It’s impossible to understand how there can be anyone left in the United States that doesn’t realize the cops are completely out of control. They don’t care about citizen’s Constitutional rights, beginning with our basic right to life and liberty. Although the Constitution supposedly protects us from unreasonable search and seizure, and bans the use of cruel and unusual punishment, too many Americans still make excuses for out of control cops who violate the rights of their fellow citizens.
Here are five cases from this week that illustrate the problem.
1. A cop smashed a 61-year-old woman’s face into the cement, sending her to the hospital in critical condition.
According to the press, police and New Jersey politicians, a big, strong male cop obviously had to use “necessary force” in order to protect himself’ from a 100 pound grandmother, during a traffic stop. The ex-marine and five-year veteran of the Clark Township police force just had to life the tiny woman off of her feet, and use the full force of his strength to smash her face into the cement. The 61-year-old woman’s teeth were knocked out, her bones were fractured and she was transported to the hospital in critical condition. The extent of injuries required doctors to place her into a medically induced coma.
It seems like that might qualify as cruel and unusual punishment under the Constitution. Clark mayor, Sal Bonaccorso, definitely does not agree. The mayor called the officer Joseph Teston’s behavior “professional” and made it clear he will face no consequences as a result of his actions.
Even as Antoinette Dilorio lay in a coma in her hospital bed, Bonaccorso responded by saying:
“I think these people are looking for a pay-day. And they’re not going to get in Clark.”
Keep voting for those Constitutional Republicans, New Jersey. They’re sure to be there to defend your rights when the cops come knocking at your door… or not.
2. A California Cop was caught on video pulling a gun on a man with a camera, who was standing in his own driveway.
Don McComa was hooking up his boat in his own driveway, when a Rohnert Park police officer pulled up in front of his home. When McComa took out his cellphone and began filming the officer, the cop responded with insults and bully tactics. Within seconds of stepping out of his vehicle, the cop’s gun is drawn. “I’ve done nothing wrong,” McComa says, backing away from the cop.
A few minutes later, McComa asks “What have I done? Why did you get out of your vehicle?” The cop says “You take a picture of me, I take a picture of you.” McComa tells him to leave, to which he responds “I don’t have to.”
Later in the video the cop asks “What’s wrong with you man?” McComa replies “Your station is corrupt.” The cop then asks “Are you some kind of a Constitutionalist crazy guy or something like that?”
Clearly this cop was implying that citizens who know their Constitutional rights and try to exercise them are a real problem for cops like himself.
3. A Maryland cop racially profiled, then stripped searched a 50-year-old Black man, in full view of the public.
According to documents filed with the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Laurel police officer Alfie Acol stopped a 50-year-old Black man in the parking lot of a CVS pharmacy in March of last year. He ordered the man, identified as Allan Sergeant of Hyattsville, out of his car. Acol then proceeded to pat the man down. According to court documents:
“After seizing Mr. Sergeant and depriving him of his liberty, Officer Acol subjected Mr. Sergeant to two illegal frisks and searches, which uncovered no contraband, and thereafter forced Mr. Sergeant to stand in public where Officer Acol stripped him. Officer Acol pulled Mr. Sergeant’s pants and his underwear down to his knees, exposed his genitals and buttocks to public view and subjected him to a visual strip search. This terrifying, intrusive, substantial, and unwarranted invasion of privacy was a repulsive act by Laurel Police Officer Acol of profound humiliation and dehumanization. It was carried out by Officer Acol as a signal and means of subjugation and degradation without any lawful purpose whatsoever.”
The public strip search was conducted directly in front of the entrance to the CVS Pharmacy and in full view of customers. According to the suit, Acol was accompanied by a second police officer, who refused to identify himself and is listed only as “Officer John Doe.” Neither officer ever provided a reason for the unlawful stop, nor the illegal search.
In an email to the Baltimore Sun, Laurel police chief Richard McLaughlin said:
“The department found that the officer has violated some policies and practices and took disciplinary action and made some policy changes. In addition, officer Acol also received some retraining in the area of search and seizure from one of our seasoned police department trainers.”
Stopping a man without cause, before humiliating, degrading and molesting him in public is apparently viewed as a minor policy violation, by Laurel police.
Contrary to McLaughlin’s statements, however, the suit states that Acol was presented with an award two months after the initial complaint. The same officer was then used as the face for the police department’s public relations campaign.
