Beatriz Paez is just one of the many recent victims of what I like to refer to as “Contempt of Cop.” Fortunately for Paez , she lived to talk about her encounter.
Ms. Paez witnessed plain clothes officers detaining several individuals at gunpoint and decided to record the incident on her cell phone. One of the officers, a U.S. Marshal, told Paez to stop recording and when she failed to obey his order the unidentified marshal charged towards her; snatched her phone out of her hand and hurled it to the ground. But he wasn’t done – the marshal then stomped on the phone and punted it down the sidewalk. Luckily, Paez had someone else recording her as she recorded the officers.
As a retired twenty year veteran sergeant of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) , I understand that some police officers have an absolute expectation that if they tell you to do something – you better. When you don’t sometimes there is a price to pay.
Police officers have tremendous power. That small group of officers who have garnered so much of the public’s attention lately, have the ability to take hours out of your life as in an unlawful detention on a Friday followed by a weekend in jail if the individual does not have the financial wherewithal to make bail. An errant officer could cost someone hundreds or maybe thousands of dollars by issuing a traffic citation and towing your vehicle. An over zealous officer can stop you, drag you out of your car, beat you up requiring expensive follow-up medical treatment once released from jail on that bogus “resisting” arrest and battery on a police officer charge or you just may end up losing your life.
Contempt of Cop is not real you say? Ask Floyd Dent of Inkster, Michigan, who was recently exonerated of charges after he had been brutally beaten by [fired] Inkster Police Officer William Melendez aka Robocop after Dent allegedly committed a traffic infraction. Melendez was fired, arrested and charged with two felonies in the Dent assault. Ask Mario Givens who was yanked from his residence by fired SC Officer Michael Slager who was investigating a burglary at Givens’ home. (The same Slager who killed Walter Scott during a traffic stop.) Givens was tasered and booked for “resisting” arrest when Slager decided Givens did not live there. The criminal charge against Givens was later dismissed. Givens filed a personnel complaint against Slager and Slager was found not guilty of wrong doing. Really Chief?
These incidents are sadly commonplace. Some police officers will initiate a traffic stop or their other favorite – an investigative stop; escalate a seemingly benign encounter to a use of force incident and then arrest the citizen for either resisting or battery on a police officer. Both of these charges are difficult to refute without the benefit of a video recording.
Here are just a few more examples of contempt of cop. Remember Marlene Pinnock, the homeless grandmother walking along the Santa Monica freeway in Los Angeles when former CHP officer Daniel Andrew straddled Pinnock MMA-style and punched her repeatedly in the face and head when she failed to obey his order. CHP settled with Pinnock for $1.5 million dollars. Then we have San Bernardino County Sheriffs who chased , tasered and kicked Francis Pusok as he lay prone on the ground. The San Bernardino Sheriff subsequently paid Francis Pusok $650,000. They were the lucky ones. They lived.
Tragically, 52 yr-old, Walter Scott, in North Charleston, South Carolina, during a traffic stop for a broken third tail light exited his car and ran on foot eluding a much younger [fired] officer; Michael Slager. Scott paid with his life. Slager must have been pretty upset when he could not catch Scott. So much so that Slager pumped five shots into Scott’s back. Apparently, when you run from a police officer (contempt of cop) and as in this case the officer lacks the physical stamina to catch you – death is the penalty.
Need more proof? Eric Harris ran from Tulsa City deputy sheriffs during an undercover sting operation and was told as he [Harris] took what were probably his last breaths by one of the deputies, “you f*cking ran“. So, let’s be clear – if you run from the police there is a price to pay. Death was Harris’ penalty for contempt of cop. Gun dealer or not – when did police become judge, jury and executioner?
I could go on and on. Contempt of Cop is real. There does not appear to be any other explanation for the loss of life in these next incidents. Ezell Ford, a mentally ill man in Los Angeles who did not want to “talk” with LAPD gang officers during an “investigative stop” ; Kelly Thomas, another mentally ill man in Fullerton, CA who was beaten by a former Fullerton police officer who was allegedly overheard saying, “I’m gonna f*ck you up” as he placed black leather gloves on his hands; Thomas later died from his injuries and a jury acquitted the officers involved.
Marana, Arizona police officer used his patrol car as a battering ram when an apparent suicidal man, Mario Valencia, refused to drop a shotgun he had been pointing to his head as ordered and was run over by a responding officer.
And most recently Freddie Gray in Baltimore, described by some as a “career criminal” made eye contact with an officer and then ran. Gray was captured, detained and thrown into the back of a police van as he screamed in obvious pain. Gray later died from a partially severed spine and broken vertebrae. Career criminal or not – you don’t get to kill him officer.
My thoughts: Bad police tactics can lead to bad shootings. Poor planning and a lack of communication between partner officers can lead to excessive or deadly force incidents. An inability to empathize and relate to the community served can also lead to devaluation of a human life.
During my twenty year career while working south central Los Angeles, I had my fair share of alleged criminals run from my partner and I. That’s what criminals do; most don’t want to go back to prison. So if an officer understands that fleeing suspects are inherent to police work; get ready to exercise officer. Why would an officer feel justified in shooting someone simply because they ran? I’ll tell you why – because these officers have been able to get away with murder; literally. Police Chiefs circle the wagons, the department begins to craft a[fish] tale and then the victim/suspect is vilified.
Bad guys do bad thing; I get that. Whether a suspect is a so-called “thug”, a drug user, a gun seller or just dumb in public [for running] – police officers should not be allowed to shoot and maim or kill them on the spot for a perceived slight.
When police officers become personally involved; when police officers believe the failure to obey an order is a direct affront to them – excessive force and sometimes deadly force follows.
I understand that if sense was common everybody would have it. I understand that common sense is not something that can be taught. I understand that compassion and empathy is not a learned behavior. That’s who you are at your core. Police officers found wanting in this regard should be plucked from the rank and file and banned from serving on another police department. Recurring and intermittent psychological evaluations might help identify those troubled officers. Let’s start there.
Cheryl Dorsey is a retired LAPD sergeant and much sought after police expert on important issues making national headlines; as such she has appeared as a guest expert on the Dr. Phil Show , and is a frequent commentator on CNN, HLN, MSNBC and KPCC. She is the author of The Creation of a Manifesto, Black & Blue; an autobiography that pulls the covers of the LAPD and provides an unfiltered look into the department’s internal processes. Visit Cheryl’s website www.cheryldorsey.net., listen to her on Soundcloud follow on Twitter @sgtcheryldorsey and BlackandBlueNews