The Los Angeles Times has an article about the acquittal of the Fullerton, California police officers for the murder — and yes, I’m calling it murder and I don’t care what the jury said — of a mentally ill homeless man that offers a glimpse into the argument used by the defense. Essentially, they argued that the cops did what they were trained to do.
The case was the first in the county’s history in which an officer faced murder charges for actions taken on duty. But jurors agreed with defense attorneys that the officers were trying to subdue an unruly suspect, not beat him to death.
“They did what they were trained to do,” said John Barnett, Ramos’ attorney.
They said the video showed officers who were following their training, not out of control.
Without the video, “we would’ve heard some screaming and crying, but never have seen what happened,” said Michael Schwartz, Cicinelli’s attorney. “Which was a very measured reaction with police officers trying to control a suspect.”
As the verdicts were coming down, Schwartz quietly and repeatedly said “Thank God.” Seconds later, when Cicinelli was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter and excessive force under the color of authority, he tightly embraced him.
“The video, in my eyes, is what helped the most,” Schwartz said.
That is an absolutely staggering statement. What they were trained to do? They’re trained to tell a suspect, “Now you see my fists? They’re getting ready to fuck you up”? That’s in their police training? They’re trained that, when they think a 150 pound suspect is being uncooperative but not the least bit threatening that it’s okay for four much larger police officers to beat them for 9 minutes with batons and tasers? That’s a “measured reaction”? Really? Then we need to start arresting the people doing the training.
“Police officers have the privilege, the right to use force to overcome resistance,” said Ira Salzman, a defense attorney who often represents police officers. “When you have the law allowing use of force, that is a tremendous protection.”
No, that is an authority, not a right. And that authority must be limited to the use of appropriate force. In this case, the minimal amount of force necessary to get the victim in handcuffs and into a car. And no reasonable person could possibly believe that it should require four burly officers to beat one skinny man to death with nightsticks and tase him repeatedly to do that. They murdered that man, plain and simple. And they should be in prison for the rest of their lives for it.