, being aggressive, violent, deadly with and to, citizens, videos are beginning to equal, if not surpassing, near miss videos. But that doesn’t explain clashes where the gun was the least of the problems; it doesn’t explain why Darren Wilson parked his car the way he did eliminating it as a choice in fending off the aggressive hulk-like, demon-faced, angry Michael Brown, why if the street was that narrow and it was that important, he didn’t get out of and stand next to his car to speak to Brown leaving all his non-lethal options open, giving him a chance to spray his mace, if things turn violent, sans getting it in his contact lenses, use his baton if required as opposed to being unable to reach it because you’re sitting on it, forcing you to use your gun. Abandoning if the choked up officer in the video is that choked up over a suspect apprehension where he though there was a gun that turned out not to be, perhaps he shouldn’t have this job, it begs the question how Wilson can be so methodical and detail oriented even months later speaking about his encounter with Brown, nor does it explain why Wilson then proceeded to pursue Michael Brown after Michael Brown attempted to flee, causing him to turn his attention back to the “frightened for his life” officer.  Fear of weapons that could be guns, reaching hands that could be trying to access a gun, tense scenarios where it is unclear what is going on hardly accounts for repeated cases of people’s attempted arrest by police where they were eventually shot in the back. Think the L.A. case of Ezell Ford, the Mexican man in Washington State shot 2 out of 7 times in the back according to independent autopsy, contradicting official claims at no time was he shot from behind, forget the total 17 bullets fired at a man who threw 1 rock at officers and was running away with his hands up in universal peace/surrender posture. A man tased 4 times unto his death for refusing to get up, not one person present thinking, reminiscent of Eric Garner, he isn’t compliant because he is unable to comply thanks to our use of taser. But it is routinely par for the course, the tasing of an elderly man in broad daylight with his hands up, tasing a person with Downs’s syndrome when he refused to leave a movie theater, actually breaking a woman’s car window to tase her male passenger during a ticketing for a seatbelt violation after needlessly pulling a gun when he had no I.D., refused to leave the car, while she was on her cellphone with 911complaing the officer’s behavior made her feel unsafe. Just read the following title corresponding to a YouTube video ‘Mentally Ill Man Waves Broom, Cops Shoot Him Dead And Cuff Him;’ adding to the logical question what they heck were they thinking, though this was early morning, still dark outside, the broom waving took place inside the house when the man’s mother called police fearing him, too police had a history of calls to the residence indicating they should have been aware of his mental health status, having been out of said mental facility approximately a week. Echoing one witness, what was he going to do with that broom, your standard issue household broom wood or plastic handle, straw like bristles competing against multiple officers holding guns; especially since the altercation had moved outside, police shouting for him to get down, witness next hearing the pow, pow, pow of gunshots. Stories where there was ample time to assess the problem, use negotiation, de-escalation tactics, or no reason whatsoever to respond with force, never mind lethal force, literally making it an execution by an individual with a badge.

Returning to Ferguson, high profile cases in general, there was enough evidence for the DOJ (department of justice) to find racial bias in the police department, illuminating disproportionate African American arrests compared to population, a municipal court system designed to come down harder on minorities, the largely black citizenry causing them to amass traffic tickets, court costs jailed when they can’t pay, a city too heavily dependent on those fines and fees to generate revenue. Things so bad they named it a toxic work environment exposing racist e-mails going all the way back to 2008 derogatorily speaking about president Obama saying he wouldn’t be in office very long, “because what black man holds a job for 4 years,” another compared him to a chimpanzee, yet another went after the first lady showing dancing girls, looked to be from Africa, accompanied by the caption ‘Michele Obama’s high school reunion.’ Analysts correctly asking the rhetorical, thought provoking question, if they were willing to say these things about the president, first lady what hope did the average person residing there have; we see not much. In this environment, coupled with Darren Wilson’s own testimony to the grand jury and in later corresponding interview, describing a demon like, unbelievably angry Michael Brown, him feeling like a 5 year old alongside Hulk Hogan not only could local officials not come up with an indictment, compel him to face criminal charges for the dead person left on the sidewalk for 4 hours, initially stopped for jaywalking. The DOJ concurrently announced, in addition to its findings on the department, they could find no grounds to file civil rights charges against Wilson citing the physical evidence supported his version of events; huh?  Worse bleeding into the community, as a few days before the DOJ made public they had no intention of filing identical civil rights charges against George Zimmerman related to the controversial Trayvon Martin case, saying they had no evidence he willfully caused injury to Martin because of his race, committed those acts in open defiance of the law. Conclusions based on the high standard of aforementioned law, despite audio depicting the 911 call including Zimmerman ranting about thugs, saying they always get away and believing the suspicious person he saw was black, the recorded nuisance calls Zimmerman regularly placed to 911 about persons he thought were criminals in his neighborhood, that night his ignoring 911 dispatchers who told him they did not need him to follow Martin, seemingly determined to get his man rather than let authorities handle it, claiming he was neighborhood watch when he wasn’t affiliated with the local chapter of the nationally known group, all pointing to some kind of bias that lead to the death of a human being. Which should elevate to a civil rights charge, ordinary persons’ suspicion you are