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by Peter Moskos

April 13, 2010

You get fired for lying

The beating looks bad (oh, hell, it is bad), but will be defending by some. Hell, it isn't easy being told to restore order in riot. But lying on your report? Now that gets you fired.

But regardless of the specifics, what are you supposed to do with thousands of stupid drunk stupid college students "celebrating" (AKA: good-spirited rioting).

This is just one reason why my father hated jocks and scholastic sports.

How come when society has a problem, somehow it's the cops who always end up taking the fall?


newtoast said...

An alternate version of your last two sentences:

This is just one reason why lots of decent folks fear and distrust cops.

How come when police handle a situation poorly, they charge the victim of their mistake with a crime and maintain rigid group discipline around the lies used to support said charge?

That's not an accurate reflection of my thoughts on the matter, but I'm playing to the cheap seats to illustrate a point.

How many times do you think this scenario has played through without video to back up the civilian? Do you really think cops have taken the fall more times than the punching bags they've charged with assaulting an officer after the fact?

For what it's worth, I can't imagine trying to do the job police do every day let alone handling situations like these and I understand that the civilian here isn't some innocent passerby. All the same, this kind of thing annihilates public trust.

PCM said...

I don't disagree with you. I'm just saying we shouldn't be shocked when this happens. What do we expect when we place overwork and under-prepared men and women in a no-win situation?

I don't even mind the initial pummeling and the first strike. It's the strikes after the guy was down and out that cannot be excused. And any other officer who decided to join in "for the fun" needs to be punished.

I've written about this before (see "old-school cops in a new-school world" in my "publications" section). But this situation is a bit different. What were these officers to do? What was the upper-management plan? Did they have one? Did the university?

How much riot training did these officers have? I know I had less than one full day. And I remember being told this was the only situation in which we were allowed to strike people. I'm happy I never had to face a full-on riot.

The problem here goes beyond individual officers. What are the root causes of this police behavior? Why should the "root-causes" excuse only apply to the public and never the police?

There are institutional problems (lack of proper police training). There are societal problems (our sport-dominated culture, even in our schools). There are prohibition problems (no civilized places for 16-to-20-year-old men and women to learn to drink like adults).

Of course the shit will hit the fan. And then it's some poor police officer put in a situation he doesn't want to be in who overreacts and becomes the fall guy. Is it fair to blame the individual? Yes. But that won't stop the problem from happening again.

This is a tough situation. 99% of the crown if friendly. But in 5,000 people, that still means 50 serious trouble makers.

Perhaps the answer is to have less of a riot-control approach and put more officers (uniformed and plain clothes) into the crowd to identify and remove trouble makers quickly. This was not an anti-police urban riot so I don't think that would be too dangerous for the police.

And then if things really get out of control, log in tear gas and accept that the party is over. But sending in a line of riot police with vague orders to "do something" is not good strategy.

Besides, where was the chief during the trouble? I hope he was on-scene but somehow I doubt he was (I hope I'm wrong). Did he have somewhere more important to be?

Anonymous said...

[Policemen] get fired for lying

This is misleading. Policemen get fired for lying if there is video that clearly shows the lie. Otherwise the policeman gets a medal.

. . . riot . . .

This is also misleading. There was a riot going on somewhere, but the video shows that the victim had dispersed from the riot prior to encountering the policemen. The fact that he had dispersed was the very reason he got beaten.

The policemen were way out of line. I hope some more videos emerge after the PG police come up with their next cover story.

The hero in this story is the individual who invented the small cheap video camera. these cameras are forcing police to behave better because the academies they attend are remiss in this important duty.

Jay Livingston said...

In any crowd, in any setting with even a few people, somebody's going to be able to make a video. And as cell phones improve, that capacity will increase. I wonder what impact this technology is having on the police. Are old-school cops less likely to keep it in mind than are new-school cops? Any research on this? Any guesses?

PCM said...

I think cameras have and do have a big impact on policing in general. Perhaps even more for old-school cops (whereas kids these days are used to videos and less privacy).
And most of it is is for the good. Cameras show suspects acting stupid and lying much more than police.

But if a cop really loses it? I don't know if a camera matters since the officer already is not thinking rationally.

The legitimate concern cops have about cameras is that 1) none of us would like to be judged by the worst 30 seconds of our life, 2) it is too easy to take things out of context, and 3) policing often is and needs to be an ugly job. I am not talking criminal brutality. But I am talking cursing, threatening, and what would come across as unseemly behavior when judged from a middle-class and politically correct milieu.

I mean, for instance, is it ever right to swear at a mom and threaten the removal of her children? Well, yes. But it certainly isn't pretty.

Anonymous said...

Did the person who recorded the incident commit a Maryland state felony?



PCM said...

That Maryland law is a legacy of Linda Tripp. I think it only applies when you're recording individuals (ie: you can still record crowds). But I'm not sure.

When I was a cop, I wanted to tape record some of my interactions with the public. Mostly because so often the other person was, from a cop's perspective, hilarious. And I would have liked to show people what cops have to deal with.

(Also, I would love to a have these records today!)

But I didn't because it would have been illegal.

Jeff said...

First, on the side of the cops, this happens so regularly after UMD games it has to be getting on every one of those cops nerves. I do think that police in full riot gear are required to prevent the neighborhood there from being destroyed.

Now for the other side.

It took weeks for that video to surface contradicting the official story.

There had to be at least 20 cops standing in that area, at least some of them had to notice the beat down.

None of them did anything to stop it, I did not see any movement from any of the police to protect the victim. Also, none of them did anything to contradict the lies in the arrest report.

So far there have been 2 suspensions. But according to the paper neither of the two officers suspended were directly involved in the beating, it was for the false report.

It is my understanding that 2 of the cops who did the beating have yet to even be identifed. I guess none of the many officers in the immediate area noticed, they were too busy trying to look in the other direction.

I put the blame on all of those police, not just the 3 with the batons.

A kid would have been expelled from school and possibly sent to prison, and none of those cops did anything to prevent it.

It is incidents like this which make me believe that the entire police force is corrupt and it is not just a few bad apples.

Sorry for the rant, I've been following this one and it pisses me off.

Anonymous said...

Why does this tape show the kid dancing down the street and then jump about 20 feet to where the cops are hitting him? Is something left out? What is presented on the site skips a few seconds of the initial interaction the kid had with the cops. Why?

Anonymous said...

"How come when society has a problem, somehow it's the cops who always end up taking the fall?"

Wait, what?

There is no such thing as a good cop. "Good" cops cover for bad cops, and that makes them bad cops.