Yet another example of police brutality in response to being recorded abusing a citizen — even though their own police chief agrees that recording the police is legally protected in Philadelphia. After two people witnessed the police slamming someone’s head into a car, they started recording what was going on. And then:
Riley had started to walk away when at least five baton-wielding cops followed him, he said, and they beat him, poured a soda on his face and stomped on his phone, destroying the video he had just taken.
Meanwhile, two officers approached Hurling, urged her to leave and, after exchanging a few words, slammed her against a police cruiser, Hurling said. They pulled her by her hair before tossing her into the back of a cop car, she said.
They were charged with that all-purpose catch-all crime, disorderly conduct.
Although it’s legal to record Philadelphia police performing official duties in public, all three were charged with disorderly conduct and related offenses, and officers destroyed Hurling and Riley’s cellphones, erasing any record of Medley’s violent arrest, the pair said.
Charges against Hurling and Riley were dismissed, but Medley was found guilty last month of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, harassment and related offenses. She was fined $500 but has filed an appeal.
Echoes of the incident, which was corroborated by a half-dozen witnesses, have been reverberating nationwide in recent years as the combination of cellphone video and police officers has simmered into what is an increasingly explosive formula. A growing number of bystanders have been misled, arrested or worse for using their cellphones to record what they perceive as excessive force by cops making arrests, watchdogs say.
“I grew up in the neighborhood and I saw stuff go down but it never happened to me,” Riley said recently, adding that he did nothing wrong. “They stomped my phone and said it was a federal offense.”
And we get the standard response from the police officers’ attorneys:
Some police officials argue that people who attempt to record often impede an investigation.
“It’s a recipe for disaster. We have people getting in the way of an investigation,” said John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police. “They have their right to tape, [but people have] to be mindful that officers are out there conducting an investigation. The safety of the officer is pertinent.”
If you can find a single example of someone recording the police affecting the safety of a police officer, I’d love to hear it. It’s the safety of those doing the recording that always seems to be in jeopardy — and always from the police officer.
And police officials caution that any video shows only part of the story, usually leaving out what led up to a contentious arrest, as was the case when a news helicopter filmed the violent arrest of three suspects in Feltonville in 2008.
“With the video footage law enforcement receive at times, they don’t get the full, complete incident,” said police spokesman Lt. Ray Evers. “Things happen before and after. With video, it is what it is and the chips fall where they may.”
If a video shows the police abusing someone, it simply doesn’t matter what preceded it. Even if someone assaults a police officer, that doesn’t mean the officer gets to assault him back. They can do what is necessary to subdue the suspect and arrest them; they cannot then beat on them once they’ve got them in cuffs, which happens routinely.
In case you don’t understand the reference in the title, here is Justice Scalia from a 2006 court ruling where he argued that we don’t need to worry about safeguards against the police not violating someone’s rights, because the police are just so well-trained and professional these days:
Another development over the past half-century that deters civil-rights violations is the increasing professionalism of police forces, including a new emphasis on internal police discipline. Even as long ago as 1989, we felt it proper to “assume” that unlawful police behavior “would be dealt with appropriately” by the authorities, but we now have increasing evidence that police forces across the United States take the constitutional rights of citizens seriously. There have been “wide ranging reforms in the education, training, and supervision” of police officers (cite omitted). [...]
Moreover, modern police forces are staffed with professionals; it is not credible to assert that internal discipline, which can limit successful careers, will not have a deterrent effect. There is also evidence that the increasing use of various forms of citizen review can enhance police accountability.
Talk about living in a dream world.