“The Laurel Police Department, upon notice of the abusive, repulsive and outrageous conduct of Officer Acol did not terminate him. The LPD issued Officer Acol an award for meritorious service two months after being notified of the misconduct and then elevated Officer Acol to be the public face of a public relations campaign touting the police department’s use of body cameras. Body cameras, while useful for documenting interactions with police officers, are not a remedy for an officer’s use of the power vested in him by the state, including being armed, to engage in illegal racial profiling, and to strip another human being naked in public, inspect his genital and anal areas, terrify him, and subject him to humiliation, degradation and forced submission, all without just cause. No officer who engages in racial profiling and dehumanization, who holds persons in such disregard and has exercised such an abuse of state authority, should be out on the streets carrying a weapon. The failure to terminate Acol, indeed the subsequent issuance of an award to him, evidences the ratification and institutionalized acceptance of this gross misconduct by the LPD.”
4. Arkansas cops said they had to force their way into the home of 67-year-old Eugene Ellison, because he needed help so that’s why they killed him. The court didn’t buy it.
This week the 8th Circuit court unanimously ruled that two off-duty police officers who forced their way into the home of a 67-year-old man and then killed him, supposedly because he needed their help, are not entitled to immunity from the law. After illegally entering his home, the cops demanded that Eugene Ellison drop his cane. When he didn’t, they killed him for refusing to comply with the order.
Here’s what the 8th Circuit court had to say about the actions of these out of control cops:
“On the claim that the officers unlawfully entered Ellison’s apartment, the district court reasoned as follows: “Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Ellison, it cannot be concluded as a matter of law that an objectively reasonable basis existed for the officers to believe that they needed to enter the apartment because Ellison or someone else within the apartment needed immediate aid.”
The court went on to say it is clear that “entering a home without a warrant, absent consent or exigent circumstances, violates a clearly established right.”
Both Donna Lesher and Tabitha McCrillis were working as building security officers, on the night they murdered Eugene Ellison.
The court found that the officer who shot Ellison dead in his own home, Donna Lesher, is not entitled to immunity in connections with the killing, writing:
“Simply put, the facts, when viewed in the light most favorable to Ellison, indicate that Ellison, a 67-year-old man, was standing in his own home when he was killed by Lesher, after she and McCrillis unlawfully entered his apartment and ignored his requests for them to leave. Although he was refusing to lie on the ground as the officers directed, the four officers, two male and two female, did not try to physically subdue him and it is undisputed that he was making no attempt to flee. Lesher also never warned him that she had a gun and would shoot if he did not drop his cane. As a result, a reasonable jury could find that Lesher used deadly force against a person who did not pose an immediate threat of serious physical injury or death to them.”
Here’s more from Fox 16 in Little Rock.
5. A GQ Magazine reporter viewed footage from an LAPD officer’s bodycam, captured at the time of Charly Keunang shooting in skid row. Surprise! The video does not support the cop’s statements.
This week the family of Charly Keunang, a homeless immigrant, killed by Los Angeles police in March, filed a $20 million lawsuit against the LAPD.
Here’s video showing a small portion of what happened that day, uploaded to youtube by Victims of Police.
At least two of the officers involved in the killing of Charly Keunang were wearing body cameras that day. Although there has been a lot of press on the LAPD’s use of body cams, it’s already become standard procedure for police to withhold any footage from those cameras, under the pretense that releasing video would “interfere with an ongoing investigation.”
Jeff Sharlet, a writer for GQ Magazine, was able to view the video from the officer’s cameras. He also listened to recordings of police interviews. In an article titled “The Invisible Man: The End Of A Black Life That Mattered” Sharlet highlights inconsistencies between what the police claim happened that day, and what he saw on the video and heard while listening to the recorded interviews.
In the video above, it’s easy to see that Charly Keunang is being uncooperative. But what led up to that?
While the LAPD insists that the officers dispatched to the scene that day were trained to deal with people who have mental health issues, what Sharlet describes happening just before Charly Keunang was shot is not in any way indicative of that.
“As with Syed’s, there is thirty seconds of silence on the copy of Martinez’s body-cam video. Then we hear birds in the trees. We hear Martinez. He’s a buzz-cut cop in wraparound shades, barrel-chested and barrel-bellied. He says to Charly, loudly, “You don’t tell me how to do my job.”
