Gang-Bangers in Blue

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How many things are wrong with the following headline describing this incident in El Monte, California:

“Cop Punts Suspect’s Head –High Five Ensues; Fleeing from Police, Endangering Lives Earns Boot to Head.”

First of all, as noted previously, every incident in which police employ criminal violence is treated as a “fight” or a “struggle,” rather than an assault. Thus when a cop with a drawn gun kicks the head of a prone, unresisting suspect, this is described as “punting” the suspect, as if the armed bureaucrat had displayed some form of martial prowess, rather than the vindictive cruelty of a bully.The second problem here is the idea that the police can summarily dispense punishment to people who have “earned” that abuse through their conduct.

No responsible person would say that it’s all right to endanger the lives, or damage the property, of others through reckless driving, as the suspect in this chase did. But police aren’t authorized to decide if someone has “earned” a beating, or legitimate punishment, for that matter.

The suspect was cornered, prone, and unresisting; he was already submitting to arrest. The question of whether he has “earned” punishment of some kind should be made by a jury.

El Monte Police Chief Tom Armstrong contends that the act of kicking the unresisting suspect in the face may be justified by the fact that “the individual turn[ed] his head toward the officer.”

So the mere act of looking at a policeman creates an “officer safety” issue?

Armstrong likewise defended the blows delivered by a second officer by saying that the suspect appeared “to have his arm beneath his body. You cannot see what was in his hand.” Of course, the suspect drew his arms in as a reaction to being kicked in the face.

The suspect was charged with “felony evading.” He was referred to in the news account as an “identified gang member,” a designation that applies with equal accuracy to the three specimens in blue costumes who arrested him.

(Thanks to Mark Fee for the tip.)

10:42 pm on May 13, 2009
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