Thursday, June 24, 2004

Police Brutality in Compton?

I saw a video clip on Hannity and Colmes last night. An alleged auto thief attempts to elude police pursuit. Finally, abandoning the stolen vehicle, he takes off on foot with the cops in hot pursuit. Seeing that he cannot out run the police, the black individual stops and surrenders, raising his arms. He is then tackled by the lead cop and held face-down on the ground. Another officer rushes up and kicks him in the face. A third begins beating him on the head with a metal flashlight about eleven times. Sean Hannity, commenting on the action, remarked that the weapon wasn't a big stick. True, but it was a big flashlight. It appeared to be a Mag-Lite like the one I own. With three size 'D' batteries installed, such a flashlight is quite hefty and a serious weapon indeed.

Judging from the video clip alone, I would say that this is a case of police brutality. The man had clearly surrendered. He was brought to the ground and held there, and in such a way that even if he had a weapon in his waist band he could not have reached for it. He could have been cuffed at that point. The kicking and the flashlight beating were wholly unnecessary to bring him into submission.

Compare this case to the recent one in Cincinatti where a monstrously obese black man raised a ruckus in a restaurant and then attacked the police that were called to the scene. The Cincinatti man fought with the cops and refused to submit. So they clubbed him into submission, and rightly so. They were simply enforcing the law, and there was nothing in the video clip that suggested that any of the police actions were unnecessary. The black man later died, most likely due to overexertion in his morbidly obese condition. For a different view, go here.

I would say that anyone who cannot see the difference between these two cases is a blind partisan.

Comparisons of the Compton beating with the Rodney King case are perhaps inevitable. But there is a crucial difference: King, unlike the Compton man, refused to submit. Had he gone prone, and had the beating continued, then Stacy Koons (what a name!) and the boys would have been in the wrong. But 'motorist' King refused to surrender and chose to fight with a band of armed men, thereby demonstrating the intelligence that has become his trademark.

There are two truths that need to be appreciated and balanced one against the other. (1) A thin blue line separates social order from social chaos. (2) The enforcers of that order are not above the law.