Charly’s feet are planted. He is not approaching. No fists. No screaming. He gestures toward Martinez with his right hand, open, waist level, as if to say, cool it.
But you don’t tell a cop to cool it. On Skid Row that can count as resisting.
Martinez says, “We’re going to do things my way.”
Charly tries to say, “Listen.”
Martinez says, “No, it doesn’t work like that.” To Volasgis he says, “Partner, give me the Taser.”
Volasgis, a tall lean man, unholsters a bright green Taser and passes it to Martinez. “You’re gonna get tased,” Martinez says. “You understand?”
According to Sharlet, the video goes on for a short time longer, before suddenly cutting off.
“Charly nods. His Cameroonian accent is crisp, formal, his words considered: “If you let me express myself, maybe you may have a chance to explain why you’re doing this right now.”
“Sir,” says Syed, his voice easy, “you will get hurt if you don’t comply.”
There’s no if about it in Martinez’s words: “Sir, you’re gonna get tased.”
“Let me express myself, Martinez,” says Charly. He knows Martinez’s name.
Martinez tells him to get up against the wall.
“Let me express myself,” Charly says.
Against the wall.
“Your job is to let people express themselves.”
“There you go again,” Martinez says.
“Are you gonna listen?” Charly asks.
“Sir, this is why you’re gonna get tased!”
It’s too late. “You can go ahead and”—it sounds like he could be saying “kill me,” but I can’t be sure. Then he says clearly, “You can go ahead and tase me.”
He makes a time-out gesture. He edges his right foot forward. His left remains in the tent.
Martinez aims the Taser. “Don’t walk up to me.” He says it twice.
“Listen,” Charly says to Syed, “tell this guy to stop it.” He looks at Martinez one last time, his palms out, hands held low. “You need to stop it right now,” Charly tells him.
Then he turns away. He crawls into his tent. He says, “Leave me alone.” He says it twice.
Syed tries to talk Charly out. Martinez moves in with the Taser. Volasgis follows, gun aimed side grip. Syed and another sergeant who’s arrived peel back the tent. There’s Charly. He’s on one knee, his arms wrapped around him. “C’mon, brother,” says Syed. “Just relax. Step outside.” Charly picks something off the tent floor. Something smaller than the palm of his hand. “Put your hands up!” snaps Syed. Charly starts to rise and it looks like he’s about to put up his hands, but we will never know, because Martinez shoots his Taser, two darts connected to electrified wire, and Charly turns, and this is where it begins. The end.”
This is just the beginning of the inconsistencies Sharlet highlights. While police claim that Charly Keunang threatened another man with a mini-baseball bat, it’s very likely that never happened.
The cops claim that Charly Keunang struggled with an officer for his gun. Something else that never happened.
“In the video the public sees,a glint of sun on a squad car, reﬂected light dissecting the scene, and Volasgis, shouting, “He has my gun! He has my gun!”
Charly does not have the gun, of this there is no question. He may have reached for it. His arm may have convulsed. He may have never come near. Volasgis will tell the detectives he was straddling the suspect, by which he means his right hip—his gun—was close, or close enough to Charly’s hand. He will insist that the suspect had “defeated” the two safety measures on his holster. He will say he was holding the suspect’s hand down as the suspect attempted to draw his weapon. And yet, on Syed’s and Martinez’s cam footage, we cannot see Charly reach. Volasgis will say the suspect lets go of his pistol only after the first shot is fired. But this is not true. When Martinez shoots Charly, Volasgis is already on his way to standing. The gun is beyond reach.”
These cops are out of control.
Here in the United States we’ve created a police force that seems, quite literally, out of control. We have corrupt and brutal cops who believe that they can do anything they want and never be held accountable for their actions. They’ve routinely violated the Constitutional rights of American citizens. They’ve engaged in public smear campaigns against their critics. They’ve harassed, beaten, threatened, molested and murdered people at will. They’ve expected that they’ll be granted special protections, including immunity from their crimes, under the law.
How long are Americans going to tolerate daily incidents of brutality and corruption from the people we pay to supposedly uphold the law? Change is needed, and it has to happen at the local, state and federal levels, if it’s going to have a real impact.
*Featured image credit: video screen capture via Victims of Police on YouTube