Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Much Ado About Nothing

It didn't take long for police critics to claim IMPD officers used excessive force in apprehending a man who took them on a high speed chase today. You can view the videotape taken from WTHR's Chopper 13 here, showing the officers using force to subdue the man. You can see from the video that the man did not initially lie face down with his hands behind his head and allow the police to arrest him so he no longer posed a risk to the arresting officers. Here's how WTHR describes it:

Two of the officers kicked Elvarado four times before he seemingly complied with handcuffing orders. It's what happened after Elvarado was finally handcuffed that prompted an investigation.

Elvarado was face down when the officer stomped him in the back of the head. After viewing the Chopper 13 exclusive video, Sgt. Mount said, "He's only pushing the head; he stated he's only pushing the head so that he would not have that possibility of body fluid exchanges."

Let's be clear that the video is taken from the air and is not real clear. The police interpreted his movements to suggest he might have been reaching for a weapon. The exaggeration by the media of how to interpret these videos is often unfair to the apprehending police officers. UPDATE: Channel 13 has now edited its video footage to focus on one police officer using his foot to force the fleeing suspect's head down as he is being hancuffed. The officer claims the suspect was trying to spit. Channel 13 is also re-running old video footage of Officer Adam Chappell's arrest of a 17-year-old during Black Expo last year. The prosecutor's office in his case over-reacted after hyped up media coverage by charging him with a more serious charge before striking a deal with him many months later, which allowed him to keep his job. According to an online Star report, a member of Indianapolis' clergy is already drawing conclusions about today's arrest caught on tape. Vic Ryckaert reports:

Justified or not, a local pastor says the videotape of police kicking a suspect during an arrest early Tuesday is likely to damage the department’s efforts to improve relations between officers and a wary community.

“You’re asking the community to support people who are doing that,” said the Rev. David W. Greene of Second Baptist Church on the Northside. “That’s not going to happen.”

Greene noted that many inner-city residents, especially blacks, have a deep distrust for police despite department efforts to build bridges within the community.

The videotaped arrest will only widen the gap and hamper the department’s community policing efforts, Greene said.“People don’t trust the police,” Greene said.


artfuggins said...

that settles it...let's beat him to death. it will save the taxpayers money and the police wont have to testify......

Unknown said...

Man, I can't believe I agree with "Artfuggins." You have to suspend belief to watch that video and conclude the police officers acted appropriately. The man was pinned down on the ground, handcuffed, two police officers were holding him down while a third stomped on the back of his head. No, AI, you have this one wrong.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Channel 13 has switched out the video they were playing earlier which showed the officers as they attempted to subdue him and then finally were able to handcuff him. Now it only shows the officer who last made contact with him. The officer claims he was trying to spit, and he used his foot to force his head down. Again, it's unfair to judge these guys from a distance when you can't see and hear what they are experiencing as they undertake the arrest. This editing of the video footage is a deliberate effort by Channel 13 to cast the most negative light on the police officer.

Zappatista said...

It isn't just the African-Americans in the city with distrust of the PO's. It is those that are CRIMINALS, and are breaking the law, that have distrust.

Unknown said...

You know what else "widens the gap and hamper the department’s community policing efforts " ?

That the IMPD is spending so much time busting people for seat belt violations. Sitting on Emerson or on Shadeland, in the middle of the road, watching for people not wearing their seat belts.

They could be out patrolling high-crime neighborhoods, rounding up parole violators, looking for those bank robbers - but NOoooo.

Unknown said...

AI, I'm all for giving cops the benefit of the doubt given the job they have to do. I'm not in favor though of ignoring clear video evidence of police misconduct. It doesn't matter how the film was edited. The fact is the man was on the ground, handcuffed with two cops pushing him down, when a third cop stomped on his head. There is no situation in which doing that is appropriate. By the way, calling that stomp a "push" is a stretch of the English language.

Sean Shepard said...

I've seen numerous videos of non-threatening people, pulled over with their families in their cars getting tazed for something as simple as trying to have a civil conversation about a minor speeding infraction with over aggressive officers. While absolutely a rare occurance and much different than someone who was intentionally fleeing police, I disagree completely that it's just criminals that fear the police (or other government or quasi-government institutions or operatives like the IRS, Child Protective Services, NSA, Department of Homeland Security, Janet Reno, Political Party Fanatics looking for dirt).

Just like in any organization of size, there will be bad things that happen or people that perform their job poorly or outside of accepted guidelines.

The guy's head was facing away from the officers, I don't buy the "spit blood" excuse.

It does look pretty bad but we should give the IMPD the benefit of the doubt that their internal review will result in the appropriate response based on all the facts, not just a few seconds of video.

Anonymous said...

Once a person is handcuffed, it is very hard to justify striking the suspect. A Cumberland officer had arrested a suspect for shoplifting at a store. While in the store room, the suspect, handcuffed, got up out of his chair and made a move towards the officer. Officers should not have to "accept" getting spit on, kicked, or bitten, so when this kid got put down, the officer was in the right. Cumberland fired the officer and he was charged with a crime. The officer was found not guilty at a jury trial.

If this guy was trying to spit on the officers, they have every right to use reasonable force to prevent that. I am not sure if a kick is reasonable, but light pressure to the head until someone can bring a mask would seem OK to me. Also, getting down on your knees and holding the person's head to one side until someone brings you a mask would be OK too.

The era of being able to give a worthless criminal some true punishment is over. Beating criminals on the street is illegal. As such, watch for more and more cops to follow the model of policing known as "de-policing." Much less stress, less liability, and it doesn't get the adrenaline flowing, which might cause you to do something stupid.