I love the sound of heads exploding, and I’m sure that headline did it for more than a few hundred of my readers. Now, if you’d like to see this video from another side, stick around for a few minutes and you may benefit from the experience.
Let me start out with a simple statement: I’m opposed to police brutality. It’s wrong, and it undermines the public’s confidence in our law enforcement officers. I’m also opposed to the militarization of police forces. I think that’s exactly what the founders were concerned with when they talked about a standing army presenting a threat to our rights. I’m all about our rights. And that includes the rights and life of the officer involved in this struggle.
It’s important before you judge the video that you understand the following:
1. What it is you are watching.
2. What is actually happening.
3. What people are doing in the video and who the actors are in the video.
4. What the consequences are of not taking the actions the officer did in subduing the subject.
Item 1: You are seeing the end of the confrontation. We are not witnesses to what happened before the camera started rolling. We only see a woman (touted as a grandmother, but a grandmother might be as young as 30 years of age) walking on to the freeway and the officer trying to restrain her before she resists. (More on that in a minute.)
Item 2: There are multiple lanes of traffic. Every one of those cars will crush a human instantly. A car striking a pedestrian is not only going to seriously injure her or kill her, but it will likely result in additional accidents putting an unknown number of people in jeopardy. The officer has an obligation to stop her from doing harm to herself and others – it’s his sworn duty.
Item 3: There is a police officer (California Highway Patrol) and an unknown subject. He hasn’t had time to take her life history. All he knows is that she’s about to enter the traffic stream and create a lot of chaos and bloodshed. Her grandchildren’s pictures are not on display. See also item 1, we don’t know what she was doing prior to this footage.
Item 4: The consequences of letting her into traffic have already been noted. The real question is what is reasonable force and did the officer escalate as appropriate? Go full screen on the video and look for the following items:
The officer attempts to verbally wrangle the subject based on the body language. The subject then continues into the roadway. The officer grabs the subject and turns her around, attempting to bring her off the road. She drops to her knees and throws a punch at the officer’s face. She is also attempting to knee him in the crotch, and grabs at his uniform shirt near his face. The two are just a few feet from the traffic stream at this point. If they roll around on the ground while he attempts to wrestle her into a submission hold, they might very well wind up in traffic, crushed under a vehicle. She continues to grab at his throat/face and he strikes her until she curls into a fetal position. At that point an off-duty police officer comes to his aid and they cuff the subject. End of violence.
I’ve been in this fight. I’ve been trained for this fight. I nearly lost my life in this fight on my very first night out of the police academy. I have to tell you, when someone is trying to gouge your eyes, grab your gun, knee you in the crotch, and continues to resist, you are fighting for your life. If your response is that she’s a small black woman with no weapon and he’s a big white cop with mace, tasers, batons, and training I’d like to ask the following question: Would you allow this woman just 10 seconds to do as much damage as she could before you responded with the lowest level of force available? Because that’s what he does. He gave her a chance to quit before it escalated. He gave her a full 10 seconds of all-star wrestling next to the traffic lane before he threw a single punch.
In those ten seconds she could gouge your eyes out, grab your gun and shoot you, or incapacitate you with a knee to the groin. One good punch to the throat (lucky or not) and you can no longer breathe. Three seconds is an eternity, ten seconds is unimaginable if you haven’t been involved in this kind of thing. The entire take down sequence in this video takes twenty seconds. During that time the officer lands eleven blows that I counted. He stops part way through to assess the situation, and the subject continues to resist, grabbing at his face. Eye gouges hurt, blind, leave you defenseless. He lands another series of punches until she quits resisting. He never goes full combat mode, he holds her with one hand trying to restrain her, ready to stop when she quits fighting. And that’s what he does. If he was trying to really mess her up, he’d let go with both fists and it would be a much shorter video.
Yes, he’s much bigger. For those of you with children and grand children can you remember a surprise blow from that child when you were messing around that left you stunned? I thought so – that’s what a 40 pound child can do, can you imagine an adult of unknown background who might have training? You don’t know what your adversary can do when you enter the situation as a law enforcement officer. Your adversary is not a cuddly toddler with no malice. You have a subject who’s in a highly dangerous situation and they’re trying to inflict pain on you.
So, what should the CHP do? They should review the video in light of their use of force policy. If the officer acted within guidelines, thank him for saving her life and keeping her out of traffic. If he violated policy in an accidental fashion, retrain him on that subject. If he maliciously beat the woman (and it doesn’t look that way to me) terminate and prosecute him.
You see, these videos show only a portion of the action. They don’t give much room for analysis if you aren’t trained in the use of deadly force and non-lethal force. But when you’ve been there and done that, it’s a different video. Kind of like when I watch movies about the NSA and submarines – I bring a little something to the table.
Will I sit in judgement of the officer? No, that’s his department’s job. I just hope they base it on the facts, not the fear of publicity and charges of brutality coupled with threats of a lawsuit. I hope you will watch the video and think about it in light of what I’ve talked about today. If you can do that, congratulations – we’re all one step further along in understanding what really happened on that freeway.
Oh, and just for clarity, it was a trio of scrawny white people who nearly ended my life on that night 30 years ago. No race card available. Nor was there one here if you want to be objective about the circumstances.