Friday, January 9, 2009

99.8 Percent of ER Docs Surveyed Say Cops Too Violent in Making Arrests

I saw this survey up in a general news post before I saw it mentioned at Simple Justice, but I was too busy/lazy to say anything then. I have seen examples of it in some cases I've worked on as well - one that comes to mind is a case where a bunch of big cops arrested an almost 70-year old man and the man ended up with pretty severe trauma. Admittedly, he was arrested for potentially shooting a rifle at the police, but they really did not need to rough him up like he was.

I'm sure in a lot of situations it is more adrenaline than malice that leads to the massive beatings, but really, cops should know better and should be better trained than that. Probably it is a personality thing. I had a case where I needed to call a bunch of police witnesses. I ended up talking to one of them before the hearing for a while. He was a nice enough guy, probably in his mid-20s, and he was on the night shift. I asked him if he did not like working off hours, and he said no, he loved it. He said that he did not become a cop to talk to people and make nice, he wanted to bust heads (I'm not sure he said exactly that, but that is the gist of it). He did not say it with malice. I'm sure what he was getting at was that there just was much more "action" late at night. Generally you don't find good citizens doing good citizen things at 3 am, if watching "Cops" is any indication. So anyone you find out that late is probably doing something they could be arrested for, may be intoxicated, and is thus ripe for a confrontation with police. I can certainly see how that would be unlikely to be boring.

I don't really know what you can do about this, other than charging police with crimes (as they should be, under the law) when they assault those they arrest, and that is about as likely to happen as Dick Cheney making gay porn. Oh wait, he's a Republican, maybe that isn't so unlikely after all.

As always, when it comes to police and prosecutors, the question becomes, who watches the watchers?


DagoodS said...

Ah the stories I can tell.

I had a particular client who would regularly beat up his wife, she would call the police, he would vamoose and hide for a bit. Now that he was gone, she wouldn’t tell the officers anything, and they would repeat the scenario the next weekend.

Finally the officers had enough. According to my client they picked him up on a speeding charge, brought him back to the station, and proceeded to beat him. According to the police, he was picked up for speeding, and while at the station he “lunged” at them, causing them to use reasonable force to restrain him.

The most damning piece of evidence (in my opinion) was the mug shot. My client was bare-chested and you could see a boot print in the center of his chest where he was kicked.

(The jury didn’t buy the officer’s story either.)

In talking with officer friends, I heard stories of retired officers’ actions. (They never spoke of a current officer, of course.) Guys who transported arrest victims in the trunk of the car. Or “accidentally” bumped the accused head as they entered the vehicle.

All in all, I think the vast majority of police personnel do the best they can. It is hard to determine what is “reasonable force” when you have a 300-lb man fighting you with all their energy. You don’t know whether they will bite, kick, attempt to take your gun, or simply stop fighting.

I also think we forget the psychological toll on officers. One fellow told me the hardest thing is to leave the scene of a horrific accident, where some drunk driver (who is hardly injured) has just killed three teenagers and pull over another drunk driver who starts to get belligerent, complaining of the officer “picking on him.”

The officer said it takes all his restraint to not drag the guy out of the car and beat him to instill a lesson as to what can happen when one drives drunk.

I certainly do not condone it; but I think it needs to be addressed better.

DBB said...

I wonder if those dash-cams have made any difference. Maybe if they had video cameras mounted on all police officers, looking in all directions, turned on at all times, police might be willing to show some more restraint in that area. It could also cut down on testi-lying.