a thug, thief, criminal doesn’t make you one; true, you have a right to be racist, homophobic, paranoid about crime up and until you endanger, injure, take the lives of others. Making the next question when was the last time the DOJ leveled a federal indictment on civil rights charges; are we facing a higher court possessing the same broken system these cases have laid bare in the lower ones? African Americans nationwide hoping for a different outcome in the Eric Garner case, sadly not holding their breath having already endured a no criminal indictment independent of video showcasing exactly what happened between police and Garner from beginning to end, showing the chokehold that didn’t have to happen, the officer pile on that didn’t have to happen over potential sale of loose cigarettes, law enforcement targeting Garner for petty activity going on in every other bodega on the street, but legal analyst already predicting no charge will come, there will be no finding of bias. More unsettling, city officials not seeing fit to fire an officer already accused in 2 prior complaints naming violation of minority citizens’ civil rights; chiefly a case describing an illegal strip search and allegations he touched 2 black suspects genitals that alone has cost the city of New York tens of thousands of dollars. Who at the time he arrested Garner had a wrongful arrest case pending and who violated department policy in using the chokehold banned for some 20 years in the city due to it causing precisely what happened, needless death, matters of public record all obtainable by media with standard research skills, press credentials.–not-a-chokehold–a-seatbelt-maneuver-367479363987

And still after what happened in Ferguson, the reaction to the Eric Garner ruling, one with video, one without ending in the same protests, same propensity for violence, Missouri lawmakers are pushing to ban police videos from public view purportedly concerned about videos living forever on the internet via sites such as YouTube, the permanency of things posted online effecting officers, policing, investigations. Coincidentally legislation introduced days before dash cam footage was obtained by national press cataloging an arrest months preceding Michael Brown showing several officers removing a person from a vehicle for arrest in which an officer can be heard saying, “we’re red right now so if you guys are worried about cameras just wait” right before an officer switches off the dash cam; red being police code for rolling camera. Legislation put forth a mere month before the release of the DOJ findings detailed above; police in the St. Louis department, also in Missouri, stating the officer who turned off the camera was being disciplined, note disciplined not dismissed. But continuing, the 3, expanding to 5, officers actions were in no way excessive force because Cortez Buford was punching, kicking, repeatedly reaching for his gun. Also, they found a semi-automatic fire arm, ammunition plus marijuana upon his arrest; however, miraculously all charges against Buford were dropped. Besides the blatantly obvious effort to avoid a lawsuit, why the video is now seeing the light of day, could it be charges were likewise dropped because he ended up having a permit for the gun, the ammo was either in the firearm itself or still in the box from recent purchase, the marijuana being under the amount police consider worthy of criminalizing? Though Buford’s lawyer is obligated to defend his client, speaking to press when required, presenting them in the best light, he is not wrong in pointing out the police officer turning off the camera inherently proves, she at least, knew what they were about to do was wrong; further favoring Buford’s claims, while there were possible reasonable explanations for pulling him from the car, the number of officers subduing him, use of the stun gun, what were they doing kicking him, then making a conscious decision to turn off the camera, what else did they do to him once that camera stopped rolling?  Too, this video was withheld from public knowledge on the grounds it would fuel the fire in the streets there but Ferguson officials on a micro-local level decided to release the incendiary video of someone resembling Michael Brown robbing a convenience store; bringing us to bungling authorities and the shameless behind covering practiced by law enforcement when their actions manage to face scrutiny. Apart from apathetic persecutors passing out outdated copies of the law, unable to command jurors’ attention, limiting key witness testimony, before we even get there, independent the disaster known as Ferguson’s handling of the Michael Brown issue, you have what the police union leader said after the video of Eric Garner surfaced calling Daniel Pentalao a model cop despite a record to the contrary up against officers never receiving a complaint, never investigated by internal affairs, who go their entire careers never firing their guns, the one thing that can be said of Darren Wilson he  had never before had to use his gun. Union leader going on to insult the intelligence of the public making an utter fool of himself and his police department as he tries to distinguish between the very visible chokehold and what her terms a seatbelt maneuver, splitting hairs about the placement of hands, arms after man is declared dead post the officer’s actions. Beavercreek Ohio authorities were quick to release dash cam video showing officers storming the Wal-Mart where John Crawford III was killed after a 911 call about a man waving, shooting a gun at people even reloading as the caller spoke, but refused to release in store surveillance footage showing Crawford simply carrying what turned out to be an airsoft BB gun available on store shelves, at one point standing completely still, never threatening anyone. Not only did police spokesperson statements directly contradict video evidence in the Washington case, exclusive coverage by MSNBC saw police administrators who more than couldn’t quote use of force policy verbatim, but who couldn’t articulate basic tenets of that policy; prompting the reporter question, if top brass don’t know, understand the policy how are lower officers, out there daily supposed to know, which got a fumbled answer about his role being more administrative. Or the latest in completely outrageous moves by police administrations blaming the shooting death of 12 year old Tamir Rice on Tamir Rice forcing the mayor to apologize, clarify his statements’ meaning.


On display the unmitigated gall of officers to act recklessly resulting in death, injury, terror felt by the citizen, law enforcement administrators then come up with the apex of stupid excuses why the officers involved didn’t do anything wrong; you use a chokehold to turns out kill another human being on video plain as day and someone, representing your interests, has the nerve to call it a seatbelt maneuver. When was the last time a seatbelt succeeded in choking anyone?  Reality is, as one analyst for CNN pointed out, officers in the Tamir Rice case forgot there was a video and told a story contradictory to what video demonstrates actually happened; a phenomenon we see repeated time and time again. Once video depicted officer actions they lamely tried to claim they ordered Tamir to drop his ‘gun’ from the car, ordered him to put his up and he continued to wave said ‘gun’ causing them to shoot. Yet his parents are correct; they never gave him a chance. Though the video lacks audio, it is highly doubtful they were able to give him any instruction as 2 seconds after they roll up entirely too close, on top of everything else, they open fire. Feeling the shooting justified also doesn’t explain the 4 minutes Tamir lay on the cold ground with no first aid, several officers milling about talking, the abysmal treatment of his family sans any attempt to verify their or his identity. For this, for all of this Tamir is at fault, you dare blame a 12 year old for their fabricated actions with a toy sans blaming trained adults for theirs dealing with real, unquestionably known to be real, fire arms? The mayor should more than apologize, he should resign then go crawl in a hole somewhere away from actual human beings. Fact is had the Cleveland police department had the sensible practice of checking former personnel records they would have seen the abysmal gun handling record of the officer and not hired him, had the department not been biased, also under investigation by the DOJ, said officer, his partner might not have mistaken the pre-teen for a 20 year old equally effecting how they handled things and Tamir Rice might still be alive. Fact is had Daniel Pentalao been put on, preferably unpaid, leave/suspension, if not fired altogether, after the second case was brought against him, he would not have been there to hassle Eric Garner, ring lead fellow cops into such a forceful arrest, the subsequent chokehold and pile on, and Eric Garner might still be alive, at worst severing an extended sentence for repeated sale of loose cigarettes. Predictably had Ferguson not allowed a toxic police department, work environment where such racist e-mails were acceptable, not been a city too dependent on traffic tickets for operations monies, Michael Brown might never have been stopped, never putting officer Wilson or Brown in that situation and Michael Brown might still be alive. Had the Washington officer whose role was more administrative possessed a better grasp of their use of force policy, officers under him, working alongside him might have too and a Mexican national’s 13 year old daughter might not have had to celibate her recent birthday without a father, a father who isn’t in jail where maybe he should be, but never returning because he is now dead, over throwing a measly rock. Ezell Ford and our broom wielding mentally ill man would both be in the care of their community and mental health respectively, both very much alive. Forget failure of 3 governments, the headline sweeping the country after a police shooting in L.A.’s skid row, had we better training the singular actual rookie cop discussed here wouldn’t have allowed the homeless man to get his belt including his gun. And if the public didn’t see law enforcement manhandle citizens, harass, accost homeless persons to the point of slapping them so hard it can be heard, tase people without provocation, time and time again unto their deaths, obfuscate obvious guilt of personnel, make farfetched excuses, outright lie in the face of unaltered, impartial video, turn off dash cams they would perhaps trust police and not need to film their every move, insist on body cameras and other control mechanisms. But until they do those things, citizens will continue to record, hold accountable those mandated to protect and serve; because, race does matter when the person laying dead on the ground is almost always black or brown and the person holding the gun, who was wearing a badge is almost always white. It does matter when slogans, rallying cries like “black lives matter”  resonate with people regardless of their race, ethnicity; we should already know that and behave accordingly.